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Top stories of 2013: Martin MacNeill

By Sam Penrod | Posted - Dec. 30, 2013 at 9:34 p.m.


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PLEASANT GROVE — The murder trial of Martin MacNeill made headlines across the U.S. during 2013. The month-long trial attracted national attention, and MacNeill was found guilty of killing his wife Michele.

More than six years after Michele MacNeill died, Martin MacNeill went on trial for the murder of his wife in a circumstantial case prosecutors said was motivated by MacNeill's plan to begin a new life with his mistress, Gypsy Willis.

Two of MacNeill's daughters, Rachel and Alexis, pushed prosecutors to investigate their mother's 2007 death, and testified against him.

"He specifically said to me he was concerned about there being a police investigation that he didn't want anyone to think he killed my mother," Rachel MacNeill said during one of the hearings.

"My dad called me on the phone and said, 'Alexis, I just found the perfect nanny,' Alexis Somers said. "And I said, 'What is her name?' And he said, 'Jillian.' And I said, 'Dad, Gypsy Jillian Willis? I know that woman. I know that mom was worried you were having an affair with her and you are not to bring her into the home.' "

Willis became the star witness in the trial, reluctantly admitting to the affair. She moved into the MacNeill home just days after Michele's death as a nanny, and exchanged suggestive text messages with Martin, the day after Michele died.

When asked if she knew what happened on April 11, Willis said, "Martin's wife was found collapsed, he tried to resuscitate her. She coded and passed away."

After four weeks of testimony, the jury deliberated 11 hours before returning with a midnight verdict finding MacNeill guilty.

"We can't believe this has finally happened," Somers said. "We're so grateful."

Jurors said they didn't buy all of the coincidences surrounding Michele's death, and decided the timing of her death was just too convenient for Martin.

"It just seemed like he was, 'Oh good, she's gone. I can move on with my mistress,' " said one of the jurors.

Michele's family believes there is finally justice in her death and they can now begin to find closure.

MacNeill attempted suicide Dec. 5. He will be sentenced on Jan. 7 and faces 15 years to life in prison. His attorney has promised an appeal.

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Sam Penrod

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