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Doctor's mistress to testify in murder trial

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PAUL FOY | October 25, 2013 02:30 PM EST | AP

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PROVO, Utah (AP) — The mistress of a Utah doctor accused of murder is scheduled to take a much-anticipated turn on the witness stand Friday.

Prosecutors are trying to prove that Martin MacNeill plotted his wife's 2007 death while carrying on an affair with another woman, Gypsy Willis. The doctor invited her to the funeral, hired her as a nanny and asked her to marry him weeks later.

Willis, 37, is on probation for identity fraud charges. Prosecutor Sam Pead called her a "begrudging" witness who will confirm she had the affair and insist it is over. She was required by her 2011 probation to stay away from MacNeill, who was jailed last year.

MacNeill, 57, is accused of hounding his wife, Michele MacNeill, to have a face-lift, then mixing a lethal combination of drugs for her recovery and helping her into a bath tub.

Defense attorneys counter that she died from a heart condition. MacNeill has said he found her slumped face-down into a tub of water.

Early Friday morning, 4th District Judge Derek Pullan ruled that MacNeill's youngest daughter will be allowed to offer limited courtroom testimony about how she found her mother's body submerged in the tub. Pullan said many of the girl's memories were tainted by an older sister who strongly believes Martin MacNeill killed his wife.

Pullan ruled now 12-year-old Ada MacNeill can be questioned only about statements she gave a professional counselor several years ago. The girl was 6 years old when she found her mom in the tub in 2007.

"Ada is highly susceptible to suggestion by Alexis (MacNeill) and has been influenced by adults in her life who are biased" and serve as her caretakers, Pullan said from the bench. The jury was not present for his ruling.

A forensic toxicologist took the stand first Friday, saying Michele MacNeill's blood had four central nervous system depressants in it that would have had a powerful knock-out effect because she wasn't used to taking any of them — she was "drug-naive," said Gary Dawson, the witness.

Prosecutors said Willis would follow Dawson on the stand. She arrived at the courthouse Friday morning.

On Thursday, Alexis and another sibling testified their father was eager to demonstrate how their mother ended up dead in the tub, and about how quickly he introduced a nanny who, according to the sisters, didn't cook, clean or take care of the youngest children in the family of eight.

The oldest sibling, Rachel MacNeill, said while growing up, her father was her best friend and that she was closer to him than to her mother. When she learned of her mother's death, she didn't suspect her father and wanted to comfort him, she said.

But her suspicions quickly grew at a family lunch after their mother's funeral that turned sour.

Her father was "commenting on how he's a single man now, and he kept it very casual," Rachel MacNeill said. "He was making jokes about being single, and he was laughing. It made me sick. I left."