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For week ended March 26, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
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Sent on Mormon-News: 23Mar00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Former LDS Missionary Tries To Avoid Murder Conviction In Wife's Killing
San Jose CA Mercury News 22Mar00 D2
By Alexis Chiu: Mercury News Staff Writer

HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA -- The murder trial of former LDS missionary Daniel Mackay, 44, began Wednesday with the defense admitting that Mackay killed Debby Mackay by crushing her skull with a baseball bat two years ago. But defense attorneys claim that Mackay was provoked by his wife's infidelities, mood swings and threats over the custody of their children, leading him to kill his wife in a fit of passion.

Mackay was arrested April 24, 1998, the same day his wife was killed, when a highway patrol officer found him stopped on the side of the road and noticed blood in the bed of his truck. Mackay later led authorities to the spot where he had dumped his wife's body.

The Mackay's marriage had been failing for some time when Debby Mackay was diagnosed as obese. She then became obsessed with losing weight, and had several surgeries to reduce her appetite. But after she lost more than 120 pounds from the surgery, she also got breast implants and began having frequent affairs, according to defense attorney Penelope Cooper. She says that Mackay caught his wife 'necking' with a 20-year-old in her van on one occasion, and recorded her phone calls to men on other occasions. Debby also wouldn't come home some nights. Debby was also on the diet drug Fen-phen, which gave her severe mood swings, according to Cooper.

Cooper maintains that this led Mackay to act in a "blind rage." "What Dan Mackay did was the product of severe and steady provocation,'' Cooper said. "He reached a breaking point.'' She claimed that Mackay sought to hold the marriage together when it began to fail, attending counseling sessions and becoming "Mr. Mom" when his wife was having affairs.

But prosecutors claim that Mackay's actions were premeditated, and due to the fact that he had fallen in love with a woman he met on the Internet. With his wife the biggest obstacle to his happiness, "(He) decided to get rid of his problem, Debby Mackay,'' said Deputy District Attorney Paul Pinney. He added that the unflattering details of Debby Mackay's life shouldn't be the central issue of the case, arguing that jurors should instead focus on the killing and Mackay's seemingly rational actions afterward.

Debby Mackay's family was upset with the way that the defense has painted her. Charlene Whitehead, Debby's mother, says "He assassinated her, and now he's assassinating her character to save his own skin." Her stepfather, Jerry Whitehead, of Salt Lake City says no one will benefit from this case, "It's a no-win situation for everybody,'' said Jerry Whitehead, Debby Mackay's stepfather, who lives in Salt Lake City. "Everybody's hurting on both sides.''

If convicted of murder, Mackay could face up to life in prison. But the defense is attempting to avoid murder by showing that Mackay's actions were not premeditated, and that his is guilty of Manslaughter at most. Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 11 years.


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