PROVO — The woman who prosecutors say was the motive for a murder plot told jurors Tuesday she texted suggestive photographs of herself to Martin MacNeill on the day after his wife’s death.
The two later used the date of the funeral — April 14, 2007 — as their fake wedding date.
Gypsy Willis said one of the pictures shows her lying on a bed. Another reveals her unclothed back and a portion of her buttocks. A third, taken of her shoulder area, also suggests she is naked, although Willis only coyly admitted to the suggestive nature of the pictures.
Willis, 37, was on the stand in 4th District Court for the second time Tuesday in the MacNeill trial. Prosecutors have accused the former osteopathic physician and attorney with murder, a first-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony, in his wife’s death.
Michele MacNeill, 50, was found unconscious and submerged in a bathtub at the couple’s Pleasant Grove home on April 11, 2007. Prosecutors contend MacNeill gave his wife a combination of painkillers to render her listless and then drowned her in the tub. They say MacNeill used his skills as a physician to make the death look accidental and that he wanted his wife out of the way so he be with Willis.
Willis, who became sexually involved with MacNeill in early 2006, is testifying against him as part of plea deal. In 2011, she pleaded guilty to identity fraud and other charges connected to stealing the identity of one of MacNeill's adopted daughters. Prosecutors agreed not to seek more prison time in exchange for her honest testimony against MacNeill. She previously spent 21 months in a federal prison for aggravated identity theft.
But before court began Tuesday, deputy Utah County attorney Sam Pead told Judge Derek P. Pullan that prosecutors consider Willis a “hostile” witness. “She’s out to protect him as much as she can,” he said.
Under cross-examination, however, Willis told defense attorney Susanne Gustin she was giving “honest” answers to questions from both sides in order avoid a three-year prison term.
She also said MacNeill never spoke about making plans to leave his wife, despite the fact that the lovers’ relationship had escalated in the months before his wife's death. MacNeill was supporting Willis financially with a home and a debit card. She said the two were having sexual encounters more often and sometimes sending text messages to each other two dozen times each day. That includes the day of Michele MacNeill’s funeral — when Willis and MacNeill exchanged some 22 texts, she testified earlier — although defense attorneys later noted the number is only a fraction of the nearly 3,000 texts Willis sometimes sent in a month.
Willis also testified that she and MacNeill used the funeral date as a fake date for their own marriage when they forged a military identification card for her. MacNeill filled out the paperwork, listing her as Jillian MacNeill, even though that was not her real name, nor were they married, Willis said.
Prosecutors also asked Willis about a marriage proposal from MacNeill. Willis had trouble remembering the date of the proposal but said MacNeill asked her while the pair was in a Wyoming restaurant and that he gave her a large ring.
“It was four and half carats,” she said, noting the stone’s value was about $7,000.
Willis said she and MacNeill discussed getting married in an LDS temple and that she believed they were serious, even though they never made it to the altar.
Finally, Willis said that before Michele MacNeill’s death she had heard about plans for the woman to have surgery and knew that it had occurred. She also said she had overheard MacNeill talking about how his wife needed to get a blood pressure problem resolved before going under the knife, but she said she didn’t know anything about her death.
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