HLN is running some same day feeds of a murder trial in Utah where a husband is accused of killing his wife so that he could move the mistress in. It’s pretty interesting so I will start investigating it this weekend and try to make sense of this very messy trial. There is a lot of conflicting testimony so far. Today was day two of the long-awaited trial and neighbors who were called on to help testified today. But before we get to testimony. Let’s look at the major players.
The Victim Michele MacNeill
Michele MacNeill was found dead in her bathtub at her Pleasant Grove home on April 11, 2007 by her six-year-old daughter, Ada. (Spoiler alert, as it turns out Ada is actually their granddaughter. Ada’s biological mother is Vanessa but the family pretended Ada was Martin and Michele’s child.) Ada said her mother was on her back in a shallow pool of red water, her entire body was in the tub, and her eyes were open and her hair was going down the drain and her head was at the faucet end of the tub. No one takes a bath with their head toward the faucet. Martin has described finding her slumped over the edge of the tub head first sort of half in and half out. However he also said he could not get her out of the tub.
Michele had turned 50 in 2007 and Martin was pressuring her to get a face lift. She was very pretty and did not need a face lift at all, but she relented to Martin’s pressure hoping it would help to improve their relationship. She was very concerned that Martin was having an affair. Michele told one of her older daughters that if anything happened to her, to be sure it was not Martin who was responsible. The daughter also looked into her father’s phone bills for evidence of cheating. The phone records showed Martin was having extensive contact with Jillian Gypsy Willis. Michele confronted him about her suspicions and he lied. More on old Gypsy later.
She got a full facelift plus both lower and upper eyelids done. Because of the eyelids, her eyes were bandaged closed. This meant she had no idea what medication she was being handed. It was a nine hour surgery. After the surgery, Martin wanted to take her straight home rather than her receiving the customary overnight hospital stay with round the clock nursing assistance.
From HLN.com :
At the pre-op consultation before surgery, Martin allegedly gave the surgeon a list of drugs that he wanted his wife to have after the operation. The surgeon prescribed Lortab, Ambien, Valium, Percocet, Phenergen and Keflex. During a preliminary hearing, the surgeon testified that he did not normally give Percocet and Valium with the other drugs, but because MacNeill was a physician, he did so at his request. The doctor told investigators he had never prescribed that combination of drugs to a patient and would not have in this case had it not been for the recommendation of Martin MacNeill. He said he did so only on the condition that MacNeill monitor the administration of the substances as a physician.
Three medical examiners tested Michele MacNeill’s body, two paid by the state and one hired by the defense. Although none of the drugs in her system: Diazepam (valium) , Oxycodone (Percocet), Promethazine (Phenergan)and Zolpidem (Ambien) were individually at dangerous levels, the Utah state medical examiner ruled that the combination could have caused cardiac arrest. Far be it from me to disagree with a Utah medical examiner but, Phenergen and Ambien interact to cause kookoo crazy drunkenness plus a little side of valium and Percocet and she was doped up!
Prosecutors say the evidence shows that her husband used the surgery and recovery period to “obtain the necessary drugs and set in motion the circumstances to intentionally or knowingly cause Michele’s death and conceal his involvement.”
This is the clearest writing I could find on the “three autopsies” where the cause of death varies from “natural causes” to “a heart event” to “drug interactions.” To be honest each writing I have read has been slightly different. This appears to be the best source. It’s from the preliminary hearing.
Spencer and fellow defense attorney Susanne Gustin noted that the original autopsy on Michele MacNeill in 2007 was conducted by an assistant medical examiner who has since died. That autopsy concluded that MacNeill died of heart disease and concluded the “circumstances (were) not suspicious.” Grey essentially agreed with her findings in 2008 before reviewing it and changing his opinion in 2010.
Dr. David Cragun, an interventional cardiologist at the Central Utah Clinic in Provo, was also asked to review the initial autopsy. He concluded it was “very unlikely” that myocarditis (heart disease) led to her death.
While Grey said it’s not common for a medical examiner to change their opinion on a death, it’s not unusual. He referred to a high-profile murder in Salt Lake City some years ago where that occurred. In the MacNeill case, he said he looked at the “totality of drugs in her system.”
“There was a potential that this mix of drugs could lead to potentially lethal effects or sedated effects,” he said. “It’s possible that this individual may have been coerced or forced to take medications that she might not otherwise.”
Post-mortem toxicology analysis of MacNeill showed there were four powerful prescription medications in her system — Valium, oxycodone, Phenergan and Ambien. A pharmacology/toxicology expert testified that there was little chance that MacNeill would have been alert with the dangerous quadruple combination of prescription meds found in her system at the time of her death.
“You have a tank that’s nearly 3/4 full, 7/8 full, and you drop (Zolpidem) in, it’s very surprising anyone could maintain a level of alertness with that in their system,” Dr. Gary Dawson said. “That would be the fourth piece that dropped in on the top brick.”
But what may have been most surprising, he said, was that she had such a high level of the potent sleeping drug, typically sold under the brand name Ambien, in her system at midday.
If MacNeill had taken the sleeping agent the night before at the customary bed time, there shouldn’t have been any left in her system by the time her body was found, he said. A more likely scenario was the drug was administered within two hours of when she was found.
There is also a lot of testimony from witnesses today about what Michele was or was not wearing when she was found. The six-year-old said her mother was fully dressed in the bathtub wearing a long black shirt and pants. The neighbors say she was nude from the waist down and wearing a white undershirt with no bra. One witness said he picked up the clothing from the floor and took it to the laundry room, but later said he was not sure. Who takes a bath, stoned on multiple drugs in their clothes?
That’s enough for now. Martin’s back story of lies and deceit will be next. You will not believe the skeletons in his closet.