Doctor’s former mistress testifies about relationship
PROVO – Just days after Rachel MacNeill’s mother, Michele, died in 2007, her father, Martin MacNeill, asked her to accompany him to the LDS temple in American Fork. He wanted to pray about getting a nanny for the family, Rachel testified Wednesday in court, so she went.
But when Rachel and her father arrived, he suggested participating in initiatory ceremonies — which meant they wouldn’t have a chance to talk about getting a nanny — then later he met her outside where they were confronted by a woman.
According to Rachel, MacNeill asked the woman her name at least three times. Each time, the woman replied that she went by Jillian. After she left, MacNeill suggested they take the woman out to lunch, though Rachel insisted she just wanted to talk about the nanny. Then MacNeill snapped.
“He said ‘Rachel, you’re never going to amount to anything in life. You think everything’s going to be handed to you,’ ” Rachel testified.
Though the encounter appeared to be random, it turned out to be an orchestrated meeting during which MacNeill introduced his daughter to his mistress, Gypsy Jillian Willis. Prosecutors believe MacNeill was having an affair with Willis in 2007, which in part prompted him to kill Michele. He now faces felony murder and obstruction of justice charges, and Wednesday’s hearing was part of prosecutors’ efforts to prove they have sufficient evidence to proceed with the case.
Prosecutors also believe MacNeill pushed his wife to have plastic surgery, asked the surgeon for a specific set of drugs and overmedicated Michele several days before her death. MacNeill was a doctor at the time and served as a medical director of the Utah State Developmental Center in American Fork.
During her testimony Wednesday, Willis confirmed that she was having an affair with MacNeill. She said they met online in 2005, then rendezvoused for lunch several times. By January of the following year, she added, the relationship had turned sexual.
Still, Willis described her relationship with MacNeill as ” very casual.” She knew MacNeill was married and loved his wife, and she didn’t have any plans with him.
“It was just for fun,” Willis said. “Excitement. Just on the side.”
Willis said all of that changed when Michele “passed away” on April 11, 2007. When that happened, she said, marriage became “a possibility.”
Willis began her testimony glancing repeatedly at MacNeill. At one point, she smiled at him. In a rare show of emotion, he smiled back. The moment was unusual for a man who has mostly sat through the hearing stoically wearing shackles and a striped jail jumpsuit.
MacNeill and Willis never actually married, though at MacNeill’s prompting they did claim the day of Michele’s funeral as their marriage date. However, within weeks of Michele’s death Willis had moved into MacNeill’s home, ostensibly as a nanny for the young children still living there.
The decision to bring Willis into the home fractured the family, according to previous testimony. Daughter Alexis Somers, who was in medical school at the time, has testified she was kicked out of the home after confronting her father about his affair with Willis. Somers’s misgivings and suspicions also eventually led her to believe her father murdered her mother.
Rachel also testified Wednesday that Willis didn’t seem to be doing any work in the MacNeill home.
“She didn’t do anything that a nanny would do,” Rachel said.
Among other things, Willis also testified Wednesday that her relationship with MacNeill was over. She said she hadn’t seen MacNeill for “many, many years” because they were both in prison. Willis and MacNeill were previously convicted of fraud-related charges for trying to steal the identity of one of his daughters. Willis did admit that she and MacNeill had corresponded via letters and a third party.
Two of Willis’s former roommates also testified Wednesday, with Michelle Savage saying that in 2004 Willis dated a man named Neil. According to Savage, Willis mentioned wanting to cut the brakes of the car belonging to Neil’s wife. Savage said she was afraid of Willis and eventually decided to move out.
Earlier Wednesday, Dr. Joshua Perper testified that Michele MacNeill likely died from drowning. Perper, a doctor and author, said drugs found in Michele’s blood may have contributed to the death, though couldn’t determine if the drowning was accidental or “homicidal.”
During his testimony, Perper went on to say that he disagreed with state medical examiners, who concluded that Michele died from a combination of heart disease and drugs. The medical examiners testified that a variety of drugs were found in Michele’s blood, which other witnesses have said were prescribed at MacNeill’s request after Michele had a facelift.
Perper also said Michele reported being happy the day she died and had plans, meaning suicide is an unlikely cause of her death.
“Clearly there was no kind of indication that she would have entertained thoughts of suicide,” Perper testified.
However, Perper also said it can be difficult to prove that a doctor has killed someone, though it does happen.
MacNeill’s hearing is scheduled to conclude Thursday. If the judge rules in the prosecution’s favor the case will proceed to a trial.