Doctor accused of murder gets preliminary hearing date

September 05, 2012 12:17 am  •  Jim Dalrymple – Daily Herald

PROVO — A doctor accused of killing his wife in 2007 had his case fast-tracked Tuesday and is now scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing next month.

Martin MacNeill faces one count of murder, a first-degree felony, and one count of obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony, for allegedly killing his wife, Michele, shortly after she had plastic surgery. During Tuesday’s court appearance MacNeill’s attorney, Randy Spencer, asked to have a preliminary hearing as soon as possible in order to review the evidence of the case. In response, Judge Samuel McVey scheduled the hearing to begin Oct. 5.

The date moves the case along more rapidly than other cases of similar severity, which can take months or even years to arrive at a preliminary hearing. However, both Spencer and prosecutor Chad Grunander said they would be ready to proceed.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Grunander also compared the complexity of the case to the investigation into the disappearance of Kiplyn Davis, who vanished in 1995. Grunander explained that prosecutors anticipate calling numerous witnesses from several different states. In order to fit all the witnesses in, the October preliminary hearing is scheduled to last five days.

Grunander said many of the witnesses who will testify during the preliminary hearing will be doctors. He explained that they will all be treated as experts, but did not say if any of them would be MacNeill’s former colleagues. MacNeill was working as the director at the Utah State Developmental Center when his wife died. Court documents further allege that one of his former mistresses claimed to hear him talk about killing patients in the past.

The documents claim that MacNeill killed his wife after pressuring her to undergo a face lift from a doctor he selected.

Following Tuesday’s hearing, MacNeill’s daughter Alexis Somers said she has faith in the prosecution and hopes her father is convicted. Somers has been a vocal and persistent champion of the charges against her father and is frequently cited in more than 60 pages of documents prosecutors have filed in support of the charges. Somers and other family members who attended Tuesday brought photographs of Michele.

“We just want to help the prosecution in any way that we can,” Somers said.

She added that she anticipates being called as a witness for the prosecution.

Spencer said after the hearing that prosecutors and the MacNeill family are trying to dramatize what amounts to simply a tragic death.

“They all want to make Hollywood script out of the evidence,” Spencer added.

If the judge rules at the preliminary hearing that prosecutors have enough evidence to proceed, the case will be ready to move forward to trial.

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