By Sara Lenz – Deseret News
PROVO — With disappointment, Alexis Somers and Rachel MacNeill watched as the woman they believe helped kill their mom was ordered to be released from jail during a court hearing Tuesday.
Gypsy Willis pleaded guilty in Provo’s 4th District Court to one count of identity fraud, two counts of false and inconsistent material statements and one count of wrongful lien in connection with helping steal the identity of Giselle MacNeill, the adopted daughter of her boyfriend Martin MacNeill, Somers’ and Rachel MacNeill’s father.
Willis entered into a plea deal Tuesday in which she agreed to plead guilty to all charges and to testify honestly in court if any murder charges are filed against Martin MacNeill in the future. In exchange, the Utah County Attorney’s Office has agreed not to seek additional jail time when she is sentenced at the end of next month.
Her attorney, John Easton, and prosecutor John Nielson said they agreed to recommend that Willis be given three years of probation and a no contact order with Martin MacNeill and his extended family. Many of Martin MacNeill’s children and relatives believe he killed his wife Michele in April 2007.
“We are completely horrified she’s out on the streets now,” Rachel MacNeill said after Willis’ hearing. “I’m very fearful for our family and our sisters. I’m afraid she will hurt and destroy other people as well.”
Willis, 34, just finished her 21-month federal prison sentence for aggravated identity theft this week. And Martin MacNeill, a Pleasant Grove doctor, attorney and father of eight, is currently serving a four-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of aiding and abetting in aggravated identity theft in August 2009. He is set to be released July 8, 2012.
Investigators say Willis and MacNeill’s relationship had been “heating up” prior to his wife’s suspicious death. Just weeks after her death, Willis moved into the MacNeill home as the nanny.
Investigators say MacNeill and Willis then began altering Willis’ identity, obtaining false military IDs, a Utah state ID card, and opening numerous bank accounts under the false name and identity. Jeff Robinson, Utah County investigator, said Willis had bad credit and the two were planning on starting a new life together.
They used the identity of his 16-year-old adopted daughter, Giselle — a daughter investigators say he had “flown to the Ukraine and left there to fend for herself” in the summer following his wife’s death. Giselle, who is from Ukraine, was planning on visiting her sister there for a short time, but federal prosecutors said there was no plan of having her return.
Before Willis signed her plea deal on Tuesday, MacNeill’s attorney, Randy Spencer, looked over it.
Easton said that he doesn’t believe murder charges would be filed against Martin MacNeill. He said he has read Willis’ interrogation with Utah County investigators and believes there are no implications his client was involved in Michele MacNeill’s death.
At one point, Somers said she had heard Willis was planning to move back into home of Somers’ mother and father after she was released, and this thought horrified her. She and her sisters still have things in the home they haven’t been able to get because it is currently in probate.
“My little sister Ada still asks, ‘When can I get my little dolls and my princess bed?’ ” said Somers, who has taken custody of three of her adopted sisters.
But the judge noted that Willis is not to go to the Pleasant Grove home where she lived with MacNeill and his children for several months in 2007.
Easton said he expects Willis will stay with family and friends and then find her own home, although he said he was not sure whether she has to stay in Utah or not, adding that with the no contact order with Martin MacNeill and his family, he sees “positive things in Gypsy’s future.”
“I think everyone should feel some satisfaction out of (the plea deal),” Easton said.
But family members of MacNeill who were in court Tuesday were clearly unhappy that Willis is out of jail. And Somers believes her dad and Willis have been in contact since being sentenced to prison.
Willis’ roommates told investigators Willis had threatened to cut the brake lines of their mom’s car or poison her before her death and even stole a picture of her from the house, according to court documents.
Prosecutors are still investigating Michele MacNeill’s death and have indicated they may file murder charges against him.
“This is not what we wanted,” Rachel MacNeill said of the court proceedings Tuesday. “We wanted Gypsy to stay in jail, and now she’s out and she’s a threat. I just want the world safe from these monsters.”