Martin MacNeill: Was his wife Michele's death accidental or was it murder?

Published: Saturday, Dec. 4 2010 3:00 p.m. MST

Earlier that morning, investigators say Martin had gone to a safety fair for the Utah State Developmental Center (formerly known as the American Fork Training Center), where he still worked as the facility's clinical director. While at the fair, he apparently acted so "belligerent and nervous" that an employee filed a complaint against him. The employee also said Martin was "very insistent" that she take a photograph of him, "so that people would know that he was present."

How long he was at the safety fair is unknown.

Martin picked up his 6-year-old daughter, Ada, from school at some point that morning. When they arrived home, the young girl found her mother fully-clothed in the tub, which she later told an interviewer at the Children's Justice Center was full of reddish-brown water. Her mother's head was above the water level and neighbors also said they saw her mother sitting up in the tub.

Martin, however, told others that he had gone into the house first and had left Ada in the car.

In some reports, he told people his wife must have fallen while preparing a bath, and said he found his wife draped over the tub with her head submerged in the water. Alexis said her father told her he found her mother submerged in the tub with only her feet above water.

Martin instructed Ada to go find a neighbor to help him pull her mother out of the tub. But when she returned with neighbor Angie Aguilar, Martin told them he needed a man to help him because he wasn't strong enough and demanded that the neighbor go find one. Aguilar recalled seeing no water in the tub and said Michele was only wearing an upper undergarment.

After neighbor Doug Daniels finally arrived, he and Martin pulled Michele out of the tub and started CPR. Daniels told investigators that he did not see the chest rise while they performed CPR.

"Why Martin, who was a licensed physician, did not make efforts to open the trachea by manipulation of the head and upper torso, by use of the Heimlich Maneuver, or other medical procedures, is unknown," Witney wrote.

After emergency responders showed up, Martin told them his wife had been taking a lot of medication and that he'd found her hunched over the tub, with her head inside, the affidavit states.

A doctor at American Fork Hospital said Martin told him his wife must have passed out and fallen into the tub.

Pleasant Grove emergency responders said that while they performed CPR on Michele, she threw up a lot of water. Witney wrote that if Martin had performed CPR correctly, the water should have been regurgitated within the first few breaths of CPR.

Regurgitating water during CPR can be an after-effect of swallowing water during submersion and can also be an after-effect of "dry drowning," Witney wrote in his affidavit. Dry drowning is where an airway spasm shuts off the lungs after first exposure to water to prevent additional water from going into the lungs. The body, however, is no longer able to extract oxygen from the air.

Utah State Medical Examiner Dr. Todd Grey said there are no scientific tests that can be done to prove drowning. While his office received no evidence from her autopsy suggesting Michele did drown, that's not to say that it is impossible, he said.

After Michele's body was taken by the medical team, Daniels — who had helped with CPR — tried to clean up the bathroom but could not find any towels. He went into the laundry room and found a pile of towels that were wet and bloody. Investigators are unsure who used the towels and when, but Daniels said no cleaning was done after he arrived.

"This would indicate that Martin MacNeill would have to have stopped any lifesaving measure long enough to wipe up blood and water on the floor," Witney wrote in an affidavit. "The only other alternative to this inconsistency is that there was another person in the home during this time, assisting MacNeill."

Alexis suspects her father had help from his girlfriend that day, though no one knows for sure.

In pictures taken by police, a pile of Michele's clothes that appear to be wet are next to the tub. Alexis and Rachel found those clothes hours after the death in the garage and confirmed they were soaking wet with blood on them.

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