Daughter testifies in former Utah doctor’s murder trial

Posted at 12:57 PM, Oct 24, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-24 15:05:48-04

PROVO -- Rachel MacNeill cried as she looked down at the picture of her mother, and described her relationship with her father as "very close."

"Growing up, he was my best friend," she said.

MacNeill testified against her father, Dr. Martin MacNeill on Thursday. He is accused of drugging and drowning his wife, Michele, so he could continue an affair with another woman.  She trembled and cried throughout her testimony. At one point, the judge halted proceedings so she could compose herself.

Across the courtroom, Dr. MacNeill appeared to crying as well.

On the witness stand, Rachel MacNeill testified about getting a message from her father on April 11, 2007, telling her to get to the hospital. She began driving and called him back.

"He said, 'Rachel, come home' and he hung up on me," she told the jury.

Inside the family's home on the day of her mother's death, MacNeill said her father insisted he show her where her mother died -- over her objections.

"He physically showed, set by set, how he found my mother," she said. "He kept repeating, 'Ada is ruined.'"

Even more unusual, she testified, was her father's insistence that an autopsy be performed on his mother, right away.

"He specifically said to me that he was concerned that there'd be a police investigation, that he didn't want [...] anyone to think that he murdered my mother," she said.

Inside the garage in the home, MacNeill testified she found some of her mother's clothing "in a wet, bloody mess." She said she took them, washed them and later gave them to police.

On Thursday, she saw the clothing again -- when investigators showed them to her. She cried as she looked at them.

MacNeill testified that three days after her mother died, her mother was buried. Rachel offered to quit her job to raise her siblings, something her father resisted. Three days later, she testified, her father took her to the American Fork LDS temple to "pray about getting a nanny."

That was where she met Gypsy "Jillian" Willis, she said.

"I didn't want to hear all of this," she said of her father's attempt to ingratiate Willis to her.

MacNeill's emotions fluctuated on the stand, but she became upset under blistering cross-examination by defense attorney Susanne Gustin, who challenged her recollections and tried to contradict her previous statements to police and prosecutors.

"Is it true there wasn't a lot of blood?" Gustin said, questioning her recollection of Michele's clothing being found in a "wet, bloody mess."

"I'm not good at seeing blood. Blood is not something I like to see, especially my mother's blood," Rachel replied.

Gustin used previous testimony to challenge Rachel MacNeill's claim that her father wanted an autopsy.

"It's you who brought up the autopsy," the attorney said.

"I don't recall," MacNeill said.

As questioning continued, Gustin pressed MacNeill about the contradictions in her statements. Often, MacNeill would reply that she "couldn't recall."

"You have been diagnosed with a mental illness?" Gustin asked.

"I have," Rachel MacNeill said after a pause.

MacNeill argued with her about whether doctors had determined she had suffered from "delusions and psychosis." Summing up her cross-examination, Gustin asked MacNeill if she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

"Have I been diagnosed as bipolar?" MacNeill repeated, her expression changing. "The answer is YES."

MacNeill left the courthouse in tears, surrounded by family members.

The judge is waiting to rule on whether or not Martin MacNeill's 12-year-old daughter, Ada, would testify. In arguments on Thursday, prosecutors said her testimony would be important to their case. Defense attorneys fought to keep it out, claiming her testimony had been "tainted" by her older sister, Alexis Somers.

Judge Derek Pullan said he would rule Friday morning whether to allow the testimony. Also slated to testify was Dr. MacNeill's mistress, Gypsy Willis.