Analysis of Martin J. MacNeill’s phone call to 911


Michele Somers and Martin J. MacNeill

Martin J. MacNeill was born on February 1, 1956. He was a physician and a lawyer and the husband of Michele Marie Somers (January 15, 1957) who died on April 11, 2007 in Pleasant Grove, Utah. MacNeill practiced psychiatry, and Michele tended to their home and eight children.

A Utah jury found Dr. Martin J. MacNeill guilty of murdering his wife by overmedicating her then drowning her in a bathtub. The jury convicted MacNeill of murder, a first degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a second degree felony.

MacNeill filed a post-trial Motion to Arrest Judgment or For a New Trial on the ground that the Utah County Attorney’s Office failed to disclose exculpatory evidence in the form of consideration for Inmate One’s testimony. The trial court found that although the State suppressed exculpatory evidence related to Inmate One, the new information provided by MacNeill in his post-trial motion was cumulative and “would not have been reasonably likely to affect the outcome of the trial.” The trial court therefore denied MacNeill’s motion.

He committed suicide in prison in April 2017, after The Utah Court of Appeals denied him an appeal.


Dr MacNeill at his trial

Here is the emergency call made by Dr. Martin J. MacNeill on April 11, 2007:

Operator: Pleasant Grove Police Department.

MacNeill: I need… I need an ambulance (inaudible) please.

Note that MacNeill doesn’t ask for help for his wife nor does he report her medical condition to the operator.

We note the pause after “I need”.

We note the word “please” at the end of his first answer, a signal that MacNeill has a need to ingratiate himself with the operator. This is the “Good Guy/Bad guy” principle in Statement Analysis, only a “Bad guy” feels the need to portray himself as a “Good guy”.

 Operator: Okay. What’s the problem, sir? We need medical? Sir, what’s wrong?

MacNeill: My wife’s fallen in the bathtub.

Note that MacNeill’s still doesn’t ask for help for his wife and doesn’t report her status, his priority is to tell the operator that what happened to his wife was an accidentThis is unexpected. 

“My wife” is an incomplete social introduction. We always note the incomplete social introduction, usually a signal of a poor relationship, however we don’t conclude yet for sensitiveness because it could be either sensitive or compatible with the urgency of an emergency call. 

Operator: Who’s in the bathtub? Who’s in the bathtub?

MacNeill: My wife.

Note the incomplete social introduction, again; here, more than in the previous answer, his wife’s name was expected. We note that the incomplete social introduction is in association with other sensitivity indicators, especially with the lack of any request for help for his wife. 

Operator: Okay. Is she conscious?

MacNeill: She’s not. It happens that I’m a physician. I need help. She is not conscious.

Why MacNeill feels the need to tell the operator to be a physician? Has this self-reference anything to do with his need to be placed between the “Good guys”? 

Note that MacNeill tells us that he is the one who needs help not his wife. This is unexpected but evidently he has a reason to need help. 

Operator: Sir, sir, I need you to calm down. Sir, I can’t understand you. Okay? Can you calm down just a little bit?

MacNeill: I need help.

Note that he is asking for help for himself not for his wife, again.

Operator: Okay, what… your wife is unconscious?

MacNeill: She is unconscious. She’s under water.

Note that he didn’t help his wife to get out the water before calling 911. This is unexpected and incriminating.

Operator: Okay. Did you get her out of the water?

MacNeill: I can’t… I just couldn’t lift, I let the water out (inaudible).

The word “just” is a dependent word used in comparison. This means that MacNeill is comparing what he is saying with another thought. 

Note the word “lift”, this could be leakage.

Operator: She’s under the water?

MacNeill: She’s under the water. Why don’t you send me an ambulance?

The fact that his wife is still under the water is unexpected and incriminating. There is only one reason for MacNeill to lose precious time, he has no intention to save his wife’s life.

Operator: Okay. Is she breathing at all?

MacNeill: She’s not.

Operator: Okay, sir, the ambulance has been paged. They’re on their way. Okay? Do not hang up.

MacNeill: (inaudible)

Operator: What? Sir?

MacNeill: (inaudible)

Here a second phone call made by the 911 operator:

Operator: Sir, this is 911. Can I help you?

MacNeill: I need help.

Note that he is asking for help for himself for the third time while he never asked for help for his wife. This is sensitive. 

Operator: Okay, sir, they’re on their way. Is your wife breathing?

MacNeill: She is not. I am a physician. I’ve got CPR in progress (inaudible).

Operator: You’re doing CPR?

Operator: Sir, how old is your wife?

MacNeill: My wife is 50 years old. She just had surgery a couple of days, a week ago.

Note that MacNeill introduces the topic of the surgery without being asked.

Operator: What kind of surgery did she have?

MacNeill: She had a facelift.

Here, note that prior to say “facelift” he said “I just couldn’t lift”, most likely because the word “lift” was in his mind.

Operator: She had a facelift?

MacNeill: Yes.

Operator: Okay. Do you know how to do CPR?

MacNeill: I’m doing it.

Operator: OK, do not hang up.


Deception indicated.

Dr. MacNeill has guilty knowledge of what happened to his wife Michele.

Dr. MacNeill, despite being a doctor, was not proactive when he found his wife in the bathtub and he never asked for help for his wife to the 911 operator. His priorities were not only to appear as a “Good guy” bu to tell the operator that she had fallen in the bathtub and that she had surgery. This is alibi building.

Dr. MacNeill has guilty knowledge of what happened to his wife Michele.

MacNeill recognised he was the one in need of help because he killed his wife.

Ursula Franco, MD and criminologist