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December 20, 2014

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Utah doctor guilty of killing wife faces sex-abuse case

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The Salt Lake Tribune, Scott Sommerdorf / AP

Martin MacNeill greets his defense team as he enters the courtroom after the jury reached a verdict. MacNeill was found guilty of murder and obstruction of justice early Saturday morning, Nov. 9, 2013.

PROVO, Utah — A Utah doctor convicted of killing his wife will go to trial next month on a sex abuse charge after a judge on Monday refused his attorney's request to dismiss the case because investigators lost a recording of an interview with the accuser.

Martin MacNeill, 58, is charged with forcible sexual abuse of an adult relative in a 2007 incident prosecutors said happened one month after his wife was found dead. He maintains his innocence.

The former doctor was found guilty of murder in November for the death of his wife, Michele. MacNeill overmedicated her after a face-lift and left her to die in a bathtub, prosecutors said. MacNeill's attorneys said she could have died of natural causes. No cause of death was determined.

That trial generated widespread publicity nationwide, leading MacNeill's attorney, Randy Spencer, to ask Monday for a change of venue for the sex abuse trial next month. Fourth District Judge Samuel McVey denied the request, saying prospective jurors in other large counties in the state are just as likely to be familiar with the case.

As for the lost recording, Spencer argued Monday in a Provo courtroom that it is vital evidence and said authorities were grossly negligent for misplacing it.

"That's the kind of conduct our criminal justice system cannot tolerate," Spencer said of the lost seven-year-old tape.

David Sturgill of the Utah County Attorney's Office acknowledged that there is no excuse but said it didn't necessitate dismissing the case.

McVey said authorities were negligent in losing the tape but didn't see proof it was done on purpose or in bad faith. In denying the motion, McVey said a detective's written report of what the accuser said provides an adequate recap.

The Associated Press doesn't normally identify alleged victims of sexual crimes.

MacNeill sat silent and motionless in court Monday, wearing a red- and white-striped prison jumpsuit. He only spoke at the end of the hearing, when he mentioned to Spencer to ask the judge to give him permission to shave and shower for the trial, set for July 2.

McVey granted the request. In December, MacNeill left a suicide note and slit a major leg artery with a disposable razor, court documents show. Utah County jail officials intervened to save his life.

During Monday's hearing, Sturgill said the victim will testify that she confronted MacNeill about the sex abuse the day after it happened. She will recount how MacNeill acknowledged committing the act, apologized and said he thought the woman was his dead wife, Sturgill said.

Outside court, Spencer declined to comment on the allegations that MacNeill said he believed the woman was his dead wife.

MacNeill is still waiting to be sentenced in the murder case due to several motions that have caused delays.

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