|Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald in May, 1970|
I was a mere twinkle in my mother's eye when Colette Macdonald and her two daughters were brutally murdered in their own home. The person responsible - Colette's husband and father of her girls, Dr. Jeffrey Macdonald. Despite not being born until ten years after the murders, it was this case that kick-started a life-long fascination (and career) for me in true crime. I remember watching an American true crime show that covered the case when I was around 15 years old. It moved me to tears and I was absolutely convinced of the good doctor's innocence. Twenty years later, and goodness knows how many hours, days and years spent poring over every website and trial record relating to his case - I am not so naive.
Dr. Jeffrey Macdonald and his beautiful wife appeared to have it all. Jeffrey was a. U.S Army officer for the Special Forces Green Berets, a practising physician and medical doctor. The family were stationed at Fort Bragg, California. The couple had two beautiful daughters, Kimberley 5 and Kristen 2 and Colette was around four months pregnant with the couple's first son. However, in the early morning hours of Febuary 17th, 1970, Fort Bragg dispatch received a 911 call from 544 Castle Drive that would see the start of a story that is still being discussed some 45 years later.
Initially, only four military police, who believed they were going to settle a domestic dispute, were dispatched to the Macdonald home that fateful morning. The officers noted the house appeared empty, in complete darkness and their knocks on the front door went unanswered. A quick look around the back however, led the four officers into the home through the open back door and straight into complete carnage. Colette Macdonald lay dead in the master bedroom, Kimberley and Kristen lay dead in their beds in their respective bedrooms. Jeffrey Macdonald lay next to his wife, injured but alive. Macdonald was rushed to the nearby Womack hospital where it soon became apparent his injuries were far less serious than those suffered by his wife and daughters. In fact, Dr. Macdonald had bruises and cuts on his chest, face and head, as well as mild concussion. He had a 'small, sharp' incsion wound to his chest that had left him with a partially collapsed left lung. In comparison, Colette had suffered 37 stab wounds and received a vicious clubbing. Kimberley had also been clubbed and received approximately ten stab wounds to her neck and head. Baby Kristen had received a staggering 48 stab wounds.
Macdonald told police that, after falling asleep on the sofa in the lounge, he had woken to the sounds of Colette and Kimberley screaming. As he ran to help, he was attacked by three male intruders, a fourth - female - intruder stood by watching, holding a candle and chanting 'Acid is Groovy. Kill the Pigs'. Macdonald went on to describe how the male intruders pulled his pyjama top over his head and down his arms, restricting his view. He went on to describe how he used the top to defend himself from three different weapons, a club, a knife and an ice pick. Eventually, Macdonald claims he succumbed to his attackers and he fell unconscious on the floor of the hallway. When he came around, he ran to check on his family and found each one dead in their respective bedrooms. The word 'PIG' had been daubed in Colette's blood on the left side of the couple's bed headboard. Having returned to the master bedroom and covering Colette with his pyjama top and a towel (to 'keep her warm') he called 911 and then collapsed next to his wife.
It became obvious to investigators straight away that there was huge inconsistencies in the evidence found at the crime scene and Macdonald's version of events. For starters, the lounge where Macdonald insisted he had fought off a brutal attack by three male intruders, showed little signs of disturbance. An overturned coffee table and plant pot, as well as Macdonald's glasses under the couch were the only irregularities. Soon enough, physical evidence began to tell a different story also. Fibres from Macdonald's pyjamas were not only found under Colette's body, fibres were also retrieved from both little girls' rooms as well as one stray fibre from under Kristen's finger nail. A 3-foot piece of wood, a knife and an ice pick were found by the back door. All three were later proven to come from within the MacDonald home. But perhaps the most damming evidence was the evidence that the word 'PIG' on the couples' headboard had been written by someone wearing surgical gloves. The same surgical gloves that Dr. MacDonald used at work and which were also found, in a box, under the sink in the kitchen of the MacDonald's home. On May 1st 1970, MacDonald was formally charged of the murders by the Army.
An Army Article 32 hearing, designed to determine MacDonald's guilt, was held on June 5th 1970. Despite the investigators findings, the Army believed the accusation against MacDonald to be 'not true' and they recommended civilian authorities chased up possible suspects and witnesses. MacDonald was then given an honourable discharge from the Army and he decided to move back to his home state of New York. MacDonald spent the next nine years working as a physician and become something of a celebrity, appearing on talk shows and organising book and movie deals. He concentrated on how HE was a victim, both of the four intruders and the police who had tried to accuse poor him of such a heinous crime. Thankfully, the State, the family and countless other individuals did not forget Colette, Kimberley, Kristen and the unborn baby. They worked tirelessly processing evidence, lobbying officials, keeping the MacDonald case in the spotlight for the real victims' of the crime and, it was to pay off. On January 24th, a North Carolina Grand Jury indicted MacDonald and less than 60 minutes after the indictment, MacDonald was in custody. Initially scheduled for a May 23rd 1975 trial, a series of double jeopardy arguments, dismissals and appeals saw the actual trial moved back and back again. However, on July 16th 1979 in Raleigh North Carolina, Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald went to trial for the brutal murders of his wife and two young daughters.
During the trial it was theorized that on the morning of the murders, MacDonald and Colette most probably got into an argument over Kimberley wetting MacDonald's side of the marital bed. It is believed MacDonald saw red after possibly being struck on the head by Colette with a hair brush. In the middle of beating Colette with the wooden plank, it is further theorized that Kimberley ran into the room and MacDonald swung round and hit her with the wooden plank accidentally. He then made the split second decision to 'finish' Colette and Kimberley before walking into Kristen's room and killing her. It is believed MacDonald's injuries were self inflicted in the hope it would further support the intruder story. There was never any evidence any other individual had been in the home on the morning of the murder. ALL evidence pointed to MacDonald. On August 29th, 1979 the jury agreed after just six hours of deliberations and MacDonald was found guilty of one charge of first degree murder for the death of Kristen and two counts of second degree murder for the deaths of Colette and Kimberley. MacDonald received three life sentences for each count, with all three to run consecutively.
MacDonald has NEVER admitted guilt for the deaths of Colette, Kimberley and Kristen. In fact, he long refused to request parole because he said he would NEVER confess to crimes he did not commit. However, in 2005 MacDonald, now newly married to a young woman he claimed to have met just after the murders, did apply for parole. He was promptly denied. MacDonald cannot request parole until May 2020. Jeffrey MacDonald's official release date is April 5th, 2071, where he will be a rather sprightly 128 years old. To this day he still claims he is not responsible for the brutal murders of his wife and young daughters.
|Jeffrey MacDonald in May, 2014|