According to MacDonald's account, the only place he was in contact with the club was in the living room, where no splinters, pajama top threads or blood spatters were found. As MacDonald claimed that he had brought the pajama top into the master bedroom after the club had been dropped outside the utility room door, it follows that the club, the throw rug and threads torn from MacDonald's pajama top could never have been in the master bedroom at the same time.
MacDonald had initially denied owning the club, or any lumber of similar 2" x 2" dimension. However, investigation revealed that the club was not of 2" x 2" dimension, but rather had been cut from a 2" x 4" used as a bed slat for Kimberly's bed. As demonstrated by the configuration of paint stains of identical chemical composition, the club had been used to support a leg of Kimberly's bed when the bed was painted. Further, the club was similar in dimension to homemade shelf supports that MacDonald had constructed for the master bedroom.
Whether Colette MacDonald went to Kristen's bedroom to rescue her baby or because MacDonald was already in the room will never be known. However, it has been proven that Colette was assaulted with the club by Jeffrey MacDonald in Kristen's room while he was still wearing his torn pajama top. These inferences are supported by Colette's blood type spattered on the wall above Kristen's bed, and in large stains on the top sheet of Kristen's bed. In addition, splinters from the club and threads from MacDonald's pajama top were found on Kristen's bedspread. Because Kristen, unlike Colette and Kimberly, sustained no blunt-trauma injuries, it can be inferred that Colette was assaulted in this room with the club by MacDonald, who was wearing the torn pajama top.
As the body of Colette MacDonald was found in the master bedroom, the conclusion that her body was moved after she was assaulted in Kristin's room becomes inescapable. That only MacDonald could have moved her body is equally clear when the interrelation of key pieces of evidence is analyzed. The most probative of these evidentiary items was MacDonald's bare bloody footprint in Colette's blood group, exiting from Kristen's room. The significance of this footprint was initially overlooked, until it was discovered that no other sources of Colette's blood group were present on the floor of Kristen's bedroom.
Since MacDonald had tracked Colette's blood out of--rather than into--Kristen's room, the question arose as to the source of Colette's blood in Kristen's room (on which MacDonald must have stepped before tracking the blood out of the room). Whatever the source of Colette's blood had been, it had been removed before the investigators arrived. Subsequent laboratory examinations were to answer these questions.
On the floor of the master bedroom, investigators had found a pile of bedding from the master bed. The bedspread was found inside the top sheet; both items bore numerous bloodstains, predominantly in Colette's blood group. The sheet also had spatters in Kimberly's blood group, which was consistent with the sheet having been present when Kimberly was assaulted in the master bedroom. In addition, the sheet bore numerous fabric impressions in Colette's blood group. Some of these fabric impressions matched the sleeves of both Colette's and Jeffrey MacDonald's pajama tops, each of which also had corresponding bloodstains in Colette's blood group. Further, purple cotton seam threads from MacDonald's pajama top were removed from the bedspread, one of which was entangled with a crushed head hair that matched Colette's hair.
Taken together, this evidence refuted MacDonald's denial of any contact with the bedding or with having moved Colette's body from Kristen's room. Additionally, as was argued to the jury, the presence of MacDonald's footprint in Colette's blood type, exiting from Kristen's room, can be explained by the following scenario: After assaulting Colette and rendering her unconscious in Kristen's room, MacDonald—still wearing the torn pajama top stained with Colette's blood type--obtained the bedding from the master bedroom. Placing the bedspread on the floor to shield it from Colette's blood, he then placed Colette's body, covered with the sheet, on the spread. The quilt-like bedspread absorbed a large quantity of Colette's blood and also picked up the pajama top thread entangled with Colette's hair.
As the result of contact between the sheet and the sleeves of Colette's and Jeffrey's pajamas, fabric impressions in Colette's blood were transferred to the sheet. In the process, MacDonald's bare foot became coated with Colette's blood, most probably from the bedspread. MacDonald then tracked the blood out of Kristen's room. Colette's body was then deposited on the master bedroom shag rug, where the majority of thread from his pajama top had been previously deposited when the pajama top was first torn.
Thus viewed, the bloody footprint could only have been left by MacDonald during the removal of Colette's body from Kristen's room.
The pajama top, rather than the footprint was still the most probative evidence in disproving MacDonald's account. In addition to refuting his account of where the pajama top was, laboratory examinations demonstrated the falsity of his explanation for the presence of 48 puncture holes in the pajama top. MacDonald had given a vivid "blow-by-blow" description of his attack by intruders, one of whom was allegedly armed with an ice pick. MacDonald described how his pajama top was pulled over his head and onto his arms, which he then used to absorb the thrusts of the ice pick.
However, none of the resulting 48 punctures holes exhibited any evidence of tearing, which indicated that the garment had been stationary at the time the ice pick holes were made. The defense expert attempted to challenge this conclusion by stabbing a ham wrapped in a similar pajama top, in order to demonstrate that it was theoretically possible to puncture a moving pajama top without tearing.
Because MacDonald's account had the unsupported portion of the pajama top between his arms, sustaining the punctures during a violent struggle, the prosecution responded with an "in-court" demonstration. One prosecutor placed a similar pajama top on his arms while the other stabbed at the moving garment with an ice pick. As was readily apparent to the jury, it was impossible to stab at the unsupported pajama top with an ice pick without tearing it or hitting the arms of the wearer. Since MacDonald had no documented ice pick wounds, and claimed no such wounds on his arms, the credibility of his account was further damaged. Additionally, MacDonald's initial emphatic denial that the family had owned an ice pick was disproved by the testimony of two witnesses.
Only a single small stain of MacDonald's own blood was found on his pajama top. This stain conformed to a defect on the left sleeve of the garment, which was consistent with having been made by by the dull blade of the Geneva Forge-brand paring knife found on the floor of the master bedroom. It was this knife that MacDonald had spontaneously stated--on three occasions--he had pulled from his wife's chest. However, neither the wounds in Colette's chest nor the cuts in her pajama top were consistent with having been made by the Geneva Forge knife. MacDonald's fingerprints were not on the Geneva Forge knife, but a speck of his wife's blood was present.
If the knife was not used on Colette or the children, what was its role in the crime? The evidence supports the inference that Colette used the knife to defend Kimberly from her father.
Contrary to MacDonald's assertion, the older daughter, Kimberly, suffered from enuresis (involuntary bed-wetting). In addition, as established by the testimony of a classmate from a child psychology course attended by Colette on the night she was murdered, Colette and Jeffrey disagreed on how to deal with the recurrent problem of the children climbing into the parents' bed. MacDonald admitted they talked about the class discussion when Colette returned from class, but claimed that Colette's solution was for the displaced parent to sleep elsewhere. MacDonald claimed that when he finally went to bed that night, Kristen had wet his side of the bed, so he returned to sleep on the living room couch, where he was subsequently attacked. The presence of the of the antigen A in the urine stain from the master bedroom is inconsistent with Kristen's blood type, but is consistent with a deteriorated sample from Kimberly's type.
Colette's chest bore a pattern bruise from the end of the club, as if she had been struck at arm's length by a bayonet-type thrust. Given the other evidence, which establishes that MacDonald's pajama top was torn in the master bedroom and that Colette and Kimberly were struck there with the club, it is entirely consistent that the initial focus of the confrontation was Kimberly. As Kimberly screamed in response to her father's blows, Colette picked up the Geneva Forge knife and attempted to stab MacDonald. In response, MacDonald grabbed the club, and in the fray, struck Kimberly and fractured her skull.
In contrast to MacDonald, Colette had sustained 21 ice pick wounds to the upper chest area. The tightly grouped wounds--five on the right side and 16 on the left side--were in addition to the 16 deep, penetrating elliptical knife wounds to her chest that caused her death. The ice pick wounds had been inflicted in a perpendicular manner, while her body was in a supine position.
When MacDonald's pajama top was folded right sleeve inside out, as it had been found on Colette's chest, it was possible to insert 21 probes simultaneously through the 48 ice pick hole in the pajama top. The pattern that results from the insertion of the 21 probes through the ice pick holes on the pajama top corresponds exactly with the two groupings of the 21 ice pick wounds in Colette's chest. This graphically demonstrates that Colette MacDonald was stabbed through Jeffrey MacDonald's pajama top while it lay on her chest.
It was argued to the jury that MacDonald had initially put the pajama top on Colette to provide an explanation for the presence of her blood type on his garment. Subsequent to the infliction of the fatal knife wounds, MacDonald stabbed his wife through his pajama top with an ice pick in order to suggest, by the use of different weapons, the presence of multiple assailants inflicting ritualistic-type wounds. Further forensic examinations established that the ice pick and steel paring knife had been wiped clean on a Hilton bath mat, which was found draped across Colette's abdomen, and which bore stains in Kimberly's and Colette's blood groups. This was the "towel" that MacDonald had claimed to have placed over Colette to prevent shock.
Examinations of the glove fragments and the exemplar gloves revealed the presence of similar trace elements.2 A thread from MacDonald pajama top was also found on the floor beneath the headboard where "PIG" had been written.
In addition to glowing character testimony and an attack by defense experts on the government's forensic evidence, the defense presented the testimony of Helena Stoeckley in an attempt to corroborate MacDonald's account.3
Initially, the defense had sought to get Stoeckley's various admissions admitted through the testimony of third parties to whom she had made various conflicting statements over the years. The trial judge ruled that under the Federal Rules of Evidence, such exceptions to the hearsay rule are not admissible unless corroborating circumstances clearly indicate the trustworthiness of the statement. Far from being corroborated, Stoeckley's conflicting admissions and denials of involvement were, in the court's view, about as untruthworthy as they could get. Consequently, Stoeckley's out-of-court statements were ruled inadmissible.
However, the prosecution had sought a material witness warrant for Stoeckley, who was arrested by the FBI and brought to the courthouse. The trial judge recessed the trial, and made Stoeckley available to the defense. In their subsequent interview, the defense showed Stoeckley the crime scene photos in an attempt to refresh her recollection.
Called to the witness stand by the defense, Stoeckley testified, in the presence of the jury, to her extensive consumption of opiates and cannabis on February 16, 1970. After consuming a "hit of mescaline" around midnight, Stoeckley could not recall her whereabouts until she returned to her apartment early on the morning of February 17, after the news of the murders had been announced on a local radio station. Contrary to earlier statements in which she "thought" she might have been involved, at trial Stoeckley testified that she didn't believe that she had participated in or witnessed the murders. Stoeckley did admit that she owned a floppy hat and boots and sometimes wore a blond wig,
although she was not wearing it on the night of the murders.4 Stoeckley subsequently destroyed the hat and wig. During the Army Article 32 Hearing, and in subsequent interviews by the CID, MacDonald had not identified Stoeckley's photographs, nor did he identify Stoeckley during his trial testimony.
The defense also sought to demonstrate the existence of intruders by pointing to the presence of unidentified fingerprints, unmatched fibers and candle drippings found in the crime scene. However, as the critical evidence involving the pajama top stained with Colette's blood, the puncture holes matching the pattern of Colette's ice pick wounds, the pajama top fibers on the club and elsewhere, the bloody footprint and the fabric impressions on the sheet could only be accounted for by MacDonald's rearrangement of the crime scene, the jury rejected his intruder defense. After six and one-half hours, the jury found Jeffrey MacDonald guilty of the second-degree murders of Colette and Kimberly, and murder in the first-degree of Kristen. He was immediately sentence to three consecutive terms of life imprisonment.
The Direct Appeal
In July 1980, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed MacDonald's conviction on the grounds of denial of his right to a speedy trial, and cited as trial prejudice Helena Stoeckley's loss of memory of her whereabouts. The government petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, which was granted. On March 31, 1982, after briefing and oral argument on the merits, the Supreme Court found no denial of speedy trial rights, reversed the Fourth Circuit and reinstated MacDonald's conviction. The case was remanded for disposition of remaining issues and MacDonald was returned to prison the same day. A subsequent appeal on the conduct of the trial, including the exclusion of Stoeckley's out-of-court statements, was rejected by the Fourth Circuit and the Supreme Court.
While MacDonald's conviction had theoretically become final by 1981, several collateral attacks on the conviction were mounted.
The 1984 Collateral Attack
In 1984, MacDonald filed a motion for a new trial on the grounds of newly discovered evidence in the form of detailed post-trial confessions by Helena Stoeckley. Also filed at this time were petitions for writ of habeas corpus, challenging the conviction on the grounds of alleged suppression of exculpatory physical evidence. The "exculpatory" evidence had been obtained by the defense under the Freedom of Information Act, and included laboratory bench notes from both the FBI and the CID. These claims were also rejected by the trial court, appellate court and Supreme Court.
The 1990 Collateral Attack
In 1990, MacDonald's third set of lawyers filed a third petition for habeas corpus, based exclusively on "critical new" evidence from "previously unreleased" documents that had been obtained under the Freedom of Information Act in 1989-90. In fact, the FBI and CID laboratory bench notes involved had been released in 1983-84 to MacDonald's prior habeas counsel, who had raised other matters from the same releases. The actual physical evidence had been made available for examination by defense experts prior to trial.
Thus subsequent habeas petition, based upon information that was available but not raised in the first habeas petition, was held to be an abuse of the writ. The final portion of this article, however, will address only the forensic aspects of this petition, and will demonstrate that not only was the evidence not new, but it wasn't exculpatory. Furthermore, these items in no way altered the evidence upon which MacDonald had been originally convicted.
The newly discovered "exculpatory" evidence would fall into three main categories: (1) unidentified blond and grey "wig" fibers, (2) unidentified dark wool fibers and (3) unidentified hair found on or near Colette's body and in both children's bed clothing.
The unidentified "wig" fibers were crucial to MacDonald's defense because of where they were found and because they supposedly "linked" Helena Stoeckley, now deceased, to the crime scene. Two hairbrushes, a clear-handled hairbrush found on a sideboard near the kitchen phone and a blue-handled hair brush found under Colette's body, became important.
The defense scenario alleged that at some point during the crimes, Helena Stoeckley, wearing a blond wig, had answered the kitchen telephone in the MacDonald residence. If actual unidentified human "wig" fibers, which did not originate from the MacDonald household, were found in these hairbrushes, this would tend to corroborate Stoeckley's presence and would be "exculpatory" to the government's case.
The "blond synthetic hair" and "grey synthetic hair" had been originally discovered in the clear-handled hairbrush early in the CID investigation by an Army CID laboratory examiner. The presence of these blond synthetic fibers was noted in the CID examiner's bench notes; however, they were never mentioned in the final CID laboratory reports. They had never been disclosed to the defense prior to the 1979 trial.
The first step in the re-examination of these "wig" fibers was to determine if they were, in fact, true wig fibers and then to determine their source. The grey "wig" fibers were examined using the standard light microscope, the polarizing light microscope and two of the most discriminating techniques that can be used with synthetic fibers-the micro- spectrophotometer5 and the Fourier Transform Infrared analysis.6 They were identified as modacrylic fibers, the most common type of synthetic fiber used in the manufacture of human hair hair goods.
Investigation revealed that a blond fall, once owned and worn frequently by Colette MacDonald, was still available for analysis. When the fall was examined, it was found to be composed of a combination of human hair and modacrylic wig fibers. It was also found that the grey modacrylic wig fibers from the hairbrush matched the grey modacrylic wig fibers found in the composition of the fall. Accordingly, these grey wig fibers were consistent with having originated from Colette's fall.
Therefore, while "true" wig fibers were found at the crime scene, the source of these modacrylic wig fibers could be accounted for--they came from Colette MacDonald's fall.
The source of the "blond synthetic hair" from the clear-handled hairbrush posed more of a problem. Again, the same microscopic, optical and instrumental techniques were used, ultimately determining that the "blond synthetic hairs" were composed of saran fibers. Due to problems in manufacturing and the physical properties of saran fibers, they are not suitable for human wigs. They do not look like or "lay" like human hair; therefore, they are not used to make human hair goods.
One of the main uses of saran fibers during the time frame of the murders was for doll hair. These "blond synthetic hairs" were very similar to the blond doll hair in the FBI reference collection (see photos on page 18). In fact the early "Barbie" dolls made by Mattel had hair made of saran fibers.
Since the MacDonald girls were know to have owned dolls with blond hair, and since little girls are known to brush the hair of their dolls, it can be inferred that the "blond synthetic hair" found in the hairbrush probably came from a doll belonging to the MacDonald girls or one of their friends. Unfortunately, none of the dolls originally belonging to Kimberly or Kristen are available today for testing purposes.
A second area of "exculpatory" evidence as noted in the defense petition concerned unidentified fibers found on Colette MacDonald's body and on the club. These fibers had been noted in an early FBI examination, but not included in the FBI report. These consisted of dark-colored woolen fibers and white woolen fibers. The dark-colored fibers were important to MacDonald's defense in order to fit the latest defense scenario, which alleged that the "intruders" were wearing dark-colored clothing.
The bluish-black woolen fiber from the biceps area of Colette was determined by means of microspectrophotometry, to be different from the bluish-black woolen fibers removed from the club. Additionally, both of these fibers were different from the two dark purple woolen fibers found on the mouth area of Colette's body. The white woolen fibers found on Colette's bicep and on the club were eventually matched back to the white shag wool rug upon which Colette's body was lying.
This fact was very important to the prosecutor's theory of the case. According to the Transfer of Locard,7 upon which all hair and fiber work is based, an individual is constantly exchanging hair and/or fibers with his environment, so that the hair and fibers found on an individual at any one time are reflective of his latest environment. Since the white woolen fibers on Colette's body were reflective of her latest enviornment--the master bedroom rug--it follows that the dark colored woolen fibers were also on the rug.
As for the original source of the woolen fibers, it is a known fact that Colette owned many dark-colored clothing items, such as sweaters, coats and knit hats. These items were returned to MacDonald in 1970 and were no longer available for testing.
The final area of "exculpatory" evidence, as noted by the defense, concerned unidentified human hairs found under Colette's body and in the bed clothing of all three victims. These hairs had been originally discovered by the CID laboratory examination and had been noted in the bench notes. This information was not disclosed to the defense.
If a suitable public hair is matched to particular individual, this leads to a strong association to that individual.8 A brown Caucasian pubic hair was found under the body of Colette MacDonald. This hair remained unmatched for over 20 years. Finally, as a result of a recent FBI laboratory examination, this hair was matched to the pubic hairs of Jeffrey MacDonald; and accordingly, is consistent with having originated from Jeffrey MacDonald.
The unidentified hairs from the master bedroom, Kristen's bedspread and Kimberly's quilt were also re-examined and were found to be either limb hairs or body hairs. Accordingly, they did not posses sufficient characteristics to be of value for significant comparison purposes.
In summary, as a result of numerous re-examinations, all of the alleged "exculpatory" evidence deemed so import to the latest defense scenario probably originated from ordinary, everyday items found in the MacDonald household, and in no way suggests the presence of outside "intruders." Had Colette MacDonald's parents not retained their daughter's blond fall, however, MacDonald could have successfully argued that "blond wig hairs," unmatched to any item from the MacDonald household, were found at the crime scene. While this would have been "literally" true, the inference that the "blond wig hairs" established the presence of "intruders" would have been false.
On Monday, July 8, 1991, U.S. District Judge Franklin T. Dupree, Jr. who presided over MacDonald's original trial in 1979, denied Jeffrey MacDonald's petition for a new trial stating: "The fiber evidence presented here for the first time would have been insufficient to alter the result at trial, and if a new trial were held, the jury would again reach the almost inescapable conclusion that Jeffrey MacDonald was responsible for these horrible crimes."
On July 2, 1992, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit again denied MacDonald's petition and upheld Judge Dupree's prior ruling. Commenting on the "newly discovered" evidence in its lengthy opinion, the Appeals Court stated, "The most that can be said about the evidence is that it raises speculation concerning it origin. Furthermore, the origin of the hair and fiber evidence has several likely explanations other than intruders." The court goes on to state, "We have carefully reviewed the voluminous record of evidence in this case, beginning with the original military Article 32 proceedings through the present habeas petition, which contains over 4,000 pages. Yet we do not find anything to convince us that the evidence introduced here, considered with that previously amassed, would have raised reasonable doubts in in the minds of the jurors."
In October 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Jeffrey MacDonald's petition for a writ of certiorari to review the appellate court's decision.
At this writing, MacDonald is serving his sentence at the Federal Corrections Institution in Sheridan, Oregon. He is currently eligible for parole.
1 Jeffrey MacDonald has blood group B, Colette MacDonald has blood group A, Kimberly MacDonald had blood group AB, and Kristen MacDonald had blood group O. The chance of this occurring in a family are extremely low.
2 A neutron activation analysis revealed that the trace elemental composition of the finger portion of latex surgical glove was similar to the trace elemental composition of the packets of latex surgical gloves found in the MacDonald kitchen cabinet.
3 Helena Stoeckley was a known drug addict and member of a hippie community who emerged shortly after the news of the MacDonald murders became known locally.
4 MacDonald stated that when he initially awoke in the living room, he saw a blond girl wearing a floppy hat and boots carrying a candle and chanting "acid is groovy, kill the pigs."
5 K. K. Laing and M.D. Isaacs, "The Examination of Paints and Fibers by Microspectrophotometry," Home Office Central Research Establishment, Report Number 359, British Crown Copyright, 1980.
6 Mary W. Tungol, Edward Barnck and Montaser Akbar [sic; Akbar Montaser], "Analysis of Single by Fourier Transform Infrared Microspectrophotometry: The Results of Case Studies," Journal of Forensic Scenes, vol. 36, pp. 1027-1043, July 1991.
7 Edmund Locard, "The Analysis of Dust Traces," The American Journal of Police Science, vol. 1, pp. 276-278, 1930.
8 Gaudette, "Probabilities and Human Pubic Hair Comparisons," Journal of Forensic Sciences, pp. 514-517, July 1975.