Utah Doctor Charged With Drowning, Drugging Wife Will Face Trial

Judge called his actions surrounding her death "evidence of a guilty mind."

ByABC News
October 12, 2012, 7:21 AM

Oct. 12, 2012 — -- A Utah judge has decided that a once prominent doctor who was recently freed from prison for identity fraud will now stand trial for the murder of his wife, calling his actions surrounding her death "evidence of a guilty mind."

Martin MacNeill, 57, a doctor and former Mormon Sunday school teacher, served three years in a Texas federal prison for fraud, and was released in July. Last month MacNeill was arrested on murder charges -- the warrant alleging that he "intentionally overdosed" his wife Michele MacNeill after she had plastic surgery, because she had approached him about his alleged affair.

In a Provo, Utah, courtroom on Wednesday all eyes were on Gypsy Willis, the woman who moved into the family's home as a nanny for his youngest daughter, two weeks after Michele's death. Investigators say a year-long affair with Willis was Martin MacNeill's motive in the murder of his wife.

As she left the witness stand smiling, Willis' eyes were glued to MacNeill. Willis testified that the two had met online in 2005 and started a sexual relationship one year later. She also said he provided her with a credit card to help her get through nursing school. She testified she never thought MacNeill would ever leave his wife for her.

After the death of his wife, MacNeill and Willis were both convicted of identity fraud and served years in prison for stealing the identity of MacNeill's 16-year-old adopted daughter.

"In this case, the motive will sit well with a lot of jurors because it gives them a hook which that they can justify a conviction," Attorney Ronald Richards told ABC News.

In court Thursday, the prosecutor referred to her as the "nanny with benefits."

Shortly after her testimony, the judge ordered the MacNeill to stand trial for first degree murder, calling his actions surrounding his wife's death "evidence of a guilty mind."

An initial autopsy report stated Michele MacNeill died of natural causes. However, authorities now believe Martin MacNeill drugged and drowned his wife, who was found unconscious in the bathtub.

MacNeill's frantic 911 call five years ago seems to indicate that he tried to save his wife after she drowned.

In a search warrant filed last year, investigators said the doctor "intentionally overdosed" his wife after she had plastic surgery, which he insisted she have.

Susanne Gustin, MacNeill's defense attorney says that he's no killer.

"He's done some bad things in his life, but does that mean he's a murderer? No," she said.

Richards told ABC News that the state will need to show that there's some conduct on behalf of the defendant that links him to the murder.

MacNeill's daughters and other family members have consistently been a presence in the court, often clutching pictures of their mother as they glared at MacNeill in the courtroom.

"It's a whole web of lies. This was very well planned out, and he almost got away with it. And let's hope that the jury convicts my father," Alexis Somers said.

MacNeill is expected to enter pleas to the murder charges on Oct. 22, at which time a trial date could be set.