Martin MacNeill, a wealthy doctor and father of eight, convicted of murdering his wife in 2013, is the subject of ABC News’ 20/20, which airs on Friday, June 14 a 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. ET on ABC.
According to an ABC News press release, this episode features new interviews with Michele and Martin’s daughters, Alexis and Rachel. Retired investigators Doug Witney and Jeff Robinson, who worked on both the identity fraud and murder cases. A prosecutor in the murder case, Chad Grunander. Shanna Hogan, a crime writer who wrote the book based on the story entitled The Stranger She Loved. Michele’s sister Linda Cluff and her niece Jill Harper. Gypsy Willis, Martin’s former mistress, and her sister Julie Willis. Doug and Kristi Daniels, the neighbors who were on the scene after Michele’s death. And Sergeant Josh Motsinger, one of the first police officers on the scene.
“Don’t forget to watch @ABC2020 tonight for a two-hour episode on the Martin MacNeill case, the subject of my third book, “The Stranger She Loved.” I’ll be featured as an ABC News Consultant, updating viewers on the latest twists and turns in the story,” Shanna Hogan wrote on Twitter.
“This Friday 20/20 is doing a 2 hour updated special on our story,” Alexis Somers wrote in a Facebook post. “Rachel and I agreed to be re-interviewed because we feel like maybe it can do some good. Sharing something so personal is always very hard but I feel like we have been blessed so much through all of this. Miracles have happened. God has a plan for us all. One day we will all be together again. I love you mamma.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Michele Met Martin at a Mormon Singles Event When She Was 21 Years Old
According to a video released by ABC News, Michele Somers, who was very involved with the mormon church, met Martin MacNeill at a mormon singles event when she was 21 years old, and within months they eloped and got married. They immediatley started a family and ended up having eight children, four of which came in the span of five years. The couple adopted four more children, three of which were from Ukraine.
Two of their daughters, Alexis and Rachel, speak very highly of Michele, saying that “all she cared about was her family and helping people.”
“What words can describe the beloved wife of Martin?” Michele’s obituary reads. “The selfless mother of Rachel, Vanessa, Alexis, Damian, Giselle, Elle, Sabrina, and Ada? The cherished daughter of Milton and Helen Somers? The glorious friend of all who knew her? How can words adequately describe one who seemed to us a little above the angels?
2. Rachel MacNeill Said Her Father ‘Changed’ When He Turned 50 & He Suggested Michele Get a Facelift
Rachel told ABC News that her father became very obsessed with his appearance. He was losing weight and going to the tanning salons. Michele began having suspicions of an affair, and when confronted Martin about it, he simply suggesed that she should make some changes to her appearance too.
The outlet reports that Martin found a plastic surgeon and insisted that Michele get a facelift immediately. Although she had never expressed any interest in surgically altering her appearance, Michele got the facelift on April 3, 2007. Apparently it did not go very well, as it is said she was in a lot of pain.
During recovery, Martin insisted the doctor prescribe certain post-op medications, including Valium, Ambien, Phenergan, Percocet, and Lortab, all central nervous system depressants, never meant to be taken together.
Upon returning home, Martin told their Alexis Somers that he would administer the medication. However, when she came back the next morning, “she was completely sedated and out of it,” she told ABC News. She confronted him about her mother’s state, “and he said, ‘Oh and your mother threw up so then I gave her more medicine.’”
Somers told the outlet that her mother was concerned about the pills her husband was giving her, saying she requested to feel the pills in order to know what he was giving her.
3. The Medical Examiner Initially Ruled Michele’s Death to be of Natural Causes
Michele was reportedly recovering well. A week after her return home, Martin picked their daughter Ada up from school. Martin was in the kitchen when he instructed Ada to check on her mother, who she found lying dead in the bathtub.
Martin immediately called 911. The operator, Heidi Johnson, told ABC News that he was yelling hysterically, “I tried to calm him down and tried to get the information from him, but he didn’t want to [stay] on the line with me and he hung up.” Johnson called back, but Martin snapped that he was a physician and had begun CPR before hanging up for the second time.
When Martin told Somers about her mother, she said her first instinct was that he killed her. When Somers asked her father to see the remaining medication, he said it was making him too sad to look at and that he had someone flush the remaining pills down the toilet already.
Police believed Martin MacNeill’s story that it was an accident, without questioning the rest of the family. The medical examiner ruled Michele’s death as natural, due to cardiovascular disease. Two months after her death, Michele’s case was closed.
4. Martin Brought in ‘the Perfect Nanny’ Shortly After Michele’s Death
Somers knew that the nanny was her father’s mistress before he brought her into their home. She said that her mother was worried about him having an affair with a woman named Gypsy Jillian Willis and ordered that she was not to be brought to their house.
Martin said there would be interviews for the position. After one candidate was “interviewed for the position, she was hired. It was Gypsy. Rachel said that Gypsy didn’t cook, clean, or take care of the children.
“I moved in to help with the kids. When we had opportunity, I still slept with him,” Willis said in the interview.
It is reported that when Rachel and Alexis confronted their father, he kicked them out of the house for being mean to Gypsy. “He wanted to make it known that it was either Gypsy or his children,” Rachel told ABC News. “and he chose the ‘nanny.’”
5. Michele’s Family Fought For Futher Investigation into Her Case & Martin Was Eventually Found Guilty of Murdering Her
Despite Michele’s case being closed, her family did not believe that she died of natural causes and pushed for futher investigation into her death.
“I’d try to go to the authorities. I’d go to the governor’s office,” Somers told ABC News. “I went to every single newspaper in Utah, trying to get someone to listen… My mother was murdered. She was murdered. And no one cares.”
Finally, the effort paid off when investigators Doug Witney and Jeff Robinson with the Utah County Prosecutor’s Office were assigned to investigate the case. According to the outlet, Whitney extensively dug into Martin’s past and found some very shocking information, including falsified transcripts used to gain admission into medical school as well as a history of fraud and theft.
Most interestingly though, Martin and Gypsy stole his daughter’s identity. Martin arranged for the oldest of the adopted daughters, 16-year-old Giselle MacNeill, to return to Ukraine for two months, however, he made no arrangements for her to come back to the U.S. During that time, Martin and Gypsy stole Giselle’s identity, amassing a fraudulent social security number, ID cards, and birth certificate. She went by the name Jillian Giselle MacNeill, sometimes posing as his wife and other times as his daughter.
“They went into court and changed the birth date 20 years,” Witney told ABC News. “That’s called perjury. Now there is two people with that Social Security number, two people with that name.”
MacNeill and Willis were arrested, convicted of identity theft and other federal charges. They both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to serve time at separate prisons. While Martin was behind bars, Whitney and Robinson continued to look into Michele’s death, finally convincing the medical examiner to take a second look. The cause of death was ultimately changed from “natural” to “undetermined” after the report showed a toxic cocktail of drugs.
MacNeill was released from prison in July 2012, but he only spent less than two months as a free man before landing in jail, facing murder charges in the death of his wife. He went to trial on October 17, 2013, and after a 22-day trial, the jury deliberated for 11 hours. On November 9, 2013, the jury found MacNeill guilty of both murder and obstruction of justice. Michele’s family could be seen gasping and crying upon hearing the verdict.