Local News

MacDonald fights for freedom, maintains innocence

Posted January 26

— Jeffrey MacDonald, a former Green Beret surgeon whose murder conviction has been the subject of books and movies, is now waiting on three federal judges to write the last chapter of his legal battle for freedom.

Attorneys for MacDonald, who was convicted of killing his pregnant wife and two daughters at their Fort Bragg home in 1970, say through new DNA testing they have confirmed there were hairs and fibers at the scene that belong to someone other than their client.

Attorneys for MacDonald also claim this evidence was withheld in the original trial.

For nearly 47 years, MacDonald, who is remarried and still in prison, has said that he didn't kill his 26-year-old wife Colette and their two daughters, 5-year-old Kimberley and 2-year-old Kristen.

He has maintained that he awoke on their sofa in their home as they were being attacked by four hippies – three men and a woman, who was wearing a blond wig and floppy hat as she chanted "acid is groovy, kill the pigs."

Since their marriage in 2001, his second wife, Kathryn has dedicated her life to earning Jeffrey MacDonald his freedom.

"I couldn't sleep at night knowing that he's in there and that he's innocent," she said Thursday as MacDonald’s latest appeal was heard.

She, who she married behind bars in 2002.

"I was 36 and he was 54. Now, I'm 55 and he's 73," Kathryn MacDonald said. "Jeff's story has never wavered. Since 1970, he has said the same thing over and over."

Jeffrey MacDonald's attorneys said a hair found in nail scrapings from his daughter Kimberley supports their client's claims.

"That's evidence of actual innocence. It was evidence of an intruder and her fight with that intruder," said Hart Miles, one of MacDonald's defense attorneys.

Attorneys also argue that they have 12 witnesses who say a drug addict named Helena Stoeckley admitted she participated in the murder. Attorneys say she did not reveal this at trial because she was intimated by prosecutors. Stockley died in 1983.

"She was protecting herself," Miles said. "She was afraid that she was going to be prosecuted."

"And now we know how much evidence the government lost, hid, lied about," Kathryn MacDonald said.

Despite the defense’s revelations, the U.S. Attorney stands by the conviction, saying the hair could have come from anyone who handled the evidence, and that Stoeckley was not credible.

"To me failure is not an option," MacDonald said.

The three-judge panel took the case under advisement and will rule at a later date. At least two of the three judges must agree.

If the judges agree there is evidence showing MacDonald is innocent, the case will most likely go back to district court for a trial that could take a year.

He is currently serving three consecutive life terms at a federal prison in Cumberland, Maryland.


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • John Archer Jan 27, 2017
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Unless an appeals court finds otherwise, the jury verdict stands. There is no other option in our justice system.

  • New Holland Jan 27, 2017
    user avatar

    i'm not convinced either way, but there are some staggering facts that could point either way. First the Military decided not to prosecute shortly after the murders and that usually a pretty low bar for them not to proceed. No real Motive and no murder weapon ever found. Nothing says he did it or didn't strongly one way or another. A person can spin it there way with just their facts. Big picture, a jury of 12 people, hard to believe all 12 could go one way or the other. Seems like there's enough issues since then to say hey let's take a better look.

  • John Archer Jan 27, 2017
    user avatar

    I remember the outrage when the "Central Park 5" were exonerated, how even our esteemed president said they were "probably" guilty. This guy was afforded a lawyer and a trial by jury. He is now allowed appeal after appeal on our dime to try to prove his innocence. This is our system and books and movies should not sway it.

  • Wayne Smith Jan 27, 2017
    user avatar

    I definitely know that based upon, "beyond a reasonable doubt," he will be found innocent. I have come to really not trust the justice system.

  • Thomas White Jan 27, 2017
    user avatar

    Guilt or innocence is not the question when a prosecutor will do anything to win.

  • Melissa Phillips Jan 27, 2017
    user avatar

    Brenda Love. Read A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald." Written by Academy-Award-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris

  • Melissa Phillips Jan 27, 2017
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Fatal Vision was written by an author that tricked him. He gained his trust only to twist all of his words & paint him as guilty in the book.
    If you research this case, it's painfully pathetic how poorly the crime scene was "secured." The deceased didn't even have their hands bagged prior to being transported to the coroner. Neighbors, MP, medics all continued to walk all over bloody footprints.
    Stoakley was seen on the same street that very night by a MP. He testified he saw her &she matched Jeffrey's exact description of the woman he saw in his house holding the candle and chanting. She also admitted to being in the home that night. As did another individual. I believe this was only in the military trial& not federal. I get the skeptics Bc he was a green beret, but the man had over 20 stab wounds i think & a punctured lung. An MP had to perform CPR on him. Surgeon or not I don't think he would gamble on medics saving him

  • Brenda Love Jan 27, 2017
    user avatar

    I think it'll be good for a few sets of fresh eyes to take a look at this case. The prosecutor from years ago was later found guilty of fraud and embezzlement. I might re-read the Fatal Vision book myself. I've always felt he was guilty, but investigation techniques have progressed so much since the time that this crime happened, I think it's worth a another look.