State News

Prosecutors show crime scene photos during MacDonald hearing

Posted September 20, 2012
Updated September 21, 2012

— Prosecutors showed crime scene photos Thursday at 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.

Bill Ivory, a lead investigator in the case, showed the courtroom pictures of the MacDonald apartment after the murders, including the bloodied body of Colette, MacDonald's 26-year-old wife who was 5 months pregnant with a baby boy at the time.

MacDonald murders MacDonald murder case photos

She was hit repeatedly in the head with a piece of wood and suffered 16 knife wounds – seven in her chest and nine in her neck – and 21 icepick wounds, according to the medical examiner. The brutal beating left her with two punctured lungs and two broken forearms, the latter of which the medical examiner described as defensive wounds.

MacDonald – now 68, remarried and still in prison – has never wavered from his claim that he didn't kill his wife 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."

Ivory testified Thursday that he combed the crime scene "like Dick Tracy," complete with magnifying glasses, looking for clothing fibers and debris in the living room "to support what MacDonald was telling us."

"We didn't find anything in this area – no threads," Ivory said.

Investigators did find a copy of Esquire magazine on the floor, which contained an article detailing the infamous Manson murders six months earlier. Ivory said he noticed a bloody fingerprint over the "qu" on the cover of the magazine, which matched the blood types of Colette and Kimberley MacDonald.

On cross-examination, MacDonald's attorney Gordon Widenhouse asked Ivory to read sworn statements from two people who claimed that a man named Greg Mitchell confessed to the murders after MacDonald's conviction.

MacDonald murders Prosecutors show crime scene photos during MacDonald hearing

One of the statements said Mitchell, who died in 1982, had tearfully confessed and that feelings of guilt drove him to drink heavily. Ivory said he interviewed Mitchell in 1971, and that Mitchell said he couldn't remember where he was on the night of the murders.

Jack Crawley Jr., a law clerk and part of the prosecution team in the 1979 MacDonald trial, also testified Thursday. He disputed the story of former U.S. Marshal Jimmy Britt, who said a witness in the case, Helena Stoeckley, admitted to him that she was in the MacDonald house the night of the murders.

Crawley said Stoeckley, a known drug addict, never admitted that she had anything to do with the MacDonald murders.

Britt also claimed that he saw prosecutor Jim Blackburn threaten to indict Stoeckley with first-degree murder if she told jurors she was in the house the night of the murders, according to earlier testimony at the hearing. Crawley disputed that as well, saying that he has no memory of a federal marshal being present during the prosecution's interview with Stoeckley.

During cross examination, the MacDonald defense team questioned Crawley's record-keeping skills and asked why he had not taken notes during the interview with "this most important witness." The defense also pointed out lapses in Crawley's records in other cases.

The defense again questioned Crawley about whether Britt was there during the prosecution's interview with Stoeckley. "No, I'm not positive. I can't say with absolute certainty," he said.

Crawley was suspended by the bar in the mid-1990s for violating rules of responsibility in an unrelated case. He testified that he has a mental illness that began to set in about that time and is no longer able to practice law.

Joe McGinniss, who was embedded with MacDonald's defense team during the trial and wrote a best-selling book, "Fatal Vision," is expected to take the stand, possibly on Friday.

The hearing, which is expected to last 10 days, hinges on DNA evidence that wasn't available in 1979 and witness testimony that MacDonald's defense team says proves his innocence.

U.S. District Judge James Fox will determine if MacDonald gets a new trial.


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  • apapoolchic Sep 21, 2012

    Once again, I agree with "workinghuman". We all have foreign DNA on us, in our houses, cars, etc. unless we live in a sterile bubble. We also leave DNA wherever we go. This couple, by Mac 's own accounts, had frequent houseguests. Their neighbor had been there the night of the crime. The family had been to pet their pony. Collette had been to a class. Kids are constantly picking things up. Potential is there for foreign DNA, but that doesn't mean it 's from a gang of hippie killers. The hair clenched in Collette 's had was proven long ago to be her own. I do believe the DNA results will come back to Mac, unless they are too degraded and ruled inconclusive. Either way, this whole situation is a waste of taxpayer money. There will be nothing to exonerate him, and on the off chance he gets a new trial, the same evidence will put him right back in jail. Agreed, occassionally there are "wrongful convictions",but this just is not one of them.

  • catwoman2 Sep 21, 2012

    foghat - thank you. I guess I am going to go ahead and read the book. All seems disjointed to me regarding the Helena issue and the people she accused. I have always throught he was guilty....

  • foghat001 Sep 21, 2012

    catwoman, there were no other suspects, or even persons of interest - these were just people who came out of the woodwork for some newspaper attention - the state had only one suspect, and only one today - MacDonald

  • catwoman2 Sep 21, 2012

    So what happened to the other suspects besides Helena? Did they ever get investigated and if so were they dismissed as suspects? Thank you.

  • jackcdneh1017 Sep 21, 2012

    What we humans drag into our homes? I am talking about DNA that matches one of the four known suspects inside a glove fragment. And you may be right, it may be deemed "inconclusive" and this whole exercise will be a waste other than JM's mini vacation as you call it. So what is the harm in that? It is a dangerous practice to predict that which is simply not predictable but please take comfort in your knowing smile. "touch DNA technology" is very sensitive and is not often shown to be inconclusive. I would compare it to actually having a videotape of the murders as they occurred. The DNA would seem to be totally conclusive that another was in the house would it not? Or would you then resort to the tried ans true cop out "well he must have had some help"

  • workinghuman33 Sep 21, 2012


    Trust me, there is probably no one that is with you more on wrongful convictions than myself. I wrote Death Penalty Appellate briefs for 5 years. You would be hard pressed to find someone else who understands and knows from personal experience (sadly) how many wrongful convictions we do have in our country........this ain't one of them. I would be the first to say so if I truly believed it.

  • workinghuman33 Sep 21, 2012

    jackcdneh1017 ----

    My dearly departed grandmother used to say "Darlin, if IF was a Fifth we'd ALL be DRUNK!" IF there is any foreign DNA, that will not fully convince me especially because of what we humans drag into our homes each and every day. I am almost, ALMOST...positive that there will only be JM's DNA....I'm telling you this is a mini-vacation for this man. He loves the spotlight. But let's go a step further, and I believe this is what he's this juncture, 42 years after the crime any DNA found (his or otherwise) will most likely result as "Inconclusive", so I wouldn't hang my hat on any DNA results at this point. Mark my words, it will be his DNA and most results will prove to be INCONCLUSIVE because it's too far down the road to get an accurate result.

  • jackcdneh1017 Sep 21, 2012

    No, I won't be singing any different songs. I will be happy that they put this case to bed where it belongs. One of the things that bothers me most about the possibility of a wrongful conviction is that real killers/rapists go free when innocents are convicted. I have not been arguing for JM's innocence. I have been arguing for some closure in these events. I am perfectly willing to be convinced of his guilt. That would help me rest about it. One thing I do know is that wrongful convictions do occur and I happen to believe that two recent trials and convictions in Wake County were complete shams and were definitely wrongful convictions. I don't claim innocence of thes convicted men either, however I do know that prosecutors and law enforcement stretched the limits of the system to get guilty verdicts and I am acutely aware that such goings on could affect me or someone I love. I take zero delight in the deaths of the MacDonald family but would like to the killers punished.

  • apapoolchic Sep 21, 2012

    jack...I haves to agree with workinghuman. I don 't think you have lived with this case from the beginning either. Look at the autopsy photos of those poor butchered babies and his pregnant wife. It was pure overkill! Then look at the pictures of his injuries and compare. Those pictures are not inaccuricies....the are REALITY!!! I do agree with one thing you said...let them test the DNA. Bet when the results are back you will bee singing a different song.

  • jackcdneh1017 Sep 21, 2012

    @workinghuman. There you have it. "you will never be able to convince me otherwise". So that means if the DNA evidence shows that Helena Stoekley was at the crime scene or one of the other know suspects was there, you would still believe in JM's guilt? I am not trying to convince anyone of JM's innocence. I don't really care, he has spent a lot of years in prison and his life is what it is. I am trying to debunk the misconceptions people have about how the legal system works and how easy it is for prosecutors and law enforcement to wrongfully convict because the system allows them to act with impunity and permits investigations to become tunnel vision with confirmation bias. I am trying to show that guilt beyond a reasonable doubt should be upheld in any civilized society and it no longer is here in the USA, sweet land of "liberty"