Murder hearing focuses on drugs found in Michele MacNeill

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 9 2012 9:00 a.m. MDT

Post-mortem toxicology analysis of MacNeill showed there were four powerful prescription medications in her system — Valium, oxycodone, Phenergan and Ambien. A pharmacology/toxicology expert testified that there was little chance that MacNeill would have been alert with the dangerous quadruple combination of prescription meds found in her system at the time of her death.

"You have a tank that's nearly 3/4 full, 7/8 full, and you drop (Zolpidem) in, it's very surprising anyone could maintain a level of alertness with that in their system," Dr. Gary Dawson said. "That would be the fourth piece that dropped in on the top brick."

But what may have been most surprising, he said, was that she had such a high level of the potent sleeping drug, typically sold under the brand name Ambien, in her system at midday.

If MacNeill had taken the sleeping agent the night before at the customary bed time, there shouldn't have been any left in her system by the time her body was found, he said. A more likely scenario was the drug was administered within two hours of when she was found.

The defense noted that the levels of the individual drugs found in Michele MacNeill's system were relatively low.

But Dawson agreed with Grey that the totality of the drugs had to be considered. "You can't single out one drug and say that's probable or possible. It's the combination," he said.

Grey said it was possible that the recorded level of drugs in Michele MacNeill's body were higher before she died and fluids used in an attempt to revive her lowered the levels.

Steven Mickelson, director of nursing for the Utah County Health Department, worked with MacNeill for about seven years. On the day Michele MacNeill's body was found in a tub, he said he received a call that something was wrong at the MacNeill house and he needed to go there immediately.

He described Martin MacNeill's demeanor as "a little bit distraught, quite animated." What he thought was odd, was that the bathtub where he had allegedly found his wife "face down the wrong way," was already drained.

"I'm not sure why it was empty, it just seemed a little odd," Mickelson said, noting that he would have thought performing CPR would be a higher priority than draining the tub.

When Mickelson asked MacNeill a couple of days later what had happened, he told him, "Maybe she had fallen into the tub, hit her head and drowned, or something around those lines."

Grey, however, testified that he did not believe, based on the evidence, that Michele MacNeill died as a result of drowning.

Mickelson said he also noticed that when MacNeill returned to work after his wife's death, he was wearing a different ring where he used to wear his gold wedding band. The new ring, which looked like a type of wedding band, was black.

On Wednesday, Gypsy Gillian Willis, 35, is expected to take the witness stand. Prosecutors say MacNeill was having an affair with Willis in the weeks leading up to his wife's death. After the death, family members say Martin MacNeill announced that Willis was going to become the new nanny for his children. He later announced their plans to marry.

Willis was convicted last year of identity fraud after she and MacNeill tried to steal the identity of MacNeill's 16-year-old daughter.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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