By LAUREN EFFRON and ALYSSA NEWCOMB
The former mistress of Dr. Martin MacNeill, the Utah doctor who was found guilty of drugging and drowning his wife so he could allegedly continue their affair, told ABC News in an exclusive interview that she was "shocked" by the verdict and still believes MacNeill is innocent.
"I was shocked," Gypsy Willis told ABC News' Dan Abrams. "It took me a little while to pull myself together."
MacNeill, 57, was found guilty early Saturday morning of first-degree murder and obstruction of justice for the 2007 death of his wife and former beauty queen, Michele MacNeill, 50.
"I never believed that he was capable of such a thing," Willis said. "The Martin I knew and loved was not the person that he was portrayed on the stand."
Michele MacNeill's cause of death has been the main source of contention between the prosecution and defense. Prosecutors said MacNeill persuaded his wife to have plastic surgery so he could dope her up during her recovery and then drown her in the family's bathtub, clearing the way for his mistress, Willis, to move in to the family's home.
MacNeill's defense lawyers said the mother of eight died of heart problems, which caused her to fall into the bathtub, and that the Utah doctor was not guilty. The coroner's report had initially ruled Michele had died of natural causes. Two of the couple's daughters, Alexis Somers and Rachel MacNeill, begged county officials to open an investigation that local police never conducted, saying their father had murdered their mother.
Willis said she was never suspicious of MacNeill, and to this day, doesn't believe he killed his wife.
"I knew him before the death of Michele and I knew him after," she said. "I saw the conflict in the family and I never believed that there was a possibility that he killed Michele."
Willis said she was "absolutely horrified" when she learned prosecutors were alleging that she was MacNeill's motive for killing his wife.
"I never, ever, ever thought that it would -- it would come to such a thing," she said. "Martin had me any time he wanted. I do not believe that was any kind of incentive."
MacNeill and Willis met while chatting online, which eventually turned into an affair. Living two counties away, Willis said she and MacNeill would see each other "a couple times a month."
Willis said she found out that Michele MacNeill was dead after Martin MacNeill sent her a text message. At the time, Willis was a nursing student. She said MacNeill was distraught after his wife's death, and after she offered to help, he asked her to move into the family's home as the nanny about a week or two after his wife's funeral. Willis said she refused at first, but then eventually agreed.
"I thought that it would be better if things had -- everyone had had time to regroup and that sort of thing," she said. "He was rather insistent that he needed help and that I would be a great support to him and his life."
But now in hindsight, Willis said moving in after Michele's death was a "huge mistake."
"I only wanted to come and support the man I cared for in whatever way I could," she said. "And it was it was a bad choice."
Willis admitted that after Michele's death, she talked with Martin MacNeill about ending their relationship because she thought that it might be inappropriate. At one point, she said one MacNeill's daughters confronted them about their relationship.
"I offered to, willingly, move out and allow things to settle, and, he said, 'No,'" Willis said.
Both Alexis and Rachel testified at their father's murder trial in Provo, Utah, saying they believed he killed their mother. Willis said she understood the animosity her former lover's children feel for her.
"I was more selfish back then, and truthfully, I was living my life for me," she said. "I did not have any intention of impacting their lives. I never thought I would be associated with Martin long term. And I'm sorry for it."
Unrelated to the first-degree murder and obstruction of justice charges that the doctor was found guilty of on Saturday, both MacNeill and Willis had been convicted of fraud in 2009 for using MacNeill's adopted daughter's social security number so Willis could open bank accounts under a false name in order to escape bad credit. That daughter had been sent back to Ukraine, but only for a summer.
When MacNeill was released from prison in 2012, prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder and obstruction of justice in the death of his wife.
Willis took the witness stand last week during MacNeill's trial, where she testified that she allowed their relationship to continue while they were both incarcerated, even pretended she and the doctor were a married couple, because she was lonely. But Willis said she ended their relationship during the federal fraud case.
"The relationship ended when I realized that I was being thrown into a federal case and that my association with this person had destroyed my life and career," she said.
When asked if she had any regrets, Willis said, "I regret that people were hurt."
"I loved Martin very much during the time that I was actually in a relationship with him," she continued. "Before that, I cared for him, but I knew it wasn't going anywhere, and so I was just making happy memories. But I am terribly sorry for all of the people that this has impacted."
When asked if she still loves MacNeill, Willis said, "I loved Martin. I care for him on a very, very deep soul level."
"I truly cared for him and I can't say I'm sorry I loved him but I think everyone life would have been better if I had not met him," she said.