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Dr. Martin MacNeill stands trial for murdering his wife

Dr. Martin MacNeill of Provo, Utah,  insisted that his wife, Michele, a former beauty queen, get plastic surgery. His objective, according to prosecutors, was to poison her with drugs during her recovery. He may have never gone to trial, if it weren’t for the efforts of his two daughters, who believed he murdered their mother.

Prosecutor: Utah doctor bragged to inmates that no one could prove he killed his wife, on ABCNews.go.com.

 


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13 Comments on "Dr. Martin MacNeill stands trial for murdering his wife"

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From different articles that I’ve read regarding this case (online), Dr. MacNeill is a psychopath. He has possibly killed other people (his own brother, tried to kill his mother, former patients, etc.) – one scary individual. Unfortunately, his children are realizing how evil this man is. It has to be hard on them, discovering his “dark secrets,” that there is no actual “good” in him.

Donna,

I was surprised to hear the investigator say the same thing, that Dr. MacNeill is a sociopath. It’s encouraging to know that there are people who work in law enforcement who know when they’re dealing with a sociopath.

It’s an interesting case. There’s a lot more background in this detailed ABC News story from February of 2011:

Was Utah Doctor’s Wife Victim of Foul Play?

These people lie so easily,they live a lie without giving it much thought/Just Do It!One lie leads to another…and another until they think it’s the truth!”Dr” MacNeil was certainly good at portraying his profession for 3 decades!

It’s so frustrating to me that people do not want to accept that sociopaths exist.I shouldn’t be surprised.No really.They don’t want to believe the Devil exists either.Or maybe they believe in the Devil but don’t believe people could be that bad.I guess it takes a murder.How sad.~sigh~I applaud the efforts of Alexis and Rachel and their aunt!

This case caught my interest last week as I was just surfing the TV channels. I was also married to a physician and for 32 years.
I’m lucky and blessed to be alive these days, having survived a shooting through my former long term home. He said it was ‘random’ and probably some teen boys he had cautioned to slow down their fast driving on our street. Fast forward to some years later, he actually did lose his temper to such a degree he dragged me into our closet and held me down with both his large hands covering my nose and mouth until I could breathe no longer. I’m thankful today I broke through his block and flagged down a police cruiser to help. My chin was covered in blood and almost all my fingernails were down to the quick bleeding badly. When the police arrived at our home, he was in his car ready to drive and when he emerged from his car, he said “Officer, this is all a mistake. I’ll drive with you to the station to discuss what really happened”. He was told to turn around and was handcuffed. That was 7 years ago. I lived. (There’s no doubt in my mind MacNeill planned to kill his wife). May justice be served, may God bless these dear children of his.

Can you say PSYCHOPATH????????????????

Oh please, this guy is a WACK job and not very good at murder.

And we KNOW the defense is losing when the ONLY defense is whether or not his wife’s clothes that evening were “wet” or “dry”.

Who gives a crap?????????????

Guilty, guilty and guilty. I believe there is a special spot in HELL for him.

God bless his children for taking this courageous stand against EVIL.

This turned out very long, but I hope it won’t be boring.

Professor Keith Simpson on Doctors Who Kill

In his 1978 memoirs, Forty Years of Murder—an outstanding book on crime detection—the eminent British pathologist Professor Keith Simpson had this to say about murderers in the medical profession:

Doctors are in a particularly good position to commit murder and escape detection. Their patients, sometimes their own fading wives, more often mere ageing nuisances, are in their sole hands. “Dangerous drugs” and powerful poisons lie in their professional bags or in the surgery. No one is watching or questioning them, and a change in symptoms, a sudden “grave turn for the worse” or even death is for them alone to interpret. They can authorize the disposal of a dead body by passing the necessary death certificate to the Registrar of Deaths, who has no power to interfere unless there is some statutory shortcoming in the way the certificate is filled out, or death appears due to accident or violence of some kind, or the wording is so vague or unintelligible that the Registrar has to seek the help of the Coroner.

Are there many doctor murderers? Have whispers or frank allegations ever resulted in exhumations and the discovery of crime? Or are doctors above suspicion?

No one can know, but if doctors do take the law into their own hands, the facts are only likely to emerge by chance, through whisperings of suspicion or rarely, through carelessness in disposal of the dead body…

[…]

[Of seven British and American doctors accused of murder] all but the last used poison and might well have escaped but for faulty planning or behaviour, or some mere chance.

But there are 70,000 doctors in England and Wales alone, so a mere handful of professional murders in fifty years speaks generally very highly of their moral fibre, or the ease with which they can conceal crime.

Professor Simpson was absolutely right about the ease with which doctors can conceal crime. The doctors he listed who failed to escape detection were gleaned from a period of not just fifty years, but a hundred and thirty years, and there were only ten altogether. Three of these—John White Webster, Buck Ruxton, and Hawley Harvey Crippen—were left with bodies to dispose of and were not exploiting their advantages as physicians to pass off a death as “natural causes.” Apart from Crippen’s use of hyoscine (scopolamine) to poison his domineering, obnoxious and chronically unfaithful wife, their only relevance to the discussion was that each of them happened to be, or in Webster’s case had been, a doctor. A fourth doctor, Thomas Smethurst, was probably innocent and was later pardoned for the supposed crime he had been convicted of.

When murder was disguised, that left a “mere handful” of only six doctors in well over a century who failed to get away with it. More to the point, “bad luck” played relatively little part in the discovery of their crimes. Nearly all were exposed by their own stupidity and recklessness, which was almost “criminal” in itself. Had they been more circumspect, most of them could easily have gotten away with murder—as several of them already had! Who can doubt that other doctors, more careful or more cunning, have killed in the past without anyone even suspecting that a crime has been committed?

Dr. Thomas Neill Cream was a most peculiar man, almost certainly a psychopath. He spent most of his early life in Canada and the U.S., though he was born in Glasgow and ended his days on a British gallows. In 1891-2 he murdered four prostitutes in London by feeding them pills or beer laced with strychnine. Earlier in the U.S. he had been lucky enough to be released from Joliet Prison after serving ten years for poisoning his mistress’s husband. He probably committed other murders that he got away with at the time. Certainly he would have escaped unpunished for the murders he committed in London, if he hadn’t also had a bizarre habit of writing letters to authorities accusing others of the murders he had done, or to other people accusing them personally of committing these murders and purporting to “blackmail” them for doing so. This naturally drew official attention to Dr. Cream, with the inevitable outcome.

Another miscreant from the New World who went to England to kill was Dr. George Henry Lamson. Not a bad man to begin with, Lamson’s downfall was his drug addiction, which ate away his money along with his mind and his moral sense. He murdered in the hope of restoring his finances—and was caught because he was too obvious about it. When you visit your young brother-in-law in school and feed him a slice of cake in front of the headmaster, the boy dies abruptly and unexpectedly and you stand to profit from his death, you’re bound to be an immediate suspect—particularly if the chemist who sold you the poison reads of the death in the newspaper and goes to the police. Lamson was hanged in 1882.

What many of these murders demonstrate is that doctors are just as prone to commit the same kinds of murders as anyone else.

But Dr. Edward William Pritchard came close to getting away with a double murder, and may have gotten away with a third. In 1863 a servant girl was found dead after a fire at his Glasgow home. Strangely, she had made no attempt to escape, and may have been dead or unconscious when the fire began. Pritchard, though married, was a persistent womanizer, so if this wasn’t an accident his motives may be conjectured. Less than two years later he was busily poisoning his wife, taking several months to do it so her death would look like the outcome of a long illness. Concerned about her health, her mother came from Edinburgh to help nurse her—so Dr. Pritchard poisoned her too. He might have gotten away with one death, but two in quick succession were rather hard to swallow.

Even so, Pritchard was able to exploit his professional standing in two classic ways. When a fellow doctor named Paterson declined to write death certificates for his wife and mother-in-law, Dr. Pritchard simply wrote them himself. And whatever their suspicions, his status as a physician made others unwilling to accuse him publicly of any impropriety.

But somebody hit on a compromise, and an anonymous letter found its way to the authorities. Paterson never admitted writing it, though he remained the prime suspect. When Dr. Pritchard’s nearest and dearest were dug up, lethal quantities of antimony were found. Pritchard, described by one writer as a “narcissistic sociopath,” had the distinction of being the last man publicly hanged in Glasgow.

Half a century later in New York, Dr. Arthur Warren Waite’s only problem was that he couldn’t! “Wait,” that is. In fact he was a dentist, but in 1916 he was entirely successful in removing his mother-in-law from this life with a carefully prepared cocktail of diphtheria and influenza germs. As a murder, it was virtually undetectable. To all intents and purposes the elderly lady had died of “natural causes.” But Waite’s efforts to eliminate his father-in-law in the same way met with failure. Even when he spiced up the mixture with typhoid and tuberculosis bacteria, the old man remained obstinately healthy, forcing Waite to wait for his longed-for inheritance. He was an impatient man, and after only two months of trying, he abandoned germ warfare for the quicker but cruder weapon of arsenic. This was easily detected at autopsy, and Waite went to the electric chair. If he’d only had patience, he might have committed two perfect murders instead of one.

Dr. Robert George Clements was described as a “practicing Bluebeard.” His downfall was pushing his luck. Anyone would be lucky to get away with murdering one wife for financial gain, but if suspicions are well founded, Clements got away with it three times in a row! His first wife, aged 40, died of “sleeping sickness” in 1920, and his second wife of “endocarditis” five years later. She was only 25, yet nobody suspected Dr. Clements, who signed their death certificates himself, until his third wife died of “cancer” in 1939. And by the time anyone started asking questions, she had conveniently been cremated.

Still, it was a close shave. A sensible man should have seen the writing on the wall, but Dr. Clements just couldn’t give up his bad habits. His rich fourth wife died in 1947 of “myeloid leukemia,” and this time questions were asked before he had a chance to cremate her. A more thorough autopsy disclosed that his murder weapon of choice was morphine.

Dr. Clements committed suicide before he could be arrested, relying on his favorite poison to do the job. Sadly, the doctor who had done the first autopsy on Clements’s last wife also took his own life, blaming himself because he’d missed the true cause of death. He used cyanide. So in a way, Clements was responsible for five deaths in all.

If Clements was pushing his luck, Dr. William Palmer pushed his luck beyond all bounds of probability. Palmer’s name is largely forgotten today, but in the 1850s and after he was notorious. He left behind him a string of bodies so long that an author writing in the 1920s of another multiple murderer called his own person of interest “the worst English criminal since Palmer.” In that writer’s mind, Palmer was still the worst of the worst, a whole lifetime later.

Dr. Palmer didn’t have the highest body count of British serial killers. Interestingly, that title until recently belonged to a woman, Mary Ann Cotton, who poisoned about 21 people. But Palmer was responsible for around thirteen poisonings and probably more, including his 27-year-old wife and her mother, his brother, an uncle, and four of his own children, always for financial gain. Palmer was a classic psychopath who squandered most of his money gambling, a womanizer with several illegitimate children, and a fraud and forger along with his other crimes. His career ended in 1855 when he poisoned a friend, John Cook, with strychnine. When an autopsy was performed to determine the cause of Cook’s death, Palmer had the effrontery to turn up and sneak off with the contents of Cook’s stomach. It didn’t help him; he was tried, found guilty, and hanged in front of a screaming crowd. The real wonder is that he got away with so many murders for so long. No doubt that was because Palmer was able to play on his “respectability” as a physician, which placed him above suspicion for too long.

Of course, Simpson’s list of doctors who got caught was not exhaustive. From somewhat more recent times, two more come to mind. The first is Dr. Carl Anthony Coppolino of Sarasota, Florida, who killed his wife in 1965 with an injection of succinylcholine. Coppolino, an anesthetist, had made a cunning choice of drug. In the body, succinylcholine breaks down into succinic acid and choline, compounds normally found in the tissues. So a routine autopsy and toxicology tests would never detect what had really killed his wife.

She was only 32 and in excellent health, but Coppolino got the family doctor to his wife’s death bed, claiming she had been complaining of “chest pains.” Dr. Coppolino’s assertion that “she must have had a heart attack” was taken at face value. Although authorities were properly notified, he was able to take advantage of confusion over jurisdiction, and his wife was buried without an autopsy even being performed. He lied to his wife’s father that the medical examiner had performed an autopsy, and the man’s daughter had died of a “massive myocardial infarction.”

Like several other doctors, Coppolino got away with murder—for a time. His wife, a devout Catholic, had refused to give him a divorce, but just six weeks after her demise Coppolino married a rich divorcee he’d been having an affair with. However, that’s where his past began to catch up with him.

Back when he was living in New Jersey, Coppolino had had another mistress. She had even moved to Florida to be with him. When she saw he had married another woman instead, to say she was displeased would be a monumental understatement. She went to the local sheriff with a confession. This former mistress had been married herself, but since her husband was apt to get in the way of their affair, Coppolino, she said, had tried to get her to kill her husband by injecting succinylcholine—precisely the same way he later killed his own wife. When his mistress failed to go through with it, she said Coppolino had done the job himself by smothering her husband with a pillow. He had then called his own wife, who had been a doctor herself but had no idea what was really going on, and got her to certify that their family friend had died of “occlusive coronary artery disease.” He’d been buried for two and a half years without a breath of suspicion.

Coppolino could easily in theory have gotten away with two murders, if he hadn’t made the cardinal error of letting another person in on his plans, this woman who would later turn on him. As it was, he escaped being convicted when tried for the murder of his ex-mistress’s husband. But with facts in the hands of authorities, who went to the trouble of devising new tests that succeeded in detecting the breakdown products of succinylcholine in the exhumed body of his wife, Coppolino was convicted of her murder.

Then there was Dr. John Robert Hill of Houston, Texas. Hill’s career as a plastic surgeon was all the more lucrative after he married the well-connected daughter of an oil millionaire. But Hill was also a philanderer, and inevitably after ten years the couple were becoming estranged. In 1969 Hill’s 38-year-old wife became mysteriously sick. After a three day delay he had her taken to a hospital in which he had a financial interest. Seriously ill on arrival, she died the next morning. Hill was able to avoid having an autopsy done by the medical examiner. He had one conducted by another physician, but only after his wife had been embalmed, making it harder to determine what might have caused her death. A second autopsy performed later by no fewer than thirteen doctors was inconclusive; one attributed death to “an acute inflammatory and probably infectious disease, the origin of which could not be determined.” Three months after his wife’s death, Hill married his mistress, whom he’d been keeping in an apartment for some time.

It’s very probable that Hill, like several other doctors, could have gotten away with murder. He’s the only one of these doctors for whom bad luck played a major and ultimately fatal role. Hill’s bad luck was having a rich father-in-law who had never liked him (with good reason), was sure his daughter had been murdered and was determined to bring Hill to justice for it. The oil tycoon brought all his wealth and influence to bear on investigating Hill by every means possible and pressuring the authorities to prosecute him. Eventually Hill was tried for murdering his wife by “failing to provide and by withholding proper medical treatment.”

This produced some damning testimony from the former mistress Hill had married, who divorced him after less than a year. She claimed, among other things, that Hill had also tried to kill her by injecting something into her with a syringe—which she had luckily knocked away. More relevant, a week before the death of Hill’s wife, in a bathroom of the apartment where Hill and his mistress carried on their affair, this woman saw three Petri dishes of the kind used for growing bacteria, under a lamp for warmth. Hill had pushed her out of the bathroom and shut the door. She had also found pastries in the refrigerator and was about to eat one when Hill hurriedly stopped her. Other witnesses had testified that Hill brought pastries to his own home and personally chose which ones to hand to his wife.

It sounded as if Hill had resorted to the methods of Dr. Waite in 1916, but these unexpected revelations from his ex-mistress caused a mistrial. A retrial was scheduled for the following year, but by that time the death penalty had been suspended. Before the trial could take place, Hill was shot dead by a contract killer. Not surprisingly, allegations linked the shooting to his wife’s father, but the old man was never charged or found responsible for it.

It’s only fair to point out that Professor Simpson admitted the small number of doctors who are charged with murder could just as well be explained by the high “moral fibre” of the profession as by their ease of concealing crimes of this type. Which of the two is it? I’m sure both factors play their part. However, when murders are of the cold, calculated, psychopathic type, we have no reason to suppose psychopaths are any less common among the medical profession than in any other walk of life.

In fact, if psychopathic callousness motivated most of the murders I’ve mentioned, and psychopathic cunning covered them up, it was psychopathic recklessness that exposed nearly all of them. The sheer narcissistic arrogance that led many of these doctors to believe, flying in the face of reality, that they would never be caught, that nobody could ever suspect them—either that or their impulsiveness, their carelessness of consequences or their deliberate courting of risk for the sake of excitement and stimulation—these traits, also common in psychopathy, were their downfall. And Dr. Neill Cream for one just couldn’t resist indulging his love of “duping delight.”

But what if a killer can keep these telltale vices in check? Do many doctors get away with murder? I think we have our answer in some of the long strings of medical murders committed in more recent times. One example was Dr. Michael Swango, who used various drugs to kill as many as 60 people. There have also been nurses such as Genene Jones, who probably killed dozens of infants and children, and other nurses who escaped conviction although authorities were certain they were killers. Perhaps the worst offender in recent decades was Dr. Harold Shipman, believed to have murdered a staggering total of up to 250 patients. Significantly again, it wasn’t until Shipman had the audacity to forge the will of a woman he murdered, leaving her fortune to himself, that he attracted enough suspicion to cause his arrest.

Much the same applies to Dr. Martin MacNeill, currently accused of murdering his wife. If news reports are correct, I understand there was not an unusually high level of drugs in his wife’s body. On those grounds alone it may be hard to prove MacNeill was responsible for her death. However, it’s his behavior around the death, and in general, that led to his being indicted. That too will be considered as evidence.

And the reason Professor Simpson was discussing this issue at all was his apparent belief in the innocence of yet another doctor accused of murder in the past. As it turned out, it’s quite likely that this man was guilty—and if Simpson was wrong in thinking him blameless, psychopathy probably had everything to do with that.

But that (as Kipling put it) is “another story.”

his past behavior deficiently makes him a sociopath…but what really stood out was the fact that the date of his wife’s death (murder) is the date that he wanted to use for his wedding date with his mistress even though they were not married yet….basically he was brain washing and changing the mistresses reality by using the death date as the wedding date…very creepy.

I’m curious. I consider Matin MacNeil to be an obvious-at-a-glance psychopath. Do any of the readers of this agree? I posted a few pictures here: http://pathwhisperer.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/psychopathic-doctor-martin-macneil-on-trial-for-wifes-death/ .

A while back Lovefraud had a post from a reader about ‘seeing psychopaths’, http://www.lovefraud.com/2011/01/15/letters-to-lovefraud-o-like-umbrella-and-the-shut-down-mechanism/ , http://pathwhisperer.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/as-time-passed-i-learned-how-to-see-psychopaths-it-was-as-if-a-sixth-sense-had-been-awakened/ .

Before developing the ability to ‘see psychopaths’ I think it would be necessary for most people to believe that it is possible, that others can in fact do it. The doctors MacNeill and Swango are about as obvious as they come. Any thoughts?

Just based on my experience with my ex-husband, I believe part of the answer is in looking at their eyes. I recall my long-term pastor having commented about the eyes being the windows to the soul and I came to trust in that old saying. In MacNeill’s photos, I see something of a fixed glare to his eyes even though he’s smiling and is obviously a handsome man. I saw the same look in my ex-husband’s eyes so often… not blinking very much, a vacant look to his eyes, often a sheepish-mischief look, and just not engaged as a normal person’s eyes are when conversing with another.
It was as if they are somewhere else, not in the room with you.
There’s no dancing in the eyes except when angry. Then, the eyes take on a black look along with a fixed rigid mouth. This is only what I witnessed personally. With others, I have to hear them talk a while to better determine how I feel about them. Even then, after all the years spent in deceit from my former husband, I still have difficulty but am able to back away in part because I trust my gut reaction much better nowadays. Things that alert me are incessant bragging, inappropriate behavior to the situation at hand, being a poor listener to others, ignoring what others say and going back to the ‘me’ topic, failure to live up to any promise, chronic lying, frequent just walking away and escaping, no apologies ever made, insincere sounding, non-authentic acting.
It’s just a feeling one may get of their being OFF and not in tune that strikes me as a warning. They don’t all come with a jail record so it seems important we learn as much as possible about psychopaths. Some call the psychopath “a more intelligent sociopath”. I would agree with that based on my experience.

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