Girlfriend of ex-Pleasant Grove doctor sentenced to probation; murder charge still pending
James Roh, James Roh,
PROVO — They sat in opposite corners of the courtroom on Tuesday.
Gypsy Willis, the girlfriend of Martin MacNeill, sat in the back right of Provo's 4th District court, her red hair pulled back in a bun, a blue blazer on. Alexis Somers, MacNeill's daughter, and Linda Cluff, MacNeill's sister-in-law, sat in the front right.
It may have been the last time the three women would be in the same room together in the next three years unless murder charges are filed against MacNeill, a former Pleasant Grove doctor and attorney who investigators say had the "opportunity, the motive, the psychological disposition and the capability of killing his wife," Michele, in April 2007, according to court documents.
Willis, 34, was sentenced Tuesday to 36 months of probation after pleading guilty in March to helping steal the identity of MacNeill's adopted daughter, Giselle, in 2007, shortly after his wife died. In exchange for not having to serve any additional jail time, she will also be required to testify in court if murder charges are filed against MacNeill.
Willis already served a 21-month sentence in a Texas federal prison for separate federal charges stemming from the ID theft and will serve her probation term in Utah.
Willis was also ordered to have no contact with MacNeill or his extended family during the time of her probation, not go near the former MacNeill home and to attend a cognitive restructuring course. Prosecutor John Neilsen said the course should help her realize the impact of her decisions on others.
Cluff, who is also Giselle MacNeill's adopted mother, said Giselle, now 20, has recently had trouble opening a bank account and getting her driver's permit because of the identity theft. She also was kicked out of her apartment because of Willis' name being tied to her and Willis' bad credit.
"The nightmare continues for her," Cluff said after the sentence hearing on Tuesday. "It's an ongoing struggle. She is being challenged constantly to prove she is who she is."
Utah County investigators say MacNeill, a father of eight, had been dating Willis for three years prior to his wife's death and then brought her to his home as a nanny a couple weeks after.
A few months after the death, Willis and MacNeill stole Giselle's identity, who was 16 at the time. Investigators say MacNeill sent his adopted daughter back to the Ukraine "and left (her) there to fend for herself" in the summer following his wife's death. Giselle was planning on visiting her biological sister there for a short time, but federal prosecutors said MacNeill had no plans of having her return.
MacNeill is currently serving time in federal prison for stealing his daughter's identity and is set to be released in July 2012.
Meanwhile, Utah County investigators should be ready to hand over their homicide investigation of Michele MacNeill within the next month to the Utah County attorney for possible charges, said prosecutor Chad Grunander, who has been assigned to review the case.
Grunander said once he gets the case, one of three things will happen: they could ask investigators to do additional research, deny the case because there is not enough evidence to support a homicide charge, or accept the case and charge MacNeill.
Grunander has another homicide case going to trial in the middle of June, so he said a decision about whether or not to charge MacNeill will probably not be made until at least July.
He said he was not sure if any additional charges will be filed against Willis in connection with Michele MacNeill's death. Willis' attorney, John Easton, does not expect any additional charges to be filed against his client.
MacNeill's family members, though, believe Willis was involved, calling her "calculating."
"She was involved in my mom's murder," Alexis Somers said after the sentencing on Tuesday. "I know she has valuable information. I feel that a murderer just walked out the doors."
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