Dateline   |  November 13, 2013

'Secrets in Pleasant Grove' part 1

A former beauty queen turns 50 and decides to have plastic surgery. A decision that changes everything in her picture perfect life.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> the story you're about to witness is all too human. oh, what people will do to each other. and then, puzzling. there were these three women. wouldn't have a story to tell without them. two sisters and their aunt and what they discovered, of course. this might make you wonder, can you ever really see the truth in the face in the mirror or the face beside you in bed at night? the story begins with a beauty queen . a former beauty queen named michele macneill and she was -- look at this. she was truly lovely. but this is about what happened to michele the year she turned 50, the very last year of her life. though she couldn't possibly have known it. as she contemplated a question a lot of people do as youth fades, plastic surgery . should she or shouldn't she? she answered for one reason or another, yes, yes, i will. and before long --

>> everything that we thought in our life was just all shattered.

>> what happened to michele macneill ? what was behind the breathless play-by-play in a utah courtroom, the raw family drama played out in full public view, the hidden sins of -- well, you'll see. here. this is a picture of their magical beginning. both beautiful, michele and martin macneill . everybody loved smart, charismatic michele from childhood on, said her sister linda cluff.

>> she entered different pageants. she won homecoming queen . she did modeling. she was an exchange student in switzerland. she excelled at everything.

>> martin did, too, in his own way. took a little while but eventually he became a doctor and then a lawyer and then a leader in his church of the jesus christ of latter day saints .

>> did they just run off together?

>> they got married by a justice of the peace.

>> they had four children. eventually set up house in a place called pleasant grove in utah and loved their family life so much they adopted four more little kids, three of them from ukraine. alexis from the first set of four, followed her father everywhere, was his little shadow.

>> you kind of idolized him, huh?

>> i did. i wanted to follow in his foot steps. i became a doctor because of him.

>> so for people from the outside looking in, what would they see?

>> a very happy family . a wonderful mother who doted on her children and a father who was a physician and an attorney and present a lot in their children's lives.

>> rachel , the eldest, shared her father's love of books.

>> i remember when i was little just holding on to my father's hand and just to walk with him and i was daddy's little girl .

>> and their mother, michele --

>> she was an amazing and beautiful person on the inside and out.

>> and so it went for nearly 30 years. as he built a career and they together raised their big family. and then here's how martin reacted to middle age .

>> around the time he turned 50, he lost a lot of weight, started tanning --

>> hello?

>> yeah. it was very out of the ordinary.

>> right.

>> very abnormal for him.

>> and that's when her mother michele confronted that question, the one about looking younger, getting something of the past back, the facelift question.

>> she's like, i don't really want it but if your dad's getting all fixed up and looking good, then maybe i should.

>> what did you say to her?

>> i said, mom, you don't need that. you're beautiful. i mean, she was incredibly beautiful.

>> but decision made on april 3rd , 2007 , michele checked into the hospital in bountiful, utah . the doctors worked on her for almost nine hours. a long time for a facelift. still, they proclaimed to be complete success and the very next day she went home again. her face covered in bandages. but otherwise apparently in perfect health. alexis had been with her mother for the surgery, stayed for a week to nurse her through her recovery and now relieved, alexis returned to her medical studies in nevada.

>> my mom and my father dropped me off at the airport and i looked back, my mom was doing well, i smiled, and i said, i'll call you soon.

>> which she did.

>> i asked her how she was doing. she was fine. she told me, alexis , your dad is being so sweet to me. he's just being so sweet to me. and that was the last time i talked to her.

>> that was april 11th , eight days after the surgery.

>> when i came home from work, i -- i checked my cell phone and saw that i had missed -- i believe it was 20 something calls and i called my father. i said, dad, what's happened? and he said, " rachel , come home." and i said, dad, tell me. tell me what's happened? it's mom. is she okay? and my father said, rachel , come home. and then he just hung