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Utah County doctor killed wife with deadly combination of drugs, new warrant states

Published: Thursday, April 28 2011 5:44 p.m. MDT

PLEASANT GROVE — Utah County investigators believe a prominent Pleasant Grove doctor and attorney killed his wife by administering a deadly combination of drugs days after she had surgery, a new search warrant states.

The warrant, filed in 4th District Court earlier this month, reveals new information surrounding the death of Michele MacNeill and how investigators believe her husband, Martin MacNeill, had the "opportunity, the motive, the psychological disposition and the capability of killing his wife."

Martin MacNeill is currently serving a prison sentence in Texas for identity fraud. He has not been charged in his wife's death, although the case is still being actively pursued. If no additional charges are filed, he will be released from federal prison in July 2012.

When Michele MacNeill died in a bathtub at her Pleasant Grove home in 2007, an autopsy indicated she died of natural causes. But after recently working with Utah County investigators, Utah State Medical Examiner Todd Grey wrote an addendum to her autopsy saying new information "raises suspicion that the decedent did not die solely as a result of the abnormalities of her heart identified at the autopsy," the search warrant affidavit states.

Grey said a combination of medicines found in her body could have been lethal. Grey also said he questions whether the medications were forced upon her.

Her case was reopened after Michele MacNeillís sisters and other family members went to authorities following her death with suspicions about Martin MacNeill, a prominent doctor and attorney.

Michele MacNeill underwent plastic surgery on April 3, 2007 — just eight days before her death. She had told her husband she wanted to wait to have the surgery, but her husband told her "that would not be possible," the affidavit states. MacNeill also told the doctor what medications to prescribe for her.

The night after she came home from her surgery, Michele MacNeill told her daughter that her husband "had her take medications throughout the night even though she began throwing up," the affidavit states. She was found the next morning unresponsive and remained in that state throughout the day.

"Martin had access to the drugs and admitted overdosing her a few days prior to her death as if he was going through a practice run," chief investigator Jeff Robinson wrote. A week later, she was dead.

The day after her surgery, Martin MacNeill exchanged 24 texts with Gypsy Willis, a woman he had been dating without his wife's knowledge for three years, the affidavit states. A couple of years prior to Michele MacNeill's surgery, investigators say Willis had talked to her roommates about cutting the brake lines of Michele MacNeill's car or giving her medication "that would kill her without being detected."

Michele MacNeill had suspicions that her husband was having an affair and began confronting him more and more, asking him why he had changed his online account password to his phone records and telling him to "be honest with her."

From April 6-10 while Michele MacNeill was recuperating, Willis and MacNeill exchanged 60 text messages, investigators reported.

On the day she died, Michele MacNeill had made plans to pick up her youngest daughter, Ada, from school and go to McDonalds with her. Instead, her father picked her up from school and drove straight home. Ada found her mother unresponsive and sitting up in the bathtub. She ran to get her dad and "reported that Martin was very slow to go with her to the bathroom," according to the affidavit.

MacNeill then called 911, telling the operator that Michele was in full cardiac arrest.

"Martin told (the paramedic) that his wife had overdosed on medication and that was the cause of her death. … Martin further related that he had only left Michele for about 10 minutes and upon his return, found her totally submerged in the tub full of water," the new affidavit states.

Investigators say this was "in direct conflict with how Ada reported finding her mother. Also, Michele was not taking a lot of drugs at that time as Martin reported."

The Utah County Attorney's Office asked two doctors with expertise in toxicology to review Michele MacNeill's initial autopsy report. They found that the drugs that were in her system at the time of her death "would have made Michele unresponsive and unable to protect herself in the event of a threat" and "could have stopped her heart because of the additive effect of each of these drugs taken together."

Her daughter, Alexis Somers, told investigators that her mother was very sensitive to drugs and would not have taken all of these drugs "under her own volition," even if her husband had asked her to take them all, the affidavit states.

"These drugs could only have been ingested if given to her surreptitiously," investigators wrote. "Martin had motive to kill his wife as he was attempting to hide his affair with Gypsy Willis and his continued contact with her. … Ultimately, Martin intentionally overdosed Michele with the medications that Dr. Grey determined played a vital role in causing her death."

The new warrant also states that on the night of Michele MacNeill's death, her husband told one of his daughters that he "needed to get the autopsy completed so that he would not be implicated in Michele's death." Robinson wrote that it was "an odd remark from someone who should have been grieving — not worrying about being implicated in her death."

The investigators also listed on the affidavit eight different emails Willis and MacNeill used in communicating back and forth during the time they were dating and investigators "believe they may contain vital information involving the death of Michele." It is unknown if investigators were able to retrieve any contents of the emails.

Both Martin MacNeill and Willis were convicted of fraud charges after stealing the identity of one of his adopted daughters in an attempt to start a new life together. Willis was released from jail after pleading guilty to a separate identity fraud charge in Provo's 4th District Court last month. She served an 21-month prison sentence for federal charges related to the case. She will be sentenced next month on the state charge. Attorneys say she will get three years of probation with no additional jail time.

As part of her plea deal, she is expected to testify against Martin MacNeill if murder charges are filed against him.

EMAIL: slenz@desnews.com

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