Martin MacNeill gets up to life in prison for wife’s murder

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Martin MacNeill enters the courtroom before his sentencing, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Provo, Utah. MacNeill, a Utah doctor convicted of killing his wife in a trial that became a national true-crime cable TV obsession, has been sentenced to 17 years to life in prison. MacNeill was found guilty of giving his wife drugs prescribed after cosmetic surgery and leaving her to drown in the bathtub of their home in 2007 so he could begin a new life with his mistress. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Martin MacNeill enters the courtroom before his sentencing on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Provo, Utah. MacNeill was found guilty of murdering his wife. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Utah doctor Martin MacNeill, convicted last year of murdering his wife, was sentenced to a maximum penalty of life in prison at a hearing Friday morning.

“Mr. MacNeill has led a double life, which in the end proved itself to be unsustainable,” Fourth District Judge Derek Pullan said before ordering the sentence on Sept. 19. “The devastation experienced by the MacNeill family is immeasurable. The only restitution that can be made … is just punishment.”

Pullan sentenced MacNeill to 15 years to life for the premeditated murder of Michele MacNeill in 2007, and one to 15 years in prison for obstruction of justice. Both sentences are to run consecutively, which means MacNeill will have to finish serving the first sentence before the second sentence begins.

These sentences will run consecutive to MacNeill’s previous one- to 15-year sentence, which he received on Monday for sexually molesting his daughter, Alexis Somers, three months after he murdered his wife.

In total, MacNeill faces the possibility of at least 45 years in prison, assuming he lives that long.

“Given his age, he’s 58 years old now, given the circumstances of this crime, the fact that he’s not taking any responsibility, if he continues to do that, there’s absolutely no hope he’s going to be released,” prosecuting attorney Chad Grunander said after the sentencing. “I think he dies in prison. I think even if he does take responsibility, in the interest of justice he will never be free again.”

Michele MacNeill was found slumped in the bathtub of their home in Pleasant Grove in 2007 by her 6-year-old daughter. She died after taking an overdosage of prescription medications administered by her husband following a cosmetic surgery, a procedure her husband, a successful doctor, pushed upon her.

MacNeill, who was also engaged in an extramarital affair, was said to have devised the plan in hopes of starting a new life with his mistress, Gypsy Willis, whom he invited to live in the home just one week after the murder.

“Here we have a husband and a father … someone who is duty bound to provide for and protect his wife and family,” Grunander said in court. “Instead of causing no harm, he used his knowledge, his position as a doctor to help perform this crime.”

Grunander puts MacNeill’s crime just below capital murder, for which most are sentenced with death.

“This was a heinous, heinous, terrible crime, premeditated murder,” Grunander said. “But in Utah, it doesn’t qualify as a capital offense. It’s as bad as you can get. Doctor, husband, father, a lawyer — what he did here, using his unique, special knowledge, it’s as bad as it gets.”

For MacNeill’s family, Friday’s sentence couldn’t have come fast enough.

Since Michele’s death in 2007, the MacNeill family pressed upon investigators to keep the case open after it was initially determined as an accidental overdose. MacNeill wasn’t charged until 2012 and was finally convicted just 10 months ago. However, because of delays and a suicide attempt, MacNeill’s sentencing was continually postponed.

“This is what we were hoping for,” said Linda Cluff, Michele MacNeill’s sister. “(We’re) just happy this chapter is finally closed. There’s no words to describe. It’s just such relief. It’s draining. Just happy to move forward. I felt Michele’s presence there. It’s just a wonderful feeling.”

During the hearing, MacNeill ignored those speaking and was found numerous times smiling while he talked with his attorney, Randy Spencer.

When asked about MacNeill’s behavior, Grunander said, “I think it demonstrates a lack of respect for the process. I think the defendant, he simply doesn’t get it. I think that was spoken about and illustrated very well in this case and through family. Yeah, it’s offensive, quite frankly.”

During the hearing, Cluff spoke to the judge, pleading for MacNeill to receive a maximum sentence. As she spoke, she took the opportunity to look back at MacNeill and stare him in the eyes.

“I can finally look into his eyes and say, ‘Martin, you haven’t gotten away with this,'” she said.

When he was given the opportunity to speak, MacNeill declined.

Cluff described MacNeill’s demeanor after the hearing.

“A blank look, as always. He was up there laughing. Showed no remorse. I was not surprised. It’s just the Martin I’ve always known, my family’s always known. There was no emotion whatsoever, just a cold, calculated look.”

During the hearing, Cluff told the judge, “Martin is a great deceiver. Martin shows no remorse. Martin is a man who believes he is above the law.”

Rachel MacNeill and Alexis Somers, two of MacNeill’s daughters, also addressed the court, asking for the judge to grant their father a maximum sentence.

“Let him see he is not above the law,” Somers said. “He has destroyed so many lives. My father is a monster. He has never shown remorse for any of his crimes.”

Rachel MacNeill agreed with her sister. “The murder of my mother killed a piece of us all,” she said. “Nothing done today will right that wrong. True justice does not end with the conviction and sentencing of her murderer, but that is the way it begins.”

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