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Martin MacNeill’s prison death officially ruled a suicide

Former Pleasant Grove doctor was serving life sentence for bathtub murder of his wife

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UTAH STATE PRISON — An investigation has confirmed that the death of convicted murderer Martin MacNeill at the Utah State Prison was the result of suicide.

On April 9, MacNeill, 60, was found unresponsive in the outdoor yard of the Olympus Facility near the greenhouse at the prison in Draper.

According to the final report from the Unified Police Department obtained by the Deseret News through a public records request, MacNeill used a hose and a natural gas line that was intended for a heater inside the greenhouse to kill himself. He did it in an area "where no cameras could see what he was doing," the report states.

He was found unresponsive by two other inmates who attempted to help him.

MacNeill did have authorization to be in the greenhouse, said Department of Corrections spokesman Steve Gehrke. MacNeill was approved to care for the plants.

Asked whether the prison had taken any steps since MacNeill's death to restrict access to the natural gas line, Gehrke only replied: "We review all major incidents and look for ways to prevent future occurrences."

MacNeill had been suicidal since being sent to prison, according to his attorney and others who knew him. The two inmates who found MacNeill's body "believed that MacNeill killed himself because of the appeal that he had lost," the report states.

"Both told me that MacNeill had tried to kill himself before, (and) that MacNeill felt he was 'tortured' the last time he attempted suicide and MacNeill had told him if he was going to attempt suicide again he would not tell anyone."

In December 2013, about a month after he was convicted of murdering his wife, MacNeill attempted suicide at the Utah County Jail by cutting himself with a disposable razor. Deputies at the time said he "was unhappy he was interrupted" and was uncooperative with treatment attempts.

MacNeill, a Pleasant Grove doctor, was convicted of murdering his wife, Michele MacNeill, 50, in 2007. The story of the wealthy doctor, his wife's tragic death and his mistress who moved in days later became a national true crime sensation. MacNeill wasn't convicted until 2014 due to investigators originally determining that his wife's death was an accident.

But prosecutors successfully argued in court that MacNeill made his wife's death look like accident. He pressured his wife into getting a face-lift, then drugged her and drowned her in a bathtub so he could begin a new life with his mistress, Gypsy Willis, who moved into MacNeill's Pleasant Grove house days after the death under the guise that she was the children's new nanny.

MacNeill's life was surrounded by suicides.

One daughter, Rachel MacNeill, said she remembers her father threatening suicide many times during her life. She said she later realized that around the time of each of those threats, her father was doing things he could have gotten in trouble for — whether by his wife or by police.

Anna Osborne Walthall, who had an affair with MacNeill in 2005, told police that he once told her he’d killed his brother Roy MacNeill, who “had repeatedly attempted suicide for attention, and had become an ‘embarrassment.’ He claimed he found his brother in the tub and that both of his wrists were bleeding. Martin told (Walthall) that he pushed the head of his brother under the water and drowned him,” a police affidavit states.

Speaking at his wife's funeral, MacNeill said another brother took his own life just two months before Michele MacNeill died. A sister died in her early 20s after strangling herself, he said.

In the summer of 2008, one of MacNeill’s daughters said she approached her father about her struggles with drugs and he offered a solution that they both kill themselves. MacNeill's only son, Damian, died in January 2010 by overdosing on prescription drugs.

The Utah Department of Health offers suicide prevention help at utahsuicideprevention.org, and the national crisis hotline is 800-784-2433.

If a prison inmate is having thoughts of suicide, Gehrke said that inmate can fill out a request form to see a mental health professional or notify a staff member if it's an urgent situation. Some inmates are proactively offered mental health services daily or are under constant watch for potential self-harming behaviors, he said.