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'Fatal Vision' witness testifies about possible cult killing

Posted September 24, 2012
Updated September 25, 2012

— A hearing for Jeffrey MacDonald, who was convicted of killing his pregnant wife and two daughters at their Fort Bragg home in 1970 and is asking a judge for a new trial, entered its second week Monday. Closing arguments are expected Tuesday.

A federal judge heard testimony from the attorney of Helena Stoeckley, a known drug addict who claimed off and on that she was in the MacDonald home the night of the murders.

Raleigh defense attorney Jerry Leonard was appointed in 1979 to represent Stoeckley, who died in 1983. Leonard said Stoeckley once asked him, "What would you do if I told you I was there (in the MacDonald home)?" Leonard said he assured her he would still represent her, whatever the truth was.

Stoeckley later confessed to being a witch in a cult and said a man in her cult had the idea to go to MacDonald's home, according to Leonard. The cult members wanted to confront MacDonald, she said, because they felt his drug treatment program discriminated against heroin users, which they were, Leonard testified.

When they arrived at the house, things got out of control, she said. Stoeckley said she did not take part in the murders, but mentioned that MacDonald's wife was pregnant and that her cult associated newborns with the devil, Leonard said.

Stoeckley's account to her attorney is similar to MacDonald's defense, that he awoke on the sofa in his home as his family was attacked by four hippies – three men and a woman, who was wearing a blond wig and floppy hat, chanting "acid is groovy, kill the pigs."

Leonard testified Monday that he never asked Stoeckley to name the other cult members.

'Fatal Vision' witness testifies about possible cult killing 'Fatal Vision' witness testifies about possible cult killing

Prosecutors say MacDonald brutally stabbed his family to death with two paring knives and an icepick and beat them with a piece of wood in their apartment at 544 Castle Drive on Feb. 17, 1970.

The Princeton-educated doctor – who was 26 at the time of the murders and is now 68, remarried and still in prison – has always maintained his innocence.

The hearing hinges on DNA evidence that wasn't available during the 1979 trial and witness testimony that MacDonald's defense team says proves his innocence. U.S. District Judge James Fox will determine if he gets a new trial.

Even after 42 years, the case that spawned a book and television miniseries, both titled “Fatal Vision,” continues to generate interest.

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  • marek335 Sep 25, 2012

    If she was telling the truth, did her family, friends, or maybe some neighbors not know who she got around with? This could have given them some idea of who could have possibly been with her that night. Find those guys and question them or get their DNA maybe? Just wondering!
    apennyforyourthoughts

    actually JM claimed he tracked down some of the "killers" and killed one of them...he lied about that too. All other possible witnesses & suspects were investigated at the time. Lots of old details of the investigation are not coming out in the current hearing unless the defense thinks it helps JM! lol

  • apennyforyourthoughts Sep 25, 2012

    Looking at the holes in his pajama top (if they were consistent with wounds on his body, a lot of the holes seemed to be reachable by him using an ice pick to himself. I wonder if there were any holes in the center of the back or unreachable areas? If so were they entered into the back at an angle and/or superficial fashion?

  • apennyforyourthoughts Sep 25, 2012

    If she was telling the truth, did her family, friends, or maybe some neighbors not know who she got around with? This could have given them some idea of who could have possibly been with her that night. Find those guys and question them or get their
    DNA maybe? Just wondering!

  • marek335 Sep 25, 2012

    ""Was it 1 guy using 4 weapons or 4 people using 1 each.....logic, reasoning and simple math say to me MacDonald didn't do it."""
    NoMoreObamaPlease

    "logic" also allows one person to use more than one weapon too, just not at the SAME time. Over a period of time he attacked his wife with the bed slat; then hit a daughter, attacked 2nd daughter, went back with other weapons, cut himself, he left his bloody footprints around. all this would/could happen over time, so its very possible one person can use multiple weapons.

  • apennyforyourthoughts Sep 25, 2012

    "Leonard testified Monday that he never asked Stoeckley to name the other cult members."

    Why not? This could have been the make it or break it of her credibility. Those that she claims were there could have been questioned/investigated and possibly even convicted, if evidence showed they were there or proven innocent if they in fact weren't. If she wasn't going to give up the so called real perps, why even say anything? Just doesn't sound right to me.

  • rfarrell Sep 25, 2012

    I remember this tradegy well. I was working in Spring Lake the night it happened and those intruders were seen in Spring Lake that night. McDonald just did not make it up. The military police and CID completely destroyed the investigation.

  • batcave Sep 25, 2012

    There is more evidence that prosecutorial conduct convicts wrongfully in NC than there is definitive proff that JM killed his family.
    jackcdneh1017
    actually no there isn't. 1100 pieces of eveidence used by the prosecution. False convictions are a national problem and we in NC are far from being the worst.

  • ladyblue Sep 25, 2012

    I was living there on post at the time of this murder and i never thought this man was guilty. Man and woman arguing in spousal rukus could be heard through those thin walls....but somemone sneaking in to murder would be quiter..

  • Blue Devil 2 Sep 25, 2012

    Was JM blood and fibers under his wife's finger nails ? This is the first time that I heard about this.

  • whocares Sep 25, 2012

    I totally agree with Mighty Mouse. He was guilty then and he is still guilty. Quit wasting taxpayers money, especially mine. This Shockley woman also confessed to several other crimes. I doubt she even knew where she was that night.

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