SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A defense attorney is crediting jailers with saving the life of a Utah doctor who tried to kill himself after he was recently convicted of leaving his heavily drugged wife to die in a bathtub to carry on an affair with another woman.
Martin MacNeill was alone in his cell when he attempted suicide at about 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Because he was under close observation, jailers were able to respond quickly, MacNeill’s lawyer, Randy Spencer, told The Associated Press.
“It sounds like they saved his life, to their credit,” Spencer said Friday.
MacNeill was rushed to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center with unspecified injuries. He was expected to be returned to Utah County Jail on Friday.
MacNeill’s Jan. 7 sentencing for murder and obstruction of justice isn’t the only thing weighing on the 57-year-old doctor, who is expected to get 15 years to life in prison. He faces a separate trial starting Feb. 4 allegations of sexual abuse.
MacNeill was convicted Nov. 9 in his wife’s 2007 death. Prosecutors called it a homicide, even though medical examiners couldn’t confirm that.
Jurors said they believed MacNeill deliberately administered too much pain medication and other drugs to 50-year-old Michele MacNeill, a former beauty queen, as she was recovering from a face-lift, then left her in the tub to drown.
Utah County sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Cannon declined to specify how MacNeill was trying to kill himself but said the options are limited: hanging by bed sheets, jumping head-first onto concrete floors, or slashing with a disposable razor given to inmates only for about 15 minutes at a time.
Spencer said he learned the manner of attempted suicide from prosecutors but wouldn’t release it. One of MacNeill’s daughters, Alexis Somers, also declined to comment on what a county investigator told after the doctor tried to take his own life.
The MacNeills raised eight children.
“My family continues to struggle to heal and move forward with our lives after the murder of our beloved mother,” Somers, a doctor herself, said in a statement to AP. “Our lives have already been torn apart. We do not pretend to understand the senseless, distressful and hurtful actions of our father.”
The sentencing and another trial were weighing heavily on MacNeill, but Spencer said he didn’t seem despondent when the lawyer visited him earlier this week.
“He was normal — even smiling as we talked,” Spencer said. “From my observation, he didn’t seem depressed. He obviously, since the verdict, has been disappointed that he was convicted of something he didn’t do. He was dealing with it as well as anyone could.”
Jailers had been keeping a close watch on MacNeill but declined to specify whether that amounted to a suicide watch.
“His status will change today when he comes back, I can tell you that,” Cannon said. “He will be watched more closely.”
MacNeill’s three-week trial was a staple of cable TV with its tales of plastic surgery and philandering, betrayal and family feuding, and even jailhouse snitches.
Prosecutors accused MacNeill of hounding his wife to get cosmetic surgery and knocking her out with a potent combination of drugs for her supposed recovery — all to take up a new life with his mistress.
An earlier mistress testified that MacNeill had once confided he could induce a heart attack in someone that would appear natural.
The chief prosecutor, Chad Grunander, said the largely circumstantial case was the most difficult he ever brought to trial and many prosecutors wouldn’t have bothered trying.
“It was an almost perfect murder,” Grunander said in his closing argument, asserting MacNeill “pumped her full of drugs” that he knew would be difficult to detect once she was dead.
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)