CRIME
10/18/2013 03:18 pm ET

Martin MacNeill Trial Surrounded By Questions Of Wife's Mysterious Death

AP

Martin MacNeill is on trial for the 2007 death of his wife, but prosecutors said Thursday that the case really goes back another 18 month to the first dalliance of an extramarital affair, ABC News reported.

Prosecutors in Utah allege that MacNeill, a 57-year-old doctor, wanted to be with Gypsy Willis, his mistress, so he poisoned Michele MacNeill, his wife of nearly 30 years, with a combination of medicines she was prescribed after a facelift. Her body was found submerged in a bathtub by the couple's 6-year-old daughter.

An autopsy said that the 50-year-old former beauty queen succumbed to natural causes linked to cardiovascular disease, CNN reported. Prosecutors, however, prevailed upon the medical examiner to reconsider and ultimately it was changed to an undetermined cause of death.

Three medical examiners tested Michele MacNeill's body, two paid by the state and one hired by the defense, the Desert News said. Although none of the drugs in her system (Diazepam, Oxycodone, Promethazine and Zolpidem) were individually at dangerous levels, the Utah state medical examiner ruled that the combination could have caused cardiac arrest.

Now, the widower is on trial for his life and no less than three of his daughters are lined up to testify against him in a blockbuster trial.

“The real culprit in this case, the serpent if you will, was heart disease,” said defense attorney Susanne Gustin in a Provo courtroom during opening statements on Thursday, the Desert News reported.

The father of eight children, MacNeill has entered not guilty pleas to murder and obstruction of justice. He faces life behind bars if convicted.

The first witness called Thursday by prosecutors was the surgeon who performed Michele MacNeill's facelift. Scott Thompson testified that he prescribed higher dosages of painkillers and anti-anxiety medicine in response to requests from Martin MacNeill, whom he knew was a doctor, too.

The prospective witnesses over the six-week trial include inmates who are expected to claim MacNeill told them in jail that he described drugging and drowning his wife.

Three of his daughters and Willis, the mistress he subsequently married, may also testify.

MacNeill previously served prison time for fraud -- as did his mistress Willis -- and it was after he was released that he was indicted for murder. These earlier convictions include forging documents that said he and Willis were married on the same day as Michele MacNeill's funeral in April 2007, according to the Daily Herald.

Within weeks of the funeral, Willis moved into the MacNeill family home to be the children's nanny. By July, she and Martin MacNeill married.

"We may think he is a total jerk, that is absolutely disgusting and that's natural," defense attorney Gustin said. "But it's very critical that during this trial you set aside your emotion."

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