This is an article I wrote a couple of years for another website. Just thought I'd post it on one of my blog sites too.
At 3:42 AM on February 17, 1970, dispatchers at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, received an emergency call from Captain Jeffrey MacDonald, M.D., a Green Beret group surgeon, concerning an incident in his residence on base.
Upon arrival, responding officers discovered a gruesome scene.
MacDonald's wife, Colette, who was pregnant with their third child, was dead on the floor of her bedroom. She had been severely battered, both arms were broken and she had been stabbed 37 times with a knife and an ice pick. The word "pig" had been written in blood on her headboard.
Daughter Kimberly, age 5, was found in her bed. She had been battered in the head and stabbed 8 to 10 times in the neck with a knife.
Daughter Kristen, age 2, was found in her bed, having been stabbed 33 times with a knife and 15 times with an ice pick.
MacDonald was found alive but unconscious, requiring mouth-to-mouth resuscitation at the scene by a military policeman. He had various cuts and bruises, 3 contusions on his head where he was knocked out and at least 17 stab wounds, one of which was life threatening that deeply punctured his lung, causing the lung to partially collapse by 40 percent. He was released from the hospital after one week.
MacDONALD'S VERSION OF THE INCIDENT
MacDonald told investigators that he had been sleeping on the living room couch because his youngest daughter had been in bed with his wife and had wet his side of the bed. He was awakened by screams from his wife and oldest daughter.
As he rose from the couch, three male intruders attacked him with a club and an ice pick. His pajama top was pulled off in the struggle and he used it to ward off thrusts from the ice pick. Eventually, he was knocked unconscious in the living room at the hallway leading to the bedrooms.
One of the male intruders was a black man wearing an army field jacket with E6 stripes. The other two males were white.
During this struggle, MacDonald claimed there was a white female in a white floppy hat observing the attack while holding a lighted candle and chanting "Acid is groovy. Kill the pigs."
Jeffery Robert MacDonald was born on October 12, 1943, in Queens, New York. In high school, he was voted most popular and most likely to succeed. He won a scholarship to Princeton University and married his high school sweetheart, Colette.
Three years at Princeton was followed by attending Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago. After a one year internship at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, MacDonald joined the U.S. Army. He was appointed to the Green Berets in 1969 as a group surgeon and stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The crime scene had been examined by the army's Criminal Investigation Division (CID). They found some inconsistencies with MacDonald's account of what happened.
The murder weapons, which were MacDonald household items, were found outside the back door. Fiber's from MacDonald's torn pajama top were found under Colette's body, but no fibers were found in the living room where MacDonald claimed he had struggled with the intruders. Although the coffee table and a plant were overturned in the living room, CID investigators didn't believe it showed signs of a struggle.
Plus, the CID investigators found an issue of ESQUIRE magazine in the living room. In it was an article about the Manson Family murders that had taken place the previous summer. The investigators theorized the article was where MacDonald got the idea of blaming crazed druggies attacking his family and writing "acid is groovy, kill the pigs" on the wall in blood.
An army Article 32 hearing convened in July of 1970, overseen by Colonel Warren Rock, to litigate the incident. MacDonald was represented by Bernard Segal, a civilian attorney from Philadelphia.
The defense concentrated on two aspects of the case – the improper management of the crime scene by the CID and the existence of other suspects.
Segal presented evidence that the CID lost critical evidence, including skin found under Colette's fingernails.
In addition, Segal claimed to have located the woman MacDonald witnessed in the floppy white hat at the scene. Her name was Helena Stoeckley, the daughter of a retired army colonel, and she was a well-known drug user in the area of Fort Bragg. Several witnesses claimed that Stoeckley had admitted to them that she had been involved in the crime. Plus, several witnesses remembered Stoeckley wearing similar clothing during the time frame of the incident just as MacDonald had described.
During a six-week pre-court marshal hearing, Col. Rock learned that Helena Stoeckley had made statements suggesting she had been involved in the killings. It was revealed that Stoeckley was a narcotic informer for army military police and local law enforcement.
Stoeckley admitted to army investigators that she had been wearing a floppy hat, blonde wig and boots on the night of the murder. She later admitted that she had burned the hat, wig and boots, fearing they would incriminate her in the crime. She also claimed she was on drugs at the times of the incident and had no alibi for that evening.
According to military policeman Kenneth Mica who had responded to the crime scene, a woman fitting Stoeckley's description was seen standing at a street corner on the army post, three blocks from the crime scene, as they drove by.
In October of 1970, the military proceeding issued a report dismissing all charges against MacDonald on the grounds that the allegations were "not true" and recommended that civilian authorities investigate Stoeckley.
After the Article 32 hearing, Macdonald returned to work as a medical doctor. After a brief stint in New York, he moved to California where he became an emergency room physician at the St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach.
In April of 1974, Alfred and Mildred Kassab, Colette's stepfather and mother, filed a formal complaint against MacDonald for the murders of their daughter and grandchildren.
A grand jury was convened in August of 1974 in North Carolina to look into the matter.
On January 24, 1975, the grand jury indicted MacDonald on murder charges. Within the hour, MacDonald was arrested in California.
On January 31, 1975, MacDonald was freed on $100,000 bail pending disposition of the charges.
July 29, 1975 – District Judge Franklin T. Dupree Jr. denied MacDonald's motion against double jeopardy and speedy trial motions. The trial date of August 18, 1975 would stand.
August 15, 1975 – The Fourth Circuit of Appeals stayed the trial.
January 23, 1976 – A panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2 to 1 decision, ordered the indictment dismissed on the grounds of being denied a speedy trial.
May 1, 1978 – The U.S. Supreme Court, in an 8 to zero decision, reinstated the indictment on behalf of the Government.
October 22, 1978 -- the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected MacDonald's double jeopardy appeal.
March 19, 1979 – The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to reject MacDonald's double jeopardy appeal.
On July 16, 1979, the murder trial of Jeffrey MacDonald began in Raleigh, North Carolina, before Judge Franklin T. Dupree. Attorney's Bernard Segal and Wade Smith represented MacDonald.
Judge Dupree refused to allow into evidence a psychiatric evaluation of MacDonald submitted by the defense suggesting MacDonald was incapable of killing his wife and children.
However, Judge Dupree allowed the prosecution to introduce the 1970 copy of ESQUIRE magazine, containing the article about the Charles Manson murders in August 1969, into evidence. Government attorneys maintained this is where MacDonald got the idea of blaming a crazed hippie gang for the killings.
The prosecution presented MacDonald's pajama top as evidence. In contained 48 small, smooth, cylindrical ice pick holes. MacDonald's wife had been stabbed 21 times by an ice pick. The prosecution demonstrated that by folding the pajama top a certain way that all 48 holes could have been made by 21 stricks with an ice pick. Their theory was that MacDonald had stabbed his wife 21 times through the pajama top while the pajama top was lying on Colette's chest.
The audio tape of the April 6, 1970, military investigation interview of MacDonald was played for the jury. In it, MacDonald explained his version of the incident in a very "matter-of-fact" manner. It was an unemotional recitation of events, damaging MacDonald's case. However, MacDonald was a Green Beret and an emergency room physician – his normal demeanor under stress would be calm and precise.
The defense called Helena Stoeckley to the stand. Just prior to her testimony, Stoeckley was interviewed by the defense and the prosecution, during which time she denied ever being in MacDonald's apartment. She testified that she could not remember her activities on the night of the murders because of excessive drug use.
The defense attempted to introduce into evidence testimony from other witnesses who claimed that Steockley had confessed to the killings. However Judge Dupree refused that evidence because of Stoeckley's history of long-term drug abuse.
The defense called forensic expert James Thornton. He attempted to demonstrate that the pajama top was wrapped around MacDonald's wrist by conducting an experiment whereby a similar pajama top was placed over a ham, and moved back and forth on a sled while being stabbed with an ice pick.
The defense called several character witnesses, then MacDonald took the stand as the last witness where he tearfully denied committing the murders.
On August 29, 1979, MacDonald was found guilty of one count of first-degree murder, in the death of Kristen, the oldest daughter, and two counts of second-degree murder. Judge Dupree sentenced MacDonald to three consecutive life sentences.
During the trial, the prosecution claimed that all of MacDonald's wounds were inflicted by Colette, during a violent confrontation, except for the single wound to MacDonald's lung which was self-inflicted.
However, all six doctors who were consulted at the Army Hearing testified that a self-inflicted wound in such a manner could not have a predicted outcome, even by a doctor inflicting the wound on himself, plus the liver could have been damaged, resulting in death.
Due to a mix-up at Womack Hospital, where MacDonald was treated after the incident, no photographs of MacDonald's wounds were ever taken.
At Womack Hospital, Dr. Paul Manson and Dr. Robert McGann observed (and testified) that MacDonald had a "large contusion" on his forehead and another one over his right temple.
Army officer Ron Harrison, a friend of MacDonald, told Army investigators he observed the bruises on the front of MacDonald's head, and also noticed limps on the back of his head. He further observed numerous wounds on MacDonald's chest, arms and abdomen, and what he believed to be ice pick wounds to the neck.
At the Army hearing, Dr. Straub testified that he "spread apart" an abdominal wound whereby he observed that it "had gone through a great deal of the muscle of the abdominal wall."
During grand jury testimony in 1974, Dr. Severt Jacobson of Womack Hospital testified that he observed cuts to MacDonald's hand and forearms "from a very sharp object." He further described four puncture wounds to the upper chest and multiple puncture wounds to the arms and abdomen.
Upon admission to Womack Hospital, Army surgeon Dr. Frank Gemma noted "several small puncture wounds that may have come from an instrument such as an ice pick."
All in all, MacDonald was stabbed at least 17 times and had multiple contusions to the head. The wound to the lung required a chest tube and two surgeries.
On July 29, 1980, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2 to 1 panel decision, reversed MacDonald's murder conviction on the grounds violating the Sixth Amendment to a speedy trial.
On August 22, 1980, MacDonald was freed on $100,000 bail and returned to St. Mary's Medical Center in Long Beach at his old position as Director of Emergency Medicine.
On December 18, 1980, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 5 to 5 decision, allowed the earlier decision of a reversal of the murder conviction to stand.
On May 31, 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6 to 3 decision, ruled that MacDonald's rights to a speedy trial had not been violated.
MacDonald was immediately re-arrested and returned to prison.
On August 16, 1982, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed MacDonald's convictions based on the remaining points of his appeal.
On January 10, 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court refused a further appeal from MacDonald.
On March 1, 1985, Judge Dupree rejected all motions by MacDonald for a new trial. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Judge Dupree's ruling and refused to reopen the case.
On October 6, 1986, The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In July of 1991, Judge Dupree heard arguments that MacDonald should be granted a new trial based on prosecutorial misconduct. Judge Dupree denied the petition.
STOECKLEY CONFESSION TO PROSECUTORS
In 1971, Helena Stoeckley was administered a polygraph test by the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) in which she denied being at the crime scene. She failed the polygraph test.
On January 12, 2006, MacDonald was granted leave from prison to file his fourth appeal. This petition included a sworn affidavit from a retired U.S. Marshal named Jimmy Britt who worked the civilian trial.
Britt stated that he overheard Helena Stoeckley admit to the prosecutor, James Blackburn, that she had been present at the MacDonald residence at the time of the killings, and that Blackburn then threatened her with prosecution if she testified.
Also, during her retention as a material witness during the trial, Stoeckley had contacted Judge Dupree, claiming she was terrified of Bernard Segal, the lead defense attorney. Consequently, when she met with the defense council prior to the trial she told them she had no recollection of the night of the murders.
Jimmy Britt died on October 19, 2008.
STOECKLEY CONFESSION TO HER MOTHER
On April 16, 2007, MacDonald's attorneys filed an affidavit with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wherein Helena Stoeckley's mother stated that her daughter twice confessed to her that she was present at MacDonald's residence the night of the murders and that she was afraid of testifying to that fact for fear of prosecution.
Also included in the latest appeal was the newly discovered evidence of alleged threats against Stoeckley by the prosecution and recently completed DNA results.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals granted MacDonald's motion and remanded the matter to the District Court Eastern Division for a decision.
In November of 2008, Judge Fox of the District Court Eastern Division denied the motion regarding Helena Stoeckley's mother's statement, denied the motion regarding Britt's statement, and denied the motion regarding the new DNA results. The denials were based on technicalities, whereby MacDonald's attorneys had not obtained the required authorization from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to properly submit the motions to the District Court Eastern Division. The court stated that MacDonald must file a separate motion regarding DNA results and would need pre-authorization from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to do so.
Greg Mitchell was Helena Stoeckley's boyfriend. He was a soldier and a heroin addict, now deceased. Prior to his death, Mitchell confessed to the crime to his boss, his pastor and various other people. Several of these people have signed sworn statements of witnessing this confession.
Mitchell stated that on the night of the incident he and his friends were strung out on drugs. They went to the MacDonald home because they were upset that MacDonald would not provide them with methadone, a substance utilized by drug addicts. He further stated that things went bad and they all scattered when the phone rang.
Two independent coroners have concluded that some of the injuries on the victims are consistent with a left-handed attacker. MacDonald is right-handed. Mitchell is left-handed.
SUPPRESSION OF EVIDENCE
During the trial, the defense attorneys requested to review laboratory notes, but the prosecution insisted that nothing found at the crime scene supported MacDonald's story. The judge refused to order the prosecution to turn over the notes.
Over the years since the trial, MacDonald's attorneys have used the Freedom of Information Act to discover evidence that was withheld by the prosecution prior to and during the trial. Fibers and fingerprints found in the apartment were never matched to anyone known to have been in the apartment prior to or after the murders.
For example, a bloody adult palm print was found on the footboard of the master bed, near Collette's body. The print did not match MacDonald or anyone known to have been present at the crime scene.
For example, black wool fibers were found on Colette's shoulder and mouth, which would potentially point to an intruder, but this evidence was deliberately withheld from the defense. These black fibers did not match any items in the MacDonald household.
For example, A 2-inch pubic hair was found between Colette's legs. It did not match MacDonald or any other known source.
For example, a blue acrylic fiber was found in Collette's right hand. This material could not be matched to any items in the MacDonald household.
For example, a blue acrylic fiber was found where MacDonald had been rendered unconscious. This material could not be matched to any items in the MacDonald household.
For example, two identical 22-inch blonde synthetic wig hairs were found in a hairbrush on a table in the living room where MacDonald had been attacked but that evidence was never disclosed to the defense.
For example, A brown hair, with root intact, was found under Kimberly's bloody fingernail. This hair did not match MacDonald.
For example, a bloody hair, with root intact, was found under the fingernail of Kristen's fingernail. Source unknown.
In the aftermath of the trial, all of MacDonald's claims of suppression of evidence were rejected by the courts. The rulings cited that even if the suppressed evidence would have been introduced it would not have been enough to have changed the verdict of the jury.
In 1997, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed MacDonald attorneys to pursue DNA testing on limited blood and hair evidence.
In December of 2000, DNA testing began, conducted by the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory.
On March 10, 2006, the lab released the results. No DNA was found to match Helena Stoeckley or Greg Mitchell, Stoeckley's companion. However, three hairs were found that did not match any of the MacDonald family members. One was located on a bed sheet, another one was found in Colette's body outline and another one was found under Kristen's fingernail.
To date, these DNA results have not been accepted by the court because there was no pre-authorization for what should have been a separate motion for DNA results.
MacDonald passed two polygraph tests. One was administered by Dr. David Raskin, a leading expert in this field. The results were examined by two other experts. In all cases, the findings were "no deception."
Helena Stoeckley was administered a polygraph test whereby she denied involvement in the murders. The results were "deception." She was later given another polygraph test whereby she admitted her presence during the murders The findings indicated "no deception."
OTHER MITIGATING FACTORS
Two independent witnesses heard a group of people approaching MacDonald's building around 2 AM and leaving in the opposite direction some time later.
A fingerprint was discovered on an empty glass that had contained chocolate milk. It could not be matched to any of the MacDonald family or friends or investigators.
According to defense attorneys, Helena Stoeckley was able to describe items within the MacDonald residence, including a broken rocking horse in one of the children's room and a jewelry box in the master bedroom.
While MacDonald's explanation of events may seem strange, a group of drugged-crazed hippies attacking him and his family in the wee hours of the night, the government's scenario is equally full of holes.
They would have the world believe that Dr. MacDonald brutally murdered his wife and two small daughters. They would have you believe that Colette inflicted multiple wounds on MacDonald, with a club, a knife and an ice pick, during a violent confrontation.
His wife, Colette, was repeatedly beaten with a club, both arms were broken, and she was stabbed 37 times with a knife and an ice pick. This would require MacDonald to change murder weapons, from club to knife to ice pick.
His daughter, Kimberly (age 5), was clubbed in the head multiple times and stabbed in the neck between 8 and 10 times. Once again, MacDonald would have to switch murder weapons, from club to knife.
His daughter, Kristen (age 2), was stabbed 33 times with a knife and 15 times with an ice pick. Once again, MacDonald would have to switch from knife to ice pick.
Then MacDonald would have to dispose of the murder weapons outside his back door and write "pig" in blood on the bedroom wall.
Next, he would have to stab himself, deep enough to puncture a lung, call on the phone for help and render himself unconscious before help arrived.
It simply doesn't seem very plausible.
On May 10, 2005, MacDonald had a parole hearing where he refused to admit guilt. Parole was denied, with a recommendation that he serve another 15 years before being eligible for another parole hearing.
Jeffrey MacDonald has been incarcerated for over 27 years and currently resides in a federal prison in Cumberland, Maryland, where he remains steadfast in his innocence.
Book – Fatal Justice by Jerry Allen Potter and Fred Bost (presents evidence withheld by prosecutors)
Website 1 – www.themacdonaldcase.org
Website 2 – www.11watchers.com
* * *
Bret Burquest is a former award-winning newspaper columnist and author of four novels. He has lived in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Kansas City, Memphis, the Arizona desert, and is now retired in the Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas.