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Utah doctor convicted of drugging, drowning wife in bathtub

By Noreen O'Donnell

(Reuters) - A Utah doctor was found guilty early Saturday of murdering his wife by drugging her with pain killers and sleeping pills and drowning her in a bathtub, local media reported.

The verdict against Martin MacNeill, 57, came more than six years after Michele MacNeill was found unconscious in the bathtub in the couple's home south of Salt Lake City.

The verdict came about 1 a.m., after the jury had deliberated for 11 hours, according to the Deseret News.

MacNeill's death was originally ruled natural, due to "chronic hypertension and myocarditis," according to court documents.

But three years later, at her children's urging, a second look at her toxicology report prompted the chief medical examiner to change the cause of death to the combined effects of heart disease and drug toxicity, and the manner of death was classified "undetermined."

Last year, Martin MacNeill was charged with first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice.

He was accused of giving his 50-year-old wife drugs after insisting she get a facelift. She had the plastic surgery about a week before she was discovered in the tub by her then 6-year-old daughter, the youngest of her eight children.

MacNeill and a neighbor tried to resuscitate her but were unsuccessful, testimony showed.

His motive was his mistress, Gypsy Willis, a younger woman whom he moved into the family's home within weeks of his wife's death, according to prosecutors.

MacNeill showed no emotion as the verdict was read, but he hugged defense attorney Randall Spencer and said, "It's okay, really," the Deseret News reported.

MacNeill's daughters Alexis Somers and Rachel MacNeill, who had fought for years for an investigation into their mother's death, cried out when the verdict was announced.

"We are just so happy he can't hurt anyone else," Somers said afterward, tears streaming down her face, the newspaper reported. "I can't believe this has finally happened. We're so grateful."

She said the Provo courtroom was filled with people who had loved her mother.

"We're absolutely thrilled," prosecutor Chad Grunander told CNN after the verdict. He called Somers "such a wonderful strong woman who did not give up on her mother."

MacNeill's lawyer declined to say whether he would appeal.

MacNeill could receive life in prison when he is sentenced on January 7.

(Reporting by Noreen O'Donnell; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Nick Zieminski)

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