Did Jeffrey MacDonald Murder His Entire Family?
Did Jeffrey MacDonald kill his wife and daughters? Or was his defense true all along?
On the outside, Jeffrey MacDonald had a perfect life. The U.S. Army surgeon had married his high school sweetheart and was living the American dream with his growing career, two young daughters, and pregnant wife.
But in 1970, that would all change when his entire family was found stabbed to death in their home.
Jeffrey Robert MacDonald was born on October 12, 1943, in New York City. In grade school, he became close friends with a young Colette Stevens, who he eventually started dating throughout high school and college. He went to college at Princeton, but when Colette became pregnant in his second year, they decided to get married.
MacDonald was eventually accepted into Northwestern University Medical School, so the small family moved to Chicago where their second daughter Kristin was born in 1967. The family struggled with financial burdens, but they still seemed secure in their life.
After MacDonald graduated in 1968, he joined the U.S. Army so they could help advance his career. They relocated to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he was made Group Surgeon to the Green Berets.
At the end of 1969, everything was working out well for the family. MacDonald wasn’t going to be stationed in Vietnam and Colette was pregnant with their third child, so for a while, it seemed as if everything was going to be okay.
That was until February 17, 1970, when dispatchers at Fort Bragg received an emergency call from Jeffrey MacDonald. It was after 3:00 AM and MacDonald was claiming that there had been a stabbing at his 544 Castle Drive address. Four military police officers quickly arrived on the scene, where they soon discovered the unimaginable.
Colette MacDonald was found to be stabbed nearly forty times with an icepick and a knife, with the word ‘pig’ written on the bed’s headboard with her own blood. Two-year-old Kristin was stabbed 33 times with a knife and 15 times with an icepick on her torso, while five-year-old Kimberly was bludgeoned to death.
On the other hand, MacDonald only suffered from one stab wound. It was described as clean, small, and sharp, causing his left lung to partially collapse. A first responder performed mouth-to-mouth and MacDonald quickly woke up.
MacDonald claimed that he had been sleeping on the couch after Kimberly wet his side of the bed. The sound of screaming woke him up and he found three male intruders and a blonde woman standing in front of him. He fought them until they beat him unconscious, desperate to save his family.
MacDonald stated that the blonde woman was overseeing the murders, and she was wearing a big floppy hat and high-heeled boots. She was said to be holding a candle and chanting the phrase:
“Acid is groovy. Kill the pigs.”
A responding officer remembered seeing a woman that fit MacDonald’s description as he was driving to the scene, but the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division neglected to mention this during their inquest. No attempts were made to find the woman.
A five-month-long investigation began that April, with officials using only physical evidence and MacDonald’s statements to form their opinion. They ultimately concluded that MacDonald inflicted his own wounds and the entire story he told police was a lie. They came to this conclusion because the living room showed little signs of a struggle, and the murder weapons were found outside the door. The surgical gloves MacDonald kept in his kitchen was also a match to the gloves used to write ‘pig’ on the headboard.
Although the U.S. Army charged MacDonald with the murders, presiding officer Colonel Warren Rock insisted that the charges be dropped due to insufficient evidence. It was also argued that investigators had mishandled the scene on the night of the crime.
The charges were eventually dropped and MacDonald was honorably discharged by the Army. Even Colette’s parents, Mildred and Freddie Kassab believed that MacDonald was innocent.
But their opinion began to change after they heard a November 1970 phone call where MacDonald claimed to have found and killed one of the men who murdered his family. Meanwhile. MacDonald seemed to be completely at ease about the whole situation.
After reading the full transcript from MacDonald’s hearing, Mildred and Freddie were no longer convinced of his innocence. They convinced investigators to return to the crime scene, where they eventually discovered that MacDonald’s claims were completely implausible.
The Kassab family filed a criminal complaint in 1974, petitioning the federal court to convene a grand jury and determine if MacDonald could be charged with the murder of their daughter and granddaughters.
A year later, their attempts were successful. A grand jury indicted MacDonald for murder.
MacDonald pled not guilty for the crimes when he was arraigned in May 1975. He attempted to get his case dismissed by claiming double jeopardy, starting an appeal process that would continue to delay his trial for years to come.
His trial took place in Raleigh, North Carolina, beginning on June 16, 1979. The prosecution argued that MacDonald staged the killings and blamed the ‘hippies.’ As evidence, they presented a 1970 issue of Esquire that was found in MacDonald’s house, which showed a detailed account of the Sharon Tate murders. They suggested that MacDonald had created a copycat story based on the Manson family’s murders.
An FBI lab technician went on to reenact how MacDonald claimed to have fought against the attacks and found that his testimony went against the evidence found. Along with that, MacDonald’s medical records found that he obtained no defensive wounds on his arms and hands and the knife holes in his shirt were too smooth and clear to indicate self-defense.
The defense called up Helena Stoeckley, a blonde woman that was suspected to be the one MacDonald saw that night. They hoped that she would confess to the crime, but Stoeckley denied ever being inside MacDonald’s home.
Other witnesses brought forward claimed to have heard Stoeckly confess to the crimes at various times. She told one person that she remembered holding a candle that dripped with blood, but no more than that. But while on the stand, she denied having any memory of being involved in the triple-murders.
Despite a lack of evidence and no known history of violence, Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted of the second-degree murder of Colette and Kimberly, and the first-degree murder of Kristin. He was given three life sentences for the crimes.
It was later discovered that three hairs were discovered at the crime scene, with none of them matching the DNA to anyone living in the house at the time of the murder. Along with that, an affidavit revealed that someone had allegedly threatened Helena Stoeckley to not admit to the crimes in court.
Jeffrey MacDonald remains in jail, but there are still plenty of questions surrounding the murder of his family. Were there actually four intruders in his house that night? Or was it MacDonald all along?
Sources for this article include:
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