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'I'm getting away with murdering my wife,' Martin MacNeill allegedly told inmate

Ex-doctor 'had to help' wife die by holding her head underwater, 2nd inmate says

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 6 2013 12:25 p.m. MST

Martin MacNeill sits with his defense counsel during a morning recess at 4th District Court in Provo Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013. MacNeill is charged with murder for allegedly killing his wife, Michele MacNeill, in 2007.

Mark Johnston

PROVO — Martin MacNeill gave his wife drugs, got her in a bathtub and held her head underwater because she stood “in the way” of his plans to make a new life with his mistress, an inmate testified Wednesday.

“He said he gave her some 'oxy' and gave her some sleeping pills, some kind of sleeping pills, and got her to get in the bathtub,” the man identified as Inmate No. 1 testified, referring to OxyContin.

“Later he just said he had to help her out. … He said he held her head underwater for a little while.”

"Did he use the phrase 'help her out?''' asked prosecutor Chad Grunander.

"Yes," the man replied.

The inmate, who was incarcerated with MacNeill in Texarkana Federal Prison, said MacNeill confided in him over a period of days following a TV broadcast about allegations that MacNeill had killed his wife. MacNeill, who was nicknamed “Doc” in prison, allegedly explained that he wanted to make a life with his girlfriend, whom he had been seeing while still married to Michele MacNeill.

“He said that (Michele) was in the way, that she wanted the house and the kids,” said Inmate No. 1, who took computer classes with MacNeill in prison. “He wanted something else.”

MacNeill also said that police "couldn’t prove that he did anything," the inmate said.

The former director of the Utah Developmental Center who is also an attorney, MacNeill is charged with murder and obstruction of justice in the April 11, 2007, death of his wife.

A onetime California beauty queen, Michele MacNeill, 50, was found unconscious and partially submerged in the bathtub of the couple’s Pleasant Grove home about one week after having plastic surgery. Prosecutors say MacNeill, 57, overdosed his wife on pain medication and other drugs before drowning her in the tub. They contend MacNeill was motivated to kill because of an affair with Gypsy Willis, who has also testified against him.

The inmate was one of five — four from federal prison and one from the Utah County Jail — to claim MacNeill shared details of his wife’s death while incarcerated. Each told some version of the same story that MacNeill said investigators could never prove that he had murdered his wife.

Defense attorney Randall Spencer tried to discredit each witness, noting in detail their histories of criminal offenses or lying and stating that each could possibly gain something for testifying against MacNeill.

With Inmate No. 1, Spencer pointed to an email the man wrote to a niece after hearing MacNeill had been charged, stating his belief that “he knew he did it and that he would surely be able to come home if he went to authorities with what he knew." Spencer also combed through transcripts of calls between the inmate and his family in which he says he won’t testify against MacNeill unless he can get a deal with authorities that will get him out of prison by Christmas of this year, even calling the plan “Operation Utah.”

But the inmate, who said the label was just a joke, insisted his motives for talking were more pure and that he has been given no such deal.

“I want to be a changed person,” the man testified. “I made some wrong decisions and I just want to do right.”

Earlier in the day, a Holladay man who was with MacNeill in the Utah County Jail told jurors he initially thought the man was joking when he told him he had killed his wife.

Jason Poirier said he approached MacNeill in December 2012 to ask him why his shoes differed from standard jail issue and said MacNeill replied:

“I get away with a lot of things. I’m getting away with murdering my wife.”

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