How Could You? Hall of Shame-Dr. Martin MacNeill UPDATED
This will be an archive of heinous actions by those involved in child welfare, foster care and adoption. We forewarn you that these are deeply disturbing stories that may involve sex abuse, murder, kidnapping and other horrendous actions.
From Pleasant Grove, Utah, adoptive father Dr. Martin MacNeill is under suspicion in the 2009 death of his wife Michele MacNeill. The MacNeill’s have 4 biological children and 4 daughters that they had adopted from Ukraine.
Identity Theft/Abandonment of His Ukrainian Daughter
Martin is”currently serving a four-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of aiding and abetting in aggravated identity theft in August 2009. He is set to be released July 8, 2012.” A few months after his 51-year-old wife died suspiciously after a facelift, his biological daughter, “Alexis MacNeill got a request from her father. He wanted her to take Giselle[the oldest Ukrainian daughter] back to Ukraine, for a long-planned visit with her biological sister. Then 16-year-old Giselle packed a small bag and her Ukrainian passport. MacNeill kept her U.S. passport. Alexis flew over with Giselle and left her with her sister.
“My dad had just basically said … ‘We’ll get her after the summer,’” said Alexis. With Giselle gone, MacNeill took Willis to apply for a new Social Security card – using Giselle’s name, Witney [Utah County attorney investigator] said.
“They went into court and changed the birth date 20 years,” said Witney. “That’s called perjury. … Now there are two people with that Social Security number, two people with that name.”
Then, they went to court to change Giselle’s birth certificate. MacNeill claimed Willis [MacNeill's nanny-turned-girlfriend] was his daughter, Jillian MacNeill. According to Alexis, her father “was able to change the birth certificates around, and transfer my mother’s house that was still in my mom’s name.” Investigators believe MacNeill was attempting to put the family home into Willis’ hands.
Meanwhile, it had been nearly a year since Giselle left and she was languishing in Ukraine. Her older sisters were worried. Without telling MacNeill, their cousin Jill Harper traveled to the Ukraine to check on Giselle. She said conditions there were terrible.
Jill Harper decided to take Giselle on the long journey back to Utah. In the meantime, Witney discovered MacNeill and Willis had applied for multiple fake ID cards. ”
“MacNeill pled guilty to two counts of aggravated identity theft. Willis pled guilty to a related fraud charge. They were sent to federal prisons in Texas. Willis received a two-year sentence; MacNeill received a mandatory four-year sentence.
Willis was released from jail on March 15, 2011 after serving 21 months.
Alexis has custody of 9-year-old Ada and two of the girls her parents adopted from Ukraine, Elle and Sabrina. Giselle is now 20 years old. Alexis has changed her name to her mother’s maiden name and has married a fellow doctor.
This sordid story continues with the lifetime of Martin’s lies. When Martin was 23- years-old he used a “phony transcript to get into medical school in Mexico. MacNeill had told people he stayed a year. But when Doug Whitney tracked down that transcript, it revealed, “he [MacNeill] had actually been there for a semester,” Witney said. “It was very obvious … [it] was totally falsified as well.”
MacNeill’s entire career in medicine was “based on … falsified transcripts to get into two colleges,” Witney said.
Witney said MacNeill next used the phony transcripts to get into a medical college in California, where he graduated after three years with a degree in osteopathic medicine. In 1984, he landed a residency at a New York City hospital, and from there built a 30-year career as a doctor. Among other positions, he worked at the Brigham Young University health clinic for nearly 10 years, but resigned following a complaint.
But that wasn’t all. Witney discovered MacNeill served in the U.S. Army for less than two years in the mid-1970′s, and was discharged for a psychiatric disorder. Witney discovered that over the next three decades, MacNeill was able to collect more than $100,000 in disability payments from the Veteran’s Administration. By the time Utah investigators uncovered it, the amount was up to up to $3,000 a month. The VA confirmed to ABC News that MacNeill collected benefits, but the agency would not comment further.
And there was more. As Doug Witney peeled back the layers, he discovered MacNeill was put on felony probation for three years in 1977 for writing phony checks in California. According to Gary Ryan, a former assistant district attorney in Orange County, MacNeill had used the checks to pay for, among other things, home furnishings, jewelry, 60 pairs of socks, two dozen pairs of shoes and a year’s supply of chocolate-covered cherries.
A store employee suspected MacNeill was using phony checks and alerted police.
“I remember him because he was bright and he was a con, and cons always interested me,” said Ryan, who prosecuted MacNeill. “They were people who if they had pursued legitimate things in their lives should have been a success. And he should have been a success. He had all the talent in the world.”
It was a talent he turned into a career posing as a doctor for three decades, said Witney.
“Here is a man who went to jail for 180 days; was put on felony probation — or parole — for three years; was on felony parole when he went into medical school,” he said. ”
After Wife’s Death, Dark Secrets of Utah Doctor Revealed
[ABC News 2/25/11 by Jon Meyersohn]
Girlfriend of Pleasant Grove man being investigated in his wife’s death released from jail
[Deseret News 3/15/11 by Sara Lenz]
For complete details on this story, see Michele MacNeill’s sister’s website at Girlfriend of Pleasant Grove man being investigated in his wife’s death released from jail
[Martin MacNeill Info website 3/18/11]
REFORM Puzzle Pieces
Update: Martin MacNeill was released from prison in July 2012.
“ Utah judge has decided that a once prominent doctor who was recently freed from prison for identity fraud will now stand trial for the murder of his wife, calling his actions surrounding her death “evidence of a guilty mind.”
Martin MacNeill, 57, a doctor and former Mormon Sunday school teacher, served three years in a Texas federal prison for fraud, and was released in July. Last month MacNeill was arrested on murder charges — the warrant alleging that he “intentionally overdosed” his wife Michele MacNeill after she had plastic surgery, because she had approached him about his alleged affair.
In a Provo, Utah, courtroom on Wednesday all eyes were on Gypsy Willis, the woman who moved into the family’s home as a nanny for his youngest daughter, two weeks after Michele’s death. Investigators say a year-long affair with Willis was Martin MacNeill’s motive in the murder of his wife.
As she left the witness stand smiling, Willis’ eyes were glued to MacNeill. Willis testified that the two had met online in 2005 and started a sexual relationship one year later. She also said he provided her with a credit card to help her get through nursing school. She testified she never thought MacNeill would ever leave his wife for her.
After the death of his wife, MacNeill and Willis were both convicted of identity fraud and served years in prison for stealing the identity of MacNeill’s 16-year-old adopted daughter.
“In this case, the motive will sit well with a lot of jurors because it gives them a hook which that they can justify a conviction,” Attorney Ronald Richards told ABC News.
In court Thursday, the prosecutor referred to her as the “nanny with benefits.”
Shortly after her testimony, the judge ordered the MacNeill to stand trial for first degree murder, calling his actions surrounding his wife’s death “evidence of a guilty mind.”
An initial autopsy report stated Michele MacNeill died of natural causes. However, authorities now believe Martin MacNeill drugged and drowned his wife, who was found unconscious in the bathtub.
MacNeill’s frantic 911 call five years ago seems to indicate that he tried to save his wife after she drowned.
In a search warrant filed last year, investigators said the doctor “intentionally overdosed” his wife after she had plastic surgery, which he insisted she have.
Susanne Gustin, MacNeill’s defense attorney says that he’s no killer.
“He’s done some bad things in his life, but does that mean he’s a murderer? No,” she said.
Richards told ABC News that the state will need to show that there’s some conduct on behalf of the defendant that links him to the murder.
MacNeill’s daughters and other family members have consistently been a presence in the court, often clutching pictures of their mother as they glared at MacNeill in the courtroom.
“It’s a whole web of lies. This was very well planned out, and he almost got away with it. And let’s hope that the jury convicts my father,” Alexis Somers said.
MacNeill is expected to enter pleas to the murder charges on Oct. 22, at which time a trial date could be set.”
[ABC News 10/12/12 by Linsey Davis]
MacNeill pleads not guilty. A 5 week trial is set to begin March 2013. “We’re happy it’s going to be after the holidays, but we’re anxious to get this to trial and see my dad go to jail permanently for my mother’s murder,” the couple’s daughter, Alexis Somers, said after the hearing.
Prosecutors allege that MacNeill overmedicated his wife, administered a dangerous combination of drugs and drowned her in the bathtub of their home. This was just after he allegedly pressured his wife to undergo cosmetic surgery despite her concerns and, as a doctor, requested additional prescriptions the woman’s surgeon testified at a prior hearing he normally wouldn’t prescribe.
MacNeill had worked as a doctor and had a law degree, both of which police believe he used “to commit the murder and frustrate the investigation in an attempt to cover it up,” court documents state.
Soon after his wife’s death, MacNeill’s longtime mistress, Gypsy Willis, moved into the MacNeill house as the children’s new nanny. Prosecutors contend MacNeill killed his wife to be with Willis.
MacNeill was ordered to stand trial on the charges after a six-day preliminary hearing in which Judge Samuel McVey heard the evidence that makes up the largely circumstantial case. Still, MacNeill’s behavior before and after his wife’s death showed “evidence of a guilty mind,” McVey said.”
[Deseret News 10/22/12 by Emiley Morgan]
“Defense attorneys for a Pleasant Grove doctor accused of murdering his wife in order to be with his mistress want more details about the alleged crime.
Martin MacNeill, 56, was ordered last month to stand trial on charges of murder, a first-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony, in connection with the April 11, 2007, death of his wife, Michele MacNeill.”
“Because medical examiners in Utah have not listed Michele MacNeill’s manner of death as “homicide,” Spencer said his client “is left to speculate about what alleged acts he is accused of doing to cause the death of Mrs. MacNeill.”
Utah State Medical Examiner Dr. Todd Grey listed her manner of death as “undetermined.” He listed the cause as heart disease combined with drug toxicity. A retired Florida medical examiner testified that MacNeill’s cause of death was drowning, but said drug toxicity was a contributing factor. He concurred with the “undetermined” manner of death classification.
Spencer also wants more specific details about what Martin MacNeill did to obstruct justice.
Prosecutors, however, say the defense’s motion “seeks information from the state that goes well beyond a bill of particulars,” according to documents filed in 4th District Court. “The state is not obligated under the rules to provide the information requested.”
Furthermore, prosecutors argue that information provided from the charging documents, a five-day preliminary hearing last month and other evidence presented in court should provide the defense with all the answers it is seeking. Deputy Utah County attorney Chad Grunander said defense attorneys are even welcome to review the state’s case file in person.
In a separate motion filed this week, the defense is also asking for prosecutors to hand over copies of all investigator notes related to the case, contact information for all expert witnesses they have talked to and copies of their conversations with them, in addition to 11 other items.
Martin MacNeill allegedly had an affair with Gypsy Jyll Willis prior to his wife’s death. After his wife died, Willis moved in with MacNeill as the new nanny for his children. Both were later convicted of identity fraud and sentenced to federal prison for stealing the identity of MacNeill’s 16-year-old adopted daughter.
MacNeill’s trial is scheduled to begin March 5 and continue through April 4.”
[Deseret News 11/14/12 by Pat Reavy]
“Attorneys for a Pleasant Grove doctor charged with murdering his wife filed a motion Monday [December 17, 2012] to dismiss the case.”
“MacNeill’s attorneys argue that the case has been “irreparably compromised” because of evidence they say they asked for and never received, including information about the MacNeills’ son, Damian.
“Investigators in the Utah County Attorney’s Office deemed (Damian MacNeill) to be a very dangerous individual who possessed homicidal impulses and discussed the ‘joys of killing,’” the motion states. “Damian was present in Pleasant Grove on the date of his mother’s death.”
Attorneys Randall Spencer and Susanne Gustin reiterate that while they do not believe Michele MacNeill was murdered — MacNeill contends his wife’s death was nothing more than an accident — they believe the information about Damian MacNeill is “highly exculpatory and was intentionally concealed from defense counsel.”
Damian MacNeill said he and his girlfriend disposed of his mother’s prescription pills shortly after her death at the instruction of his father. He told the Deseret News his father wanted him to get rid of them because he wanted to keep his mother’s facelift a private matter and said his father was also afraid he would try to overdose on the drugs himself.
MacNeill’s son committed suicide in January 2010 by overdosing on prescription drugs. He was the only sibling who said he didn’t believe his dad killed his mom.
The defense attorneys received information about Damian MacNeill, which they said they asked prosecutors for at least three times, from an expert witness who turned it over to them on a thumb drive. They said it also included information about numerous emails they asked for and didn’t receive, as well as information that investigators from the Utah County Attorney’s Office asked one of MacNeill’s daughters, Alexis Somers, to interview her younger sister, Ada, who discovered her mother dead in a bathtub.
“This is nothing short of astounding,” the motion states. “Not only is Ada the second-most important witness in the case against her father, she is a child witness.”
During a court hearing Monday, deputy Utah County attorney Chad Grunander told the judge, “We are not hiding anything. Our only interest in this case is truth and justice.”
A judge will hear arguments about the motion on Jan. 8.
For Somers, she said she believes her father’s motion is another distraction to prevent the truth from coming out.
“We know what happened and we support the prosecutors and just hope for justice for our mother,” she said Monday.”
[Deseret News 12/17/12 by Emiley Morgan]
Update 2: “For one juror, it came down to three questions: Did Martin MacNeill have the motive, opportunity and capability to kill his wife Michele?
Getting to the answers — yes, yes and yes — took the five men and three women who decided MacNeill’s fate some 11 hours of deliberation, the careful consideration of a mountain of circumstantial evidence and four weeks of witness testimony, some of which the panel deemed wasn’t too credible, according to a handful of jurors who spoke Wednesday to the Deseret News.
“It was a combination of all the evidence that really got me there,” juror Stuart Lewis said of the weekend guilty verdict. “There were too many things … that shouldn’t have been that way unless he had done it.”
What added up to murder in the mind of the jury: MacNeill’s “erratic,” sometimes “heartless” behavior after Michele’s April 11, 2007, death and the way his explanations of what happened to his wife changed depending on his audience. In addition, a medical examiner’s decision to alter the autopsy report three years later and prescription drugs were key to the case.
“This is a person who was thinking and calculating two or three moves down the road like a chess (player) would do,” said Randy, a juror who asked to be identified by his first name.
Jurors believed that MacNeill twice gave his wife overdose levels of medication — once after she came home from a hospital following plastic surgery on April 5 and again a few days later when she died.
“These were the two times that he was alone with her, and we know he gave her the medication the first time,” said Lewis, 28. “We believe the second time was intentional as well, absolutely.”
Randy noted it was suspicious that MacNeill said his wife’s death might have been caused by a drug overdose, well before toxicology reports revealed the number and levels of drugs in her blood.
“He knew that her were pills involved because he had something to do with it,” the juror said.
They were less swayed by the motive posited by prosecutors: MacNeill’s 18-month affair with Gypsy Willis, a 30-year-old nursing student. MacNeill hired Willis as a nanny to his young children within weeks of his wife’s death and proposed marriage just three months later.
“Having an affair is a far cry from murder,” Lewis said. “I think I felt the weight of our verdict. I don’t think it’s justified to put him in prison for life if he’s committed adultery.”
The jury handed down its verdict just after 1 a.m. Saturday in Provo’s 4th District Court. MacNeill, 57, was convicted of murder and obstruction of justice for drugging his 50-year-old wife and drowning her in the bathtub of their Pleasant Grove home.
Prosecutors said MacNeill used the plastic surgery as the cover for getting the necessary drugs and used his training as a physician to make the death seem accidental.
A onetime physician and the former director of the Utah State Developmental Center, MacNeill faces prison terms of 15 years to life on the murder conviction and one to 15 years for obstruction when sentenced in January.
Inside the jury room last Friday, the process began with an outpouring of thoughts and emotions, which by design had been bottled up because jurors are barred from discussion until the case is in their hands. Then it became both methodical and deliberate, Lewis said.
Some facts or witness testimonies were quickly set aside as either inconsequential or problematic.
The words from five jail and federal prison inmates, for example, seemed too loaded to be trusted, he said, even though one inmate said MacNeill told him that he was “getting away with murdering my wife” and another said MacNeill admitted drugging Michele and holding her head underwater so he could “help her out.”
“We actually discounted that. There was too much ulterior motive,” Lewis said, referring to the inmates’ hopes for reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony. “Do I think they were telling some of the truth? Yes. But was there a real possibility that they could be embellishing? There was.”
But there was sway in the combined effect and impact of what Lewis called MacNeill’s “erratic and heartless” behavior on the day of Michele’s death and beyond.
MacNeill’s well-documented rants in front of police, paramedics and emergency workers about his wife’s unnecessary surgery, the amount of medication she may have taken and professions that she must have overdosed seemed suspicious. A seemingly fake attempt at administering CPR to his wife was similarly suspicious and seemed insincere, Lewis said.
MacNeill’s directive to his son and his son’s girlfriend to count out and document the amount of medication remaining in Michele’s pill bottles and then flush the drugs down the toilet right after the death was even more distressing.
“To us, that seemed calculated and intentional,” Lewis said.
Also troubling: The use of Michele’s funeral date as a fake wedding date for MacNeill and Willis and testimony from inmates that MacNeill had said he was “glad” his wife was dead.
“There was some heartlessness there,” said Lewis, noting that his opinions about the case swung from guilty to not guilty at different times based on the testimony of the day throughout the trial.
The testimony from the state’s star witness, MacNeill’s daughter Alexis Somers, was considered factually sound but viewed by the jury through the filter of her well-stated opinions, Lewis said. Somers had said on the stand that she believed MacNeill had killed her mother.
“I knew I had to evaluate her testimony very carefully. Anything particularly damning, I wanted a second opinion on,” he said.
Randy said he felt Somers knew exactly how to answer a question without necessarily telling the whole truth.
“We didn’t just buy her testimony hook, line and sinker,” he said.
Jenna, another juror who did not give her last name, said text messages MacNeill and Willis exchanged shortly after Michele’s death and even during the woman’s funeral showed that MacNeill was “heartless.”
“It just showed that he had no remorse for Michele. He was just moving right on,” she said.
Jenna was also troubled by Willis’ testimony and said the woman appeared to be “unconcerned” about what she had done.
“She was cold. She didn’t want to offer any extra information,” the juror said. “It seems like she didn’t care that she’d just destroyed their whole family, and that really bothered me.”
“I definitely felt she knew more information,” a juror identified only as Steve said of Willis. “I could tell she was minimizing.”
Lewis said the jury didn’t expect MacNeill to take the stand but was disappointed by his defense. Attorneys focused too much on picking apart inconsistent testimony from witnesses and not enough explaining the former doctor’s alibi or providing a “solid argument” to the prosecutors’ case.
“It didn’t lend them a very strong case,” Lewis said.
When the jurors finally reached a decision, the mood in the jury room became reflective, and Lewis said he felt simultaneously nervous and relieved.
“You realize that everybody is in agreement, so this is really going to happen,” he said.
Walking back into the courtroom and waiting for a clerk to read the verdict out loud, Lewis was overcome with the heartbreaking nature of MacNeill’s acts and avoided making any eye contact.
“It was so difficult to look at him,” the juror recalled. “He ruined so many lives. He’s ruining his own life.”
Afterward, jurors met with prosecutors, the MacNeill daughters and others from Michele’s families. Too awake to sleep, when Lewis finally got home at 2:30 a.m., he spoke briefly to a friend and then got online to pour through news coverage from the trial — something jurors weren’t allowed to do over the past month.
“It solidified that Martin had questionable character,” Lewis said. “In that respect, I’m that much more confident that he could have done it.”
[Deseret News 11/14/13 By Jennifer Dobson]
“A Utah doctor who was convicted of using his medical expertise to murder his wife has been hospitalized after he attempted suicide in his jail cell with a razor, according to the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.
Guards intervened Thursday evening after they discovered Dr. Martin MacNeill had dismantled a disposable razor and used the blade to cut his leg and femoral artery, Sgt. Spencer Cannon of the Utah County Sheriff’s Office told ABCNews.com.
“He was discovered early enough by guards so his injuries were not life-threatening,” Cannon said.
MacNeill is expected to recover from his injuries, Cannon said, however doctors have advised that he will need to remain in the hospital tonight and perhaps through the weekend.
As part of the jail’s hygiene protocol, inmates are typically given access to a disposable razor for about 15 minutes, Cannon said.
Alexis Somers, one of MacNeill’s daughters who testified against her father at his murder trial, told ABC News she was aware of his suicide attempt.
“My family continues to struggle to heal and move forward with our lives after the murder of our beloved mother. Our lives have already been torn apart,” she said. “We do not pretend to understand the senseless, distressful and hurtful actions of our father.”
MacNeill faces another trial in February 2014 for allegedly sexually abusing one of his daughters after his wife died.
MacNeill was found guilty last month of first-degree murder and obstruction of justice for the April 11, 2007, death of his wife, Michele MacNeill.
Prosecutors said MacNeill persuaded his wife to have plastic surgery so he could dope her up during her recovery and then drown her, clearing the way for his mistress, Gypsy Willis, to move in to the family’s home.
MacNeill’s defense lawyers said heart problems were a contributing factor in the mother of eight’s death and that the Utah doctor was not guilty.
MacNeill is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 7.”
” Martin MacNeill, the former Pleasant Grove doctor recently convicted of killing his wife, was in court Monday for an unrelated sex abuse case. MacNeill, 57, is charged in 4th District Court with one count of forcible sexual abuse, stemming from allegations that he put his hands down an adult female relative’s pants in 2007 and then asked her to sign a statement saying he did not touch her, according to charging documents.
Charges were originally filed in 2008, but were dismissed by a judge six months later. Prosecutors re-filed the case in 2009, which prompted an appeal from MacNeill’s attorneys, who argued the case could not be re-filed because the judge had not specified if the dismissal was with or without prejudice, meaning the judge did not say whether prosecutors could re-file the charges at a later date.
In an opinion issued in September 2012, the Utah Court of Appeals sided with the state, ruling that it cannot be assumed that anytime a case is dismissed that it is with prejudice.
During Monday’s hearing Judge Samuel McVey scheduled oral arguments on pre-trial motions for Jan, 23.
MacNeill’s two-day trial remains set to begin Feb. 4.
Last Friday, defense attorney Randall Spencer filed a number of motions in the sex abuse case, including a motion asking for the case to be dismissed or that Utah County prosecutors be barred from handling it.
Spencer argues in the motion that the county attorney’s office released non-public information about his client to the media from 2009 through 2012 in order to generate leads in the investigation into his wife’s death. Spencer said that stories published by various media outlets insinuated that MacNeill was a “sexual predator” who raped multiple women and got away with it. The defense attorney alleges that Utah County Attorney’s Office investigators and prosecutors released this information and that it was an “extrajudicial statement” that prejudiced MacNeill’s due process rights. Because of this release of information, Spencer said any potential jury pool is now tainted.
Spencer also filed a motion asking that the trial be moved to a different county. In that motion, Spencer wrote that publicity related to the murder trial — which garnered daily coverage in local and national media — would make seating an impartial jury in Utah County impossible.
Prosecutors have not yet had a chance to respond to Spencer’s motions in court.
MacNeill is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in the murder case — where a jury found him guilty of murder and obstruction of justice in Michele MacNeill’s 2007 death.
But that date will likely be delayed because Spencer filed a motion on Dec. 27 asking 4th District Judge Derek Pullan to arrest judgment in the case or grant a new trial. MacNeill’s attorneys argue in their 30-page motion that a federal inmate lied on the stand about a possible early release he received in exchange for his testimony, and that prosecutors did not disclose that a deal was in the works.
That federal inmate testified during Martin MacNeill’s four-week trial that the former doctor confessed to him that he drugged his wife and then drowned her a bathtub at their Pleasant Grove home on April 11, 2007.
Michele MacNeill was found unconscious in her bathtub by her 6-year-old daughter, Ada MacNeill, that day. The child was sent by her father to a neighbor’s house to get help, and eventually Michele MacNeill was pulled from the bathtub by a neighbor and Martin MacNeill. The two attempted CPR before medical crews arrived.
Michele MacNeill, 50, was pronounced dead at American Fork Hospital.
MacNeill has been housed in the Utah County jail since his 2012 arrest, though he was briefly hospitalized in early December after he attempted suicide.”
[The Salt Lake Tribune 1/6/14 by Jessica Miller]