But the fairy tale apparently had a dark side. Gypsy Willis was no princess, according to her family, who feuded with their daughter for years.
"I would consider Gypsy to be a deceptive, malevolent, malicious, calculating, person," said Julie Willis. "If she sees something she wants, she will rationalize that to the point that she will get that no matter who stands in her way."
And what she apparently wanted, according to investigators, was Martin MacNeill, who was married, with eight children. Witney said he interviewed Willis' roommates.
"She would have just a tirade, 'I have got to get rid of this woman that's between me and this guy," said Witney. "According to the roommate, she talked about 'cutting the brake lines.'… If the statements we are getting are correct -- we are talking about a woman who would have done just about anything to have her man."
But as investigators dug deeper, they discovered what appeared to be MacNeill's latest deception. It involved making one of his adopted Ukrainian daughters, Giselle, disappear.
A couple of months after her mother's death, Alexis MacNeill got a request from her father. He wanted her to take Giselle back to Ukraine, for a long-planned visit with her biological sister. Then 16-year-old Giselle packed a small bag and her Ukrainian passport. MacNeill kept her U.S. passport. Alexis flew over with Giselle and left her with her sister.
"My dad had just basically said … 'We'll get her after the summer,'" said Alexis. With Giselle gone, MacNeill took Willis to apply for a new Social Security card – using Giselle's name, Witney said.
"They went into court and changed the birth date 20 years," said Witney. "That's called perjury. … Now there are two people with that Social Security number, two people with that name."
Then, they went to court to change Giselle's birth certificate. MacNeill claimed Willis was his daughter, Jillian MacNeill.
According to Alexis, her father "was able to change the birth certificates around, and transfer my mother's house that was still in my mom's name." Investigators believe MacNeill was attempting to put the family home into Willis' hands.
Meanwhile, it had been nearly a year since Giselle left and she was languishing in Ukraine. Her older sisters were worried. Without telling MacNeill, their cousin Jill Harper traveled to the Ukraine to check on Giselle. She said conditions there were terrible.
"I walked in the bathroom and the walls were covered in mold and rust," said Harper. "There was a little pan on the floor in the bathroom, and I was like 'What's that in the bathroom?' And she's like, 'That's our shower. You just stand in there' … I mean I don't even know what movie I've ever seen anything that horrible in."
Jill Harper decided to take Giselle on the long journey back to Utah. In the meantime, Witney discovered MacNeill and Willis had applied for multiple fake ID cards.
"You are talking about a state ID Card. You are talking about bank accounts that were opened up under false names, false Social Security numbers," said Witney. "... We don't know why these people did what they did …because it was so likely that they would be caught," said Witney.
And they were. On Jan. 15, 2009, on what would have been Michele MacNeill's 52nd birthday, Witney and Robinson, along with federal authorities, moved in. MacNeill was arrested after landing at the Salt Lake City airport.