‘I thought he loved us,’ daughter testifies against her father

By  and , Deseret News

Published: Friday, Oct. 5 2012 7:21 p.m. MDT

PROVO — Alexis Somers always believed she had a very close relationship with her dad.

“I loved my father. I wanted to go into medicine because of my father, partially. I would go with him to work. I was around my father a lot, and I loved him,” she said Friday.

That relationship changed “the day my mother died.”

Over three days of testimony, Somers was one of many witnesses who described suspicious circumstances andMartin MacNeill‘s odd behavior before and after his wife died in a bathtub in April 2007.

But whether the nearly entirely circumstantial evidence is enough for a judge to order him to stand trial for murder remains to be decided. Prosecutors will present at least two more days of testimony next week before Judge Samuel McVey makes that decision.

Somers recalled details Friday about that fateful day and why she immediately suspected the man she loved had murdered her “hero,” “best friend” and mother, Michele MacNeill.

“Is it easy to testify against your father?” prosecutor Chad Grunander asked.

“No, it’s not,” she said.

“Why is that?”

“This is a man I loved the majority of my life, who I thought was our protector. I really looked up to him. I thought he loved us.”

Final days

Days before her mother died, Michele MacNeill underwent a plastic surgery procedure. Somers, then a first-year medical student, helped care for her mother as she recuperated at home in Pleasant Grove.

She would check her mother’s pulse, heart rate and blood pressure, and she closely monitored and noted the medication she took.

The one night her father was adamant that she not sleep next to her mother, Somers said she woke up and discovered her mother was heavily sedated and unresponsive to her efforts to rouse her.

“I confronted my dad and said, ‘What medications did you give her? She’s been overmedicated,'” she testified, saying that her dad then listed essentially all of the medications prescribed.

“I said, ‘Dad, what are you doing? That’s way too much medication.’ He said, ‘Oh, maybe I did give her too much.’ I said, ‘I’m taking over her medication. You’re not to give her anymore.'”

When Michele MacNeill woke up late in the day, Somers said she spoke to her mother as soon as she was lucid.

“I asked her what happened. She was fearful” and agitated, Somers said. “She said, ‘Alexis, I don’t know why, but your dad kept giving me pills. He kept giving me medications. I (was) throwing up. … He said, ‘Take this, take this.””

Michele MacNeill’s eyes were still bandaged at the time from the facelift. Somers said her mother wanted to feel each pill to learn what each one was “in case he tried to give her any more.”

After that incident, Somers said her mother began taking only small doses of a few prescriptions. She was able to walk and appeared to be healing well and in good spirits.

Phone records

That same week, Somers said she overheard her parents arguing about phone records involving calls Martin MacNeill was making to a woman named Gypsy Willis. Her mother suspected he was having an affair with her and was upset that Martin MacNeill wouldn’t allow her to access his phone records.

Somers left for school in Las Vegas on April 10, 2007, a week after her mother’s surgery. She said she felt comfortable leaving because her mother was feeling well, had no symptoms, didn’t need any more medication and could take care of herself.

She spoke with her mother the next morning, the day she died.

“She was happy and pleasant. She said my father’s being so sweet to her. I just remember feeling so relieved because I knew of their conflict,” Somers testified.

Hours later, she got a “frantic” and “bizarre” voice message from her father.

“He said, ‘You need to call your mother. She’s not listening to me. She’s getting out of bed, she’s not resting.’ It took me back a little bit, because it was strange. I saw her the day before. I talked to her earlier in the day and she was back to her routine. She was feeling fine.”

Somers began calling her mother’s cellphone and the home phone. Eventually, her dad answered.

“He said, ‘Your mother’s not breathing. She’s in the tub. I’ve called police,'” Somers testified. “I dropped everything, all my bags, and ran to my car and started driving to the airport.” She knew her mother was dead by the time she landed and drove straight home to look for the medication. She said she immediately asked her father where the medication was, and he told her: “I don’t know. Maybe the police took it.”

Where are the pills?

Eileen Heng told a different story Friday, saying MacNeill was very aware of the medication. Heng, who was dating Somers’ brother, Damian MacNeill, testified that she went to the MacNeill home shortly after Michele MacNeill died. She asked what she could do to help and Martin MacNeill asked her to retrieve his wife’s medication. Heng said Martin and Damian MacNeill counted the pills and Martin MacNeill made notes and then asked Heng to flush the medication down the toilet, which she did.

Somers said she could not find the medication, nor could she find the detailed notes she had taken about what her mother took, ate and drank during the week prior.

Not long after, Somers said she had several conversations with her father about his desire to hire a nanny for the younger children, which Somers said she didn’t understand because of the help available within the family, friends and community. Within two or three weeks after her mother’s death, she said he called her.

“He said, ‘Alexis, I found the perfect nanny,'” Somers testified. “I said,’ What’s her name?’ He said, ‘I don’t really know. I think it’s Gillian?’ I said, ‘Dad. Gypsy Gillian Willis? I know that woman. … You are not to bring her into the home.’ He was irate. ‘How dare you? That’s so vile.’ It was crazy. Then he hung up on me.”

By the time Somers moved home for the summer, Willis had moved into the home and was sleeping in Somers’ bedroom. In early June, she said Martin MacNeill texted his adult daughters and chastised them for “being mean to Gypsy” and then “one by one started saying, ‘Get out of the house.'” She said he had them removed for trespassing.

She confronted her father about Willis multiple times and said he always denied they were romantically involved. But after she asked him about something a neighbor had reported seeing involving the two, he told her, “We’re going to get married in the temple.”

Case resumees Tuesday

MacNeill, 56, is accused of overmedicating his wife and administering a “dangerous combination” of drugs and drowning her in the bathtub of their home. Prosecutors say he used his knowledge as a doctor and lawyer “to commit the murder and frustrate the investigation in an attempt to cover it up.”

Douglas E. Rollins, a retired professor of pharmacology and toxicology, testified about four drugs found in Michele MacNeill’s body: Valium, oxycodone, Phenergan and Ambien.

“I believe potentially they could be fatal in combination,” he said of the prescription drugs. If not fatal, he said most people “wouldn’t be functional if they took these four drugs.”

While the drugs were likely taken shortly before she died, Rollins admitted the levels in her system could also mean she took the drugs regularly over several days.

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.combwest@desnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeammisterwestt

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