Prather’s Pick: An almost perfect murder
As I read this week’s book for adults, I couldn’t get one thought out of my mind: “How could something like this have happened?” And yet it did.
“The Stranger She Loved: A Mormon Doctor, His Beautiful Wife, and an Almost Perfect Murder” is a new (2015) book. It was written by Shanna Hogan, who also wrote “Picture Perfect: The Jodi Arias Story”. This week’s nonfiction book is published by St. Martin’s Press.
This true story begins on April 11, 2007 at the home of Martin and Michele MacNeill in Pleasant Grove, Utah, 35 miles south of Salt Lake City. The couple’s young adopted daughter Ada has found her mother lying in a bathtub. She’s unresponsive so there’s a lot of confusion as neighbors hurry in and out of the house in an effort to get help. Martin says that he needs help to get his wife out of the tub so one of the neighborhood men helps him. Then efforts to revive Michele through CPR begin.
All the while Martin shouts statements such as “Why did you do it? Why did you have the surgery?” Michele has been recovering from face-lift surgery (a gift from her husband). Sutured incisions run across her eyelids and around her scalp. Blood is flowing from the ruptured stitches, a gory scene, indeed.
Firefighters, paramedics, and law enforcement officers arrive. Martin points out that his wife was on a lot of medication. Officers find bottles of pills near her bed. Michele is put on a gurney and into an ambulance. At the hospital, efforts continue to try to resuscitate Michele, but shortly after she is pronounced dead.
In the coming days, the Utah State Medical Examiner declares that Michele’s death was due to natural causes, from heart arrhythmia. But then Martin moves his mistress into the house. Her name is Gypsy, and he has been having an affair with her for some time, but he calls her Jillian, and she is to be the nanny. Alexis, one of his older children (Martin and Michele had four older children of their own and then adopted four younger children), knows who Jillian really is; Michele suspected that he was having an affair with the woman and got Alexis involved in an investigation.
So now the MacNeill daughters are suspicious that their mother’s death wasn’t due to natural causes, and they carry an investigation of their own. It takes six years, but finally Martin is convicted of murdering his wife. That’s not all — a lot more information is uncovered about Martin’s life, including multiple marital affairs, a past criminal record, and his habit of falsifying records, including transcripts that got him into medical school. He is brought up on other charges, including sexual assault with daughter Alexis as a victim.
The investigation also disclosed Martin’s mental health background. He had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and latent schizophrenic tendencies, even being discharged from the army due to mental illness. Yet Martin MacNeill was an osteopathic doctor, a graduate of law school (though he never passed the bar), and a Mormon bishop.
The author writes that the book is “a journalistic account of a true story.” She used information from interviews, trial testimony, press accounts, television programs, court documents, and more in writing this narrative. It is a well-written book, but MacNeill’s life was so dark that I found it difficult to read the book at times.
“The Stranger She Loved” is a new book at the Moffat County Library. The hardcover book costs $27.99.