Murder case: Woman testifies of affair with Martin MacNeill before, after his wife's death

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 10 2012 11:00 a.m. MDT

Family members Kimberly Popish, left, Jill Harper-Smith, Linda Cluff, Alexis Somers, and Rachel MacNeill talk to the media after attending a court hearing on Aug. 27, 2012. Martin Joseph MacNeill is charged with murder in the April 2007 death of his wife, Michele MacNeill.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

PROVO — Giving calm, direct, matter-of-fact answers, the woman who had an affair with a Utah doctor accused of killing his wife, took the witness stand Wednesday.

Gypsy Jyll Willis, who also went by Gypsy Jyllian MacNeill at one point, testified on the fifth day of a preliminary hearing of Martin MacNeill, 56, who is charged with murder and obstructing justice in the April 2007 death of his wife, 50-year-old Michele MacNeill.

Prosecutors contend MacNeill killed his wife in order to be with Willis. Within weeks of his wife's death, Willis moved into the MacNeill house as the children's new nanny.

But Willis said that when she and MacNeill started seeing each other, there was no intention of a long-term relationship.

"It was just for fun. It was whenever we could get together. It was just friendly," she said.

Willis said she met MacNeill during an online chat in 2005. They met for the first time in November of that year for lunch. By January 2006, their relationship had become sexual.

"I thought Martin was wonderful. I thought he was many of the things that would be wonderful to have in a regular relationship," she said.

However, she dated other men at the same time she dated MacNeill. Willis claimed there was never any thought, prior to Michele MacNeill's death, of Martin leaving his wife for her.

"There was no consideration at all in that direction," she said. "He had great respect and love for Michele. … He said he had a family and was very happy."

However, after Michele MacNeill died, Willis said, "The circumstances changed completely."

At that point, the discussion did turn toward a life together. Willis conceded that after she moved in with MacNeill, she was acting as his wife.

Willis and MacNeill were later convicted of identity fraud and sentenced to federal prison for stealing the identity of MacNeill's 16-year-old adopted daughter. Willis was also convicted on a state charge after being released from federal prison. Prosecutors agreed not to seek additional jail time in exchange for her testimony against MacNeill.

While incarcerated, Willis said the two wrote letters to each other. She admitted they had plans to be together again in the future.

"Quite honestly, we have both lost everything," she testified of the circumstances both she and MacNeill are in now.

Willis frequently looked over and smiled at MacNeill Wednesday, as the two made eye contact often. MacNeil is currently being held on $1 million bail at the Utah County Jail and has been appearing in court in a blue and white striped jail jumpsuit with his hands and feet shackled.

In 2007, Willis moved into a duplex in Lehi that MacNeill owned. He also provided her with a debit card with an unlimited balance. She said it was to help her get through nursing school. She said she bought mostly gas, groceries and coffee with it.

Shortly after Michele MacNeill's death, Martin MacNeill announced to his family that Gypsy would be their new nanny. At that time, they simply knew her as Jyllian.

"Martin told me he felt very sorry we had been involved prior to Michele's death. He was embarrassed about that. He wanted me to come help him and support him," Willis said.

But whether she moved in for support or as a mistress, Rachel MacNeill said Willis didn't act like any nanny the family had ever had before.

"She didn't do anything that a nanny would do," the MacNeill daughter said. "I expected to see what I had seen before (with those who) had been hired as nannies, that their main focus was the children. That they were there to work ... not just sitting and staring at my dad."

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