The Latest Mormon Murder Trial: the MacNeill MurderBy: Jeff Spector
Seems like having a sensational Mormon murder trial a few times a year is becoming more common. This latest one is no exception. Not only does it have distinctive Mormon overtones, but it is happening right in the heart of Mormondom, Provo, Utah.
This trial has been a long time coming, wrapped in intrigue and process issues. The death of victim Michelle Marie Somers MacNeill happened in 2007 and is only now being brought to trial.
Michelle grew up in what we might say was a typical Mormon family in Northern California. She graduated from Concord High School in 1975 and was the Homecoming Queen.
In 1977, after her family moved to Mission Viejo, California, she met Martin MacNeill. After two months of dating, they eloped, something her parents and sisters did not approve of because they were quite suspicious of Martin MacNeill and his pompous attitude. His criminal history started early and he revealed to Michelle that he had been charged with Felony check fraud, for writing bad checks. This was, only the beginning of his odd and deceitful activities.
No big deal according to him. He allegedly falsified his records to get into medical school in Mexico and California and to obtain a law degree from BYU. He was accused of sexually assaulting patients at the BYU Health Center and other places he worked and received disability income from the military until 2010 for a mental health issue. He’d had numerous affairs.
He and Michelle had a large family of eight, four biological children, a boy and three girls and four adopted girls, one of which was actually their granddaughter and three from Ukraine. Their son, Damian, committed suicide in 2010. One, adopted daughter was sent back to Ukraine.
Michelle was devoted to her children and family and to the Church. Martin likewise served in the Church, having been a Bishop according to him. He was a Sunday School teacher until he was arrested for her murder. One of the problems with the case appears to be Martin’s position in the community and the Church. During the resuscitation efforts, he shouted, “I’ve been a Bishop and pay tithing, why is this happening to us?”
He forced his wife to have a facelift at age 50 and because he was a doctor, convinced his wife’s plastic surgeon to prescribe a combination of painkilling and sleeping pills, which could in combination, render a person incapacitated. This combination of drugs was found in his wife’s body when she supposedly drowned in the bathtub. Martin was the one who found her and after a frantic, disjointed series of 911 calls and attempted resuscitation by paramedics and doctors at the hospital, Michelle died.
The Pleasant Grove police failed to properly investigate the case and his daughters, Alexis (herself a medical student) and Rachel took the case to the Utah County Prosecutors, and the investigation was opened.
The other key piece of information that Martin was carrying on an affair with a woman known as Gypsy Willis since 2004, three years before the murder. Gypsy told roommates that she was going to marry Martin when they figured out how to “get rid” of Michelle. Martin declared after Michelle’s death that he would marry Gypsy in the Temple.
Right after Michelle’s death, Martin insisted on hiring a nanny for the younger children in spite of the fact that daughter, Rachel and several friends and neighbors offered to take care of the children.
Martin insisted that Rachel go with him to the Mt. Timpanogos Temple to help make the decision on hiring a nanny. Once outside the Temple, Gypsy happens to walk by and, Martin who acted like he didn’t know her, declares that God has brought this woman here to be our new nanny and moves her into the house immediately. In addition, he had cleared the house of Michelle’s things only hours after the funeral.