Man on trial for wife's bathtub murder

2013-10-18 13:41
Martin MacNeill enters Judge Derek Pullan's 4th District Court for his trial. (Al Hartmann, AP)

Martin MacNeill enters Judge Derek Pullan's 4th District Court for his trial. (Al Hartmann, AP)

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Provo - The bathtub a former beauty queen died in could be in the middle of a Utah courtroom as her husband stands trial on charges of killing her after convincing her to get a face-lift she didn't want, then giving her a lethal combination of prescription drugs and helping her into the bath.

Prosecutors are hoping for a ruling from the judge on Friday on whether they can haul the bathtub into court for a demonstration of Michele MacNeill's death. The trial will resume with testimony from neighbours, police and paramedics who arrived at the couple's home to find Martin MacNeill's wife comatose.

Prosecutors are trying to portray MacNeill, a former doctor, as a lying, manipulative husband who plotted his wife's death to carry on an affair with his mistress, Gypsy, who the doctor invited to his wife's funeral and asked to marry him weeks later.

They said he pressed the plastic surgeon for drugs she didn't need and then gave her the fatal dose.

Medical examiners can't determine exactly how the 50-year-old woman died. A doctor who examined her before the face-lift testified she was generally healthy.

Defence attorneys say it was from heart disease, not because of any actions of her husband, although they acknowledged during opening statements that he wasn't the easiest defendant to identify with.

"Martin has made poor choices in his life. He had affairs during his marriage," defence lawyer Susanne Gustin said in her opening statement.

A combination of drugs

"We may think he's a total jerk and disgusting. And that's natural. But decide this case on the facts rather than the emotion."

MacNeill, aged 57, was charged in August 2012, nearly five years after his wife was found in the couple's Pleasant Grove home. The case shocked the Mormon community of Provo because the suspect was a doctor and had been a church leader. He was clinical director at the Utah State Hospital but has surrendered his medical license.

The drugs his wife was taking weren't common for someone getting a face-lift, the surgeon, Dr Scott Thomson, testified on Thursday. He said he would not normally prescribe Valium or Oxycodone, among other painkillers and sleeping pills, for recovery, but did so "because Martin was a physician and he asked me for these things."

Michele MacNeill required only antibiotics, and he advised her to use painkillers sparingly, Thomson said.

Von Welch, another doctor who examined Michele MacNeill before cosmetic surgery, said her husband was eager to "get things going". Welch was surprised the couple rejected his advice to put off the surgery until she got her high blood pressure under control.

Michele MacNeill was depressed but was generally healthy, and Welch said he was shocked to hear about her death.

The MacNeills had eight children, and their oldest daughters have been outspoken in their belief that their father killed their mother. Rachel MacNeill and Alexis Somers have gone on national TV with their claims and sat in his court hearings holding up photographs of their mother. They insist his motive was the affair.

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