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Friday
Oct252013

Utah Doc's Daughter 'Planted or Distorted' Memories of Day Mom Died, Judge Says

ABC News(PROVO, Utah) -- The youngest daughter of a Utah doctor accused of drugging and drowning his wife will be allowed to testify at her father's murder trial, a judge ruled Friday.

Judge Derek Pullan said Ada MacNeill, now 12, is a competent witness. However, he expressed concern that some of her memories may be "planted or distorted."

Ada, the youngest daughter of Dr. Martin MacNeill, was 6 years old when she discovered her mother's body in the bathtub on April 11, 2007.

Since then, she has been living with her older sister, Alexis Somers, who testified on Thursday that she was asked by investigators to follow up on some details with Ada after their mother's death.

"There is clear and convincing evidence that some of Ada's memories were planted or distorted by Alexis' repeated interviews," Pullan said.

While no new testimony will be allowed, jurors will be shown a recording of Ada's interview with the Children's Justice Center and then she will take the stand to be cross-examined by her father's defense team.

"There has been a significant lapse of time between then and now," Pullan said. "The degree of her recollection is not stellar."

It was not immediately known when Ada MacNeill would take the stand.

On Thursday, her two older sisters, Alexis Somers and Rachel MacNeill, provided emotional testimony about their father's perceived strange behavior after their mother died.

The day his wife died, Dr. Martin MacNeill insisted on telling Rachel MacNeill how her mother ended up in a bathtub unconscious, even though she said she asked him to not tell her the details.

Rachel MacNeill wiped away tears, and her voice quivered at times, as she testified Thursday at her father's murder trial in Provo, Utah.

MacNeill, 57, kept his head down for part of his daughter's testimony as she described her close relationship with him while growing up, even calling him her "best friend."

Rachel's sister, Alexis Somers, testified that she believed her father was guilty of drugging and drowning her mother, Michele MacNeill, 50, as she recovered from plastic surgery.

Prosecutors have painted Martin MacNeill, a former Mormon Sunday school teacher, as a liar who was hell-bent on making his wife, a former beauty queen, have a facelift so he could dope her up with a cocktail of drugs during her recovery and then drown her in the bathtub.

The motive, prosecutors said, was a woman named Gypsy Willis, who MacNeill had met online more than a year and a half before he allegedly killed his wife.

Much of Somers' testimony focused on her interaction with her youngest sister, Ada.

Despite her opinion that her father is guilty, Somers said she was careful not to taint her sister's recollection of the day their mother died in case she was called to testify at the trial.

MacNeill's defense lawyers said heart problems were a contributing factor in the death of the mother of eight.

The medical examiner has never determined a cause of death.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio