Photo courtesy of Gypsy WillisOn November 9, 2013, jurors found Dr. Martin MacNeill guilty of murdering his wife, former beauty queen Michele MacNeill. Over six years earlier, Michele's youngest daughter found her dead in her bathtub. Michele had recently received a facelift, because Martin encouraged her to undergo surgery. According to Time, Michele's surgeon said Martin urged him to prescribe her high doses of pain killers after the operation. The original autopsy stated she died from heart disease, but CNN reported that a second toxicology report listed Diazepam, Oxycodone, Promethazine, and Zolpidem as factors in Michele's death. The prosecution argued that Martin's motivation for murder was Gypsy Willis—his mistress who moved in with him and acted as his children's nanny after Michele's death.
Gypsy wasn't your typical mistress. Unlike other infamous mistresses, Gypsy grew up in a conservative Mormon family. She was the eldest of four children, studied nursing, and has had a fought relationship with her parents since she became pregnant before she was married—in many ways, she sounds like the victim of a conservative family. Nevertheless, the media has presented her as a conniving mistress. There's some reasoning behind these claims. Prior to Martin's murder charges, both Martin and Gypsy spent time in prison for stealing Martin's adopted daughter's identity. Curious to hear Gypsy's side of the story, I called her to speak about her background, relationship with Martin, and her assertion that the media has misrepresented her.VICE: What was it like growing up with conservative parents?
Gypsy Willis: They are very strict Mormons and very critical of the government. My dad is a doctor who supplemented our income by selling guns. We had a food storage preparing for the apocalypse. My parents are very intelligent people, but they have an alternate point of view on a lot of things. I got pregnant before I was married, and they really freaked out. My dad pulled me aside when my little daughter was two months old and said that I was used goods and nobody was ever going to want me—nobody decent was ever going to want me, and I basically needed to find somebody that was going to take on a child. I fell for whatever I could, got married, and then when the marriage got abusive, I left. I moved back with my family to try to get back on my feet.
What happened to your child?
My family made it out like I was a horrible person for putting my daughter into day care. They thought it would be really hard on her, and they thought it would be hard on me. They took over custodial care and said I should come back on the weekends and I would be mom, but they wanted to keep her there with them. At the time, my Dad was a doctor. They were making pretty good money. They had a farm, and my siblings were all home, so I felt like I would be very selfish if I kept her with me. I moved down to Salt Lake City, and my parents did a full adoption and eventually tried to control me through my daughter. It is the biggest regret of my life that I don't have my daughter with me now.How did you meet Martin?
We met online. I had a Yahoo email, and as part of that, you could post information about yourself. People could see when you were online, talk to you about your interests, or just say hello and be chatty. What he actually thought was that I was trying to sound smarter than I was. He was like, “So what do you know about physics?” I replied back, and we had great chemistry. I actually didn't meet him as soon as I could have, because I was having such a good time chatting with him on the computer, and I didn't want to meet him in person and find out we didn't have good chemistry in real life.What was it like the first time you met him in person?
We met for lunch. We got along very well. When we were together, it was every girl's fantasy: the tall, handsome, successful, beautiful person with great chemistry. I was a little bit intimidated actually, but then we spoke, and we got along famously.
What did your family think of Martin?
They thought he was wonderful. I actually thought my mom had a little crush on him. He was a very impressive person, very charismatic.How did the relationship develop from there?
It was very casual. Once or twice a month, we'd actually get together, and then we'd talk every couple of days—usually by text or whatever. There were a few times when he got really busy, and we [didn’t talk much]. I figured at that point that it was a casual thing. It didn’t matter too much.Why?
I found out he was married before I met him for lunch—this is the beginning of me sounding like a horrible person. I had determined that marriage wasn't really for me. I knew that he was married. I knew that he had kids. I knew that he had this whole other life. It wasn't my preference, but it was okay.Do you feel like the media has portrayed you as a bad person?
It's really upsetting. I have been made out to be evil. I went on Dr. Phil last fall, and then on the follow-up episode they had Martin's daughters on there saying that they had heard that I was into dark witchcraft and had been casting spells on the family. Growing up Mormon, I did try to be a good Mormon, but it did not really work. When I got away from Mormonism and my family, I studied everything. I know about the Wicca beliefs—I looked into all sorts of things, but not necessarily to adopt those beliefs. I wanted to compare it against Mormonism so I understood it all. I've also been portrayed as being a gold digger. That really was not the case at all; I've been supporting myself since I was 18. When I met Martin, I wouldn't have cared if he [worked as a store clerk].You claim that the media has misrepresented you, but you also claim that you didn’t want to get serious with Martin when reports indicate that you wanted to eventually get serious.
Until Michele passed away, it was not even a consideration that we were even going to be in a relationship. He helped me. I had gotten into an RN nursing program at the end of 2006, and I was struggling financially and couch surfing, so he helped me toward the end of nursing school. It was just until I got out, and then I would pay him back. It was never like, “Hey, we're going to build a life together” by any means. It was what it always had been. When she passed away, it was a terrible shock, but I knew he would be having a difficult time, and I knew I wanted to stay in his focus—in the picture—because I loved him.Follow Sophie Saint Thomas on Twitter.