The supposed killers in this blog take a page out of Charles Manson’s Family. The surviving victim of a multiple murder claimed that a hippie-type cult slaughtered his family and tried to kill him with an ice pick, late at night, in his house. It certainly sounds like a Sharon Tate nightmare, but police doubted from the beginning if his testimony had even an iota of truth to it.
Jeffrey R. MacDonald was a good-looking medical doctor and Captain in the U.S. Army, 3rd Special Forces Group, and was assigned as a to his post as a Group Surgeon. MacDonald met his wife Colette Kathryn Stevenson, a pretty blonde woman, whom he’d met in high school, where he was voted both “most popular” and “most likely to succeed.” They were relocated to Fort Bragg for MacDonald’s first assignment. On September 14, 1963, upon learning Colette was pregnant with his child, the couple married. Their first child was named Kimberly followed by another girl, Kirsten. The family seemed to thrive and appeared happy. MacDonald spent as much time with his children as he could.
February 17 1970 – three days after Valentine’s Day. This night would bring about one of the worst slaughters of a family in the state of North Carolina. At 3:42 a.m. intruders entered the MacDonald home. MacDonald slept alone on the couch in the living room and was awakened by the sounds of Colette and Kimberley’s screams. MacDonald later described them as two white men, a black man, and a blonde woman with long blonde hair and wearing high-heeled boots and a white floppy hat partially covering her face, stood nearby with a lighted candle and chanted “Acid is groovy, kill the pigs.” That statement has been debated. It’s not known for assailants who have been using drugs to mention the drugs they have taken at the time they commit a crime. MacDonald was unable to describe her face. Her hair and floppy hat seemed to obscure it from view. The three males stood over him then attacked him with a club and ice pick. During the struggle, MacDonald claimed that his pajama top was pulled over his head to his wrists and he used it to ward off thrusts from the ice pick. MacDonald stated that he was overcome by his assailants and was knocked unconscious in the living room end of the hallway.
Colette’s pajama top had been placed on top of her yet they were filled with puncture wounds. She had been stabbed 16 times, had 21 puncture wounds on her body which were later revealed to be from an ice pick, and her arms were broken. Both children died in the same manner as their mother. At the time of the murders, Colette was 4 months pregnant with their child, a boy. MacDonald was also wounded but his wounds weren’t anywhere near as severe as those of his family, nor were they life-threatening. He had a concussion, cuts and bruises on his face, and a stab wound on his left torso which caused his left lung to partially collapse. He was treated at Womack Hospital and released after one week.
The army’s Criminal Investigation Division found it hard to believe that three drugged-up men could have so easily bested a Green Beret army officer, a man who had been trained for unarmed hand-to-hand combat. U.S. Army investigators studied the physical evidence, they found that it did not seem to support the story told by MacDonald. The living room, where MacDonald had supposedly fought for his life showed little signs of a struggle apart from an overturned coffee table and knocked over flower plant. The murder weapons were found outside the back door. They were a kitchen knife, an ice pick, and a 3-foot long piece of lumber and all three came from the MacDonald house. The tips of surgical gloves were found beneath the headboard where “pig” was written in blood much like the scene at the Sharon Tate house when she and some friends were murdered by the Manson family. MacDonald claimed he used the phone to call police but no blood was found on the phone.
Although MacDonald was fully aware of the events of that night he refused to communicate fully with Colette’s family. They were left frustrated by his limited communication and grief-stricken by their daughter and granddaughter’s murders. Fred Stevenson, Colette’s father, put up a $5,000.00 reward for anyone who came forward with information about the murders. No one did. Eventually MacDonald detailed that the scene hadn’t been protected that the investigators had used the telephone and allowed the garbage man to remove the family’s trash. At the same time MacDonald made bizarre comments such as “did you see the TV coverage? We’re going to get really good press.” MacDonald gave an interview to the Long Island Press telling them he was awakened by a scream and many intimate details of the murder.
Investigators theorized that a fight began in the master bedroom between MacDonald and his wife, Colette, who possibly argued over Kristen’s wetting MacDonald’s side of the bed while sleeping there. Investigators speculated that the argument turned physical as Colette probably hit her husband on the forehead with a hairbrush, which resulted in his head wound concussion. As MacDonald retaliated by hitting her, first with his fists and then beating her with a piece of lumber, Kimberley whose blood and brain serum was found in the doorway may have walked in after hearing the commotion and was struck at least once on the head, possibly by accident. What proceeded next were the actions of a madman.
MacDonald carried the mortally wounded Kimberley to her bedroom. After stabbing Kimberley he went to Kristen’s room to dispose of the last potential witness. Colette regained consciousness and threw herself over her daughter. After killing them, MacDonald wrapped his wife’s body in a sheet and carried it to the master bedroom, leaving a smudged footprint of Colette’s blood on his way out of Kristen’s bedroom. C.I.D. investigators theorized that MacDonald attempted to cover up the murders using articles on the Manson Family murders that he’d found in an issue of Esquire. MacDonald used a scalpel blade from a supply in the hallway closet, went to the bathroom, and stabbed himself once. Being a surgeon he created a “clean, precise cut“, rather than the jagged stab wound of a killer. Putting on surgical gloves from his supply, he went to the master bedroom, where he used Colette’s blood to write “pig” on the headboard. He laid his torn pajama top over the dead Colette and repeatedly stabbed her in the chest with an ice pick. MacDonald used the telephone to summon an ambulance, discarded the weapons out the back door, and laid down by the body of his dead wife while he waited for the military police to arrive.
The week he was released, MacDonald went to the army office and requested that his furniture be removed from his house so he could access it for his new residence. He seemed unaffected by his family’s murders. He relayed his unlikely story in intricate detail, trying, but unable to cry. MacDonald was informed that the living room appeared to be a staged scene. Furthermore, the army had been all over the country and claimed to have interviewed thousands of people about the case and hadn’t found murderous hippies in Fort Bragg. That has never been proven and probably isn’t true. MacDonald reacted with indignation and left the interview. After a military hearing, it was declared that there was insufficient evidence to convict MacDonald. During the hearing, MacDonald made a date with a groupie named Helena Stoeckley, whom he believed he could persuade to testify that she knew the real killers. This eventually backfired on him.
Stoeckley was a heavy drug user and a “hippie.” Stoeckley stated to investigators that there was a group of people who murdered the MacDonald family, then she insisted it was MacDonald himself. Stoeckley was a known informant for police and 200 arrests had been made based on her information. She was also able to describe the MacDonald apartment with details so accurate they could have only been observed by someone who had been there. She apparently knew many details never reported. When she tried to confess to the murders in 1972, Stoeckley was instructed by the CID to let sleeping dogs lie. She offered to tell how it happened, and who was involved but the government refused her offers, stating that she was crazy.
MacDonald agreed to be interviewed by Esquire, Look Magazine and to work with two reporters who were prepared to interview congressmen and senators in order to have the case re-visited. MacDonald displayed an interest in being paid for his story. MacDonald agreed to be interviewed on national television. He mentioned that he had “finished putting the dishes away even though I’m a Green Beret.” He stated on a program that he had 23 wounds, even though in reality he had one would and the rest were superficial scratches. MacDonald also stated he was “in intensive care for three days and had to have surgery,” another lie. He made outrageous allegations about the army, accusing it of perjury and sloppiness at the murder scene.
On March 10 2006 DNA test results revealed that a hair on Colette’s arm matched MacDonald’s DNA, and MacDonald’s DNA was found on the top sheet of Kristen McDonald’s bed. Three hairs, one from the bedsheet, one found in Colette’s body outline in the area of her legs, and one found beneath the fingernail of Kristen, did not match the DNA profile of any MacDonald family member or known suspect. The DNA certainly didn’t seem to implicate MacDonald in the murders. However all of the members of the MacDonald family had different blood types (a rarity) and the story the blood types tell places MacDonald in every room involved in the murders. Several of his pajama fibres were found in Kristen’s room as they were in the master bedroom where Colette was bludgeoned and stabbed although not to death. She partially recovered from this attack and made her way into Kristen’s room. Even when this mother was dying her instinct was to protect her children.
MacDonald has filed several appeals that have all been rejected. His last parole hearing was on May 10, 2005. He stated he was “factually innocent” meaning he did not commit the crime even if he was found guilty at trial. His parole was immediately denied. His projected release date from prison is April 5, 2071, at which time MacDonald will be 127 years old. At least he will be young enough to start a new life.
A very good made-for-cable movie named Fatal Vision starring Gene Hackman as Colette’s father, Fred Kassab, and based on the non-fiction by the same name, aired in 1984. Errol Morris, author of A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald, declared that MacDonald is innocent of all charges and should never have been convicted. He has followed MacDonald’s case for over 2 decades and believe an innocent man was sentenced to life in prison for the MacDonald murders. Morris described Joe McGinniss, author of Fatal Vision as “a sloppy journalist who confabulated, lied, and betrayed while ostensibly telling a story about a man who confabulated, lied, and betrayed”. Through his publisher, McGinniss released this statement:
Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted of the murders of his wife and two young daughters in 1979. In all the years since, every court that has considered the case — including the United States Supreme Court — has upheld that verdict in every respect. MacDonald is guilty not simply beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond any doubt. No amount of speculation, conjecture and innuendo can change that.
At first Fred and Mildred Kassab believed in MacDonald’s innocence. However after hearing his statements on a number of talk shows about the murders and learning that he was moving to California to start a new life, the allegedly changed their opinion of him. Kassab claimed he first started to doubt his son-in-law when he read the Article 32 Hearing transcripts MacDonald had given him. It has been alleged that the Article contained no information that MacDonald had anything to do with the murders but this doesn’t mean the transcripts vindicated him either. The transcripts were likely filled with unanswered questions about the murders such as how it was possible that MacDonald’s struggle with the intruders left barely a blood stain anywhere but the bedrooms of both Colette and Kimberly were blood-soaked.
If MacDonald was truly innocent, why weren’t the murderous band of hippies who supposedly slaughtered his family ever found? It may be because the police made little or no effort to find any other suspect. No one knew of the Manson Family when Sharon Tate and the LaBiancas were murdered. In fact the two cases weren’t even weren’t recognized as being the work of the same people for some time after the murders. And no one was looking for young hippies during the investigation yet the Family was identified and convicted. Manson and his Family were arrested for vandalizing a portion of the Death Valley National Park while they were hiding out in the Mojave Desert. In 1969, the county sheriff had them in custody, not realizing that he had murder suspects on his hands. But it was the confessions of Susan Atkins, while held in detention on suspicion of murdering Gary Hinman during an unrelated incident, that led detectives to realize that Manson and his followers were involved in the Tate/LaBianca killings. It’s highly improbable that so many people in the MacDonald murder have held their silence and not betrayed each other’s actions for this many years. Morris insisted Stoeckly was the one person who admitted to the murders however that confession was refuted.
And why was MacDonald barely injured yet his family was brutalized and murdered? Why was MacDonald’s life spared especially when he was the only victim who fought back against his attacker. Who would leave the murder weapons at the MacDonald household and just as importantly why would people intent on murdering a family attend a scene without their own weapons? What was the motivation for complete strangers to murder a pregnant woman and two little girls? It was a fact that MacDonald had many extra-marital affairs and he admitted these to the CID. Perhaps his motive was to be free of his family, certainly his wife, so he could continue his philandering and without having the expense of alimony and child support. Was he influenced by the story about the Manson murders in the copy of the Esquire magazine found in his living room on the floor? There were many similarities between the Tate-LaBianca and MacDonald murders. I believe this to be significant.
Morris can write as many pages in his appellate as he wants to defend MacDonald. Frankly, I’m with McGinnis on this one.