Witnesses describe Martin MacNeill's 'odd' behavior at wife's death, pillow talk about killing

Published: Thursday, Oct. 4 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

Martin MacNeill

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News, Kristin Murphy, Deseret News, Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

PROVO — The day his wife died, Martin MacNeill was "different," "odd" and, according to at least three witnesses, "angry."

Scott Van Wagoner, who said he knew MacNeill on a professional basis, said MacNeill seemed to be directing his anger at his wife, Michele. But that wasn't the part of Martin MacNeill's behavior that day that really struck him.

"The oddest statement, to the point of being bizarre, was he offered me $10,000 to not stop my resuscitation efforts," Van Wagoner testified in 4th District Court Thursday. "Clearly, this patient came in dead. … It was a pretty odd request."

Anna Osborne Walthall, a woman who said she had an affair with MacNeill in 2005, testified that they often talked about killing — specifically MacNeill's history of killing that included his brother and his ability to kill without detection. She described these conversations as "pillow talk."

Their testimonies were two of seven offered Thursday during the second day of a five-day hearing to decide whether the Pleasant Grove doctor should stand trial for murder in his wife's 2007 death. Prosecutors believe MacNeill killed his wife by giving her a "dangerous combination" of drugs and drowning her.

Michele MacNeill was found dead in the bathtub on April 11, 2007, eight days after she had undergone cosmetic surgery on her face. Then-Pleasant Grove police officer Ray Ormond said he and his partner, Josh Motsinger, were the first to arrive at the MacNeill home and took over resuscitation efforts.

He said the woman "seemed abnormally cold" and testified that water began coming out of her mouth as he and Motsinger administered CPR. He said this was "typical for someone who's been submerged." MacNeill told the officers that his wife had undergone cosmetic surgery.

"He was upset with her about having the cosmetic surgery," Ormond said. "He said she was on a lot of medication and that he was upset with all the medication she was on. He said he didn't think she needed the operation and was upset with her for having it."

This was reiterated by Van Wagoner, who also said MacNeill seemed angry at his wife for undergoing surgery and said to her, "Why did you have to have this done?" while Van Wagoner was working to revive the woman.

Yet on Wednesday, the doctor who performed MacNeill's operation said the couple approached him together about the procedure and both seemed enthusiastic about it. Dr. Scott Thompson said Martin MacNeill had "the more dominant personality" and his wife deferred to her husband on many questions, but he wouldn't have performed the operation unless he felt Michele really wanted it.

Thompson testified that MacNeill had specifically asked for additional medications for his wife, explaining that he wouldn't have prescribed those if he hadn't known that Martin MacNeill was a doctor.

Walthall, who worked with MacNeill while trying to establish a laser hair removal business in Park City in 2005, said he became her friend and support during a "terrible" divorce. Their relationship eventually involved "into a sexual relationship, an affair."

Their discussions about killing were "fairly frequent," she testified. MacNeill told her he tried to kill his mother when he was 8 years old. When his mother was once passed out drunk, Walthall said MacNeill told her he gathered medication from throughout the house and put it in a beer that he helped his mother drink until she stopped breathing. His sister apparently came in, called 911 and the woman survived.

"One time I asked him if he had regretted that," Walthall said. "He said he regretted that there wasn't more medication in the house."

MacNeill also told her that he'd killed his brother, who often cut his wrists, by submerging him in the bathtub, she testified. He allegedly told her drowning was a common way for people who cut themselves to die and he didn't worry that anyone would ask him about it.

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