SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah doctor who prosecutors say “led a life filled with contradictions, deception and manipulation” was formally charged Monday in his wife’s death five years ago.
Dr. Martin MacNeill had long been under suspicion by Utah County authorities for his wife’s death, from what prosecutors alleged was a lethal combination of drugs. It wasn’t until his release from a federal prison in Texas for fraud that prosecutors moved to file charges of murder and obstruction of justice.
MacNeill has been held on $1 million bond at Utah County jail since Friday. He appeared in Provo’s 4th District Court on Monday and is due to return Sept. 4 to choose an arraignment or an evidence hearing.
Michele MacNeill’s listless body was found in a bathtub in 2007 at the couple’s Pleasant Grove home, about 35 miles south of Salt Lake City. The doctor’s attorney, Randy Spencer, told The Associated Press on Friday his client denies wrongdoing and will fight the charges.
Spencer has said prosecutors have no new evidence. An arrest warrant says Martin MacNeill hounded his wife to get a facelift and arranged to get a “potent cocktail” of drugs for her recovery.
“I believe it was his intention to rid himself of his family and wife and that he set into action a series of events leading to Michelle’s death,” wrote Jeff Robinson, chief investigator for Utah County Attorney’s Office, in an affidavit for the arrest warrant.
“Almost immediately upon calling 911, Martin started lying about the events surrounding Michelle’s death,” including his feeble efforts to resuscitate her, Robinson said.
The affidavit contains the explosive allegations from former girlfriends that MacNeill killed a brother and tried to kill his mother long ago. Robinson said he confirmed that the brother, Rufus Roy MacNeill, was found dead in a bathtub in New Jersey. He offered no other details.
Utah County prosecutor Chad Grunander told The Associated Press later Monday that state authorities don’t believe Martin MacNeill was ever charged in connection with the deaths and they have no indication he was ever under investigation for them.
One former girlfriend, Anna Osborne, described MacNeill as a “serial killer” who threatened to kill a number of people. One of MacNeill’s daughters told investigators he once offered to kill her to end her drug addiction.
His defense attorney didn’t return two phone messages Monday from the AP.
Another daughter, Alexis Somers, said her father’s “whole life” was a lie.
“I think he drugged my mother and drowned her,” Somers, a 29-year-old medical resident at Utah Valley Family Medical Center in Provo, said Monday. “It’s been horrifying — and horrifying that we had to wait for this day so long.”
Medical authorities have not been able to agree on a cause of death for Michele MacNeill. At first it was listed as natural causes. Another expert speculated she died of a heart condition exacerbated by the drugs she was taking. Yet another determined she had drowned.
Investigators described Martin MacNeill as a lying adulterer who disguised a series of affairs, alleged sexual assaults and fraud with a lucrative medical practice in Pleasant Grove and a beautiful wife and eight children, four of whom were adopted.
Prosecutors say MacNeill contrived a medical condition, explaining to the people in his life that he was dying of cancer or multiple sclerosis, to absolve him of any motive in his wife’s death. He also used it as an excuse for not being able to lift his wife from the bathtub, they say.
He repeatedly pushed his wife to get a facelift, even though she didn’t want it, and he leaned on a plastic surgeon who was new to Utah to prescribe an unusual combination of pills for her recovery, authorities say. She already was suffering from depression and high-blood pressure. The surgeon told authorities he would not normally prescribe Valium or Ocycodone for her recovery.
Investigators who subpoenaed MacNeill’s own medical records found that he was in good health. They say he told the Veteran’s Administration in an application for assistance years ago that he had bipolar or anti-social disorders.
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