Mistress returns to testify in MacNeill murder trial

Posted at 1:16 PM, Nov 07, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-07 21:10:46-05

PROVO -- Dr. Martin MacNeill's mistress returned to the witness stand as the final witness in the prosecution's case against him.

Gypsy Willis read love letters written between her and Martin MacNeill while they were both incarcerated, contradicting her own claims that they had ended the relationship when she was arrested.

She appeared reluctant to read the deeply personal letters.

"This was two years after she (Michele MacNeill) passed away," Willis complained to prosecutors, who insisted she read them.

"I was so lonely and thrilled out of my mind to get them," she said.

Some jurors appeared wide-eyed as she read passages from letters MacNeill had written while in prison, professing his love for her. Dr. MacNeill appeared to be emotional as she read his pronouncements of love.

"Let's get married and shut these people up once and for all," Willis said, reading from one letter.

Prosecutors were trying to show the jury that Willis is the motive for the murder of Michele MacNeill. Dr. MacNeill is accused of killing his wife so he could continue an affair with her.

Willis' disclosure that the relationship continued put her in a precarious position with her testimony deal; she had told police the relationship was over. Prosecutors offered her a limited immunity deal on Thursday so she wouldn't have to invoke her right against self-incrimination.

"I found myself in prison as a result of being with this guy, and that was terrifying to me," Willis explained on the witness stand.

Under cross-examination, Willis said she hasn't spoken to MacNeill in 4 1/2 years. She said she is in another relationship.

Willis was the final witness for the prosecution in the high-profile murder trial. Defense attorneys called a former co-worker of Dr. MacNeill and his daughter's kindergarten teacher to bolster their case that he had an alibi -- he was at work.

Defense attorney Randy Spencer asked the judge to dismiss the case by rendering a directed verdict, arguing that prosecutors had not proved their case. He said Dr. MacNeill did not obstruct justice because there was no police investigation at the time of his wife's death.

Prosecutors urged the judge to let the jury decide whether Dr. MacNeill is guilty or not. After a recess, Judge Derek Pullan sided with the prosecution and denied the motion.

Defense attorneys began their case by calling Jim Van Zant, a former co-worker of Dr. MacNeill's. He testified that on the day Michele died, MacNeill left work between 11 a.m. and noon to pick up Ada.

He then called him a short time later.

"He was doing a code on his wife," Van Zant testified.

Ada MacNeill's kindergarten teacher, Linda Strong, testified she saw Dr. MacNeill around 11:30 a.m. when kindergarten let out.

The defense's final witness was ergonomics expert Brett Besser, who claimed his calculations made it difficult for someone like Dr. MacNeill to lift Michele out of the tub, based on where it was in the bathroom.

"It's highly unlikely someone would be able to do that," said Besser. "When I was doing the lift, I'm not sure if I could have done it."

Besser conceded it would not be impossible, but said only 7 percent of those with Dr. MacNeill's same age and height could have.

Under cross-examination, prosecutors attacked his findings, claiming that he focused only on workplace safety studies as citations, and his calculations were wrong about Michele MacNeill's body mass index.

Defense attorneys finished with Besser, resting their case. The judge slated closing statements for Friday morning. The jury is expected to begin deliberations by that afternoon.

If convicted of murder and obstruction of justice, Dr. MacNeill faces up to life in prison.