In 2007, Dr. Martin MacNeill—a doctor, lawyer, and Mormon bishop—discovered his wife of 30 years dead in the bathtub of their Pleasant Grove, Utah home, her face bearing the scars of a facelift he persuaded her to undergo just a week prior.
At first the death of 50-year-old Michele MacNeill, a former beauty queen and mother of eight, appeared natural. But days after the funeral when Dr. MacNeill moved his much younger mistress into the family home, his children grew suspicious. Conducting their own investigation into their mother's death, the MacNeill's daughters uncovered their father's multiple marital affairs, past criminal record, and falsified college transcripts he used to con his way into medical school. It would take six long years to solve the mystery of Michele's murder and secure a first-degree murder conviction against the once prominent doctor. New York Times bestselling author Shanna Hogan delves into the high-profile case, unmasking the monster beneath the doctor's carefully concocted façade.
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About the Author
SHANNA HOGAN is a journalist and New York Times bestselling author of two previous true-crime books. She has written for numerous publications for nearly a decade and has received more than twenty awards for her feature writing and investigative reporting. Shanna was named Journalist of the Year by the Arizona Press Club in 2010 and again in 2011 by the Arizona Newspaper Association. She has appeared on The View, Dateline, 20/20, CNN, HLN, Fox News, Oprah Winfrey's Oxygen, and Investigation Discovery. Shanna lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband, Matt LaRussa, and their three dogs.
Shanna Hogan is a journalist and the New York Times bestselling author of Picture Perfect: The Jodi Arias Story, The Stranger She Loved, and Secrets of a Soldier's Wife. She has written for numerous publications and has received more than twenty awards for her feature writing and investigative reporting.
Shanna was named Journalist of the Year by the Arizona Press Club in 2010 and again in 2011 by the Arizona Newspaper Association. She has appeared on The View, Dateline, 20/20, CNN, HLN, Fox News, Oprah Winfrey’s Oxygen, and Investigation Discovery. Shanna lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband, Matt LaRussa, and their three dogs.
Read an Excerpt
The Stranger She Loved
A Mormon Doctor, His Beautiful Wife, and an Almost Perfect Murder
By Shanna Hogan
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Shanna Hogan
All rights reserved.
APRIL 11, 2007
A stray drop of water fell from the faucet and trickled across her cold, pallid skin.
Her body lay crumpled inside the drained bathtub, a long-sleeved black shirt clinging to her wet torso. She was tilted on her side, her nude lower half curled against the tub's slick porcelain wall.
The woman's ashen face—beautiful even in death—was marred by sutured incisions across her eyelids and around her scalp. Blood from the ruptured stitches wept into damp blond hair.
Hovering over the bathtub, a slim man with a tanned face and gray hair was wailing. "I need help! Help!"
From the doorway of the master bathroom, Kristi Daniels gaped wide-eyed at her next-door neighbors—Martin and Michele MacNeill. "I'll call nine-one-one," Kristi said, spinning away.
"I've already called nine-one-one!" Martin howled. "I need help getting her out of the tub."
But Kristi had already fled the bathroom, dashing down the hallway and out of the house. On the front porch she brushed past a little girl dressed in a khaki skirt, white-collared blouse, and blue blazer—a school uniform. She was the youngest of the MacNeills' adopted daughters, Ada.
Just moments earlier the doe-eyed six-year-old had knocked on Kristi's front door. "My dad needs some help." Kristi had followed Ada back toward the MacNeills' open front door. By the time she was halfway across the driveway, she had heard Martin's screams and had taken off running, leaving Ada outside.
Following the cries down the hallway and into the bathroom off the master bedroom, Kristi had discovered Martin and his dead wife. Her first thought was that she and Martin would not be able to lift Michele out of the tub by themselves. So Kristi—a petite blond flight attendant—had run to find help.
Crossing the shared driveway separating their properties, Kristi rushed back into her house and found her neighbor Angie Aguilar crouching in the foyer, tying her own daughter's shoes. A half hour earlier—around 11:20 A.M.—Angie and her daughter had stopped by the Danielses' house to drop off Kristi's son, as part of the neighborhood carpool. Following a brief visit, Angie was preparing to leave when Kristi burst back through the front door, her face contorted with panic.
"What's wrong?" Angie asked.
"I need you to come with me!" Kristi gasped. From a table in the front room, Kristi grabbed her cell phone and pressed a button to speed-dial her husband, Doug Daniels, who was just a few houses away, assisting another neighbor with a basement renovation.
"Martin needs help. Martin needs help," she said breathlessly. "Hurry, come fast ..."
"Where are you?" Doug interrupted.
Doug emerged from his neighbor's house, catching a glimpse of his wife and Angie slipping through the MacNeills' front door. He chased after them, sprinting through the gated subdivision of Creekside in Pleasant Grove, Utah. The usually peaceful community about thirty-five miles south of Salt Lake City is nestled in the foothills of the snowcapped mountains of the Wasatch Range.
The MacNeills' one-story home with its brick facade sat on a grassy lot dotted with hedges. The MacNeills, with their eight children, had one of the largest families in the neighborhood. Martin was a fifty-one-year-old practicing physician, law school graduate, and a former Mormon bishop. Fifty-year-old Michele was a stay-at-home mom who spent her days carting her youngest daughters to school and ballet practice.
Although Kristi and Doug had lived next door to the MacNeills for more than a year, the families didn't associate beyond exchanging the occasional pleasantries. Up until this day, Kristi hadn't even been inside their house.
Stepping into the master bathroom, Kristi and Angie found Martin kneeling beside the tub, cradling his wife's head in his hands. The sleeves of his lab coat were drenched. He had just reached into the basin to drain the murky brown bathwater in which Michele had been immersed.
The raised Jacuzzi tub in the center of the bathroom was inset in an elevated travertine tile deck. Sunlight streamed through a window next to the shower, illuminating a vase of lavender flowers on the tub's ledge.
Michele was clothed only in a long-sleeved black shirt worn over a white Mormon undergarment and bra, with no pants or underwear. Thick, cloudy mucus glazed her face, oozing from her nose and mouth onto her cheeks and onto the gaping gashes across her hairline.
"Angie and I are here," Kristi told Martin.
Martin craned his neck and shook his head. "I need a man's help to get her out of the tub."
"I called Doug," Kristi said.
Seconds later Doug burst into the bathroom. At a glance he knew the situation was dire. Instinctively he passed to the far end of the tub, near Michele's feet.
"Let's get her out!" Martin shouted.
Doug scooped up Michele's legs under the knees, Martin grabbed his wife under her arms, and together they lifted. As Martin lifted her torso, Michele's shirts and bra were pulled up to her neck, exposing her breasts. The two men gently placed her on the floor beside the tub. Michele's arms splayed at her sides. Beneath her, a puddle of water began to spread across the taupe tile floor.
Martin's eyes darted around the bathroom, horror etched across his face. "Oh my God! Oh my God!" he choked.
Shaken, Angie ran her fingers through her long dark hair, then clapped both her hands over her mouth and backed away from the body, into the bathroom closet.
"I know CPR," Kristi said to Martin. "I'll do the compressions if you do mouth-to-mouth."
Martin nodded in agreement. Doug grabbed a rag and passed it to Martin to wipe the mucus from Michele's face. Because Michele was naked from the waist down, Angie found a pink towel and draped it lengthwise to cover the exposed lower region.
Kneeling and placing one palm on top of the other, Kristi pumped on Michele's bare, damp chest in succinct compressions, silently counting to herself, attempting to keep a pace of one hundred beats per minute. When she paused, Martin sank down, pinched his wife's nose, and placed his lips over hers, blowing twice into her mouth.
After one round of compressions, Doug tapped on Kristi's shoulder. "I can do that. Go outside and wait for the ambulance so they can find us."
Nodding, Kristi stood, stepped over Michele's body, and left the bathroom. Outside she found Ada MacNeill and escorted the girl into the Danielses' house, to be supervised by another friend who had also been visiting. "You can go stay at my house for a while," Kristi told Ada.
In the bathroom, Doug bent his burly frame over Michele and—on Martin's command—resumed pumping on her torso. Mindful that his neighbor was a physician and experienced with life-saving procedures, Doug deferred to him for instructions.
"Stop," Martin told Doug after several beats. Once again he put his lips over Michele's, passing two breaths. Kneeling lower, Martin tilted his head and placed his ear on her chest.
There was no heartbeat. Michele wasn't breathing.
"Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God," Martin mumbled to himself. He sat up and touched his face. "She shouldn't have done this." Sighing heavily, he directed Doug to continue.
As they performed CPR, Martin alternated between moments of fear and fury, calmly puffing air into his wife's mouth, then exploding, "Why, why? All for a stupid surgery!"
"His demeanor would change, which we thought was a little bit different," Doug Daniels later recalled. "He was very analytical sometimes, telling us what to do, and then would tell us to stop, and then he would have a bit of an outburst over the situation."
When Martin once again breathed into his wife's mouth, Doug noticed that Michele's chest did not rise or fall.
CPR was not being performed properly. Strangely, the doctor didn't seem to notice.
Another round of compressions: Doug pumped on Michele's chest. Martin gave rescue breaths and then paused to check her heartbeat, but again found none. "Why? Why? Why would you do this?" Martin threw his arms into the air.
Martin suddenly slammed his fist on Michele's chest. "All because of a stupid surgery?"
Perplexed, Doug looked closer at Michele's face. Her cheeks were swollen, her jawline bruised. The bloody stitches were obviously the result of a recent face-lift.
How did she end up unconscious in the bathtub? Doug wondered.
Examining Michele, Doug noticed something else strange. Greenish mucus still coated Michele's face. But none of it had transferred to Martin as he performed mouth-to-mouth.
Minutes passed. The two men continued their efforts to revive Michele. More chest compressions and rescue breaths. Michele remained motionless, her pale skin growing increasingly cold.
Once again, Martin put his ear to his wife's chest, checking for a heartbeat. Recoiling, he slammed his palm on her sternum with a sharp clap.
"Why?" Martin roared. "Why did you have to have the surgery? I told you not to do it!"
Peering up, Martin and Doug saw two uniformed Utah police officers standing in the doorway of the bathroom.
* * *
Pleasant Grove police officer Ray Ormond was midway through an uneventful Wednesday patrol shift when the call came in at 11:48 A.M. that a woman had been found unresponsive in her bathroom and had possibly drowned in the tub.
Tall and brawny, with a shaved head and goatee, Ormond was dispatched to the scene. Flicking on his car's lights and sirens, he sped toward the home. Turning down Millcreek Road, Ormond pulled next to the curb outside a house addressed 3058 and parked behind another cruiser, its red and blue revolving lights still flashing. Ormond's partner, Joshua Motsinger, had arrived just seconds ahead of him in a separate car.
From the trunk of his cruiser, Ormond grabbed a handheld masked ventilator—known as an Ambu bag—and followed Motsinger up the natural-rock steps and across the grassy front yard. Kristi Daniels met them on the driveway, guiding the officers into the residence and toward the bathroom. "It's back here."
As the two officers entered the bathroom, Ormond's view was briefly obscured by his partner's broad build. Once Motsinger stepped aside, Ormond saw the woman on the wet tile floor. Ormond's gaze fell to Martin MacNeill, who had just whacked his wife's chest. Exchanging a glance, Ormond and Motsinger darted to the woman's side.
"I'm her husband. I found her in the bathtub," Martin blurted to the officers. "She just had surgery. She had a face-lift. She was on a lot of medication."
"Okay," Motsinger said, taking over compressions for Doug. "We got this from here."
At the officers' request, Doug and Angie exited the room and left the house. Martin stayed, looming over his wife's body. "Why, God? Why?" he cried.
As Ormond placed the Ambu bag over Michele's mouth, he noticed her lips were blue. He began hand-pumping the ventilator and heard a gurgling noise emanating from her chest—an indication of water churning in her lungs or stomach.
Because the bathroom was narrow, the officers decided to move Michele's body. Together they carried her into the master bedroom and laid her on the carpet. The bedroom was tidy and elegantly decorated with large wooden dressers and an armoire holding a flat-screen TV. A couch was centered in front of the bay window. A dozen decorative pillows were neatly arranged atop the king-size bed, which sat next to a narrow hospital-style bed bordered with railings.
To create space in the room, Ormond pushed aside a rollaway nightstand, making note of a pink container filled with eight to ten orange pill bottles. The name on the prescriptions: Michele MacNeill.
In the bedroom, the officers switched positions around Michele. Ormond took over compressions and Motsinger delivered rescue breaths. After several rounds of CPR, Michele's skin regained a pinkish hue. Blood gushed from the incisions on her face—a result of the CPR manually stimulating her circulatory system.
Meanwhile, Martin paced nervously from the bedroom to the bathroom, shaking his head. "Why? Why?" he shouted, jerking his arms. "I told her not to do it!"
Minutes passed. The guttural gurgling noises emitting from Michele grew louder. Motsinger removed the mask from her face and tipped Michele on her side. Her head fell next to Motsinger's lap, her cheek near his left leg. Michele suddenly spewed several cups of clear liquid, dousing Motsinger's arms and pants. The water dribbled down from his arms into his latex gloves and from his pant legs into his boots.
The officers resumed CPR. Moments later, Michele regurgitated more fluid. Leaning over her body, Motsinger removed the mask and Ormond turned her head toward his right knee. This time the vomit spilled onto Ormond. The expulsion was frothy, thick, and tinged with blood. Mixing with the blood on Michele's face, the fluid dripped onto the carpet.
Nearby, Martin continued pacing, his voice growing louder. He turned to Michele. "Why did you do it? Why'd you have the surgery?"
He stormed out of the room, down the hallway, and out of the house.
Around noon—fourteen minutes after the first 911 call was placed—the ambulance arrived. From the porch, Martin waved his arms to alert medics to his location. Around the same time, the fire captain pulled up to the house, parking his emergency vehicle along the curb. As the captain grabbed his equipment from the back of his car, Martin yelled from the porch, "What's taking so long? Get inside!"
Firefighters and paramedics soon swarmed the property, police cruisers and fire trucks lining the block. Inside the bedroom the paramedics, police, and firefighters crowded around the prone woman. Assessing her condition, the medics determined that she was in full cardiac arrest.
An intubation tube was inserted down her throat. One paramedic cut off her shirt, bra, and undergarment top, while another applied padded sensors to her chest to check for signs of life. No activity registered—Michele was flat-lined.
Stomping back into the bedroom, Martin looked up at the ceiling and cursed God. "After all I've done for you? After all the time I've spent in church? Why have you done this to me?" he ranted. "I've been a bishop. I paid tithing and this is the way you repay me? This is what I get for it?"
Desperation transformed to wrath as Martin circled around his wife's body. "Why did you take all those medications?" He glared down, hissing, "Look what it did to you!"
Martin's increasingly aggressive outbursts drew the attention of the medics. Struck by the man's animosity, Ormond tensed, wondering if he might have to restrain Martin or defend himself. Others—distracted from the woman—asked for Martin to be removed from the bedroom. It was beyond the typical reaction of an anguished spouse and unlike anything most of them had encountered during a rescue.
"He was very angry," Ormond remembered years later. "It was uncomfortable, honestly, to have him come back and forth into the room yelling at us."
Pleasant Grove fire chief Marc Sanderson pulled Martin aside. "Can you come with me so we can gather more information?" The slim firefighting veteran escorted Martin out to the front porch. As they spoke, Martin offered various explanations for what might have happened to his wife, saying he believed she may have slipped, tripped, or fallen in the tub and hit her head.
Martin claimed he had only been gone about ten to fifteen minutes, and when he returned, Michele was bent over the tub's ledge, submerged facedown in a pool of bloody water.
It was not the position the neighbors had found Michele in.
"Did she take any medication?" Sanderson asked Martin.
"She was ... she was taking a lot of medications!" he stammered, adding that Michele may have overdosed on pain pills.
Meanwhile, in the bedroom, resuscitation efforts continued. Paramedics inserted an IV in her arm and administered emergency drugs—epinephrine, atropine, and sodium bicarbonate—in an attempt to restart her heart.
Excerpted from The Stranger She Loved by Shanna Hogan. Copyright © 2015 Shanna Hogan. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A good read!!
I was hooked from start to finish
I haven't read the book yet but it is the most amazing piece of literature ever written by the greatest author of all time! DAVE HAS SPOKEN!!!
Havent read yet but good.