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March 9, 2023 34 mins

In 2007, 50-year-old Michele MacNeill died under mysterious circumstances in Pleasant Grove, Utah. At the request for her husband Martin, she had recently undergone facial surgery. Then, also at her husband's request, she was given a dangerous cocktail of medications following the surgery. And so, was Martin MacNeill responsible for his wife's death? We talk with podcaster and true crime writer M. William Phelps, host of 'Paper Ghosts' and author of books including ‘We Thought We Knew You’ and ‘Don’t Tell A Soul.'

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
You're listening to Facing Evil, a production of iHeartRadio and
Tenderfoot TV. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast
are solely those of the individuals participating in the show
and do not represent those of iHeartRadio or Tenderfoot TV.
This podcast contains subject matter which may not be suitable
for everyone. Listener discretion is advised. Hi, everyone, welcome back

to Facing Evil. I'm Vette Gentile and I'm Rasha Peccarero.
So this week we are talking about the murder of
Michelle McNeil. This was a shocking case that involved a
perpetrator who weaved a huge web of deceit and crime
that destroyed basically every single person that he touched. And

that is just a small snippet of the story. Today,
we'll be breaking all of this down with our guest
M William Phelps, whom many of you may know. He
an author and an investigative journalist known for the podcast
Paper Ghosts and Crossing the Line with m William Phelps.
But first, our producer Trevor is going to take us
through today's case. Was Martin McNeill about to get away

with murder? That's what two unlikely accusers believe his daughters.
They say he killed their mother, and they've spent the
past six years trying to prove it. We did try
to warn her, and there was no talking to It
was like he had his grips around her. He had
total control. Ever since the day my mom died, I

was concerned that my father killed her. I've been fighting
to get justice for this case ever since then. Michelle
McNeil was a fifty year old woman who died under
mysterious circumstances in two thousand and seven. On April second
of that year, she'd had cosmetic surgery a facelift, and
by all accounts, it went well, but then took a

turn for the tragic. Her husband of thirty years, Martin McNeil,
was a physician, and had asked the surgeon to prescribe
a variety of medications that wouldn't normally be necessary, and
on April eleventh, she was found dead, fully clothed, in
her bathtub. Investigators initially chalked her death up to a
heart attack, but later toxicology reports would reveal something much

more nefarious. Michelle's children had suspected their father was responsible.
There were rumors that Martin was having an affair, and
soon years of wrongdoing and deceit would come to light.
Martin McNeill's reported crimes started back in the nineteen seventies,
when he forged thousands of dollars worth of checks in

the state of California. That's also when he started scamming
the Veterans Association for Disability Payments, hauling off more than
a hundred thousand dollars over three decades. During this time period,
he and Michelle had met at the Church of Latter
day Saint and quickly eloped. Soon after, Martin was briefly
jailed in a separate case of forgery, theft, and fraud.

In nineteen eighty four, he landed a residency in a
New York hospital after falsifying transcripts to get into medical school.
In two thousand, he resigned from a medical residency at
Brigham Young Health Clinic in Provo, Utah, after being accused
of having an affair with a patient, and in fact,
he reportedly had a series of affairs, and one girlfriend

later reported that Martin had told her he'd killed his
own brother by drowning him in a bathtub. After Martin
began an affair with a woman named Gipsy Willis. He
became increasingly verbally abusive with Michelle. Martin wanted a divorce,
but Michelle, a devout Mormon, wanted to save their marriage,
and that's when in two thousand and seven, Martin proposed

that she get facelift surgery, and Michelle, who by all
accounts didn't need the surgery, agreed to do it. Martin
then demanded that the doctors prescribe an unusually heavy duty
cocktail of drugs for Michelle, and he got his way.
The day after she was discharged, their daughter, Alexis, found
Michele unresponsive. She managed to briefly awaken her mother, but

she had to go back to school. Before she did,
her mother told her, quote, if anything happens to me,
make sure it was not your dad. End quote. And
a few days later, on April eleventh, Alexis got a
phone call from her father telling her that her younger
adopted sister had found Michelle face down in their bathtub, unresponsive.

It took months for Michelle's adult children to convince authorities
to investigate Martin mc neill, and it took years for
Martin to finally get a trial where he was eventually
convicted of murder, and after just over two years of
serving his sentence, Martin took his own life while in prison.
And so who was Michelle mc neille, what actually led

to her suspicious death and how does the story reveal
a darker method of partner abuse involving deception, manipulation and drugs.
All right, we are back and we have got a
very special guest joining us today to talk about the
case of Michelle McNeil. You may know him from the

hit true crime podcast Paper Ghost, or you maybe read
one of his many books including We Thought We Knew
You or Don't Tell a Soul, just to name a few.
We're talking, of course about m William Phelps. So welcome,
Thank you for having me. I'm humbled by it and

I love your show and listen and yeah, it's great
to be on. Well, thanks Matthew. I guess first of all,
we always like to ask our guests like, how did
you get into the true crime genre? Tell us like,
did you search it out or did it just happen?

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how that
all came about. That's a interesting story because the day
before I was a true crime author, I didn't know
I was becoming a true crime author. You know, I
was a journalist. I wrote about politics, music, everything, and
then my agent was like, listen, if you really want
to make a go of this, you should write a book.
So I was covering the story of a nurse in Northampton,

Massachusetts who had killed a bunch of people and she
was on trial. So I pitched that I got a deal,
and I thought I was writing a book about a
bunch of different people, interesting people, one of whom was
a serial killer. And I published that book, and then
all of a sudden, I was a true crime guy
and that's all they wanted. The book was kind of successful,

so that's what they wanted, and I followed it. And
from that book, you know, TV came. They wanted to
interview me on different shows for that book. So I
got into TV that way, and then I continued to
write books, continue to do lots of TV executive produce, produce,
create TV shows, you know, all in the true crime space, documentaries,

and then of course podcast companies came calling, and you know,
here I am. I partnered with iHeart about three years
ago and it's been great. I mean, they're a great
company for what I want to do. They really are
heart I mean we're part of the same Ohana, Matthew,
and the same family. Yeah, yeah, so I love that.

I think, you know, Yvette and I stumbled into true
crime just because of our lineage, and you know who
we're related to. But it's what you do with it
when you have that voice given to you, right, So,
of course you know, today we are talking about Michelle McNeil,
and I would love to know, Matthew, what was your
first impression on this particular case. My first impression when

I looked at this case was the LDS connection number one.
I see a lot of that in my work. I
see a lot of the control, course of control, almost
cult like behavior. Not all LDS, of course, but I
do see an amount of it. I see in a
lot of these stories we cover. I mean, I just

see a woman who as a kid was an a student,
the golden child, if you will. She played the violin,
she was a cheerleader, she acted homecoming queen. I goes
on and on and on, right, right, So you know,
we see these people a lot of times who are
It's like this person had so much to offer humanity

and some buddy came along and took that away from
not only the world but her inner circle. You know.
So my first impressions were just as they generally are,
sadness and a lot of frustration that no one saw
what was going on here. As this thing builds, you know,

there's a lot going on, a lot of red flags
that were missed, a lot of red flags at a
lot of flags. And you know, and one of the
first things I want to talk about is the major
red flag. Who is Martin, right, Martin McNeil. And the
thing that is so it's just mind blowing to me
is that this man was able to forge like documents

for government for job qualifications, for medical and no one
like batted an eye, Like how how do we think
that he got away with this? Like for me, you know,
being a biracial woman, like I think about if it
was a black man or a Latino like, I feel
like they would have been like stopped in their tracks,

you know, instantly. But this guy just seemed to get
away with it. Do we think it was because you know,
he was a veteran to start with, I mean, I
don't know. It's interesting because you mentioned the racial part
of it. And you know he's a white LDS guy.
It's like, you know, right, who's going to question that guy? Right?
I mean, and we should you know, you know, you
should take everything out of it, right, and you could

just look at the behavior, right, and things he did
that the amount of prescriptions he was he was forging,
I mean, he was a doctor, right. So when I
look at everything he's done in totality, right, it's almost
like you say that he was given a free pass
and no one questioned what he was doing. And if

someone just had taken even a second look at what
he was doing, right, I mean, you know, they'd opened
up a Pandora's box of criminal behavior. Really exactly. I
think you just hit the nail on the head, Matthew,
like the Pandora's Box of criminal behavior. Right, And you're
saying earlier about like red flags. I mean, we're talking

about a guy, right from what I ready, attempted to
kill his mother and allegedly killed his brother, right, who
was found face down in a bathtub, which is an
important part of everything, right, absolutely, so, prior previous behavior
is a good indication of behavior in the future for

people like this. Now, when we come to what you
were talking about forging checks and all this manipulation. You
start to head down the road of a sociopath. Right.
And the thing we can never forget about a sociopath,
but more so about a psychopath, is that we can't

underestimate how charming they are. Ah. Yes, sometimes we'll get
pulled into the web of their charm and they won't
even know it. I interviewed a serial killer for nine years,
and going into that, a forensic psychologist friend of mine
told me, Look, you invite the devil into your house,

you better be ready to dine with him because if not,
he's going to get inside your head. Yeah. And throughout
that whole time, I mean ninety eight percent of the time,
I kept I was em William Phelps. I was never Matthew.
I was em William Phelps the whole time, Right, I
was that. I was that Guysona. Yes, But there were
a couple of times where I fell right in with him,

not in evil things he was talking about, but just like, hey,
what are you doing tonight? Phelps? When we get off
the phone, or when I went to go visit him
in prison, Hey, where are you headed now? Well? I'm
headed to no, No, no, you're right. Yeah, yeah, So
when we talk about Martin, we talk about the same
type individual. I'm not saying he's a psychopath, but he

clearly is heading down the road of a sociopath. You know,

he was this supposedly right, this charming guy who you know,
Michelle loved him, but at the same time, he was
having an affair with this gypsy Willis who was the nanny, right,
And we always talk a bit about this a lot,
like when women know, like Michelle knew what was happening,
but she still chose to stay. We always think, from

our perspective, well, why don't they just leave? Why didn't
they get out? Why are they staying with these people?
Why do you think she didn't after all the things
that he was doing in these situations? And I spoke
to a really great expert on this, Laura Richards. Hear,
what we're seeing in this relationship between the two of
them is course of control, without a doubt. The numbers

say this, a woman in a coercive control marriage or
relationship who's being abused, it takes her six to seven
times to leave, meaning she goes, she comes back, she
goes if she's alive to leave at the seventh time. Wow. Wow,
So in this case we see no. So to answer

your question, she was probably scared more than anything else
to leave. And she had children, you know, they had
so many children as well, Right, she had children. And
you throw an LDS into it, LDS guilt into it,
and the elder's probably telling her you have to stay.
That's your duty as a Christian, you have to stay.
So she's getting it from all ends here, right, and

she's scared right, right. And that's what we were talking
about earlier, like you don't break up the marriage in
this particular religion, in the Mormon religion, right, you just
you're not supposed to supposedly. I mean, she caught him,
you know, looking at pornography and he threatened to kill
her and himself with a what's your knife? Right, So

this is the kind of atmosphere she's living under. Yeah,
that pattern, right. I am almost one hundred percent sure.
And I'll say allegedly, but I am one hundred percent sure.
He said to her many times, you leave, I'll find you,
I'll kill you, or I'll kill these kids. I guarantee,
he said that, there's no doubt. Yeah, And so that's

what she's living under. Plus he's he's a doctor, right,
so he's got medications that he's giving to her without
her knowledge. I woutish, you know, So he's really really
controlling this woman, right. I was going to say he's
a master manipulator. Absolutely. So he somehow convinces his stunningly

gorgeous wife, Michelle. She's, by all accounts, this beautiful woman.
She you know, is a model at one point, I believe,
and just so beautiful. He convinces her to get a facelift,
and that's part of the manipulation, right, So she agrees
and I was like, okay, I'll get this surgery. And
then that's when Martin asked Michelle's doctor to prescribe her

a laundry list of medications, which eventually ends up killing her. So,
you know, my question for you, Matthew, like, how cunning
do we feel that this was, you know, compared to
most of the other true crime cases that you cover.
I mean, have you seen this a lot? Yeah, this

is pretty classic stuff that he's doing. Sometimes in life
we run into people and we don't realize it, but
I call them soul suckers. They just start sucking the
soul out of your life. You don't even realize what's happening.
You're caught in the spiral. There's a little bit of
codependency on your part, right, So you're you're in it, right, sir,

and you're scared, and they're using the absolute best manipulation
tactics that they have in their arsenal to control you.
Like this cosmetic surgery, the facelift. She decides to do it,
but then he first wants her to lower her blood
pressure and then lose some weight. Right, So these are

more tactics to tell her you're ugly, you're overweight, and
you need to do these things if you want me
to treat you better. Yeah, so this is all classic
manipulation course of control on his part. It's very classic.
I've seen it many times. I've written about it a
dozen times, probably in forty something books. Yeah. I always

like to look for the light in the darkness. And
the thing about her children, like they spoke out about him,
there's the light there light. You know, they were so
courageous and so brave and they knew it. You know.
It's like when you get that feeling, right, that intuitive
feeling that something is not right, and they took initiative,

you know, to do the right thing. I find that
to be very courageous on their part and very much
a sense of love. You know, they it's love. You know,
we're going to try to bust through all this with love. Ye,
so many people don't do that today. You know. It's
it's it's so much easier to love, right, it's harder

to hate. Wow. Yeah, yes, yeah, you know with a
guy like this, from just being on the outside, they knew,
not even being in the inner part of their marriage,
just on the outside, they knew this guy was a
steamroller just running through their mother's life and eventually he
was gonna take that life. And they knew that. They

sensed that for sure. Yeah. I love that you said that, Matthew, though,
like you know, they chose love like and I can
only imagine how conflicted they were because this man was
their father. You know, he wasn't the biological father to
all of the children. I believe some of them were
adopted and you know, some were biologically his. But it
is it is easier to love. And you know, even

after all of that, you know, their mother essentially being
killed and murdered just a little bit after that. And
I'm not going to go into details because I'm the
one I can't. I can't say all the nitty gritty,
gross details. I'm sure that you can, Matthew, but I cannot.
But I do know that, you know, Martin ended up

sexually assaulting one of his daughters just a short time
after Michelle was killed. It was his daughter Alexis, and
she I think she was home right before she was
herself going back to medical school. She was going, she
was on break, and she woke up to him sexually
assaulting her. I'm not even going to go into the
nitty gritty. And this is what Alexis said that her father,

Martin said to her when she woke up and discovered
what was happening. He said, quote, oh, I'm sorry, I
thought you were your mother? End quote. Like how disgustingly
gross is? That makes me stick to my stomach. I mean,
he is a predator, But just the fact, like what
we were talking about earlier, you know, just that had

happened to her, and that she still had the strength
and the courage to speak up right, She wasn't afraid
of him. She wasn't afraid. You know this type of behavior.
It tells me a lot, the absolute ubrist, the absolute
gall tells me a couple of things that he's probably
done it before. M right, Okay, this is not his

first rodeo with this, right right. And we know when
I say we in my profession, we know that a
guy like Martin, his type of behavior, it never de escalates,
It all always escalates, I see, always gets worse. Yeah,
so if we look back, we see, you know, he

attempted to kill mom. He allegedly killed his brother in
a bathtub, which is how Michelle was found as well.
Prior behavior, good indication of native behavior. So she's dead
and now he's going to start to openly sexually abuse
the children. So yeah, this is classic, classic sociopath behavior.

I mean, I did read some stuff about him perhaps
being diagnosed mentally ill early on, but I've not seen
those reports, the actual psychological reports, and I'd love to
see those. I'd love to see those, because a sociopath
can easily manipulate a psychologist and to believe in that
they have a mental illness. Yeah, they have a mental illness.

That's all part of the you know, the game. So
unless I see those psychology reports. I'm not believing that
he was mentally you know, I'm not I'm not buying it.

You know, we do so many of these cases, and
the thing that is so frustrating about a lot of
these cases is that it always takes not always, but
a lot of the time. It takes so very long
for these predators, murderers, you know, to actually do the time.
And I mean for Martin, it took six years for

him to finally go on trial for the murder of Michelle, Like,
why is this so common? Justice runs a lot of
times for the worst criminals at a snail's pace because
they they get these lawyers to muck up the whole situation,
to just start to file motions and argue every single

little bitty thing, try to get venues changed, the whole thing.
So they just keep prolonging this, prolonging this hoping something
pops for them. And it's very frustrating because look, you're
dragging the family through the six years, right, so these
these family members who have lost a loved one are

just being revictimized now all over again, over and over
and over. Every time there's a I have a case
now that I'm I've been waiting on for I don't know,
ten years, and this guy's been in prison and for justice. Yeah,
and for the trial to start. Wow, a decade, A decade, ridiculous,

a decade. I mean it just postponement after postponement after postponement.
The other part of it too, sometimes, which shouldn't take
more than a year, is that some times prosecutors will
want to you know, they'll want to wait because they
hope maybe they can cut a deal and avoid trial
for everybody. So they start to talk to the defense

attorney and maybe talk about a deal, talk to the family, Hey,
would you accept twenty five years you know or whatever.
So that can take a little bit of time, right right,
But yeah, but this five six, ten years stuff is
just our justice system is broken. I have to agree
with that. I had a case I covered on Crossing

the Line where a girl that I went to school
with was murdered at the bus stop in the in
the woods. I'm so sorry, and they caught the kid
who went to school with us. So long story shorty.
I mean, he went to trial. You know, he got
twenty five years, he's out in seventeen years. Her family

fought that fought that fought that fought that he gets
out in seventeen years. He moved south, meets a girl,
gets a prey, and then he kills her in front
of the baby. Oh there's more. He gets twenty five
to forty years for that, and he just got out
last fall. No, this man has murdered two women. He's

walking the street as we speak. Justice system is broken.
I'm a I'm at a loss for words. Yeah, it
makes no sense to me how some of these cases
sometimes are adjudicated. It especially when it comes to sexual
assault cases. Given these three four year sentences to guys
who judges know are going to go back out and

do it again. I'm getting myself heated here and I
don't want to do that on your show. It's just
so frustrating, like you said, And it gets into our
heart and our soul and our mind and our spirit
because we see it so often. You know, where they
get in, they get out, or they never even get
in at all. We try to your words, find the

light in this right? We always I do, as an EmPATH,
as a as a perfect yes, try to find the
light in this Where's the light in this right? Where
is it? And sometimes it's not there. It's just not there.
You know, you'd think, oh, it's going to be the judge. Oh,
it's going to be the prosecutor. Where is it? You know.
So but there's hope, you know, you get you can't

lose hope, always, always, always hope. Well, Matthewitt, I was
going to say, as a fellow and path which my
sister Yvette and I are just like you. I think
that's why we all do what we do, right. We
are here for a reason to shine light. And I
Anni Vette, I know, always, always, always try to find

the light, even when it feels like it it's so
dark that you can't see it. In this particular case,
at least after a twenty two day trial, Martin was
finally found guilty of first degree murder, and on that day,
his daughter Alexis, but more importantly, Michelle's daughter Alexis said, quote,

there was justice for my mom on today. We are
just so happy he cannot hurt anyone else and quote
and it didn't. Didn't Alexis take on her mom's name
instead of his name. She sure did. She didn't want
to be doctor McNeil. Nope, so much respect that it's
you know, it's so. I've seen other cases where kids

are involved where they take sides. Yeah, look at the
Michael Peterson case, the staircase, right that that kind of
divided those kids in that case, right, But here, I'm
so happy to see her say what she said, not
not only that, but to take on mom's name and come, yeah,
doctor Somers strong, A strong woman right there, you know.

And she will carry the torch for her mom, you know,
and pay it forward to the next generation. So that
is the light. That is that is the light. The
light is starting to creep in there. Sure you know. Lastly,
we're going to end on on this, and this is
a very important question for all of us. We do

know that in April twenty seventeen, Martin actually did successfully
he committed suicide. You know, we know he had tried
many times before, but this was only two and a
half years into his prison sentence. Right. So the question
here is do we think he was truly mentally unstable?

And the last part of the question is do we
think that if someone would have recognized these signs in him,
could he have been saved? Could he have been a
different human being? I think nothing was going to stop
him from causing chaos and evil throughout his life. That

was his nature. That's what he was going to do,
whether it was with Michelle or somebody else. I think
his suicide was more of a coward, this move to
get out of spending life in prison and being a
person who sexually abused his own kid and a murderer.
He probably wouldn't have lasted long. Yeah, you know, to

the question of noticing earlier on, that's a really important
question that is being studied a lot today. Can we
do brain scans on potential psychopaths and because most psychopaths
I don't I never want to say all, but all
the psychopaths that I've seen brain scans of this work

that's going on in England, they all are missing the
empathy love part of their brains. There's literally a whole
So I mean, and I know this from interviewing serial
killers psychopaths. It's not that they don't love, it's they
can't love. They have no understanding of what love even

means because they've never felt it. So that's an interesting question.
I think where the sociopath is kind of learned. You
learned behavior in yourself, you grow into a psychopath. Kind
of nuture and nature, right, there's still to combine. But
with a sociopath, it's I think it's all nurturing. I
think it's all as you grow into this this person,

you realize that you can get things by manipulation, pathological lying,
you know, all of this stuff. So Martin, I don't
think I don't think his path would have ever been
different if somebody pointed out, hey, you know, you know
you're not right, dude, you got to get some help.
He was going to do what he wanted to do regardless. Yeah,
we see that earlier in his life with the attempted

murder and the alleged the murder. We see that, right, Yeah,
we see how he sets up his life. That's this
is who I am. You know, he's telling us, right,
and then he proceeds to get worse and do worse things. Gosh,
that resonated so deeply what you just said, and it
I feel like, Rashia, you know, this is such a

wonderful conversation with you because I feel like we're like minded.
You know that we're coming coming from the same point
of view, you know, always trying to tell the story,
but have an immense amount of empathy for you know,
those that are all involved in it right right right,

and and understand that you know a victims of murder.
Once the victim of murder is dead, there's a ripple
effect that travels throughout the family forever and ever and
ever and ever, friends, family, the community sometimes right, yeah,
so's it's yeah. So we have to take that into
consideration all the time, always and hold them in the

light as well, hold them in the light. Yes, well,
m William Phelps, the one and only Mahalla Louis Law,
thank you so much for being here on facing evil.
But you'll always be Matthew to us, thank you, thank
you for having me. Today's final message of hope and

healing goes out to Rachel, Vanessa, Alexis, Gazelle, El Sabrina
and Aida. They are the children and adult children whose
lives were scarred by the death of Michelle McNeil and
by the death of their brother Damien, who took his
own life three years after the death of their mother.
It is our hope for you that as the years

go on, you are able to celebrate the lives of
those you held so dear and honor their legacy as
you are released from old wounds, that you are able
to cherish the lives that you shared. The sorrow will
always remain, but it is our sincere hope that the
light finds you again and again and again. And if

you listening right now find yourself in a time of
grief and pain, know that this is our wish for
you as well. Onward and upward. B Mua emua. Well,
that's our show for today. We'd love to hear what
you thought about today's discussion and if there's a case

you'd like for us to cover, find us on social
media or email us at Facing Evil pod at Tenderfoot
dot tv. And one small request if you haven't already,
please find us on iTunes and give us a good
rating and a good review. If you like what we do,
your support is always cherished. Until next time a Loja.

Facing Evil is a production of iHeartRadio and Tenderfoot TV.
The show is hosted by Russia peccarero in a Vetchantile,
Matt Frederick and Alex Williams our executive producers on behalf
of iHeartRadio, with producers Trevor Young and Jesse Funk, Donald
Albright and Payne Lindsay. Our executive producers on behalf of

Tenderfoot TV, alongside producer Tracy Kaplan. Our researcher is Carolyn Talmidge.
Original music by Makeup and Vanity Set. Find us on
social media or email us at Facing Evil pot at
tenderfoot dot tv. For more podcasts from iHeartRadio or Tenderfoot TV,
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Stuff You Should Know

If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks, then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered.

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