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MacNeill Trial Day 4: Witness says MacNeill told her to throw away Michele's pills - CourtJunkie

MacNeill Trial Day 4: Witness says MacNeill told her to throw away Michele’s pills

October 24, 2013

Day four of the Martin MacNeill trial continued on today, with testimony from MacNeill’s co-workers, as well as his son’s ex-girlfriend.

State’s Witness: Leo Scott Van Wagoner, Emergency medicine physician


Scott Van Wagoner is an ER doctor at the American Fork Hospital, who treated Michele on April 11, 2007. Below are highlights from his testimony.

  • Michele had signs of lividity on her back and buttocks, due to pooling of blood. Lividity occurs over time in a deceased patient, as early as about 30 minutes after the heart stops. If someone is lying on their back, lividity will then form on their butt and back. It resembles bruising.
  • With respect to the body position, it means Michele would have had to have been face up.
  • Michele was dead when she arrived at the ER, no cardiac activity despite EMT efforts
  • Van Wagoner says CPR on someone who is slumped over in tub would not likely be effective, it would be difficult to get adequate chest compression in a bathtub.
  • Van Wagoner says if CPR is given correctly, you should see the chest rising.
  • Van Wagoner contacted the medical examiner and the Utah County Sheriff after Michele’s death. He felt that Michele’s death was unusual.
  • It was unusual because Michele was young and relatively healthy. She had no known heart history, so Van Wagoner thought it should be a Medical Examiner’s case.
  • At the ER, MacNeill was agitated and angry, kept saying, “why did she have to have the procedure done?”
  • MacNeill made an odd request to Van Wagoner while in the ER that he says still thinks is odd to this day, and in 15 years of practice, had never heard before. MacNeill offered him $10K to keep going with the resuscitation efforts and not quit.
  • He thought it was odd because as a physician, he probably already knew that his wife was dead.
  • MacNeill told Van Wagoner that he thought Michele had passed out and fallen into the bathtub.
  • MacNeill said he pulled her from the bathtub and started CPR.
  • MacNeill told Van Wagoner that he hadn’t seen Michele for 1 – 1 1/2 hours before finding her in the tub.
Cross Exaimination
  • Van Wagoner said it’s reasonable if you couldnt lift someone out of a tub, to try and perform CPR the best you can.
  • Defense asked Van Wagoner about what a “precordial thump” is. It is described as hitting the chest with a closed fist during CPR, which is what witnesses said MacNeill did.

On Re-Direct, the Prosecutor asked if there was any trauma to the back of Michele’s head, or to her shoulders. He asked if there was any trauma as though she had fallen into the bathtub, and Van Wagoner said no.

Re-Cross Examination

On Re-Cross, the Defense asked if Van Wagoner had observed signs on Michele’s body as if she had been submerged in hot water for a long time? Van Wagoner said no, there were no signs she had been in hot water. The Defense then asked if someone is in water and then removed, and their body is still wet and exposed to the air, would that accelerate a decrease in body temperature? Van Wagoner agreed that it would.

There were no jury questions for this witness.

State’s Witness: Stephanie Hansen, Registered Nurse


Stephanie Hansen is an ER nurse at the American Fork Hospital, and she works under Scott Van Wagoner. Below are highlights from her testimony.

  • Hansen treated Michele on April 11, 2007 when she came into the ER.
  • MacNeill was upset and agitated. He was very worried, and used sharp movements. He was “fairly verbal.”
  • MacNeill kept repeating, “I told her not to do this” in reference to Michele.
CROSS Examination

On Cross Examination, Hansen said that Michele was ashen-grey and cool to the touch when she arrived at the ER.

There were no jury questions for this witness.

State’s Witness: Melissa Frost, Utah State Developmental Center


Melissa Frost worked with MacNeill at the Utah State Developmental Center (USDC). MacNeill was the Medical Director and Melissa was a Liability Prevention Specialist. Her job was primarily to increase safety at the center. Below are highlights from her testimony.

  • The Prosecutor had Frost mark on a display where the different buildings of the Developmental Center are.
  • Frost was in charge of the safety fairs at the center. (The safety fair is part of MacNeill’s alibi)
  • On April 11, 2007, the USDC held their 3rd annual safety fair. Frost remembers that day very well because it was her last day of employment there.
  • She saw MacNeill at the fair between 11 – 11:15, when he accepted an award for his department.
  • Frost received a phone call at about 8 AM that morning and was told she would need to be prepared to give the award at “any moment,” instead of the scheduled 11:45 AM time. She was told that the time needed to be moved, due to MacNeill’s schedule.
  • Frost was very frustrated with the time change, but made arrangements to give the award at “any moment.”
  • At approx 9:30 – 9:40, she received a call saying that the ceremony would go close to the original time, as planned. This was still based on MacNeill’s availability.
  • Received a third call between 10:40 – 10:50, saying it was going to happen right now. MacNeill would be there for a very brief time and she needed to do it while he was there.
  • Frost was concerned that there wouldn’t be enough staff present because most people would be working from 9 – 11, and she wanted people to see him receive the safety award so they would be encouraged.
  • MacNeill arrived shortly after 11 AM and received the award.
  • After the award, MacNeill stayed and talked to a vendor. Frost noted that she had to rush to have the ceremony so he could leave, but then he lingered around.
  • He was there for about 10 – 15 minutes.
  • She did not see MacNeill again for the rest of the day.
CROSS Examination

  • Frost does not remember her interview with investigators from 2011. The Defense points out that she said then that the award is typically given between 11 and 12. Investigators were telling her in that interview what other witnesses said about the timing of the award. She had also said that she didn’t think it was unusual for Martin to change the time because he was normally very demanding. Frost does not recall any part of this interview.
  • The building where the fair was held was not very close to MacNeill’s office (a couple minutes to get there).
  • Frost does not recall talking to investigators abut the phone calls either. The Defense said she never told investigators abotut the three phone calls.
  • In prior years, Martin would drop by the Safety Fair briefly, and wouldn’t typically stay very long.
    • Frost has met with invetsigators and prosecutors many times, and her memory has not been influenced by any of those meetings.
    • Neither the investigators nor prosecutors ever gave any info to Frost that she didnt know herself. All of her testimony is based on her own memory.

    The State admitted the diagram of office buildings into evidence.

    There were no jury questions for this witness.

    State’s Witness: Gayla Moore, Utah State Developmental Center


    Gayla Moore worked with MacNeill at the USDC. She was the Housekeeping Supervisor. Below are highlights from her testimony.

    • Gayla saw MacNeill on April 11, 2007. He was in a hurry to get to the fair.
    • Gayla said MacNaill returned to work earlier than normal that following week. She saw him in the hallway and said that she was sorry about his wife. MacNeill told her that it will be ok, and she said he seemed fine and actually appeared to be happy.

    There were no jury questions for this witness.

    State’s Witness: Jon David Laycock, Utah State Developmental Center


    David Laycock worked at the USDC for 26 years. He was the HR Manager. Below are highlights from his testimony.

    • Laycock worked with MacNeill for seven years.
    • He said MacNeill told him about his toe cancer approximately five months before Michele’s death. He was also told about some sort of problem with MacNeill’s nervous system.
    • On April 11, 2007, MacNaill approached him and said he needed his picture taken due to the award he was receiving. He was very adamant about getting the picture taken.
    • Laycock said the adamant behavior was different than how he normally acted.
    • Laycock said that the time MacNeill showed him his swollen toe, he took off his sock and shoe and put his foot on Laycock’s desk.

    On Cross Examination, the Defense brought up a prior meeting Laycock had with investigators. Laycock had told the investigators that he saw MacNeill’s toe and it was swollen. Laycock agrees that it was.

    There were no jury questions for this witness.

    State’s Witness: Guy Thompson, Utah State Developmental Center


    Guy Thompson worked at the USDC for 10 years as the Superintendent. Below are the highlights from his testimony.

    • Thompson said he saw MacNeill at the safety fair on April 11, 2007 between 9 and 9:30 AM.
    • Thompson also said that when MacNeill returned to work after Michele’s death, it was “business as usual.”
    • MacNeill told Thompson shortly before Michele’s death that his toe had someting similar to MS. MacNeill didn’t tell him that he had cancer.
    Cross Examination
    • The Defense pointed out that in a previous interview, Thompson had said that it was around 10:00 when he walked around with MacNeill at the safety fair.
    • Thompson said that several months after Michele’s death, he wrote a letter to Human Resources that detailed how MacNeill’s physical and mental health had deteriorated.
    • In the letter, Thompson said that MacNeill had developed a fine motor tremor, and he wrote that MacNeill “rarely laughs or smiles and looks sad.”

    On Re-Direct, Thompson says that a podiatrist that saw MacNeill told him that he had performed the surgery on MacNeill’s toe.

    Jury Questions

    The jury asked who the letter was written to, but the judge says it was already answered and was written to Human Resources.

    State’s Witness: Eileen Heng, MacNeills’ son’s ex-girlfriend


    Eileen Heng was dating Damien MacNeill, Martin and Michele’s son at the time of Michele’s death. Below are highlights from her testimony.

    • Eileen was a BYU student at the time of Michele’s death
    • She went over to the MacNeill home after learning of Michele’s death, and asked if she could help out. Damien and MacNeill were at the home.
    • MacNeill asked her to get Michele’s medications from the bathroom. Then he wanted her and Damien to help him open each bottle and count the quantities of pills in each bottle. There were approximately 5 – 10 bottles.
    • MacNeill said he wanted to know how she died. He wanted to see if there was something missing.
    • MacNeill said that Michele wasn’t taking her pills, had high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and kept repeating that.
    • There were multiple types of pills, both white and blue pills.
    • Eileen doesn’t know what happened to their list of medications.
    • After they were done counting the pills, MacNeill asked Eileen to flush the pills down the toilet.
    • She flushed them down the toilet and then threw the pill bottles in the garbage.
    • MacNeill then asked Eileen to tidy up the bedroom. The hospital bed was made and was clean. It didn’t look like anyone had slept in it.
    • A couple days after Michele’s death, the hospital bed was gone from the room.
    • MacNeill told Eileen that he had found Michele in the bathtub, and that there was blood everywhere. He suspected Michele had fallen and hit her head on the bathtub.
    • Eileen said the carpet was wet. There were some blood stains on the carpet, and the blood was really dark.
    • After Michele’s death, there was “a lot of contention” she heard between Martin and Alexis, one of the MacNeills’ daughters. A person named “Jillian” was the main source of discord.
    • Eileen met Jillian a few weeks to a month after Michele’s death. They were interviewing nannies (MacNeill, Eileen, Damien, and Vanessa, another one of the MacNeill daughters).
    • There were no other nanny applicants, only Jillian.
    • MacNeill decided to hire “Jillian” after the interview. Eileen encouraged him not to due to the kids not liking her, but he hired her anyway.
    • A couple motnhs later, Eileen found out that MacNeill and “Jillian” were in an intimate relationship. She saw “Jillian” eat off of MacNeill’s plate at dinner. She told Damien afterwards that it was weird.
    Cross Examination
    • Eileen was told that Martin was getting treatment on his toe.
    • While they were disposing of the pill bottles, MacNeill never stated that he was nervous about cops coming to the door.

    On Re-Direct, the Prosecutor asked if Eileen knew if Martin had talked to anyone else about cops showing up. Eileen said no.

    Jury Questions

    The Jury asked Eileen three questions, which are paraphrased below.

    • “Did MacNeill tell you if he advertised for nanny applicants?” Answer: No.
    • “Do you know if there was some sort of application process?” Answer: No.
    • “Did you see blood on the carpet or on tile?” Answer: On the carpet.
    Background of the case:

    Dr. Martin MacNeill is on trial for allegedly drugging and drowning his wife Michele, who was found dead in their bathtub. The first medical examiner ruled that her death was an accident due to heart problems. The second medical examiner changed the manner of death to “undetermined,” which led the way for the murder charges against MacNeill. Within weeks of Michele’s death, MacNeill moved his mistress, Gypsy Willis, into the family home. Gypsy took on the identity of Jillian MacNeill, although she and Martin never officially married. This is mostly a circumstantial case, with no direct evidence proving that Michele died as the result of a murder, or that MacNeill killed her.

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