Monday, July 16, 2012

Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald

BY John Boston

The Fairy Tale

In February of 1970 things were going very well for Green Beret doctor Jeffrey MacDonald and for his wife Colette and their two young daughters. Over finally were the years of financial hardship and punishing long hours of work during medical school and internship, of living with parents, of getting along on a very tight budget. A rosy, financially secure and socially comfortable future stretched out before them. Best of all, at least from Colette's point of view, there was very little chance that he would be shipped off to Vietnam after all.


A few months earlier, Colette wrote some friends on a Christmas card: "We are having a great, all expense paid vacation in the Army. It looks as if Jeff will be here in North Carolina for the entire two years, which is an immense load off my mind at least. Life has never been so normal nor so happy. Jeff is home every day at 5 and most days even comes home for lunch. By the way, been having such a good time lately that we are expecting a son in July."

The plan was that someday they would live on a farm with five children and horses and rabbits and all kinds of pets. First came the delicate and feminine little Kimberly who was five years old. Then came independent-minded Kristen who was two.Then finally a little boy was on the way.
Their fairy tale life was taking shape: handsome, hardworking, brilliant Jeffrey MacDonald had been the quarterback of the high school football team, president of the student council, and voted by his peers as the most popular student and the one most likely to succeed. And succeed he did. After Princeton, he graduated from Northwestern University Medical School and did his internship in the prestigious Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City.

Colette & Jeffrey MacDonald
Colette & Jeffrey MacDonald
He married the girl he dated in high school, the attractive and intelligent Colette Stevenson, who had attended Skidmore College while he was at Princeton.
Shortly after they began dating steadily, Kimberly was conceived and their marriage had to be moved up a few years. The timing wasn't ideal, but they were very much in love and would manage somehow.
After his medical training MacDonald joined the Army and was later accepted into the famous Green Berets. They were stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The Horror Story

The fairy tale became a horror story on the cold rainy morning of Tuesday, February 17, 1970.
Just after 3:30 a.m. an operator in Fayetteville, NC, got a call from a man who identified himself as Captain MacDonald, begging for her to call the military police and an ambulance to 544 Castle Drive. "Stabbing," he said weakly.

She put the call through to the military police headquarters at Fort Bragg where Captain MacDonald repeated his plea to the desk sergeant. "Help! 544 Castle Drive. Stabbing. Hurry!"
The desk sergeant dispatched a number of MPs, but he could not get the base hospital to send an ambulance until the MPs had reached MacDonald's home and determined that the ambulance was absolutely necessary.

On the way to Castle Drive, Kenneth Mica, one of the MPs, saw a peculiar sight three blocks away fromCaptain MacDonald's home: a young woman in a raincoat and wide-brimmed floppy hat just standing there in the rain at 3:55 in the morning. Had he not been in a hurry, he and his partner would have stopped to ask her what she was doing there.

It wasn't long before a dozen or more MPs were at the front door of the locked and darkened house. They got in through the back entrance and immediately called the base hospital.
Inside the house in the master bedroom lay the lifeless form of twenty-six-year-old Colette. She was sprawled out on her back, covered in blood with her legs spread. Her face and head had been battered. Part of her naked chest was exposed and the other part had been partially covered by a torn blue pajama top.

Next to her, with his head on her shoulder and his arm stretched across her body, was her husband, Jeffrey MacDonald, wearing only blue pajama bottoms. Mica knelt down beside him and heard him ask, "How are my kids? I heard them crying."

Mica bolted upright and ran into the other bedroom where he found five-year-old Kimberly in bed under the covers. As he shined his flashlight closer to her, the sight sickened him. Her head had been smashed and there were stab wounds on her neck.
Across the hall, two-year-old Kristen lay dead on her bed, covered in blood from the many stab wounds in her chest and back.

Mica went back into the master bedroom and tried to revive Dr. MacDonald with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. "I can't breathe. I need a chest tube," he whispered and passed out. Mica tried again to revive him and when he did, MacDonald pushed him away. "Fuck me, man, look to my wife! Check my wife. Check my kids."

Mica asked him who did this to them. With labored breathing, MacDonald told him: "Three men a woman one man was colored, he wore a field jacket, sergeant's stripes. The woman, blond hair, floppy hat, short skirt, muddy boots she carried a light, I think a candle."
Kenneth Mica told Lieutenant Joseph Paulk about the woman he and his partner had seen with the floppy hat so close to the murder scene. "Don't you think we ought to send out a patrol?" But the Lieutenant didn't seem to hear him. He was furiously writing down everything that MacDonald was saying.

An ambulance arrived and they put him on a stretcher. As they wheeled him down the hall, he suddenly grabbed the doorway to Kimberly's bedroom and tried to pull himself up off the stretcher. "Goddamn MPs," he screamed. "Let me see my kids!"

They fought him back and finally, he lay silent and exhausted on the stretcher as they wheeled him out into the early morning mist.

Police photo of MacDonald living room on the morning of the murder
Police photo of MacDonald living room on the morning of the murder 

MacDonald's Story

Later on that day of the murder, after Jeffrey MacDonald's wounds and collapsed lung had been treated and he had been given mild sedatives, agents of the Army's Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and the FBI questioned MacDonald. He told them that he and Colette had a nightcap of orange liqueur before Colette went to bed, leaving him alone to watch late night television. When he heard Kristen crying, he fixed her a bottle, checked to see that the children's windows weren't open too wide and went back to watching the television. Later, he found Kristen had crawled onto his side of the bed. When he went to move her back into her room, he noticed that she had wet the bed on his side. After pulling aside the covers so the bed would dry, he went to sleep on the living room couch.
When the FBI agent asked MacDonald about his family, he wept profusely. After he was able to compose himself, he said he was awakened by Colette's scream and was immediately attacked by a black man with a baseball bat and two white men while he was still on the sofa. His pajama top had been pulled over his head, trapping his arms and hands in its sleeves. He used the pajama top between his arms to shield himself from the men's fists and a sharp object. He remembered a blond woman standing by watching, holding what seemed to be a candle, saying "kill the pigs" and "acid is groovy." The men continued to hit him on the head and he lost consciousness. When he came to, he tried to revive his wife with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with no success. Then he found his children and tried to help them. Failing, he called for an ambulance.

The Army CID at Fort Bragg had sent out a young, inexperienced investigator named William Ivory. Ivory decided after looking at the crime scene that MacDonald had invented the entire story about the attack by drug-crazed hippies. He also persuaded the people in his chain of command that MacDonald was the culprit. Thereafter, the CID focused all of its efforts on trying to prove MacDonald guilty. Even when major pieces of evidence indicated that there were other people involved in the attack, the Army investigators ignored the evidence and focused exclusively on MacDonald.

Crime Scene Fiasco

When a member of the armed services is charged with a crime, Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice requires that an officer be appointed to determine if there is any truth to the charges and to recommend any further action on the case. In the MacDonald case, Col. Warren V. Rock was assigned to head up the Article 32 inquiry. Col. Rock was a no-nonsense, thirty-year Army man and the head of the 4th Psychological Operations Battalion at the John F. Kennedy Institute of Military Assistance.

Bernard Segal
Bernard Segal
Bernie Segal, MacDonald's attorney, was concerned that if the Article 32 hearing did not go well, the defense would lose the best opportunity it had to prove MacDonald's innocence. The proceeding began on July 6, 1970, and was open to the press. Bernie Segal first took aim at Lt. Joseph Paulk, who had been called by the prosecution to support the Army's contention that the crime scene had been professionally controlled.

Joe McGinniss in his book Fatal Vision describes how the Army hearing became a fiasco almost from the beginning: "Under cross-examination by Bernie Segal, [Paulk] admitted that he did not know how many military policemen had been inside the apartment; that he had never attempted to compile a list of names; that he had left no one in charge, to make sure that evidence was not disturbed, when he himself had left the apartment to call for an ambulance and to notify the provost marshal of the crime; that, in fact, one of his men had picked up the receiver that was dangling from the bedroom telephone in order to notify headquarters that the MPs had arrived at the scene; that even after hearing MacDonald's description of the four assailants, he had failed to order the establishment of roadblocks at exits from the post, despite suggestions from several of his men that he do so; and that soon after his arrival at 544 Castle Drive he had noticed wet grass, tracked in from outside, at various locations throughout the apartment, but that he did not know if this debris had been brought in, unknowingly, by his own men at least a dozen of whom had been running up and down the dark and narrow hallway of the apartment, some on the verge of hysteria as a result of what they had seen or perhaps half an hour earlier, by the four intruders who had murdered Jeffrey MacDonald's wife and children."

So much for crime scene control. The potential for embarrassment was great, so Major General Edward Flanagan ordered Colonel Rock to close the remainder of the hearing to the press and the public.

Investigative Incompetence

Freddy Kassab, Colette MacDonald's devoted stepfather, was outraged and began a publicity campaign of his own. "My wife and I have a right to show the whole country that the charges against Captain MacDonald are false." Columnist Jack Anderson took up the cause and wrote an article condemning the Army for closing the hearing to the public and press.
The Army hearing remained closed as shocking evidence of Army investigative incompetence continued to be presented:
  • An ambulance driver had moved things around in the crime scene things which had given CID investigator William Ivory the basis of his theory that MacDonald had staged the alleged attack by intruders.
  • This same ambulance driver stole MacDonald's wallet right from under the noses of the CID agents and MPs.
  • An Army doctor who was attending to Colette turned her over and disrupted the fiber evidence in the crime scene.
  • Fingerprints and hair samples had not been taken from the victims to compare with other prints and hair samples at the scene. The hair sample of Dr. MacDonald that was taken from his clothing was actually that of the pony he had bought for his daughters. Fingerprints had been wiped clean off the telephone, Kristen's baby bottle and other items, after MacDonald was taken to the hospital.
  • VIP tours were being conducted through the crime scene while agents were collecting evidence.
The catalog of Army mistakes seemed endless.

Helena Stoeckley, 1970
Helena Stoeckley, 1970 
By sheer luck, Bernie Segal was given a tip that led to the identification of the young woman in the floppy hat. Her name was Helena Stoeckley, the daughter of a retired Army officer. Deeply into both the drug culture and the practice of witchcraft, she was also an informant for the local police.

Helena Stoeckley

At the Article 32 hearing, Segal questioned the CID's William Ivory about his cursory investigation of the woman, who reportedly had dressed in black and hung funeral wreaths outside her apartment on the day of the victims' funerals.
Segal: Did you make notes of your interview with Miss Stoeckley?
Ivory: No, I did not.
Segal: Is there any reason why you didn't make notes?
Ivory: No particular reason.
Segal: Isn't it standard operating procedure when you are conducting an interview that's related to an inquiry into a triple homicide to make notes of interviews?
Ivory did not answer the question. As he grilled Ivory, it became clear that an effective investigation of Stoeckley and her drug addicted friends had not been done. The Army, in its misguided determination to blame MacDonald had ignored every other suspect.
Segal: Has anybody checked the electric bill, gas bill and telephone bill for the particular apartment in which this lady lived?
Ivory: Of my own personal knowledge, I do not know.
Segal: Mr. Ivory, you really can't say [as Ivory had testified earlier] to us that Miss Stoeckley was being frank, open, and candid. She was following her rules, which are not to tell outsiders who her friends and associates are.
Ivory: She said to me she only knew them by their first names.
Segal: Of course the telephone company, gas company, and electric company and landlords don't generally function on the basis of just first names, do they?
Ivory: That's correct.
Segal: That avenue of investigation might produce last names, might it not?
Ivory: That's correct.
Segal: Is it fair to say that on the basis of what has been done up to now it could not be considered that the investigation of Miss Stoeckley's whereabouts on February 17 is complete?
Ivory: It is not complete.
Of course, Ivory had months to complete an investigation and had not even tried. By the time of his testimony, the whereabouts of Helena Stoeckley were unknown.

Furthermore, it was revealed that MP Kenneth Mica, who had first seen the woman in the floppy hat near the MacDonald apartment and had unsuccessfully urged Lieutenant Paulk to have her picked up, had been ordered not to mention the incident during the hearing.

Segal, MacDonald, and Freddy Kassab were absolutely dumbfounded at the magnitude of the Army's incompetence on the investigation. Because the Army had chosen to keep the hearings closed, Kassab and Segal felt compelled to keep the press informed about each example of Army blundering. The result was that the many of the Army CID staff and Fort Bragg personnel and officers felt angry and defensive about the negative publicity. They took out their anger on MacDonald and further entrenched themselves in their belief that he was guilty, even as the rest of the world was being convinced of his innocence.

Segal Defends MacDonald

Once Segal had discredited the CID's investigation, he began his defense of MacDonald which consisted of several key points:
  1. evidence revealing the absence of any drugs or intoxication in Dr. MacDonald when he was taken to the hospital. The very low level of alcohol in his system was consistent with his mention that he and Colette had some orange liqueur that evening,
  2. various professional examinations of MacDonald regarding his emotional and mental state, and
  3. a parade of witnesses to attest to MacDonald's character and fitness as a husband and father and physician.
Segal called Dr. Robert Sadoff, founder of the American Board of Forensic Psychiatry, who had examined MacDonald a few months earlier. Sadoff testified, "I feel that Captain MacDonald does not possess the type of personality or emotional configuration that would be capable of this type of killing with the resultant behavior that we now see. In other words, I don't think he could have done this...He is a very warm person, and very gracious, and one whom, I must admit, I like."
Col. Rock had also ordered psychiatric testing at Walter Reed Army Hospital. The chief psychiatrist, Lieutenant Col. Bruce Bailey, along with Lieutenant Col. Donald Morgan, director of research psychiatry, and Major Henry Edwards, head of psychiatric consultation, all examined MacDonald. Together they found no mental illness or derangement in MacDonald. Instead they considered him a warm, personable and engaging young man. They did not believe that he had lied about the events of that fateful night.

MacDonald and his daughter
MacDonald and his daughter 
Segal called a number of people to testify who were close to MacDonald and his family. One of the most important of those witnesses was MacDonald's father-in-law who was a staunch believer in his innocence. After a very emotional testimony about what a wonderful husband and father MacDonald had been, he spoke for himself and his wife Mildred: "We know full well that Jeffrey MacDonald is innocent beyond any shadow of doubt, as does everyone who ever knew him. I charge that the Army has never made an effort to look for the real murderers and that they know Captain MacDonald is innocent of any crime."

This sentiment was echoed time and time again by MacDonald's friends, neighbors, professional associates, many of whom were exceptionally accomplished people in the military and medical fields. Robert Kingston, MacDonald's former commanding officer, called him "one of the finest, most upright, most outstanding young soldiers..and very devoted to both his wife and children."
There was only one serious blemish on MacDonald's otherwise excellent record. The doctor had indulged in a few "infidelities" when he was away on business trips. Colette was unaware of these indiscretions.

The Army Plans Revenge

Captain MacDonald before the hearing
Captain MacDonald before the hearing
After six weeks of hearings, Col. Rock completed his report and recommendation. He urged the Army to dismiss the charges against MacDonald because "they were not true." He also recommended that allegations regarding Helena Stoeckley be investigated by the local authorities. While MacDonald and his defense team were thrilled, General Flanagan was reportedly unhappy with Rock's report and recommendation. Flanagan reluctantly dropped the charges on the basis of "insufficient evidence" an act which would allow the Army to revisit the case at a later date.
Afterwards, some powerful people at Fort Bragg, stinging from the humiliation of the hearing, Col. Rock's report and the very embarrassing publicity, vowed that they would carry on their campaign to get MacDonald convicted.

MacDonald after case was dismissed
MacDonald after case was dismissed
MacDonald, oblivious of the powerful enemies he had made, applied for a discharge. Not surprisingly, the enthusiasm with which the young doctor had enlisted in the Army had pretty well vanished after his recent experiences. Not only that, he had to get back into civilian life to earn some money. His mother had sold her home to pay for his legal bills and he needed to pay her back.
After his discharge, MacDonald made a few very serious mistakes in judgment that would haunt him for years to come. He welcomed his newfound celebrity status and continued to publicize the Army's incompetence on national television with Walter Cronkite and Dick Cavett. Rubbing the Army's nose in the dirt simply energized his powerful enemies. Smiling and chatting on superficial talk shows about something so grave as his wife and children's murders diminished him in the eyes of many people, including his in-laws. He would pay very heavily for these errors in judgment.
The efforts of MacDonald and his father-in-law to punish the Army for its conduct resulted in formal complaints and possible charges of perjury against the CID investigators who had mishandled the murder investigation. The Army treated the investigation was a mere formality and the charges against the CID investigators were refuted.

By this time, the CID had located Helena Stoeckley, who had already told some Nashville police officers that she believed that she was a witness to the MacDonald murders. She sought immunity from prosecution, but was denied. The man who gave her the polygraph test told the CID, "Miss Stoeckley is convinced that she was physically present when the three members of the MacDonald family were killed."

Despite this, the CID decided that because they could not match Stoeckley's fingerprints with the few remaining prints that had not been obliterated from the murder scene, she was cleared as a suspect. The Army then turned its attentions back to Jeffrey MacDonald as the main suspect.

Starting Over

During the summer of 1971, Jeffrey MacDonald went out to Long Beach, California, to work with his friend Jerry Hughes in the emergency medicine department of St. Mary Medical Center. He and Hughes transformed the department into one of the very best in the state. Jerry Allen Potter and Fred Bost in their excellent book Fatal Justice: Reinvestigating the MacDonald Murders describe a man who was trying to rebuild his life: "His professional reputation was further enhanced by the authorship of articles in prestigious medical journals, and his co-authorship of a book on the management of emergency medicine departments.

Dr. MacDonald, just before his discharge from the military
Dr. MacDonald, just before his discharge from the military 
"Still active in sports, MacDonald helped organize intramural softball at the medical center. He also taught emergency medicine at UCLA Harbor General Medical Center, and he became a public speaker in the effort against child abuse, and in CPR. For saving the lives of policemen in difficult cases, MacDonald was made an honorary lifetime member of the Long Beach Police Department. He was well known, well liked, and extremely successful professionally."

The Army Doesn't Forget

In the early 1970s the CID had turned over its evidence to the FBI laboratories, which made an exception to its policy of not testing evidence that had previously been tested by other government labs. In August of 1974, a grand jury was presented a new theory about Jeffrey MacDonald. The prosecutor told MacDonald's attorney, Bernie Segal, that he wanted access to MacDonald's psychiatric files. Segal agreed, providing the prosecutor agreed to have Dr. Robert Sadoff testify to the grand jury as to his evaluation of MacDonald. The prosecutor did not keep his end of the bargain.
One of the grand jurors requested that MacDonald take a sodium amytal test. MacDonald agreed if Dr. Sadoff would be present, so preparations were made for the test with Sadoff's supervision. However, the prosecutor had no intentions of allowing MacDonald to take the test nor to let Dr. Sadoff testify. He made arrangements for MacDonald's arrest, even though there had been no indictment at that point and he led the grand jury to believe that Dr. Sadoff had seen no value in the test. Believing that MacDonald would not take the sodium amytal test, the grand jury indicted him.
MacDonald's trial date was then set for mid 1979.

Often when there is a serious and glaring miscarriage of justice in the United States, the defendant is poor and/or black or Hispanic. Rarely is the defendant a well-respected white physician. Nevertheless, it does happen. MacDonald's trial was a sterling example of how even an affluent, educated professional can be the victim of a malicious, overreaching prosecution.

Deck Stacked Against MacDonald

Even before the trial began, the deck was stacked against MacDonald although he and his defense team did not know it. Judge Franklin T. Dupree Jr. had already made up his mind that MacDonald was guilty well before the trial began. Dupree had a close personal relationship with a man named James Proctor, who was one of the key individuals in the government who was determined to convict MacDonald. As Potter and Bost point out: "Proctor had been an associate in Dupree's private law firm from 1967 through 1969. He regarded Dupree as a mentor, married one of Dupree's two daughters, and sired Dupree's first grandchild." Considering the opportunity for Proctor to prejudice the judge, Dupree should have excused himself from the case.
Instead, Dupree asked for the case.

James Blackburn
James Blackburn
It was a high profile case and everyone wanted to be on the bandwagon. It was the kind of case that could really make one's career. Assistant U.S. Attorney James Blackburn, the lead prosecutor, used the case as a springboard to become the U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of North Carolina. A man of very dubious ethics and morals, he later was convicted of forgery, fraud and embezzlement.
Blackburn's chief assistant was a young, ambitious government lawyer named Brian Murtagh who made suppression of evidence into a new art form. Worse, Murtagh had in his possession several critical pieces of physical evidence that would have proven MacDonald's innocence and yet he spared no effort to make certain that the evidence remained undiscovered by the defense.

Bernie Segal had hired an expert forensic scientist, Dr. John Thornton, to examine and assess the physical evidence. Thornton was hired in 1975 right after MacDonald was indicted by the grand jury. For four years, the government did not allow Thornton to even look at the evidence or see the laboratory notes from the original Army investigation or the FBI analysis. Incredibly enough, the government did not allow the defense even to see the evidence until a few weeks before the trial, and even then the judge would not allow the defense any lab testing on the evidence. The Army had taken six months to complete the testing of that same physical evidence years before. Even worse, Murtagh only allowed Thornton to examine the evidence one time in a small jail cell where box after box of papers and folders were stacked all around the room. Given so little time to look at the evidence with no indication of what they were looking at, the defense team was completely shackled. The handwritten lab notes, against which Segal could have checked the honesty of the Army CID technicians, were still held back from the defense.
How could this be? "In almost any state court," Segal explained, "the examination of evidence in a murder trial would be a given right of the defense experts. But not with the feds. It's up to the judge's discretion." And Judge Franklin Dupree was in bed with the prosecution.

Brian Murtagh
Brian Murtagh
One of the many key setbacks to the defense perpetrated by Judge Dupree was that the results of the Army investigation Col. Rock's report indicating that there was no truth to the charge that Dr. MacDonald was culpable in his family's deaths were disallowed as evidence in the trial.� This meant the Army's completely incompetent investigation and mishandling of evidence and suspects would be kept from the jury, as well as the analysis of the seasoned and respected Army investigator, Col. Rock.

When the judge ruled that Col. Rock's report could not be used by the defense, it became urgent that the notes from the original Army evaluation of the evidence be made available to the defense.� Again the government prosecutors refused and the judge agreed with the refusal.
In retrospect, it is not hard to understand why the prosecution refused to disclose the physical evidence to the defense.� The government's case against MacDonald would have been seriously compromised.

The Physical Evidence, Part 1

Wig fibers in Colette's hand
For example, MacDonald's wife Colette held in her hands several strands of long blond synthetic fiber.� The fiber was not the same short blond fiber that was used in the doll's hair of MacDonald's daughters, but was the type used in blond wigs.� Helena Stoeckley admitted that she wore a blond wig, but had disposed of it shortly after the murders.� Also, on Colette's hairbrush some of the blond synthetic fibers were found.� Stoeckley admitted after the trial that she had used that hairbrush on her wig that night.

Jeffrey MacDonald (l) with Bernard Segal outside after court
Jeffrey MacDonald (l) with Bernard Segal outside after court
This foreign fiber in Colette's hand could have been the centerpiece of MacDonald's defense if Segal had been properly informed of it.� "He had been led to believe that MacDonald's hair...had been tested against another hair in Colette's hand, a longer blond one determined to be her own." (Potter & Bost).� As Segal pointed out years later when he discovered the truth, "If it wasn't Jeff's hair, then whose hair was found in Colette's dead hand?"

Hair and skin under the victims' fingernails
Short, brown hair had been found under the fingernails of Colette and the girls, which was naturally and correctly presumed to be the hair of their killer.� Analysis showed it was not MacDonald's blond hair, nor the hair of any of the house's inhabitants.� A piece of skin was also found under Colette's fingernails which was also presumed to be from her killer.� MacDonald had no fingernail scratches when he was taken to the hospital after the murders.� The piece of skin was subsequently lost by the Army investigators in their mishandling of the evidence, so no testing of it could be done to prove MacDonald's innocence.

Not only was the knowledge suppressed at the trial that the hair under the victims' fingernails did not match MacDonald's, but a lab technician had written the following note:�� "[these hairs] are not going to be reported by me."� The pressure was on the Army lab techs to keep quiet about anything that made MacDonald look innocent.� This was precisely why Segal had wanted those lab notes.

The Physical Evidence, Part 2

Presence of outsiders in MacDonald's home
The Army investigators always maintained that there was never any evidence of intruders in MacDonald's home.� In reality, there was plenty of physical evidence of intruders, but the Army kept that information from the defense.� Just from the fiber and hair evidence, it should have been clear that MacDonald was not their killer, but the government suppressed this discovery and did not feel ethically and morally compelled to let the defense know it even existed.

The prosecution claimed that the club that was used to beat Colette MacDonald had on it two dark fibers from MacDonald's pajamas.� Years after the trial, the defense team learned that the claim was a deliberate lie.� No fibers from MacDonald's cotton pajamas were found on the club, but two black wool fibers were.� The black wool fibers matched wool fibers found on Colette's mouth, which had adhered when she was struck with the club.� Those same black wool fibers matched no garment in the MacDonald household and were considered "foreign."� Without this critical evidence from the FBI laboratory notes, the jury was led to believe that MacDonald's pajama fibers were on the murder weapon.

Three recent wax drippings were found at the murder scene.� None were from the fourteen candles present in the MacDonald home.�� This finding was consistent with the description MacDonald gave of the woman intruder holding a flickering light, probably a candle, and consistent with Stoeckley's habit of using candles in all of her incantations and rituals.
Investigators found a burnt match in Kristen's room.� Neither Colette nor Jeffrey smoked.� The match could have been used to light the candle that MacDonald believed that he saw.� A bloody syringe and a number of bloody gloves were found at the crime scene.� The syringe was lost by the CID laboratory personnel before it could be tested.� The blood on the gloves was determined to be human, but there was not enough of it to determine whose it was.�

The Ice Pick

Colette's parents, Fred and Mildred Kassab, holding a doll that belonged to Colette
Colette's parents, Fred and Mildred Kassab, holding a doll that belonged to Colette
Jeffrey MacDonald had always maintained that he did not own an ice pick at the time of the murders.� Both Mildred Kassab and the MacDonald's babysitter, Pam Kalin, were interviewed in 1970 and told Army investigators that there was no ice pick in the MacDonald home.� When the two women were re-interviewed on the subject in 1971 and 1972, they both maintained their claims that neither had seen an ice pick.� However, many years later in 1979, after extensive conversations with Brian Murtagh, both of these witnesses changed their stories and belatedly remembered seeing an ice pick.

The FBI Laboratories

The government's chief forensic expert was Paul Stombaugh, who had at one time been in charge of the chemistry laboratory at the FBI.� The pleasant and confident, elderly Stombaugh made an excellent witness, bringing with him the credibility and prestige of his former position at the FBI.� Even though Bernie Segal was able to demonstrate that Stombaugh had received only one year of formal training in chemistry and that his grades in chemistry were poor, the judge did not allow him to present that information to the jury.� Consequently, the credibility of the witness remained unchallenged.

Stombaugh had a new theory �that certain bloodstains on MacDonald's pajama tops indicated that the tears on fabric occurred after the blood stained the pajama top.�� If proven, it suggested that MacDonald got Colette's blood on him as he allegedly fought with her.� This new theory was proposed without giving�the defense a chance to examine the documents on which the theory was based.� Visual examination of the pajama tops did not support this theory.
When Segal asked for the photographic evidence to support this dangerous new theory, Stombaugh was not able to prove it in court, but maintained that it was so.� Thus, the jury heard very damaging new testimony, even though there was no way to refute it or disprove it during the trial.� Years later, when the defense team finally got it hands on the lab notes through the Freedom of Information Act, they found that� the Army's "CID lab tech Janice Glisson years earlier had explored the same bloodstain theory and had come to a different conclusion.� She had determined that the stain edges on either side of the rips did not intersect, that the pajama tops was therefore, stained [after] it was ripped, not before." (Potter and Bost)

The Pajama Folding Experiment

The most important part of the new evidence presented at MacDonald's trial became known as the "pajama folding experiment."� Stombaugh had been asked by Brian Murtagh to carry out this experiment.� Essentially, Stombaugh had folded MacDonald's pajama top so that the 48 ice pick holes in the fabric matched the 21 wounds in Colette MacDonald's chest.� Stombaugh claimed that he had folded the pajama top "precisely" the way that the MPs described seeing the pajama top covering Colette.� Considering the chaos at the crime scene and the intervening time between the murder and the FBI's involvement, "precisely" could hardly have been a correct statement.� To drive this theory deeply into the minds of the jurors, Stombaugh had photographs of metal skewers, which represented the ice pick wounds sticking out of a mannequin form.

Again, without access to the laboratory notes from either the original CID investigation, or Stombaugh's analysis, Segal was at a severe disadvantage.� Segal was able to get Stombaugh to admit that the photos of the pajama top position on Colette's body in his experiment and the crime scene photos of the pajama top on Colette's body had important differences.� In other words, Stombaugh had changed the position of the pajama tops from what was the actual position in the photographs taken at the time of the murder.

Furthermore, Dr. Thornton, the defense's forensic expert, pointed out that loose fabric like pajama tops when subjected to violent, persistent stabbing would certainly move the first wound marks out of alignment with any subsequent wound marks.

Also, incredibly, the FBI experiment failed to take into consideration the 30 puncture wounds and 18 cuts that appeared on Colette's own pajama top which lay between MacDonald's pajama top and Colette's chest.� When quizzed on this critical question, Stombaugh claimed he had not been asked to analyze Colette's pajama top.

Segal and Thornton continued to hammer away at the credibility of the government's key piece of evidence the evidence that allegedly was the basis of the entire indictment.�� This unscientific and unsupportable experiment which, after the lab notes were finally received from Freedom of Information Act documents, showed that the Army CID's forensic investigator had attempted the folding experiment, but found it couldn't be performed so that it suggested MacDonald's guilt unless they abandoned certain scientific measurements that Stombaugh had given them. Apparently, however, Stombaugh himself had no qualms about throwing out his own measurements to arrive at the results the prosecutors wanted.

Here then was the proof that government prosecutor said absolutely demonstrated that MacDonald was guilty.� This was the "new" evidence that the prestigious FBI laboratory had used to demonstrate its prowess in solving this old murder case.�� Potter and Bost go into minute detail on the many ways in which the experiment was discredited, initially in the trial and even more so when the lab documents were finally released.�

The Physical Evidence, Part 3

The lack of credibility and professionalism of the FBI laboratories became the stuff of headlines in the 1990s.� Its performance on the MacDonald case spotlights some of the issues.
Discredited or not, Judge Dupree allowed the prosecutors to present the evidence to the jury so that jurors could make up their own minds what to believe.� Unfortunately Judge Dupree did not permit the jury to hear the challenges to Stombaugh's credentials and they had difficulty understanding the scientific issues of the experiment.

Colette's hair entwined with pajama fibers
Similar to the pajama folding experiment, Stombaugh claimed that he analyzed a bloody hair from Colette's head, which was entwined with a fiber from MacDonald's pajamas.�� The defense knew nothing of this new claim and wondered how this alleged piece of damning physical evidence had not been found nine years earlier.� Prosecutor Brian Murtagh had provided Stombaugh with the evidence, but had never alerted Segal to its existence.� Consequently, at the trial, the defense was unable to address this claim.��

Years later when laboratory notes were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, it was clear that the Army CID had examined this evidence three times and found no fiber and hair entwined at all!.� Furthermore, the bloodstained hair was not even Colette's, but Kimberly's.� Unfortunately for MacDonald, the jury never learned the truth that no hairs from any of the victims were found entwined with fibers from MacDonald's pajamas.

The bloody footprints on the bedspread
The government asserted that MacDonald left two bloody footprints on a blood-soaked bedspread as he transported Colette's body from one room to another.� Well after the trial the defense team learned that the FBI laboratory had repeatedly tested the bedspread looking for footprints and found none.� Of course, this information had been withheld from the defense and the prosecution continued to press its claim at the trial.

Helena Stoeckley Reemerges

Bernie Segal did not know at the time of the trial that in 1978 Helena Stoeckley had contacted the FBI and told an agent that she was involved with the MacDonald killings.�� She was being treated in Raleigh, NC, hospital for depression and suicidal tendencies, but showed no signs of drug use when she entered the hospital.

At the trial, she said that on the night of the murders, she was with her boyfriend Greg Mitchell and several soldiers from Fort Bragg.� They were all taking drugs and she did not specifically remember what she did between midnight and 5 A.M.� She admitted owning a floppy hat, a shoulder-length blond wig, and boots.� She had burned the wig because it connected her with the murders.�
Segal questioned her on why she had told six people that she had been in the MacDonald's house at the time of the murders.��She claimed that she did not remember.�

One of those witnesses was Fayetteville police detective Prince Beasley who heard her say on the morning of the murders that "In my mind, I saw this thing happen."�� Another witness was a friend who heard her admit that she was at the MacDonald apartment and held a candle while the crimes were committed.� Two others were police officers who heard her admit to being present when Colette and the children were murdered.�� Additionally, an Army polygraph expert confirmed that Helena said she was present at the crime scene and had explained that her companions chose to punish MacDonald for refusing to give out methadone to drug addicted soldiers.
Ruling that Stoeckley's statements were "untrustworthy," Judge Dupree allowed the witnesses to testify but not regarding statements that Stoeckley made about the murders.� This ruling was a major setback to the defense.

One of the most amazing things in the entire Stoeckley matter was that Stoeckley had confessed directly to Prosecutor Brian Murtagh just before the trial.� This information was not made available to the defense, regardless of the requirement that exculpatory information be released to the defense before trial.

The Issue of MacDonald's Character

The defense was counting very much on the evidence of MacDonald's character to persuade the jury that he was incapable of committing the horrible crimes with which he had been charged.� There were numerous people who could testify to MacDonald's love of his wife and children, his professionalism and his leadership qualities.� Additionally, there were the various testimonies of the government's top psychiatrists at the time of the Army hearing, plus the expert testimony of Dr. Sadoff, founder of the American Boards of Forensic Psychiatry.� Segal added to that expert testimony by asking Dr. Seymour Halleck, a well-known forensic psychiatrist, to examine MacDonald.� Dr. Halleck also pronounced MacDonald to be a stable, non-pathological personality who was not the type to commit murder.

Judge Dupree would only allow the psychiatric testimony if MacDonald would agree to another psychiatric examination with a psychiatrist selected by the judge.� Fearing a set-up, Segal was wary, but had very little choice.� The government's choice was Dr. James Brussel.� Potter and Bost describe him as a kind of celebrity psychiatrist:�� "Brussel's dominant reputation was that of almost psychic criminalist with the power to describe a suspect without interviewing him, without seeing the crime scene, and without questioning witnesses.� It was said that he often needed only to talk with police on the telephone to make his diagnosis.� His fame was tied primarily to cases of the "Boston Strangler and New York's Mad Bomber...Brussel was also an innovative researcher into novel methods for controlling inmates in psychiatric institutions.�� Lamenting the frustrations of managing unruly patients and the cost of housing them in the late 1940s, Brussel and an associate instituted electric shock experiments on the brains of female inmates."

Brussel, after a very short examination, decided that MacDonald was a homicidal psychopath.� What the defense did not know at the time was that Brussel had been used for eight years by the Army's CID to justify their continuing persecution of MacDonald.� Far from being an independent expert, Brussel had for eight years before he had ever met Jeffrey MacDonald gone on record claiming he was guilty and had continued to work on the case for the government all those years.
The defense never got a copy of this report by Brussel before the trial even though one was provided to Brian Murtagh and Judge Dupree.� Then the judge ruled that psychiatric testimony would not be presented to the jury because it would confuse the jurors.� However, Brussel's report characterizing MacDonald as a raging maniac was allowed to be placed into the trial record even though the reports of the other psychiatrists were not.� The effect of this was devastating.�
"The prosecution had managed to replace MacDonald's 'golden boy' image with that of a twisted monster, and Judge Dupree's edict actually invested the dubious transformation with the sanctity of the law."� (Potter & Bost)

Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald in court
Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald in court
Considering the deliberate lies, suppression of evidence and shameless manipulation of the facts in this trial, it was not surprising that the jury convicted Jeffrey MacDonald of the murder of his wife and two daughters.� He was sentenced to three consecutive life terms.� But the travesty of justice did not end with that alone.�� The judicial system continued to work against him in the appeals process and he became the victim of a stunning personal betrayal.

What Really Happened

There was a very serious drug problem in the Fort Bragg area.� Many soldiers returning from Vietnam were drug addicts a situation which the Army was ill-prepared to address.� Added to this Army drug problem was the explosion of drug use in the local hippie community during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The Army was about to change its policy on soldiers who used drugs.� Under the new policy, base physicians would have to report soldiers who continued to use drugs.� Many physicians were concerned that the new policy would cause drug-addicted soldiers to avoid Army medical treatment and thereby worsen the drug problem.

Personally, Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald was very unsympathetic to drug users and the drug-loving hippie community.� MacDonald was known by the community of drug users as someone who threatened to make drugs more difficult to get.� Helen Stoeckley told Fred Bost, "MacDonald was just one of several people giving the drug users a hard time...It's kind of like if you tell somebody that they're going to be cut off [from drugs]...they said, 'Look, you know it's happening to us now.� I could be you next'....there was simply going to be a little pushing around [at the MacDonald house], you know, and trying to get a point across..."

In 1980, Stoeckley married and her new husband believed firmly that she was involved in the murders, but had not killed anyone herself.� Former FBI agent Ted Gunderson and police detective Prince Beasley offered her immunity and she signed a confession to that effect, bolstering her credibility by remembering certain details about the crime scene that were not released to the public.� She underwent three polygraph tests which supported her story.� She also gave the names of some of her companions one of whom actually murdered Colette and possibly one of the girls too.

Helena Stoeckley in 1981
Helena Stoeckley in 1981
She remembers seeing only one person attacking Colette her boyfriend Greg Mitchell.�� One of the children was lying motionless next to Colette during the attack.�� Helena thought that Colette was fighting to protect the child.� By that time, she became hysterical at the sight of all the blood and ran out of the MacDonald house.� She thought that MacDonald was dead when she left the house.

Fortunately for MacDonald's defense team, these confessions were videotaped because Helena Stoeckley died at the age of 30 from complications of liver disease in January of 1982.

Greg Mitchell

The man Helena implicated in the murders Greg Mitchell was a seriously screwed up, drug-addicted soldier of nineteen when he came back to Fort Bragg from his tour of Vietnam.� Right after the MacDonald murders, he did what very few soldiers did, he asked to be sent back to Southeast Asia.
While he was waiting to be shipped back, he had an argument with his mother which upset her terribly.� Greg had yelled at her that he had to go kill all the ten-year-olds he could find.� Shortly afterwards, he overdosed on heroin and was finally sent back to Vietnam until the Army discharged him for drug addiction in 1971.

When he got back to Fayetteville, he broke down emotionally and confessed that he had murdered people and begged God to forgive him.� Later on, he was seen near a farmhouse that had the words "I KILLED MACDONALD'S WIFE AND CHILDREN" freshly painted on the interior wall.
Subsequently, he admitted to friends that he was worried because the FBI was interrogating him about the MacDonald murders.� He confessed to one of them that he was guilty.

A wasted Mitchell just before his death
A wasted Mitchell just before his death
Other evidence ties Greg Mitchell to the crime scene.� Forensic experts believed that Colette had been killed by a left-handed person.� Mitchell was left-handed, whereas MacDonald is right-handed.� Mitchell had Type O blood the likely blood type on Colette's hands.� MacDonald has Type B blood, which was not found on Colette's hands.� Greg Mitchell had brown hair the color of the hair under the victims' fingernails.� MacDonald's hair is blond.
Like Helena Stoeckley, his drug dependency caught up with him at a very early age:�� Greg died in June of 1982 at the age of thirty two from liver disease.

Enter Joel McGinniss

Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald is a man with miserable luck.� One of the more unlucky days of his life, aside from the day his family was murdered, was the day he met author Joe McGinniss.
McGinniss happened to be in California in June of 1979 and saw an article in the newspaper about a dinner dance that the Long Beach Police Officers Association was giving to raise money for MacDonald's legal defense.� McGinniss recalled the original case some nine years earlier and contacted MacDonald.

MacDonald offered an interesting proposition.� Janet Malcolm in her witty book The Journalist and the Murderer describes it:�� "MacDonald asked McGinniss if he would like to attend the murder trial in Raleigh, North Carolina and write a book about the case from the perspective of the defense team, with whom he would live, and to all of whose plans, strategies, and deliberations he would be privy."�

McGinniss agreed to this proposal and to share a portion of the book's proceeds to pay MacDonald's legal expenses:� 26.5% of the publisher's $300,000 advance and 33% of the royalties.� As part of this deal, MacDonald agreed that regardless of what McGinniss wrote, he would not sue him for libel.


What followed was the development of a friendship between the two men where McGinniss stayed in MacDonald's condo, they drank, ate and played together.� McGinniss sat in on all of the meetings with the defense team.� Repeatedly and persistently, McGinniss volunteered to MacDonald and others, including MacDonald's mother, that he believed in MacDonald's innocence.

MacDonald with the Press in 1980
MacDonald with the Press in 1980
For the three plus years between their deal�in 1979 until a few months before the publication of the book in 1983, McGinniss led MacDonald to believe that he continued to champion the doctor's innocence.� During this time, he had MacDonald surreptitiously make audiotapes in violation of prison policy about the details of his relationship with his wife and children.�

All the time, McGinniss continued to lament the unfairness of MacDonald's trial and sympathize with his plight.� "Total strangers can recognize within five minutes that you did not receive a fair trial...What the fk were those people thinking of?� How could 12 people not only agree to believe such a horrendous proposition, but agree, with a man's life at stake, that they believed it beyond a reasonable doubt?" (excerpts from McGinniss's letters to MacDonald).� McGinniss was provided with all of the exculpatory materials that were being brought to light by private investigators working on MacDonald's appeal.

The reality of the situation is that once MacDonald was convicted, McGinniss could either take the position that MacDonald had been unfairly convicted or that MacDonald was really guilty and had tricked people for nine years into thinking he was innocent.�� The story of an evil monster masquerading as an upstanding doctor sells many more books than a crusade to get Jeffrey MacDonald a new trial.� While McGinniss claims that he changed his mind about MacDonald's guilt after the trial, it was a decision that was financially very rewarding.

The Mother of Invention

Completely unencumbered with any facts, McGinniss invented a story to explain how a man that everyone agreed was a man who loved and cared for his wife and children could suddenly become the raging maniac that killed the three of them.� McGinniss found out that in the year before the murders that MacDonald had taken some diet pills to lose weight.� In fact, he had taken just a few prescription diet pills, but not near the time of the murder.� McGinniss decided on his own that MacDonald was taking 2-3 pills a day which would have represented a significant overdose.� The author then imagined that in a rage brought on by amphetamine psychosis, MacDonald suddenly slaughtered his family because his little girl wet the bed.� McGinniss formulated this tale despite the fact that all of the tests done on MacDonald when he was taken to the hospital shortly after the murders were negative for drugs.� �

MacDonald was devastated when he learned the truth:� that McGinniss's Fatal Vision had portrayed him as a particularly evil criminal psychopath who killed his wife and children.� Janet Malcolm, a veteran writer, was not surprised:� "Something seems to happen to people when they meet a journalist, and what happens is exactly the opposite of what one would expect.� One would think that extreme wariness and caution would be the order of the day, but in fact childish trust and impetuosity are far more common...There are very few people in the country who do not regard with rapture the prospect of being written about or being interviewed on a radio or television program."
The betrayal of MacDonald by McGinniss was horrible and unforgivable, but the effect on MacDonald's future was irreparable.� Fatal Vision became a best seller and was made into a popular movie.� Consequently millions of people saw the Jeffrey MacDonald of Joe McGinniss's imagination as the truth� and MacDonald could not sue for libel.

But MacDonald could sue for fraud and sue he did.� In August of 1984, a lawsuit was filed on MacDonald's behalf for fraud and breach of contract against Joe McGinniss.� $15 million in damages was sought.

The Civil Suit

Gary L. Bostwick, MacDonald's lawyer in the civil action, listened to the tapes that McGinniss had persuaded MacDonald to make.� "Bostwick compared the tapes with those segments in [Fatal Vision] which purported to be "The Voice of Jeffrey MacDonald."� He satisfied himself that, as MacDonald claimed, McGinniss had skillfully edited passages to make it though MacDonald had taped glib, nonstop soliloquies of self-adoration.�

But nowhere in McGinniss's book were MacDonald's taped words of concern about the tragic deaths of Colette and the children.� The writer had placed MacDonald's doctored thoughts between ongoing revelations of the government's claims, not bothering to challenge the government's claims with any of the relevant defense evidence that had been put at his disposal, not bothering to express in the book his own expressions of disdain [about the government's case] which he had written to MacDonald.� The results, Bostwick charged, were fictional and the book could not be legitimized as nonfiction." (Potter and Bost)

A few days before the trial, McGinniss offered MacDonald $200,000 to settle the case.�� MacDonald refused.

The civil trial did not go well at all for McGinniss.� At the end, had it not been for one juror who could not see awarding money to a convicted murderer, McGinniss would have lost.� The other jurors agreed with McDonald's suit and could not persuade the final juror to agree.� Janet Malcolm describes the problem in her book:�� "The trouble had started early in the trial, when [the juror who held out], an animal rights activist, brought animal-rights literature to the jury room and wasn't able to interest the other jurors in her cause.� She became the weird Other to the majority, and they became the Oppressors to her...they had scorned this woman at their peril and were now powerless against her."
The judge declared a mistrial but left the door open for a new trial.� At that point, McGinniss offered to settle for $325,000 and eventually they did settle for a bit over that amount.� Again, MacDonald's huge legal expenses determined the decision not to continue this fight.
But the damage of the book Fatal Vision and the movie of the same name had been done.� MacDonald may some day win a new trial, but he will never be able to undo the malicious image that Joe McGinniss created


Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald's mile-wide streak of bad luck continues throughout most of the appeals that have been filed on his behalf, despite the highly capable and prestigious lawyers that have worked pro bono (without pay) to prove his innocence.

In 1990, Harvey Silverglate and his colleagues from his Boston law firm filed motions with Judge Dupree for a new trial based upon the discovery of evidence from the laboratory notes that was withheld by the prosecution in the original trial. The long, blond synthetic fiber in Colette's hand was prominent in this motion for a new trial. The prosecution argued that the saran synthetic fiber was never used to make wigs like the wig that Helena Stoeckley admitted wearing and was instead the fiber used in the hair of dolls. Regardless of the falsity of this particular technical statement, Judge Dupree, who was never impartial on this case, took advantage of recent court decisions (McCleksey vs. Zant), which limited the time in which a defendant could produce new evidence in an appeal. Despite the fact that Judge Dupree had specifically promised in the original trial that if the lab notes which the prosecution withheld turned out to be exculpatory he would allow a new trial, he reversed himself.�� Dupree, fully aware that it took years to get the laboratory notes under the Freedom of Information Act, ruled that the defense was presenting the exculpatory evidence too late. It is very difficult to justify the reasoning in this ruling.

This case was again reopened in 1997 with the defense team proving that the prosecution witness, an FBI agent who subsequently was found to have testified falsely in other cases, was wrong about the saran fibers. An expert witness from the toy industry testified that saran fibers were never used for doll's hair, while saran fibers were in fact used in the manufacture of wigs. Another part of this new petition was the ability to subject the "foreign" hairs (meaning hairs that were not from members of the MacDonald household) found under the fingernails of the victims to the DNA testing which had not been available at the time of the original trial.

Judge Fox, who replaced Judge Dupree, who had died in the interim period, denied that MacDonald had the right to request that the brown "foreign" hairs be subjected to DNA testing.
Fortunately, this unusual decision was overturned by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has given the MacDonald defense team an opportunity to begin the DNA testing. Despite this order from the federal court, the government is still refusing to turn over the evidence for DNA testing on the grounds that it is a violation of the writ of habeas corpus.

New Evidence of Innocence

It must be very difficult for Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, 62, to get his hopes up, considering how things have gone for him in the courts thus far. However, there are enough people who are convinced of his innocence to keep this case alive for so many decades.

Jeffrey MacDonald incarcerated
Jeffrey MacDonald incarcerated
Papers filed in the federal appeals court in Richmond, VA, on Dec. 13 ask the court to set aside his life sentence after the discovery of new evidence that supports his innocence. Retired U.S. Marshall Jimmy B. Britt came forward with the statement that he was present in 1979 when Helena Stoeckley, an early suspect in the case who died in 1983, admitted to MacDonald prosecutor James Blackburn that she and others had gone to the MacDonald house to get drugs. Stoeckley knew things about the MacDonald home that were never revealed in the press.

Britt's affidavit, as reported in the Wall St. Journal Dec. 14, states that Blackburn threatened Stoeckley, that he would indict her for murder if she told the jury what she told him. Blackburn's threat was successful because the next day Stoeckley told the jury she couldn't remember what she did the night of the murders.

Britt's statement appears to be pretty solid. He has passed a polygraph and he had told two friends from the Marshall Service last year about the secret that he had kept for so long. Britt told the Wall St. Journal that he needed to "unload the moral burden."
"Ultimately, I decided that I had a duty to come forward," Britt said.

Blackburn denied Britt's claim. However, Blackburn has some credibility problems that Britt does not. In 1993 Blackburn pleaded guilty to a number of felonies, including embezzlement, forgery, and stealing several hundred thousand dollars from his law firm. Blackburn, who was disbarred and imprisoned, is now a speaker who gives ethics lectures to lawyers. MacDonald co-prosecutor Brian Murtagh has declined to comment on Britt's affidavit. Murtagh is now deputy chief of the Terrorism and Violent Crime section in the Justice Department's Criminal Division.

Despite the long incarceration of MacDonald since 1979, there is a growing and highly competent group dedicated to proving his innocence by finally getting all the evidence before a jury and an unbiased judge. The progress of their efforts can be monitored at
Jerry Potter and Fred Bost, authors of Fatal Justice also have a web site, which goes into detail about physical evidence.

DNA Evidence

By Rachael Bell
In January 2006, new evidence emerged in the Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald murder case, which supporters of his innocence believed might lead to a new trial and possibly his freedom. In December 2005, Jimmy Britt's testimony that he had overheard Helena Stoeckley admit that she and others had gone into MacDonald' s house on the night in question and participated in the murders of his wife and children, was one of the first big breakthroughs in the case. Then in March 2006, new DNA evidence was publicly revealed that supports Stoeckley's testimony.

Forensic testing of a hair found clutched in MacDonald's youngest daughter Kristen's fingernail was confirmed to have come from an unidentified person. Martha Waggoner quoted MacDonald's lead attorney Tim Junkin in the Associated Press as saying that the unidentified hair was "a powerful piece of evidence that there were intruders in the house that night." Yet, according to the report, prosecutors didn't attach much significance to the new evidence being that the house was "expected to contain hairs from the persons other than the four who lived there," U.S. Attorney Frank Whitney stated.

Barry Scheck
Barry Scheck
The prosecution team was more interested in DNA tests that revealed that Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald's hairs were confirmed to have been those found clutched in his wife's hand. Although Barry Scheck, DNA expert and a founder of The Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, who has conducted pro bono work on the MacDonald case said that "the fact that there were some of his (MacDonald's) hairs found on or in her hand doesn't mean much, because he was trying to resuscitate her," he said during a CNN Larry King interview in March 2006. Scheck further suggested during the interview that other DNA evidence that is "going to help him (MacDonald)" was a long pubic hair purportedly belonging to an unidentified third person found between Colette's legs and 17 unmatched finger and palm prints also found at the crime scene.

Hope of a New Trial

Also in March, 2006, another significant turn of events occurred in the MacDonald case when Donald Buffkin of Alabama filed an affidavit in which he claimed that on several occasions between 1980 and 1982 he drank at a bar with a man who claimed to have been involved in the MacDonald family murders, Laura Arenschield reported. Buffkin identified the man as Gregory Mitchell, who Helena Stoeckley earlier implicated as one of the main perpetrators of the heinous crime. He further claimed that Mitchell last told him about the murders two weeks prior to his death from kidney disease, Bill Kirby reported.

Two other men, Everett Morse and Bryant Lane, also came forward recently with evidence that supports Buffkin's account. The men both claimed in affidavits that Mitchell confessed to them on separate occasions that he committed the murders, according to court documents (The United States v. Jeffrey R. MacDonald, 2005). Finally, a law clerk who has taken an interest in the case and supports MacDonald's innocence has claimed that she spoke with a 7-Eleven convenience store cashier near the MacDonald home who claimed that she saw a group of hippies come into the store on the morning of the murders, although she didn't report it for fear of her life, Kirby wrote.
Almost three and a half decades after the murders, witnesses continue to come forward with evidence supporting the theory that a group of hippies were responsible for the MacDonald murders. MacDonald's defense team hopes that the new evidence will result in a trial that will eventually vindicate their client. They wait for the courts response to their appeals. In the meantime, Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald remains in prison, believing that it is only a matter of time before he will get a chance to taste freedom and live out the remainder of his days with his new wife Kathryn MacDonald.


The Crime Library highly recommends Jerry Allen Potter and Fred Bost's excellent book called as the very best book on this subject. The book is meticulously researched and persuasively written. This feature story draws heavily from that book, particularly as it relates to the evidence uncovered by Freedom of Information documents subsequent to MacDonald's trial.

Another very good book is Janet Malcolm's which examines the lawsuit filed by Jeffrey MacDonald against Joe McGinniss, the author of Fatal Vision.

Another book that is recommended is John F. Kelly and Phillip K. Wearne's book, which deals with the troublesome problem of the scandals inside the FBI Crime Laboratory.

Melinda Stephen's is written by MacDonald's friend and supporter.

Joe McGinniss's book is not recommended as a factual and unbiased analysis of the case.

Elliot, Jeffrey, "Interview with Jeffrey MacDonald," Playboy, April, 1986.

Articles from the New York Times and the Washington Post were also used as research materials for this story.

Arenschield, Laura (March 18, 2006). Affidavit: Drinking buddy owns up in "Fatal Vision" case. Fayetteville Online.

CNN Larry King Live (March 14, 2006). New DNA Evidence May Grant New Trial. Rush Transcripts from program aired at 21:00 ET.

Kirby, Bill (March 29, 2006). MacDonald has a believer in ex-law clerk. Fayetteville Online.

Motion to consider vacating the sentence of Jeffrey R. MacDonald. The United States v. Jeffrey R. 

MacDonald. Submitted by Timothy Junkin, Esq. and J. Hart Miles, Counsel for Movant Jeffrey R. 

MacDonald. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth District. 2005. To be found at:

Waggoner, Martha (March 11, 2006). DNA matches "Fatal Vision" convicts hair. Associated Press.


  1. It is a sad story of Colette MacDonald pg and The 2 little Girls? Mp may of bungled the crime scene ?Did MP repeatedly made mistakes in their investigation, mucking up the crime scene and ignoring obvious clues& MP Police have come under scrutiny for not properly securing the MacDonald Home crime scene walk all over it with wet/muddy boots & touch & moving things around? What you can't forget is : Jeffrey told MP to go check on his Kids not CHECK on his WIFE? Jeffrey said intruders he claim were Hippies attack him &his family(pgwife 2kids?)But why would Jeffrey want Bernie Segal (long hair atty) and why would Jeffrey later grow his hair long like a Hippie? If Jeffrey MacDonald did it why would he lie next to a Dead Wife&if infact he did it WHY(remorse-guilt-disguise?)Blood/Hair/Fibers/Threads found thru out MacDonald 544 CastleDr?BareFoot print in the hallway?Weapons found under a Bush-wouldn't Culprit would of hid them or would they throw them right outside?Plasic Finger pieces (surgical) found in master-bedroom? Didn't Jeffrey say he used Surgical gloves to wash dishes when was dishwasher plastic gloves for that ?Abusive Men do not show colors around outsiders or family members only the immediate family actually knows what goes on behind closed doors? What we have to go on his Jeffrey testimony he keep put himself discrepencies inconsistencies no corroboration? Helena Stoeckley Davis may or may not been intruder? Greg Mitchell & Bruce Fowler & Don Harris b/fs of 1108 Clark ST apt girls Hedden,Smith&Stoeckley ?Diane Hedden wed Ray vietnam vet and Kathy Smith wed Connor vietnam vet so why didnt clark street gals Kathy marry Fowler & Diane marry Harris & why didn't Helena marry Mitchell instead Davis also why did diane-Kathy move back NewJersey after 2-17-1970?video Kathy says Helena wore her floppy hat didn't mention blond wig kathy owned that Helena borrowed & Kathy claims the boots borrow from Diane but Kathy said Helena came back Had nothing not even donuts from duncindonutz ?

  2. Ted gunderson seems to think it was a group of satanic people. The crime scene errors make it hard to go back over it. Luckily god judges in the final act.