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MacDonald hearing, likely last chance for exoneration set for Thursday

Posted January 25, 2017 6:14 p.m. EST
Updated January 26, 2017 11:51 a.m. EST

— In a case that has captivated the nation since the 1970s, former Green Beret Jeffrey MacDonald will appear in federal court on Thursday, in what is likely to be his last chance at exoneration.

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 in Maryland, has never wavered from his claim 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."

"One guy was swinging a club at me and two other people I thought were punching me, it turns out they were stabbing me," he said in a recorded interview with People.

But the Army decided to investigate him as a potential killer.

"I did not injure them, I did not assault them, and I did not murder them," he said in the recording.

He was cleared by the Army, but was later indicted by a federal grand jury. Prosecutors argued at trial that he staged the crime scene and injured himself.

MacDonald was convicted in 1979 and charged with one count of first-degree murder in the death of Kristen and two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Colette and Kimberly.

MacDonald could have been released by the parole commission if he admitted guilt and showed remorse.

"If it takes me saying that I killed my family to the parole commission to go home, I'm never going home," he said.

Now, his attorney say there is new forensic evidence that was withheld from the defense including bloody footprints, unidentified hairs, candle drippings and a bloody syringe.

"The bloody syringe certainly could be evidence that there were drug-crazed hippies or intruders in that house that evening," said defense attorney Hart Miles.

Macdonald's attorneys would like the judge to vacate his conviction, or at the very least order a new trial.

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

The case will begin Thursday morning in Richmond.