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Woman's 2007 death may prove to be homicide
Probe • Investigation goes on, but medical examiner has changed woman's cause of death.

By Lindsay Whitehurst And Roxana Orellana The Salt Lake Tribune

Published December 7, 2010 7:51 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
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Authorities say they are investigating the 2007 death of Michele MacNeill as a possible homicide — with her husband, former Utah Developmental Center clinical director Martin MacNeill, as their prime suspect.

Though the investigation won't be complete for at least another month, Utah County Attorney's Office investigator Doug Witney said the evidence is stacking up.

"I personally feel like we have a lot of information, in my mind, enough to move forward," he said.

Michele MacNeill, 50, died while recovering from a face-lift, eight days after the operation, said daughter Alexis Somers. Martin MacNeill reportedly found Michele MacNeill unconscious in the bathtub of the family's Pleasant Grove home. The Utah Office of the Medical Examiner initially ruled that the mother of eight died of natural causes: hypertension and inflammation of the heart.

But last month, the medical examiner changed the results to suspicious, said Somers.

Somers said she suspected immediately after her mother's death that her father was responsible.

Before she died, Michele MacNeill confided to Somers that she had confronted Martin MacNeill about an affair.

Somers said she and other family members gathered 60 to 70 pages of evidence against her father and spent the first year and a half after her mother's death going to police stations asking authorities to look at the case. "We've been fighting for this," she said.

Her file made its way to Witney's hands more than two years ago.

As Witney read through it, a letter from Michele MacNeill's mother caught his eye. She wrote that Martin MacNeill had borrowed her car and left something strange behind: a seal and letterhead from St. Martin's University in Washington, where Martin MacNeill, 54, claimed to have earned a pre-medical degree.

"We found the transcripts he used to get into medical school were totally fabricated," Witney said. The forgery tools led him to Martin MacNeill's approximately 30-year-long trail of fraud that continued after his wife's death with false liens on their home and an illegal name change for his girlfriend, 34-year-old Gypsy J. Willis.

Witney's investigation turned up enough evidence for federal and state fraud and identity theft charges. MacNeill pleaded guilty to two federal counts and three state counts; he was sentenced last year to four years in federal prison.

Following her guilty plea, Willis is set to be released in March, but will face additional charges in state court.

Martin MacNeill may also face new charges of forcible sex abuse and tampering with a witness in connection with alleged abuse of a female relative a month after his wife's death. Those charges were initially dismissed two years ago, but were filed again in January 2009.

"I just hope that my father … is tried and convicted of my mom's murder," Somers said. "It's been a very slow process, but it's finally seems like it's coming to a head."



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