SPANISH FORK — Martin MacNeill, a former doctor convicted last month of murdering his wife in 2007, attempted suicide in his cell at the Utah County Jail Thursday by cutting himself with a disposable razor, according to deputies.
MacNeill, 57, was discovered during routine checks at the jail. He had dismantled a disposable razor that he was issued and cut his leg and a femoral artery. When deputies found him, he "was unhappy he was interrupted" in his apparent suicide attempt and "not cooperative with treatment efforts," said Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon.
MacNeill was taken by ambulance to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo. Cannon said MacNeill would spend at least one night in the hospital and possibly remain there for a couple of days.
The incident began about 5:30 p.m. Thursday shortly after MacNeill was issued a disposable razor for shaving. Inmates who qualify to have such an item are given a razor to shave and then it is collected back about 15 minutes later, Cannon said.
In no more than 15 minutes, MacNeill took his razor apart and used it to cut himself, Cannon said. Cannon declined to comment about whether deputies found any other evidence in his cell, such as a suicide note.
MacNeill was convicted Nov. 9 of murder and obstruction of justice in the death of his wife, Michele MacNeill, 50. He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 7 and potentially could spend the rest of his life in prison. MacNeill is also scheduled to stand trial in February in a separate sex abuse case.
One of MacNeill's daughters, Alexis Somers, released a brief statement Friday, saying: "Our lives have already been torn apart. We do not pretend to understand the senseless, distressful and hurtful actions of our father."
Michele MacNeill's sister, Linda Cluff, however, believes her brother-in-law is finally realizing that he will spend the rest of his life in prison, and was looking for an easy way out.
"It is a cop-out. I believe that it is not about remorse for any actions that Martin did. I believe that he is incapable of feeling remorse. He has put himself in this situation and he is realizing that there is the great possibility that he may spend his life in prison," she said Friday. "This is not a shock. It's just a another (portrayal) or who Martin really is."
Cluff said the suicide attempt was more about MacNeill feeling sorry for himself.
"The first thing I thought (when I heard about the suicide attempt) was, 'He can't stand this,'" she said. "I'm glad that he survived. I want him to see what it's like in prison.
"I would like to see him face life behind bars because that's more justice to me, because he'll have to face what goes on behind the prison walls, which to me is a harsher penalty," Cluff said.
MacNeill's defense attorney, Susanne Gustin, said neither she nor co-counsel Randy Spencer had seen any signs that would cause them concern since he was convicted.
"Randy and I are really shocked and saddened by this. Randy saw him (Thursday afternoon) and he seemed to be doing fine. He seemed kind of upbeat. So it came as quite a surprise," she said. "Obviously in any case like this, it's always in the back of your mind, in a big murder case like this, that someone may kill themselves. We weren't concerned about any overt signs or anything that would trigger us to let the jail know he would take his life."
Gustin said she and Spencer attempted to visit their client at the hospital on Thursday but were not allowed.
Gustin said she was told MacNeill was stable but doesn't know much else about the extent of his injuries or if they required surgery. She does not expect the incident to delay his scheduled sentencing unless Adult Probation and Parole agents haven't yet had the chance to interview MacNeill for his pre-sentence report.
MacNeill's life has been surrounded by suicides.
One daughter, Rachel MacNeill, said she remembers her father threatening to commit suicide many times during her life. Sometime after her mother's death, she said she realized that around the time of each of those suicide threats, her father was doing things he could have gotten in trouble for — whether by his wife or by police.
One such incident occurred in 1994, about the same time he was accused of having sexual relations with one of his patients at the BYU Health Center. Rachel MacNeill said her father threatened suicide then and again after his wife caught him looking at pornography in 2005.
MacNeill also threatened to kill himself and his wife with a butcher knife after she caught him looking at pornography in August of 2000, according to a police report. After hearing screaming and seeing what was going on, a friend at the house called police. Son Damian MacNeill, then a young teenager, was able to get the knife away from his father shortly before police arrived. Martin MacNeill then spent the night at Wasatch Mental Health.
Anna Osborne Walthall, who had an affair with MacNeill in 2005, told police that he once told her he’d killed his brother Roy MacNeill, who “had repeatedly attempted suicide for attention, and had become an ‘embarrassment.’ He claimed he found his brother in the tub and that both of his wrists were bleeding in an apparent suicide attempt. Martin told (Walthall) that he pushed the head of his brother under the water and drowned him,” a police affidavit states.
During the same talk at the funeral, MacNeill said another brother took his own life just two months before Michele MacNeill died. A sister died in her early 20s after strangling herself, he said.
In the summer of 2008, one of MacNeill’s daughters said she approached her father about her struggles with drugs and he offered a solution that they both kill themselves. Walthall also told investigators the same story, saying he considered the daughter a family "embarrassment" at the time.
MacNeill's only son, Damian, committed suicide in January 2010 by overdosing on prescription drugs.
Cannon said deputies have kept a close eye on MacNeill since his conviction. The jail puts different classification statuses on its inmates. Such classifications determine how often a deputy will check on them, and sometimes whether the inmate is allowed to have items in the cell with them that they could use to harm themselves, such as a bed sheet.
Cannon did not know what classification MacNeill was under, but noted that he was not under a suicide watch and had not exhibited any signs of wanting to commit suicide prior to Thursday.
Likewise, the sergeant said he could not comment on what classification MacNeill will be placed under when he is returned to jail, but said it "seems common sense" that there will be a heightened level of observation.
Contributing: Andrew Adams