(PROVO, Utah) — The neighbor of Martin MacNeill testified at the Utah doctor’s murder trial Friday that she found MacNeill’s wife lifeless in a bathtub wearing only a black long-sleeve shirt.
Next-door neighbor Kristi Daniels told the jury that six-year-old Ada MacNeill came to her and said, “my dad needs some help.”
When Daniels entered the home on April 11, 2007, she said she stood in the doorway of the bathroom where Martin MacNeill was with his wife, Michele, who was unconscious in the bathtub and whose skin was a “greenish pale” color.
“It all happened so fast,” Daniels kept saying on the stand in the courtroom in Provo, Utah.
She said MacNeill asked for a male’s help to get his wife out of the bathtub. At that point, Daniels said she called her husband, Doug, and told him she needed his help right away.
Doug Daniels said he arrived about 20 seconds after the call and found Michele MacNeill appearing to be “a little discolored, a little bit puffy.”
“She was damp, not soaking wet,” he said.
He also noticed mucus around her face and said he did not recall if her husband, who was administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, had gotten any of the mucus on himself.
However, Daniels said he remembered MacNeill having “outbursts” and that he pounded on Michele’s chest with the bottom part of his hand.
It was “not real hard, but I remember thinking you wouldn’t want to whack somebody like that,” Daniels said. Since MacNeill is a physician, Daniels said he assumed the doctor knew what he was doing.
Less than two hours later, Michele MacNeill was pronounced dead.
MacNeill’s defense lawyers said heart problems were a contributing factor in the death of the mother of eight.
Prosecutors, however, have painted Martin MacNeill, a former Mormon Sunday school teacher, as a liar who was hell-bent on making his wife have a facelift so he could dope her up with a lethal cocktail of drugs during her recovery and then drown her in the bathtub.
The motive, prosecutors said, was a woman named Gypsy Willis, who MacNeill had met online more than a year and a half before he allegedly killed his former beauty queen wife.
Deputy Utah County Attorney Sam Pead said during opening statements on Thursday that MacNeill, 58, acted erratically around the time of his wife’s death and said she was the one who wanted the surgery.
“Why did she have the surgery? … Why did she take all of those medications? I told her not to do it. I’m a doctor. She’s dead. I’ve been a bishop. I pay tithing, and this is the way you repay me?” MacNeill yelled in front of first responders, according to Pead.
MacNeill also told inmates after his arrest that his wife was a “b—-,” that he was glad she was dead and that authorities would never be able to prove he killed her, according to Pead.
The medical examiner has never determined a cause of death.
Defense attorney Susanne Gustin conceded during open statements that “Martin has made poor choices in his life. We’ve heard he had affairs during his marriage.”
“We may think he is a total jerk, that is absolutely disgusting and that’s natural. But it’s very critical that during this trial you set aside your emotion,” she admonished the jury.
Dr. Scott Thompson, the plastic surgeon who performed MacNeill’s facelift, was the first witness called to testify by the prosecution on Thursday, the first day of the trial.
Thompson said he prescribed more drugs than usual to MacNeill at the request of her husband. He said he felt comfortable doing so “because Martin was a physician and he asked me for these things.”
A jury of eight people will decide the doctor’s fate in a trial that is expected to last five weeks and pit MacNeill against his daughters, who are expected to be star witnesses for the prosecution.
One of them is Ada MacNeill, now 12 years old. Two of MacNeill’s other daughters, Alexis Somers and Rachel MacNeill, are also expected to take the stand. Both have consistently been a presence in the courtroom during pre-trial hearings, often clutching pictures of their mother as they glared at their father.
The jury is also expected to hear from MacNeill’s alleged mistress, who moved into the family’s home as a nanny weeks after Michele MacNeill’s death.
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