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Investigators suspect Utah doctor killed wife

By Josh Loftin

Associated Press

Published: Friday, April 29 2011 7:10 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — When Dr. Martin MacNeill applied for a military identification card for a woman he called his wife, he listed April 14, 2007, as their wedding day — the very day his real wife was buried, and just three days after police say he killed her.

But that blunder wouldn't just put him in the crosshairs of investigators for murder. It sent him to a Texas federal prison for fraud where he's currently serving two years. And if Utah authorities have their way, MacNeill will soon be facing homicide charges long before he tastes freedom again.

The sordid tale seemingly stripped from a murder-mystery novel began in mid-2007 when Michele MacNeill's body was found in a bathtub in the couple's Pleasant Grove home, about 35 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Her death was initially attributed to natural causes, but authorities now say she was drugged by her doctor husband while home recovering from plastic surgery. Investigators say he tried to make it look like she died naturally in the aftermath of her procedure just eight days earlier by providing a cocktail of potentially lethal drugs.

While MacNeill hasn't been charged, and his attorney says there was no crime, his own daughters are certain he's a killer. They describe their father as a lying adulterer who disguised a series of affairs, alleged sexual assaults and fraud with a successful medical practice, a beautiful wife and eight children, four of whom were adopted.

"His whole life was a lie," Alexis Sommers told The Associated Press on Friday. She took her mother's maiden name after her death.

"Our family was a facade, just so he could do terrible things," Sommers said.

A search warrant filed in March and made public this week says MacNeill had the perfect motive — a cover-up of his affair with Gypsy Jyll Willis, the very woman who landed him in prison for fraud. Willis, too, was convicted in the fraud case involving the ID card and served a year in federal prison.

"Martin had motive to kill his wife as he was attempting to hide his affair with Gypsy Willis and his continued contact with her," the search warrant states. "Ultimately, Martin intentionally overdosed Michele with the medications."

The warrant specifically seeks emails exchanged between MacNeiil and Willis, whose affair had allegedly been discovered by Michele MacNeill a few days before her death when the mother of eight discovered text messages on her husband's cell phone.

With the case dragging on over the years, MacNeiil's daughters have grown frustrated.

"I knew my father had killed my mom," Sommers said.

Sommers said she realized the drugs being given to her mother were over-the-top and could kill her. After all, she was in medical school at the time and knew it was a deadly combination.

But after a week of Sommers caring for her mother, MacNeill "forced" his daughter to return to school in Nevada. Two days later, her mother was dead.

Martin MacNeill's attorney, Randy Spencer, said his client hasn't been charged because there is no case.

"He never had any involvement in Michele's death," Spencer said. "That was true then, and remains true today."

Only one sibling, Damien MacNeill, rose publicly to his father's defense. In late 2009, he emailed The Deseret News in Salt Lake City.

"Some people are quick to infer that because of my father's actions following my father's death, he had to also be involved somehow in the death itself. This seems ludicrous to me," Damien MacNeill wrote. He committed suicide soon after.

Authorities say Martin MacNeill spent a lifetime spinning lies. In 1977, he was convicted of felony check forgery, but the case was eventually dismissed. Utah County investigators say he used falsified records to get into medical schools in Mexico and California and later, Brigham Young University Law School.

In 2009, while facing the federal fraud charges, he pleaded guilty to three felonies for lying to investigators. Another case charging him with felony forcible sexual abuse is pending in a state court after being dismissed in 2007 but re-filed two years later.

"He has gotten away with so much," said Sommers, who now has custody of her three youngest siblings. "I hope he doesn't get away with killing my mother."

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