MacNeill Trial Day 5: Rachel MacNeill testifies against her dad

October 25, 2013

Martin MacNeill’s trial continued today and started with some very emotional testimony from one of Martin and Michele’s daughters. Below is a recap of the testimony from Day 5.

State’s Witness: Rachel MacNeill, MacNeills’ Daughter

RachelMacNeill

  • Rachel is shown a picture of her mother and she cries on the stand.
  • She last saw her mother on Easter in 2007.
  • Rachel said she is the oldest of 8 children. There are four biological children and four adopted children. Ada is the youngest, and she is Rachel’s niece. She was adopted by Michele and Martin.
  • Rachel said she was very close to her father growing up. “Growing up, my father was my best friend.”
  • As she is testifying, Martin takes his glasses off and looks down.

    MartinRachelMacNeill

  • Rachel said she was closer to her dad than her mom growing up.
  • On April 11, 2007, Rachel was driving home to pick up her cell phone that she had left there and noticed that she had some missed calls from her dad. He had left her a voicemail saying, “Rachel, get to the hospital quick. It’s your mother!” When she finally got a hold of him, he told her to come home.
  • Rachel got to the home at about 6 PM. There were neighbors in the kitchen when she went in. MacNeill was in his room, sitting on a couch.
  • MacNeill took her into the bathroom. She said he was “adamant” that he describe what had happened to Michele. Rachel said she didn’t want to know. “He insisted.”
  • He physically showed step-by-step how he had found Michele. He told her about Ada finding her mother and he kept repeating that “Ada was ruined.”
  • Alexis was also present at this time.
  • Rachel is so emotional at this point in testimony, that the judge calls for a break.
  • When testimony resumes, Rachel says that while they were in the master bedroom, MacNeill kept repeating that they needed to get the autopsy done right away. She didn’t understand why. He said he was concerned that there would be a police investigation, and that he didn’t want anyone to think that he had murdered her mother. She was shocked and said, “Why would anyone think that?” She doesn’t remember his response to that.
  • In the garage of the home, Rachel found some items of her mother’s that had been discarded, including the hospital bed that had been in her mother and father’s room. There were also towels, sheets, a running suit of her mother’s, and other garments in the garage. There were stuffed animals that the kids had given to her mom that had been discarded in the garage also. It was a big pile in a big pile.
  • Rachel grabbed the garments and the dark blue running suit and took them to her father.
  • MacNeill said, “How dare you show me those things? Get rid of it!”
  • Rachel said she washed the clothing and kept them in a bag. She eventually turned them over to investigators.
  • On April 11, Rachel says she called her work and quit her job so she could help out at home with the younger kids. MacNeill told her, “Don’t you dare do that.” He told her they needed to go on with their lives and he would find someone to take care of the children.
  • A few days later, (the Tuesday after the funeral, which was on Saturday) Rachel and MacNeill went to the American Fork Temple to pray about getting a nanny. Her father was adamant that they do this.
  • She met MacNeill there. They went to pray separately, and then afterwards, they were going to meet outside.
  • She got outside and went to go look for her dad. She thought he had left, so she left. She eventually talked to him on the phone and he was really upset with her. He said he had been waiting for her outside the temple. She went back there to speak with him, and they sat down on a bench. They started talking about a nanny, and a woman immediately walked up to them. She said she had been at the funeral and that she was so sorry for their loss.
  • MacNeill asked for her name and she said it was Jillian. MacNeill then got up to go to the bathroom. Jillian continued talking to Rachel and said, “I heard you wanted to be a nurse. Your dad said you wanted to go into nursing?” Rachel wasn’t interested in talking, but Jillian persisted.
  • MacNeill came back and asked her what her name was again. She said her name again and that she was in nursing school. MacNeill asked for her number and typed her number into his cell phone. She ultimately left.
  • MacNeill said, “She seems really nice. What was her name again?”
  • Rachel is shown a picture in court and identifies her as Gypsy “Jillian” Willis.
  • Rachel saw Gypsy again the day MacNeill moved her into their home, which was about two weeks after her mother’s death. MacNeill put a lock on her door, saying that he didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable because there was a man in the house.
  • Rachel expected Gypsy to cook or clean, or take care of the children, but she didn’t. MacNeill would do the cooking. No one was looking after the children.
  • MacNeill told her that Alexis was no longer part of the family. He said Alexis and Michele had accused him of having an affair and that if she was going to be that way, she was out of the family.
  • Prior to her mother’s passing, Rachel had a “bizarre” conversation with MacNeill about his will. Rachel, Alexis, and both MacNeill and Michele were present for this conversation. MacNeill wanted to go over everything in his will. He said Alexis would be the beneficiary if anything were to happen (not Michele). He gave Damien, Alexis, and Rachel each $5K, which was very unusual.
  • On April 11, 2007, MacNeill said he wanted to show her where he found Michele. He demonstrated step-by-step. He said Ada had gone in and found Michele. In Court, Rachel gets up and goes to the tub to demonstrate what MacNeill said.
  • She said he had told her that Michele was face down and her legs were sticking out. He said she was under water.
  • MacNeill said that he couldn’t lift Michele out and had Ada get the neighbors. “She must have fallen and hit her head.”
  • He said she just had a garment top on and nothing else.
  • The Prosecutor shows her 3 small bags with clothing items in them. They are the clothing items that Rachel had found in the garage and had washed. These appear to be the clothes Michele had been found in: her mother’s bra, LDS garment top, and black shirt.

    RachelMacNeillClothes

  • The Prosecutor goes back to when Rachel met Gypsy at the Temple. Gypsy had told MacNeill in front of Rachel that she used to work with him.
  • Before Michele passed away, Rachel saw him carrying giant sheet rock down the stairs. He was running down the stairs, and appeared to have no difficulty.
  • Before Michele’s funeral, Rachel heard MacNeill talking on the phone with the Medical Examiner, Dr. Fricky.
  • Following Michele’s funeral, there was a luncheon. MacNeill was commenting on how he’s a single man now. He was making jokes about being single and laughing. It made Rachel “sick” and she left.
Cross Examination
  • The Defense points out that Rachel never told anyone before that MacNeill was joking about being single at the funeral luncheon. She didn’t mention it at the preliminary hearing, or in her interview with investigators. Rachel doesn’t recall.
  • Easter was a few days after Michele’s surgery, and she wasn’t feeling well that day. She was in bed when Rachel saw her. She had a migraine.
  • On April 11, 2007, the Defense points out that Rachel said MacNeill was distraught after Michele’s death.
  • MacNeill had told Rachel that Michele’s feet were “sticking out” of the tub.
  • The Defense asks Rachel to clarify what she found in the garage at the MacNeill home. She said the decorative towels were in the garage, and the wet clothes.
  • The Defense asks about an interview Rachel had with an investigator, when Rachel talked about seeing a lot of blood. Rachel responds that she’s not good with blood.
  • In the interview with investigators, the Defense says that Rachel didn’t say anything about the autopsy or MacNeill being concerned that people would think he killed Michele.
  • The Defense shows Rachel copies of numerous checks that MacNeill and Michele had written out for Rachel, trying to prove that MacNeill giving her checks was not unusual.
  • The Defense says that MacNeill paid for Rachel’s weddings, and her car.
  • The Defense produces a medical record from August 2012 that shows that Rachel had been suffering from delusions and psychosis.
  • The Defense says that she has been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.
Re-Direct

The Prosecution asks who was present at different incidences that Rachel had testified to – the day Michele died, when MacNeill gave the kids $5K, the day Gypsy moved in, etc. There were also other people who had seen the items in the garage.

Jury Questions

The jury asked Rachel two questions, which are paraphrased below.

  • “Did MacNeill describe turning your mother’s body over during the demonstration?” Answer: I don’t remember.
  • “Did MacNeill express any concerns to you regarding what he thought the autopsy might find?” Answer: I don’t remember.

State’s Witness: Jacqueline Colledge, Friend of the MacNeills

Colledge

Jackie Colledge lived in the same neighborhood as the MacNeills, and owned a ballet school. Her relationship with the MacNeills was at first professional, but then they became very close. Below are highlights from her testimony.

  • Jackie was a ballet instructor for the MacNeill children.
  • Michele became a board member on the Utah Regional Ballet.
  • Jackie became very close friends with Michele.
  • Jackie says she went to Michele’s funeral, and MacNeill spoke. “He talked more about himself than he did Michele.”
  • Jackie says that MacNeill told her Michele had had health problems her whole life and refused to take her medications.
  • After Michele’s funeral, Martin, Gypsy, and he kids went to Jackie’s house. Gypsy was introduced as the nanny.
CROSS EXAMINATION

On Cross Examination, the Defense asks if the meeting with Gypsy could have been three weeks after Michele’s funeral, but Jackie said she thinks it was sooner than that after the funeral.

My Thoughts

Watching Rachel’s testimony was very difficult. She appeared to be medicated (who wouldn’t be, in her situation?) and at times confused. The important takeaways from her testimony is how MacNeill described finding Michele’s body (face down, legs sticking out), how MacNeill manipulated the meeting with Gypsy, his behavior at the funeral, and the fact that Rachel had clearly been a supporter of her father’s but now believes he killed her mother. I’m not sure why the Defense was able to bring her mental illness into it, and it was obviously something that her father told his lawyers about, which is pretty despicable.

Day 6’s testimony should include Gypsy, and another one of the MacNeills’ daughters.

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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