PROVO — Hours after his wife’s death, Martin MacNeill had her remaining prescription drugs counted, documented and then flushed down a toilet.
That was the testimony Wednesday of Eileen Heng, who said she retrieved five to 10 bottles of Michele MacNeill's prescriptions from the bathroom and then carefully counted the blue and white pills with her then-boyfriend, Damian MacNeill, as his father watched.
“He wanted to know what was missing,” she said of Martin MacNeill on the fourth day of his murder trial. “He did say she was not taking her pills, she had high blood pressure and high cholesterol.”
Later, on cross-examination, Heng confirmed that she had told investigators that Martin MacNeill had also said he believed the pills may have contributed to his wife's death and he “couldn’t bear to look at them.”
Some of the pill bottles were nearly full, while others were close to empty, Heng told deputy Utah County District attorney Jared Perkins. But she did not say — and was not asked — exactly how many pills were left.
Heng told the court she complied with MacNeill’s request because “he just lost his wife and I wanted to help.” She said she did not know what happened to the white pad of paper where the pill count was recorded.
Michele MacNeill was found unconscious in the bathtub of her Pleasant Grove home on April 11, 2007. Prosecutors charged MacNeill with murder, saying he over-medicated his wife with painkillers she was given after plastic surgery and then drowned her in the tub.
Heng said MacNeill recounted the events of April 7 to her, saying he had picked Ada up from school and that the child, then 6, had been the first to find her mother.
She also testified to “a lot of contention" between Martin MacNeill and his daughter Alexis, who flew back home from Las Vegas, where she was attending medical school, the day her mother died.
The discord was related to a woman named Jillian, whom Martin hired as a nanny shortly after his wife's death. Jillian is pseudonym for Gypsy Willis, the woman prosecutors say was MacNeill’s mistress and for whom he allegedly killed his wife so he could begin a new life.
Heng helped her boyfriend — the MacNeills' only son — and his sister Vanessa interview nanny candidates and said she advised MacNeill against hiring Willis so as not to create more tension and divide the family.
“I encouraged Martin not to hire her,” Heng said. “He said he didn’t want his kids controlling his life."
Willis was hired and moved into the family home soon after. Within months, Heng said it became clear that Willis and MacNeill’s relationship was more than one of employer and employee. Over lunch one day with Willis, Martin MacNeill and Damian MacNeill, Heng said she noticed the other woman was eating from Martin MacNeill’s plate.
“I thought it was strange,” she testified.
Heng’s relationship with Damien MacNeill ended in early 2008, less than a year after his mother’s death. Damian committed suicide in January 2010 by overdosing on prescription drugs.
Before his death, Damian MacNeill told the Deseret News his father wanted him to get rid of the pills that day because he wanted to keep his mother's face-lift a private matter and also said his father was afraid he would try to overdose on the drugs himself.
Earlier Wednesday, the American Fork Hospital doctor who attended to Michele MacNeill in the emergency room told jurors that an attempt to resuscitate a person slumped down in a bathtub with CPR would be difficult and likely not effective.
Martin MacNeill told a 911 operator he was performing CPR before neighbors came to his aid and lifted his wife out of the tub. Prosecutors believe MacNeill lied about starting the life-saving measure.
“I think it would be difficult to get adequate chest compression because of the angle of the person,” said Scott VanWagoner, the American Fork Hospital emergency room doctor who treated Michele MacNeill. “You would push the patient down into the bathtub further and not get an adequate compression or chest motion.”Comment on this story
When Michele MacNeill was brought to the hospital at 12:25 p.m., her skin was blue and she had no pulse. "I think she was dead by the time she arrived at our door," VanWagoner said.
While in the emergency room, MacNeill denounced his wife’s plastic surgery and then made an “off the wall” request, VanWagoner testified.
“He offered me $10,000 to continue my resuscitation and not quit,” he said. “It just struck me as very odd and still remains odd.”