SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – A doctor who was convicted of murder after his wife was found drugged and dead in the bathtub of their Utah home will be sentenced Friday in the case that became a true-crime, cable TV obsession.
Martin MacNeill returns to court in Provo after prosecutors said he gave his wife, Michele MacNeill, drugs following cosmetic surgery then left her to drown in 2007 so he could begin a new life with his mistress.
The 58-year-old MacNeill could face 15 years to life on the murder charge and another one to 15 years on an obstruction of justice conviction. The case against the doctor and lawyer with a family of eight shocked the Mormon community of Pleasant Grove, about 35 miles south of Salt Lake City. A Provo judge previously denied a request for a new trial.
Two of Martin MacNeill’s daughters, Alexis Somers and Rachel MacNeill, were expected to speak before the sentencing, capping a yearslong pursuit of justice for their mother.
Investigators initially found that Michele MacNeill, 50, a mother of eight and onetime California beauty queen, died of natural causes in 2007, possibly of heart disease. However, her family repeatedly urged authorities to investigate further until charges were filed five years after her death.
In this Aug 27, 2012 file photo, family members hold up photos of Michele MacNeill facing Martin MacNeill, not shown, as he enters the courtroom in Provo, Utah. The Utah doctor convicted of killing his wife was sentenced to one to 15 years in prison in a separate sexual abuse case – AP
“They were a driving force, definitely,” prosecutor Chad Grunander said of the victim’s daughters and sister, Linda Cluff, who is also expected to address the court.
Martin MacNeill has maintained his innocence. Randy Spencer, his attorney, argued at the trial that Michele MacNeill died of a heart attack and fell into the tub.
Prosecutors conceded the largely circumstantial case wasn’t an easy one. Grunander said the trail had gone cold by the time he came onto the case in 2010, and the judge excluded some evidence from the trial.
“You have a doctor and lawyer, beautiful wife, beautiful children, well educated, successful people, and this happens in the background, it is shocking to some degree, certainly,” Grunander said.
Last year’s three-week trial peeled back the facade with testimony from jailhouse snitches and MacNeill’s former mistress, Gypsy Willis.
MacNeill introduced her as a nanny within weeks of his wife’s death, but his older daughters said they quickly recognised the woman as his secret lover and the subject of arguments between their parents.
Prosecutors said MacNeill insisted his wife get a face-lift, and they pointed to erratic behaviour and what they called phony grief the day she died.