Doctor: Michele MacNeill drowned

Jim Dalrymple – Daily Herald

PROVO — Dr. Joshua Perper testified Wednesday that Michele MacNeill likely died from drowning. Perper, a doctor and author who testified for prosecutors, said that drugs found in Michele’s blood may have contributed to the death, but that he still thought she died in a bathtub in 2007. Perper said he couldn’t determine if the drowning was accidental or “homicidal.”

Prosecutors, however, believe that Michele’s death was intentionally carried out by her husband Martin MacNeill on April 11, 2007. They charged MacNeill with murder in August, and Perper’s testimony was part of a lengthy preliminary hearing that began last week. The hearing was an opportunity for prosecutors to prove they have sufficient evidence to proceed to trial in the case.

During his testimony Wednesday, Perper said he disagreed with state medical examiners, who testified previously 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 didn’t rule out the influence of the drugs, but said the evidence supported drowning as a cause of death. He cited a gurgling sound and water Michele reportedly regurgitated while receiving CPR as evidence that supports drowning.

Perper also said that 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 that it can be difficult to prove that a doctor has killed someone, though it does happen.

MacNeill was working as a medical director at the Utah State Developmental Center when Michele died. Prosecutors believe he was engaged in an affair with Gypsy Willis at the time, providing one of his motives for killing Michele. Willis was scheduled to testify later Wednesday. MacNeill and Willis also both served prison time after being convicted of trying to steal the identity of one of MacNeill’s daughters.

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