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
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.