Attorneys for Martin MacNeill want his murder charge thrown out

By , Deseret News
Published: Monday, Dec. 17 2012 1:20 p.m. MST

ROVO — Attorneys for a Pleasant Grove doctor charged with murdering his wife filed a motion Monday to dismiss the case.

In the motion, attorneys for Martin MacNeill ask for either a dismissal of the charges against their client or the disqualification of the Utah County Attorney’s Office from prosecuting the case. They allege that prosecutors and investigators with the Utah County Attorney’s Office kept them from more than 1,000 pages of information — some of it “explosive” — that they believe points to their client’s innocence.

MacNeill, 56, has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, a first-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony, in the April 11, 2007, death of his wife, Michele MacNeill, 50. He was ordered to stand trial following a preliminary hearing in October. A five-week trial is scheduled to begin March 5, 2013.

MacNeill’s attorneys argue that the case has been “irreparably compromised” because of evidence they say they asked for and never received, including information about the MacNeills’ son, Damian.

“Investigators in the Utah County Attorney’s Office deemed (Damian MacNeill) to be a very dangerous individual who possessed homicidal impulses and discussed the ‘joys of killing,’” the motion states. “Damian was present in Pleasant Grove on the date of his mother’s death.”

Attorneys Randall Spencer and Susanne Gustin reiterate that while they do not believe Michele MacNeill was murdered — MacNeill contends his wife’s death was nothing more than an accident — they believe the information about Damian MacNeill is “highly exculpatory and was intentionally concealed from defense counsel.”

Damian MacNeill said he and his girlfriend disposed of his mother’s prescription pills shortly after her death at the instruction of his father. He told the Deseret News his father wanted him to get rid of them because he wanted to keep his mother’s facelift a private matter and said his father was also afraid he would try to overdose on the drugs himself.

MacNeill’s son committed suicide in January 2010 by overdosing on prescription drugs. He was the only sibling who said he didn’t believe his dad killed his mom.

The defense attorneys received information about Damian MacNeill, which they said they asked prosecutors for at least three times, from an expert witness who turned it over to them on a thumb drive. They said it also included information about numerous emails they asked for and didn’t receive, as well as information that investigators from the Utah County Attorney’s Office asked one of MacNeill’s daughters, Alexis Somers, to interview her younger sister, Ada, who discovered her mother dead in a bathtub.

“This is nothing short of astounding,” the motion states. “Not only is Ada the second-most important witness in the case against her father, she is a child witness.”

During a court hearing Monday, deputy Utah County attorney Chad Grunander told the judge, “We are not hiding anything. Our only interest in this case is truth and justice.”

A judge will hear arguments about the motion on Jan. 8.

For Somers, she said she believes her father’s motion is another distraction to prevent the truth from coming out.

“We know what happened and we support the prosecutors and just hope for justice for our mother,” she said Monday.

Prosecutors allege that MacNeill overmedicated his wife, administered a dangerous combination of drugs and drowned her in the bathtub of their home. The death occurred after he allegedly pressured his wife to undergo cosmetic surgery despite her concerns and, as a doctor, requested additional prescriptions the woman’s surgeon said he otherwise would not have prescribed.

MacNeill had worked as a doctor and had a law degree, both of which police believe he used “to commit the murder and frustrate the investigation in an attempt to cover it up,” court documents state.

Soon after his wife’s death, MacNeill’s longtime mistress, Gypsy Willis, moved into the MacNeill house as the children’s new nanny. Prosecutors contend MacNeill killed his wife to be with Willis.

Contributing: Sam Penrod

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

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