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Martin MacNeill, Pleasant Grove doctor suspected in wife's death, returns home from prison

Published: Friday, Sept. 4 2015 2:50 a.m. MDT

Martin Joseph MacNeill (Deseret News) Martin Joseph MacNeill (Deseret News)

PLEASANT GROVE — For the past couple of days, Alexis Somers has constantly been looking over her shoulder.

Her father, Martin MacNeill, is out of prison and back in Utah.  

MacNeill, the former clinical director of the Utah State Developmental Center, was released Friday from a Texas federal prison after serving a three-year sentence for fraud, forgery and identity theft. But investigators and family members have said they believe he spent a lifetime getting away with other crimes — including murder.

"It's really sickening to me," said Somers, who believes her father, a former doctor and an attorney, killed her mother in April of 2007 — then covered it all up.

"I am back into this panic feeling, just really nervous knowing what he is capable of doing and now he is out," she said Monday.

From left to right, Jill Harper-Smith, Alexis MacNeill, Rachel MacNeill, talk about the death of Michele MacNeill Sept 29, 2009. Her husband, Martin MacNeill, is being investigated in his wife's 2007 death. He was released from a federal prison Friday after serving time for fraud, forgery and identity theft. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) From left to right, Jill Harper-Smith, Alexis MacNeill, Rachel MacNeill, talk about the death of Michele MacNeill Sept 29, 2009. Her husband, Martin MacNeill, is being investigated in his wife's 2007 death. He was released from a federal prison Friday after serving time for fraud, forgery and identity theft. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

MacNeill's attorney, Randy Spencer, said his client "adamantly denies that he did anything to harm" his wife.

When Michele MacNeill died in a bathtub at her Pleasant Grove home in 2007, an autopsy indicated she died of natural causes. But after working with Utah County investigators, Utah State Medical Examiner Todd Grey wrote an addendum in 2010 to her autopsy saying new information "raises suspicion" about her manner of death. He also wrote that a combination of medicines found in her body could have been lethal, and questioned whether the medications were forced upon her, according to an affidavit filed in 4th District Court.

Michele MacNeill underwent plastic surgery on April 3, 2007 — just eight days before her death and shortly after confronting her husband about an affair that had been going on for the last three years, the affidavit states.

The night after she came home from 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.

From left to right, Jill Harper-Smith, Alexis MacNeill and Rachel MacNeill talk about the 2007 death of Michele MacNeill on Sept 28, 2009. The woman's husband, Martin MacNeill, is being investigated in her death and was just released from a federal prison where he served a sentence for fraud, forgery and identity theft. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) From left to right, Jill Harper-Smith, Alexis MacNeill and Rachel MacNeill talk about the 2007 death of Michele MacNeill on Sept 28, 2009. The woman's husband, Martin MacNeill, is being investigated in her death and was just released from a federal prison where he served a sentence for fraud, forgery and identity theft. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

"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, adding that MacNeill had "the opportunity, the motive ... and the capability of killing his wife" by administrating a combination of drugs that contributed to her death.

Investigators and family members say MacNeill had been having an affair with Gypsy Willis, who allegedly had talked with her roommates about getting rid of Michele MacNeill.

Prosecutors have indicated several times since a December 2010 Deseret News article that they planned to file charges in Michele MacNeill's death, but have yet to do so.

Chad Grunander, the Utah County prosecutor assigned to the case, said Monday that although MacNeill is out of jail, the homicide investigation is still ongoing. He said MacNeill has a little more than three years of probation left as part of his sentence and will have to stay in Utah during that time.

Alexis MacNeill visits her mother's gravesite April 16, 2010. Her mother died in 2007 and her family and investigators believe her father killed her mother. (Stuart Johnson, Deseret News) Alexis MacNeill visits her mother's gravesite April 16, 2010. Her mother died in 2007 and her family and investigators believe her father killed her mother. (Stuart Johnson, Deseret News)

Neighbors said MacNeill's attorney dropped him off Sunday at his upscale home in the gated Pleasant Grove community, the same home where Michele MacNeill was found.

Word spread quickly via text message. "There's a lot of buzz in the neighborhood," one resident said.

Residents say MacNeill's house was mostly vacant the past three years, though his son and a newly married couple lived in it at separate times. Several neighbors tried to keep up the yard, but dandelions cover the front lawn and cobwebs hang over the unswept porch.

MacNeill did not answer the door Monday.

Living just 35 miles north of her old Pleasant Grove home, Somers has cautioned her adopted sisters about their father's release.

"They are very upset and scared and don't understand why he got out," Somers said Monday of her three sisters: Elle, 19; Sabrina, 18; and Ada, 11.

Martin and Michele MacNeill in Ukraine orphanage (Family Photo) Martin and Michele MacNeill in Ukraine orphanage (Family Photo)

Ada was just 6 years old when she walked into her mother's bathroom and found her in the bathtub not breathing. After Somers told the girl that her father was getting out of jail, the 11-year-old started waking up in the middle of the night and going into Somers' bedroom, complaining of nightmares of her father.

She is worried and asks her sister, "What do I do if he shows up at school?" and "What do I do if he shows up at the park?" according to Somers.

"I have been trying to do everything I can to protect these kids and keep my dad in jail, but unfortunately the rest is not up to me," Somers lamented. "His whole life he has gotten away with things by intimidating people and scaring them, and I am not going to be intimidated. For the last five years, I have tried to stand up and show the world what he has done. So no, I am not going to run."

Dr. Martin MacNeill (Family Photo) Dr. Martin MacNeill (Family Photo)

One Pleasant Grove neighbor said that while MacNeill has served his time for identity fraud, there's still a "cloud of uncertainty" over the death of his wife.

"I'm not going to shun him but I'm not going out to dinner with him either," he said.

The neighbor said he understands MacNeill plans to stay for a while.

Another neighbor said she was surprised MacNeill moved back in.

"I still can't imagine he did anything to (Michele). But then nobody really knew those deep, dark secrets he had either."

The neighbor said she didn't think MacNeill would stay long.

Michele MacNeill (Deseret News) Michele MacNeill (Deseret News)

"He's always felt like he's a little bit above everybody intellectually. ... Maybe prison lowered his pride a little bit," she said.

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