The Stranger She Loved: A Mormon Doctor, His Beautiful Wife, and an Almost Perfect Murder
When 20-year-old Michele Somers met Martin MacNeill at a singles event at her Mormon church in Mission Viejo, California, in 1977, she was drawn in by his confident manner and stunning good looks. Little did she know that she'd just taken the first step on the path that would lead to her death some 30 years later.
While her family members entertained significant misgivings about the former cheerleader and homecoming queen's relationship with and impending marriage to the man who was a physician and also held a law degree, they opted not to rain on Michele's parade by expressing their suspicions. After all, Michele appeared so in love that they doubted she'd heed their warnings.
Michele grew up in a warm, loving family that provided her with a fairy tale childhood. Martin, however, was raised on the other side of the country in Camden, New Jersey, where crime, substance abuse and physical abuse were commonplace. While Michele's upbringing conditioned her to trust others, Martin's childhood experiences taught him that to get what he wanted, he must lie and behave in the most cunning ways possible. In other words, Michele was the perfect victim upon whom Martin could use his skills of manipulation to get what he wanted.
"THE STRANGER SHE LOVED is a chilling tale that reminds us that in some circumstances, trusting our nearest and dearest may be the worst mistake we ever make."
Throughout the years, Martin and Michele had four biological children. Once they were grown and out of the house, the couple adopted four additional daughters to fill their home. Before the girls could reach adulthood, however, Michele would be dead.Always one to have extramarital affairs of which his wife was blissfully unaware, Martin finally met the woman who made him want to rid himself of Michele forever. The woman, a young nurse named Gypsy Willis, had one divorce behind her and a child born out of wedlock who was being raised by her strict Mormon parents. To her, Martin seemed like he finally might be the man to make her dreams come true.
Tired of being married to Michele, Martin wasn't one who wanted to lose any part of his financial portfolio or possessions to an ex-wife. Subsequently, he simply would have to dispatch Michele to the great beyond before her time.Part of his plan involved plying her with a barrage of medications that she would take after extensive facial plastic surgery that he demanded she have. While he presented it as a gift from a loving husband to his wife, in reality, the surgery gave the doctor the perfect excuse to ply his wife with medication that would render her helpless in his hands.
On the day of her death, Michele was found with her head and upper body submerged in a bathtub full of water. Martin's halfhearted resuscitation efforts, as described by neighbors who witnessed them, failed to revive his wife. When the medical examiner found nothing untoward, Michele's death was attributed to previously undiscovered heart problems.Although Martin seemed to be off the hook, his daughter, Alexis, couldn't shake the belief that he'd murdered her mother. When he moved Gypsy into his home as a nanny to care for the children who remained at home, Alexis decided to do whatever it took to reveal her father as the man who killed her mother.
THE STRANGER SHE LOVED is a chilling tale that reminds us that in some circumstances, trusting our nearest and dearest may be the worst mistake we ever make. Even though Michele had begun to see through Martin's lies, she didn't take the proper steps to remove herself from his sphere of control and ended up paying the ultimate price. Fans of true crime stories will revel in the details that journalist Shanna Hogan provides to give them an accurate picture of a cold-blooded killer who showed no hesitation when he wanted to discard his loyal wife in favor of his mistress.
Reviewed by Amie Taylor on April 2, 2015