'I thought he loved us,' daughter testifies against her father

Published: Friday, Oct. 5 2012 7:21 p.m. MDT

Linda Cluff, left, and Alexis Somers hold each other after the hearing. Martin Joseph MacNeill makes his initial appearance Monday, Aug. 27, 2012 before Judge Samuel D. McVey in Provo.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

PROVO — Alexis Somers always believed she had a very close relationship with her dad.

"I loved my father. I wanted to go into medicine because of my father, partially. I would go with him to work. I was around my father a lot, and I loved him," she said Friday.

That relationship changed "the day my mother died."

Over three days of testimony, Somers was one of many witnesses who described suspicious circumstances and Martin MacNeill's odd behavior before and after his wife died in a bathtub in April 2007.

But whether the nearly entirely circumstantial evidence is enough for a judge to order him to stand trial for murder remains to be decided. Prosecutors will present at least two more days of testimony next week before Judge Samuel McVey makes that decision.

Somers recalled details Friday about that fateful day and why she immediately suspected the man she loved had murdered her "hero," "best friend" and mother, Michele MacNeill.

"Is it easy to testify against your father?" prosecutor Chad Grunander asked.

"No, it's not," she said.

"Why is that?"

"This is a man I loved the majority of my life, who I thought was our protector. I really looked up to him. I thought he loved us."

Final days

Days before her mother died, Michele MacNeill underwent a plastic surgery procedure. Somers, then a first-year medical student, helped care for her mother as she recuperated at home in Pleasant Grove.

She would check her mother's pulse, heart rate and blood pressure, and she closely monitored and noted the medication she took.

The one night her father was adamant that she not sleep next to her mother, Somers said she woke up and discovered her mother was heavily sedated and unresponsive to her efforts to rouse her.

"I confronted my dad and said, 'What medications did you give her? She's been overmedicated,'" she testified, saying that her dad then listed essentially all of the medications prescribed.

"I said, 'Dad, what are you doing? That's way too much medication.' He said, 'Oh, maybe I did give her too much.' I said, 'I'm taking over her medication. You're not to give her anymore.'"

When Michele MacNeill woke up late in the day, Somers said she spoke to her mother as soon as she was lucid.

"I asked her what happened. She was fearful" and agitated, Somers said. "She said, 'Alexis, I don't know why, but your dad kept giving me pills. He kept giving me medications. I (was) throwing up. … He said, 'Take this, take this.''"

Michele MacNeill's eyes were still bandaged at the time from the facelift. Somers said her mother wanted to feel each pill to learn what each one was "in case he tried to give her any more."

After that incident, Somers said her mother began taking only small doses of a few prescriptions. She was able to walk and appeared to be healing well and in good spirits.

Phone records

That same week, Somers said she overheard her parents arguing about phone records involving calls Martin MacNeill was making to a woman named Gypsy Willis. Her mother suspected he was having an affair with her and was upset that Martin MacNeill wouldn't allow her to access his phone records.

Somers left for school in Las Vegas on April 10, 2007, a week after her mother's surgery. She said she felt comfortable leaving because her mother was feeling well, had no symptoms, didn't need any more medication and could take care of herself.

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