MacNeill Trial Day 2: Neighbors describe the chaotic scene

MacNeill Trial Day 2: Neighbors describe the chaotic scene

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The Martin MacNeill trial continued today, beginning with the 911 call that Martin made on April 11, 2007. Most of the focus today was on the bathroom scene, and what the MacNeills’ neighbors saw when they first arrived to help Martin with his wife. Prosecutors brought in a replica of the bathtub that Michele was found deceased in and had the witnesses demonstrate the positioning of Michele in the bathtub. Continue reading for a re-cap of the day in court.

State’s Witness: Heidi Peterson, 911 Operator

Martin MacNeill Trial - Heidi Peterson

Heidi Peterson was the first witness the State called today. Heidi is a Pleasant Grove 911 dispatcher. Below are some highlights from Heidi’s testimony:

  • On April 11, 2007, Heidi received a phone call from Martin MacNeill.
  • The State played a call between Heidi and a county dispatcher, discussing the 911 call from Martin. The county dispatcher transfers the case over to Heidi and tells her that she got an inaccurate address from Martin.
  • The State then played the 911 call between Martin and Heidi. Martin disconnects the phone twice as Heidi is trying to get info from him. He tells her that he is trying to do CPR and that he’s a physician.
  • Heidi was able to figure out the correct address by testing out some addresses in her database.
Cross Examination

On cross-examination, the Defense plays the 911 tape again, and Heidi says that she can now hear that Martin is saying the correct address.

State’s Witness: Kristi Daniels, MacNeills’ Neighbor

Martin MacNeill Trial - Kristi Daniels

Kristi Daniels was a neighbor to the MacNeill family in Creekside in Pleasant Grove, Utah. Below are some highlights from her testimony:

  • On April 11, 2007, Kristi was hanging out with two friends in her living room when Martin’s youngest daughter Ada knocked on her front door and said her dad needed some help.
  • Kristi went over to the MacNeill house. She heard Martin yelling for help, and when she got to the bathroom, she saw Michele in the tub, and Martin was over her. She said she would call 911, and Martin said he already called, and that he needed help getting her out of the tub. Kristi ran back over to her house to grab her cell phone so she could call her husband.
  • She did not see any blood or water in the tub.
  • Kristi goes over to the bathtub in the center of the courtroom. She points out where Michele’s head was when she saw it. Her feet were inside the tub and her legs were bent. She said she was slumped over in the tub.
  • She could not see Michele’s face but she said she was face up in the tub.
  • She remembers that Michele had a long-sleeved black Tshirt on with a white shirt underneath and nothing else.
  • Kristi called her husband and returned to the MacNeill’s home with her friend Angie.
  • When she arrived in the bathroom, she saw what looked like a lot of greenish “snot” coming out of Michele’s nose. Her hair looked like it hadn’t been done.
  • Martin told her that he needed a man’s help in getting Michele out of the tub. Kristi’s husband came in then and they removed her out of the tub. Kristi did one round of compressions (CPR) and then her husband said he would take over so Kristi ran outside to wait for help.
  • She saw stitches on Michele’s face, but no blood flow.
  • About a day or two after, she and Martin were standing in their driveways and Martin told her that Michele had died from a heart condition, and that it was the same thing that a basketball player had just died from. He said it was all natural and was nobody’s fault.
  • Three weeks after Michele’s death, Kristi found a cell phone in the neighborhood. The younger MacNeill daughters came over and asked if she had found their nanny’s phone.
  • Kristi said that around that same time after Michele’s death, she would see “Jillian” the nanny at the park with the kids and around the neighborhood.
  • Cross Examination

    On cross examination, Kristi said that Michele’s body felt like it was a typical body temperature, not cold or warm. She also said she had noticed that prior to Michele’s death, Martin was walking with a boot on his foot and with a cane.

    Jury Questions

    The jury asked Kristi five questions. I paraphrased them below:

    1. “Were you looking at anything specifically before you performed the compressions?” Answer: No.
    2. “Was Martin on the phone with dispatch at any time when you were in the home?” Answer: Not that I was aware of.
    3. “How did Michele’s shirt come off?” Answer: I have no idea.
    4. “Where is the park in relation to the two houses you described?” Answer: The park is in the middle of the neighborhood; it’s about 5 acres.
    5. “Was Michele’s shirt wet?” Answer: Not that I recall.

    State’s Witness: Angie Aguilar, MacNeills’ Neighbor

    Martin MacNeill Trial - Angie Aguilar

    The next witness the State called was Angela Aguilar. Angie was over at her friend Kristi’s house when Ada MacNeill ran over asking for help. Angie also lives in the MacNeills’ neighborhood. Below are the highlights from her testimony:

    • Angie attended Martin’s Sunday School classes he taught at the LDS Church they belonged to.
    • One day, Martin told the class that he had cancer and that he was preparing Michele to take over the financials. Michele and their older children were there for that lesson.
    • Martin asked Angie a few months before Michele’s death if she could ask one of their neighbors if Martin could move someone into their home if it was unoccupied. He told her it was for a nurse who worked with him. The neighbor was a pro baseball player and wasn’t home much of the time. Angie asked him, and he said no.
    • Angie had been over at Kristi’s house for about a half hour on April 11, before Ada knocked on the door.
    • She only saw Michele very briefly; she was behind Kristi’s husband as they were lifting her out of the bathtub.
    • Angie said Michele was face up in the tub and said she wasn’t slumped too far down. She had stitches on her face that were bleeding a little bit and a lot of greenish yellow mucus under her nose.
    • Michele had a white undershirt on and nothing else when she saw her.
    • She did not see any water in the tub or outside of it.
    • Martin wanted a man to help him move Michele out of the tub.
    • She noticed that the bathroom and the master bedroom looked immaculate, and the bed was made.
    • She and Kristi’s husband covered up Michele’s lower part of her body with a pink towel before the EMTs arrived.
    • Kristi and her husband both performed chest compressions, while Martin was at her head, assisting with CPR.
    • Martin said something like, “I told her not to do this.” She couldn’t remember the exact words.
    • Shortly after the funeral, Angie had been watching the MacNeills’ younger daughters. When she went to return them to the MacNeill home, she said Martin told her that Michele had died from a heart arrhythmia. She said he was very calm and smiled. He said “it was good to know.”
    • About a week after the funeral, Angie met “Jillian.” She was working out in her yard, and Martin pulled up with a woman in his car that he introduced as Jillian. He said “This is Jillian, I think I’ve mentioned her before. She’s going to help out with the girls.”
    • The dialogue she had with Martin led her to believe that this Jillian was the same girl (nurse, coworker) he had been looking for a house for back in February. She doesn’t remember the exact wording.
    • She remembered that she was relieved that Martin had found someone to help with the girls, since she believed that he was dying also, from cancer.
    Cross Examination

    On cross examination, the Defense asked Angie to clarify that she saw Martin performing CPR. She said she doesn’t really remember. Angie said that she was positive that Michele was wearing a white Tshirt. The Defense asked her about the blood on Michele’s face. She said she saw blood on Michele’s face, but it wasn’t all over her face. The incisions from the surgery were wet/bleeding. The Defense brought in testimony from a preliminary hearing to try and show inconsistencies but Angie just kept saying it was hard to recall the exact details.

    Jury Questions

    The jury had one question for Angie. “Was there any other clothing in the bathroom?” Angie responded no.

    State’s Witness: Doug Daniels, MacNeills’ Neighbor

    Martin MacNeill Trial - Doug Daniels

    The State’s next witness was Doug Daniels, Kristi Daniels’ husband. Doug helped Martin remove Michele’s body from the bathtub on April 11. Below are highlights from his testimony:

    • Before Michele died, Martin and Doug had several conversations about Martin’s health. He told Doug he had some procedures done on his foot, and that’s why he would wear a boot or walk with a cane at times. Doug got the impression that it was a serious condition.
    • On the morning of April 11, Doug was at a neighbor’s home. He received a call from Kristi saying that she needed help at the MacNeills’ home, so he ran right over.
    • He doesn’t recall if there was any water on the bathroom floor. Martin was on one knee or leaning over Michele’s head, which was under the faucet. He was over her but Doug couldn’t see if he was doing anything.
    • He said Michele was on her back, her knees “kind of up” and feet tucked under.
    • Doug said, “Let’s get her out of the tub.” He lifted Michele’s feet and Martin lifted her head. It appeared as though she had collapsed in the tub.
    • Michele was wearing a white undershirt. She was damp but not soaking wet. She didn’t look as though she had just been submerged.
    • Doug didn’t recall seeing any other clothing in the bathroom.
    • As soon as they lifted her out of the tub, Martin began performing CPR on her.
    • He doesn’t recall seeing mucus anywhere on Martin afterwards.
    • Doug did not see Michele’s chest rise and fall when Martin was doing mouth to mouth.
    • In between their CPR efforts, Martin would have little outbursts and say things like “Why would you do this? I told you not to get the surgery.”
    • Doug remembered thinking that Martin was thumping hard on her chest during the CPR, but he assumed Martin knew what he was doing since he was a doctor.
    • There weren’t any towels that he could see in the bathroom.
    • A couple days after Michele’s death, Doug, Kristi, and Martin had a discussion in their driveway. Martin said they had discovered that Michele had a heart problem and that there was nothing that anyone could have done.
    • Doug said he first started seeing “Jillian” around the neighborhood about a week or so after Michele’s death. He later observed them going on trips together.
    • Cross Examination

      On cross examination, the Defense presented Doug with a cell phone statement from Kristi’s phone. It is from April 2007, and shows a detailed call log. At 11:53 AM, Kristi called Doug to come to the MacNeill home.

      The Defense showed Doug a transcript of his testimony from a preliminary hearing last October. In the transcript, Doug says he had seen Martin bent over Michele, trying to push on her chest. Doug agreed that it may have been that Martin had been trying to attempt CPR. He said that Martin had tried to wipe the mucus off Michele’s face, but couldn’t remember exactly what. Doug said the mucus was mostly clear, but off-color greenish parts.

      In an interview with one of the investigators, Doug had told him that Michele was kind of large to get out of the tub. Today he clarifies and said that he definitely would have been able to get Michele out of the tub by himself, but that perhaps Kristi couldn’t have.

      The Defense also brought up a past interview in which Doug said he cleaned up the MacNeills’ home afterwards, and picked up towels and a “bra” off the floor. He isn’t sure where the bra was, but he does recall something like that. He said there wasn’t a pile of clothes, or anything available to wipe up the water or mucus.

      In the preliminary hearing, Doug had testified that Martin appeared to be giving her pumps of air. He said that was the impression that he got.

      Re-Direct

      The Prosecutor asks Doug to refer back to a prior interview with an investigator. When the investigator asked him about the mouth-to-mouth Martin was giving Michele, he had said that it was a mess. He said that thinking back on it, he realized that Martin very easily could have been doing nothing. That’s how much attention he said he wasn’t paying to what Martin was doing as he was working on the chest compressions. Doug reiterated that he did not see Michele’s chest rise while Martin was giving mouth to mouth.

      Jury Questions

      The jury asked Doug one question, which is paraphrased below:

      1. “When you cleaned up the MacNeills’ bathroom, what exactly did you clean up?” Answer: A little bit of water and mucus on the floor and on the edge of the tub. There was also a small spot on the carpet just inside the bedroom, and I remember not being able to get that out.

      State’s Witness: Ray Ormond, Former Pleasant Grove Police Officer

      Martin MacNeill Trial - Ray Ormond

      Ray was a police officer with the Pleasant Grove Police Department in April 2007. Below are highlights from his testimony:

      • Ray was the second officer to arrive on scene at the MacNeill home on April 11, 2007. There was some initial address confusion at first, but they were able to arrive at the correct address.
      • As he approached the bathroom, he could see a female on the floor of the bathroom. She was lying on her back, her upper half of her torso was wet, and she had no clothing on the waist-down. Her hair was wet.
      • They moved her into the bedroom, and Ray began doing mouth to mouth while his other officer did chest compressions.
      • There was water on the bathroom floor.
      • He said she had stitches around her face and bruising around her jaw.
      • He said Michele was bluish in color, which indicates a lack of respiration, no oxygen.
      • She was wearing a white undershirt, a bra, and a black garment on top. The clothing was drenched.
      • When he performed the compressions, he could hear gurgling from her lungs, which indicated fluid in her lungs. The incisions on her face were starting to bleed.
      • While he was performing chest compressions, a lot of clear fluid starting coming out of Michele’s mouth, approximately 3 cups. They turned her head to the side and more fluid came out, which was frothy and mucusy.
      • As they were doing CPR on Michele, Martin appeared to be agitated and would keep sporadically yelling things. He was yelling about why she had the surgery, yelling for the EMTs to move faster.
      • Ray said Martin’s yelling was “distracting.” He said it was distracting due to the volume of the yelling. He was concerned that the yelling would turn into an “officer safety” issue. They asked for Martin to be removed from the scene.
      • Ray overheard Martin tell the other officer that he had found her slumped over in the tub, and that he believed she had taken medications and passed out in the tub.
      • Cross Examination

        On cross examination, the Defense went over the scene in the bathroom. Ray reiterated that Michele’s hair and upper body was “sopping wet.” The Defense asked him to clarify the 3 cups of fluid comments. Ray said that the first time the fluid came out, it was about 3 – 4 cups and the second time, it was a little less.

        The Defense said that Ray had never mentioned before about being concerned that he would have to defend himself from Martin due to an “officer safety issue.” Today is the first time he is saying it, and Ray agreed.

        Re-Direct

        On Re-Direct, the Prosecutor asked what Martin had told him about the positioning of Michele’s body and if he had used the phrase “slumped” over in the bathtub. Ray said he didn’t really remember.

        Jury Questions

        The jurors had questions for Ray. I paraphrased them below.

        1. “You said when you walked into the bathroom, you recognized Mr. MacNeill. But later, you said you had never met him. Can you clarify that?” Answer: What I meant by recognizing him in the bathroom is that I recognize him here today as being the same person.
        2. “When you arrived, was there mucus on Michele MacNeill’s face area?” Answer: To my best recollection, I don’t recall.
        3. “Was Michele wearing both the black shirt and the white Tshirt when you arrived?” Answer: Yes. Like I stated, she had a bra, some type of white shirt on and a black garment over the top.
        4. “Where were they positioned on her body?” Answer: The black garment was mainly just on her shoulders and on her arms. The white garment was on her torso, and I don’t remember if the bra was underneath or on top of the white shirt.
        5. “When fluid came out of Michele’s body the second time, how much would you say came out?” Answer: It wasn’t as much as the first time, but it was a little bit harder to estimate because her head was tipped to the side. Not as much as the first time. Less than three cups.

        Jury Question Follow-Up

        After the juror questions, both the Prosecution and the Defense can then clarify with the witness things they said in response to the juror questions. The Prosecutor asked Ray to mark on a diagram where Michele’s body was when he first came in, along with where the fluid spilled out of her body. He then admitted it into evidence for the jury.

        The Defense asked Ray to read his prior testimony from the preliminary hearing last year, about how he had rolled Michele over on her side to get the fluid out, as opposed to just rolling her head, which is what he had just testified to. Ray said perhaps they had rolled her whole body. Ray said he never noticed any rigor on the body, which is when the body starts to stiffen.

        The Prosecution got up one last time and asked him that if he DID roll Michele’s entire body over, did he check for lividity? Ray said not that he can recall.

        My Thoughts

        Overall, I thought the testimony from today was pretty good for the State. Although their witnesses definitely made some observations that conflicted with each other, they did help set the scene and gave a good visual of the morning Michele died and all the chaos that ensued. I don’t think there were any “bombshells” yet though. Everything is coming together for their circumstantial case, but my concern is that the Defense can explain away almost everything so far.

        Heidi Peterson’s testimony definitely worked out more for the Defense, on cross-examination. The State had tried to imply that Martin kept giving the incorrect address on the 911 call, but Heidi admitted that she heard the correct address when it was played again for her in court. That was a pretty big moment for the Defense. The 911 call might play a bigger role later, however, because on the call, Martin tells the dispatcher that he is in the process of performing CPR. But when the neighbors arrive, they all testify that Michele was still in the bathtub, so how was he giving her CPR while she was in the bathtub?

        I think Doug’s testimony was both good and bad for the prosecution. The bad part is when Doug said that Michele didn’t seem wet, just damp. He said she didn’t feel like she had been submerged under water, which isn’t good for the prosecution’s drowning theory. The part that was definitely good for the prosecution was when Doug was describing their CPR efforts and he noted that Michele’s chest wasn’t moving as Martin was allegedly blowing air into her lungs via mouth to mouth. He also claimed that Martin didn’t have any mucus on him, even though Michele had mucus on her face.

        One thing that’s hard for me to get past with today’s testimony is the fact that there were so many inconsistencies from the witnesses as to what Michele had been wearing. Kristi stated that she was definitely wearing a long-sleeved black Tshirt, a white shirt underneath, and no bra. Angie said that she was only wearing a white Tshirt when she saw her. Kristi’s husband Doug stated that she was just wearing a white Tshirt, and Ray said she was wearing a bra, a white Tshirt, and a black garment over it. Does it even mean anything that they aren’t in agreement on what she was wearing? Maybe it just means that six years have passed, it was an extremely chaotic scene, and they just don’t recall exact details.

        We’ll see what the case brings next week.

        You can watch the live feed of the trial every day HERE. Trial will resume at 8:30 AM (Mountain Time) on Tuesday.

        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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