July 23 -24, 1970: Newsday Reporter John Cummings'
exclusive interview with Jeffrey MacDonald
Translation of article following the scanned copy
Part 1, July 23, 1970
Part 2, July 24, 1970
Note: Translation of the above article as I read it to be
Part 1, July 23, 1970
Capt. Jeffrey MacDonald stands accused of the murders of his pregnant wife and two small daughters. He was formally charged with premeditated murder May 1 by Army authorities, after having been held under house arrest as a suspect for more than three weeks. He has been kept under close guard ever since.
The bizarre killings occurred in the early morning hours of Tuesday, Feb. 17, 1970 in the MacDonald home at Ft. Bragg, N.C., where MacDonald was assigned as a doctor for the Sixth Special Forces (Green Berets) Group.
MacDonald has protested his innocence from the beginning, saying that his wife, almost five months pregnant at the time, and his children were beaten and stabbed to death by intruders. He said that the group consisted of three men and a woman who said "Acid (LSD) is groovy, kill the pigs . . ." while the men attacked and stabbed him. The murders drew nationwide attention, coming as they did after the murders of Sharon Tate in California, allegedly by members of a hippie cult.
MacDonald, 26, who was reared in Patchogue (as was his wife, Colette), currently is attending a closed Army hearing that will decide whether there is enough evidence to order him to stand trial at a court-martial.
For the first time since the tragedy occurred, MacDonald tells his side of the story to Newsday reporter, John Cummings in an exclusive two-day interview that has been condensed and edited here to form a two-part series. In the interview, MacDonald goes through his version of what happened the weekend before the killings, the allegations and insinuations about him, a detailed description of the day of the murder, and the aftermath.
QUESTION: Now, we come up to that Saturday before all of this happened . . . Let me put it this way, much was made back in February about the statement that Lt. (Ronald) Harrison made. He had discussed with you the Sharon Tate murder, I think was on Saturday . . .
ANSWER: That's right. Now this thing is something I really want to clear up. This has been the greatest misrepresentation of anything and as a matter of matter his statement has appeared at the end of every single article in this area at least . . . He came over Saturday evening, Feb. 14 . . . This was Saturday and we were having an evening at home because I was going to work the next day at the hospital . . . We subscribed to Esquire magazine. As a matter of fact, Colette had bought me a three-year subscription to Esquire . . . Anyone who got the magazine couldn't have missed . . . the series of articles. The cover of the magazine was . . . "Lee Marvin Is Afraid Evil Lurks in California."
And I was sitting on the couch and Lt. Harrison was sitting in an easy chair in the living room. We were watching TV. He was having some Jello and cookies Colette had made, and I was sitting there and, as he went to his seat, he looked at the Esquire magazine laying on the coffee and said, "Hey, what's this?" And I picked it up and I said, "Gee, Ron, there are unbelievable articles in here. You have to read them." I said, "This is really something what's going on in the country and in California. It seems ridiculous." And he said, "What do you mean?" And he walked over to me and he flipped through it and I said, "There are articles here on Sharon Tate and there are article on a cult in California and it's mad." And the major part of the conversation resolved around this article about Lida and the Black Swan---Lida being a witch and sorcerer. In the cult in California, she was I called an "Acid (LSD) Goddess." And we jokingly sat about five minutes referring to the article because in the article she performed copulation with a black swan. And he and I made some typical male comments about this kind of article. And that is the entire extent of the conversation. And we were leafing through, you know, I made some comment to the effect that "gee, I think it's just unbelievable what is happening in California." And Ron said, "What do you think about people who take dope?" And I said, "Well, basically, I feel that, from what I've read, medically speaking, that marijuana isn't so bad but the harder stuff, the stuff they inject, whether it be heroin or the amphetamine even that they're talking about, or the people who take LSD are, in fact, a lot more serious than some of the sociologists would have us believe, and that the people who actually inject the needle I assume do a lot of harm, and I haven't seen very many come off that . . .
Q. You haven't dealt with a lot of GIs on drugs?
A. Absolutely not. I was a medical officer for the 6th Special Forces Group and a group surgeon for the 3rd Special Forces until it was disbanded, and I was preventive medical doctor . . . A preventive medical doctor prevents disease in troops, and in Special Forces in particular, it's in native areas. So I would be in charge of food, water, sanitation and vaccinations. Things along this line. Somehow, some of the reporters got the idea that preventive medicine . . . they see it as drugs, and I was labeled as a drug specialist. I really had nothing to do at all with drugs in the Army out of the ordinary.
Q. And you had nothing to do with soldiers who had a drug problem?
A. Oh, I did. But all doctors did. I had seen some patients and, as matter of fact, on two occasions, Womack (Army Hospital, Fort Bragg, N.C.) Emergency Room and at Cape Fear (N.C. Hospital), we see many soldiers who come in with drug reactions. But this is basically normal duty in hospitals, not out of the ordinary . . .
Q. Now you got up Sunday and you went into the hospital (to work?)
A. Right . . . This was at Hamlet (N.C.)---15 miles away.
Q. Nothing unusual happened that day?
A. Absolutely not. Nothing at all. I treated a small number of patients. Hamlet is not very busy. I saw a few patients. This is a 24-hour shift not a 12-hour shift but . . .
Q. In other words, you were working all Sunday?
Q. You worked through till Monday morning?
A. Sunday 6 AM to Monday 6 AM.
Q. Then you came back to the base?
A. Right. Came back to the base and had breakfast with Colette and the kids and went to work.
Q. Did you sleep at all in that period?
A. Right. This . . . As you'll find as the testimony in this hearing goes on, we're not sure but we think that the CID (Army Criminal Investigation Division) is going to be something like what you just said. In other words, later on, why was Captain MacDonald up reading at 2 AM? (MacDonald has said he had fallen asleep while reading on the living room couch before the slaying early that Tuesday morning.) We just have the feeling . . . They've questioned me along that line and they never asked me about Sunday--the way you just did. And, in fact, I saw 24 patients over a 24-hour period only one of whom I saw after midnight Sunday night . . . I had two naps at Hamlet and I slept 5 1/2 hours at night, which is as much as I do at home . . .
Q. Now, you came back to Bragg on Monday morning for your shift?
Q. You came home . . . you got home . . .
A. The 16th, Monday afternoon at approximately quarter to 5 . . . Kimmy and Kristy, my two girls, and we went to see the horse. I had bought them a horse for Christmas. It was a pasture about five miles from our house off post, and we had a choice of either paying them to feed it or going down twice a day to feed it ourselves. We decided for the kids' sake, they were very adamant about it, that we would take it on ourselves to feed the horse.
Q. So you went down that Monday?
A. Right, at 5 o'clock. It was only a total of an half hour; go down feed the horse and pat him a little--usually Kimmy sat on the horse and went around the corral--and came back. So I was back at the house . . . It was the last thing we did together . . . So we're back from seeing Trooper, the horse, maybe 5:30, 20 to 6, and we had a fast dinner together, the four of us. Colette had it ready because she had the class in the evening at the University of North Carolina (an extension school on the base) and she was taking a child psychology course this time. She had taken an English one in the fall and was taking child psychology in the spring. She continued to do this wherever we worked--just build toward a degree. She was an English major at Skidmore (College) originally. We had a fast dinner and Colette left for class at 10 after 6 that evening . . . I put the dishes in the sink, cleared the table, and the kids and I played and watched television for a while. Kristy, the youngest girl, went to bed between 7 and 7:30 and Kimmy stayed watching television and I took a short nap on the living room floor as I had come to do when we were fooling around and watching . . .especially after I'd eaten dinner. And she woke me up at 8 o'clock. Kimmy--she's the older girl, now--she and I were on the living room floor. She had this sort of a flight suit but it was really like a sleeping bag. It was in the shape of a bear and the bear's head was a pillow. She was in that and I was right next to her and I took a nap and she woke me up when "Laugh-In" came on. We always watched "Laugh-In" together. Kimmy's favorite program next to Walt Disney's was "Laugh-In." I don't think she understood any of the jokes, she just liked the slapstick. So we watched "Laugh-In" together and at the end of that--it was now 9 o'clock--I put Kimmy to bed into her own bed . . . I went back and began watching the "Bob Hope Special" that was on TV that night . . .
(Colette) came home about 20 to 10 . . . At that time, she changed into her pajamas and came back into the living room, where I was watching television and we sat and talked for a while.
This is what we consider--I know this sounds ridiculous--but this is really like our time of the day. We put both children to bed and the house was now quiet and we usually had a little time now, so we sat in the living room, whether it be reading or watching TV or just listening to the stereo or something, but it's become sort of a ritual--I guess not a word to use in this case--but it had become our part of the evening and every evening now ...
You, know, from medical school and internship we never really had that many hours of peace and quiet together. We were kind of catching up on it. And this is why we did enjoy this very much. We watched television together for a while and Colette took a pill for nausea . . . that she knows will come even during an early pregnancy. Well, she usually had it sometimes when she was sleeping and sometimes when she first woke up. Well, this is around 12 o'clock . . . She (also) took (sleeping) pills by the name of Benedril . . .(the name of the medicine is Benadryl )
I had had the short nap on the floor and I remember Johnny Carson was a particularly good show so I watched the end of it. And I hardly ever do one thing at a time so I started reading a mystery book at the same time and when Johnny Carson was over I shut him off . . .
Q. What was that time, 1 o'clock?
A. Right. He went off at 1 o'clock and I put my stereo on to an FM station and finished the mystery book and then, now it became approximately 1:30 and when I got up to go to bed, I noticed the dishes weren't done. And as Colette has, had two things she didn't like--one was dishes and one was ironing--the ironing I couldn't help her with but since she was pregnant and she got a big kick out of it if she'd wake up in the morning and things had been straightened up, she'd kind of, she really responded well, she liked it very much. She'd run in and kiss me and . . . so I did the dishes for her . . .So I did the dishes in the sink and then I went into the master bedroom to go to bed at which time . . .
Q. This must have been when, about 2?
A. This was just going on 2 o'clock now, right . . . At this time, sometime during the prior hour, Kristy had gotten out of bed and gone into the master bedroom . . . And she was in bed and she was on my side of the bed. And she had wet the bed and there was a large wet spot on my half of the bed which the photographs taken by the Army show. So I picked up Kristy and put her in her own bed and gave her a bottle and went back to the couch in the living room simply because . . . There were a lot of obscene allegations made as to why I was on the couch . . . having no basis in fact . . . The fact that there had been a lot of comment to the effect of why was I sleeping on the couch. Well, it was very simple. The bed was wet on my half of the bed . . .
Q. To change the sheet you would have had to wake her up?
A. Right. That would be ridiculous, to wake her up . . . She has trouble sleeping through the night when she's pregnant and she had taken a sleeping pill. No, I just took the quilt and went to bed on the couch with a quilt. That was no big deal . . .
. . . At the time, the lights on in the house were the kitchen ceiling light . . . and also the main bathroom light was on. This would let some light into the hall . . .
Q. . . . You went right to sleep, didn't you? . . . You had no trouble falling asleep? Even when you're tired?
A. Right . . . at that point in my life . . . I could go to sleep easily. And this has since changed, under the circumstances. But until this point, even if I wasn't tired after a normal day, as soon as I lay down, within a matter of three to four minutes, I was asleep . . .
. . . The next thing that I was aware of was I was awakened . . . I was awakened by a scream from my wife and the room is mainly in darkness. There's a little bit of light coming out of the kitchen and . . . But I heard this, what sounded to me like a very loud scream, and it was Colette--it was her voice. And she screamed and I sort of sat up and pushed the covers down . . . Now things all happened at once--You know, when you hear it, it sounds like there's a long chronology.
Q. But it's almost simultaneous?
A. Right, I was sitting up and I was hearing this, to me, very piercing scream . . . Then she did say, "Help, Jeff. Why are they doing this to me?" And as I sat up, I heard this--heard the scream, heard, "Help Jeff. Why are they doing this to me?" It would seem loud. There were people at the foot of the bed and at the same . . .
Q. At the foot of your couch?
A. Right. At the foot of my couch in the living room . . . Three males and then I saw female behind the three males, so I saw a total of four. Now this is all I ever saw through the whole thing.
At this time I was hearing the scream and one of my--Kimberly, (sic) the oldest girl, started screaming also. And she started screaming, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy." . . . At the same time that I heard the screams, I saw these people and I got up to say, "What's going on?" You know, "What the hell's going on?" And, "What's going on here?" And I noticed the people and the man on my left--there were two men at the front of the couch and a third man sort of between the couch and the coffee table that was next to the couch.
They all were facing me and, at this time, I saw the girl behind the two men at the foot of the couch. Now all I really saw was that it appeared to be a girl with long blonde hair and a big floppy hat on and I had an instantaneous impression that she was holding like a candle in her hands. It was mainly gotten because there was sort of a light on her face. Now it could have been a flashlight.
Now you see what happens is you make a statement, and the provost marshal of the Army, I mean at the post here, gives it out and then it's taken as gospel, you know that there was definitely a woman who was holding a lighted candle, and that is never what I said to any investigator. I said it appeared that she was holding some sort of . . . my instantaneous impression was that it could have been a candle; it could also have been a flashlight. I thought at the time it was a candle. I don't really know why I thought that.
Okay. The three males were to my left, a Negro male in an Army jacket.
Q. There was only a light coming from the kitchen and from the hall?
A. And from the hallway. There is enough to see figures. There is not enough to see details.
Q. But you saw the Army jacket?
A. Right. He had on a fatigue jacket. He did not appear--And I might add, I never, ever have used the word "hippies" in describing these people. I never used this word. This word was supplied by the provost marshal at Fort Bragg giving it out to the press. I talked about people and I talked about a girl with a hat and long blonde hair. The males involved in this did not have long hair. And when I say long hair, I'm talking about long hair, you know, shoulder length hair. I never got into real specifics about whether it was very short hair or moderately long hair . . .
Okay. This Negro male to my left started approaching me; in other words, he came down toward me between the couch and the coffee table, and he raised something over his head which I, at that time, took to be a baseball bat. And he swung it down toward me. And I started to fall back and I put my arm up and fended it off, and he hit me on the forehead, at which time I literally saw stars. I don't know at this time if I was still hearing screams coming from the bedrooms. I was awakened by it and I heard that exclamation by my wife and I heard Kimmy say, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy," as this guy was raising the club and swinging at me. I then--From this point on, things are going to sound a little jumbled, and they were jumbled. The investigators that came into the scene later and unbelievably jumbled and they weren't hit and stabbed or anything. But I, I just want to get that clear for the record. I was hit on the head this time. It knocked me backwards on the couch . . .
I literally saw stars at this time. I was hit on the head and seeing stars, becoming more confused. I struggled back to a sitting position. At this time, he raised the club again and he started swinging it down and I sort of fended it off and as I did so, I grabbed his arm and slid down onto the club. So I has holding he club with my hands. And at this time was when I saw sergeant's strips on his sleeve. In other words, I was holding a club, his arm right in front of my face, and I thought I saw sergeant stripes . . . At this time, or as this was occurring, the girl was saying, "Acid is groovy. Kill the pigs."
Q. It was also said that she said, "Hit 'em again."
A. Right. This probably sounds ridiculous but I'm not sure if she said that. I think that she said that once or twice. She wasn't chanting it and she wasn't shouting any of this. I heard distinctly several times, "Acid is groovy. Kill the pigs," before I was struck the first time and afterwards.
Q. And you surmised from the screams from the bedroom that there were others apparently in there in addition to the ones you saw?
A. Actually, I didn't surmise there were more people than the four I saw. I don't know what happened. In reconstructing it, you could say either very easily. My own feeling is that what had happened is they came in the door that led to the master bedroom--this is an aside now but it's important at this point--and that the people entered the house through the door, the door was open, and they came in that back door, made it through the utility room which went right into the master bedroom.
Q. And this was not locked?
A. Right, it was not locked. At this time--- We were not in the habit of checking the doors really carefully. Every once in a while I did and I would very frequently find them unlocked, especially that one because Colette would be doing laundry back there in the utility room . . .
Q. And that leads to the outside?
A. And that leads to the outside and the kids would be coming in and out. So at night if I did check, sometimes I would find it open and I'd lock it, but normally, we weren't very careful about stuff like that . . .
. . . Now, so we're at the point where I'm holding onto the club. The girl had bluntly said this, in kind of a monotone--she wasn't shrieking--they were--The only unusual thing in thinking back was that they were not excited or yelling or anything. In other words, it was just . . . she said it in kind of a monotone. Now I have seen many people in emergency rooms on drugs like this . . .
Q. Do you remember being stabbed?
A. Right. I was holding onto the club, at which time the struggle became more confusing; but then, at this time, I developed a terrific pain in my chest--my right chest. And I assumed that I was being punched. Because I was feeling blows that seemed from all over. And I can remember thinking to myself that "Jesus, this guy throws a helluva punch." I was assuming at the time that this was a punch. By the way, I had pajama tops and bottoms on. After I felt this terrible pain, I let go of the club and turned to grapple with these other two people. And during the struggle . . .
Q. Two men?
A. Right, there were two white white males. Now at this point, I'm on the couch like this. The couch is still right here--here's a man, here's a man and the Negro is right here. And this is all very close and, when you talk about it, it makes it sound as though it's a big spaced-out arena. I'm holding . . . I half up like this--this is the second time I've gotten up now-- and I'm like that, just like this (sitting with one leg on a chair and one off) and I'm holding on to the club and this--and I felt this pain from--over here (right chest area). And I thought to myself. It's really funny how you get certain recollections that are very clear and I thought to myself, "Jesus this guy's throwing a helluva punch."
Q. Actually you've been stabbed?
A. Right. As it turned out. But, you know, it's easy in retrospect. I guess I interpret pain as being hard to breathe and I thought that he had punched me in the chest real hard and knocked the wind out of me. I let go of the club and I began grappling with these two people. Sometime, in striking out, I hit someone's face--I thought it was the Negro's face. Now, at this point, my shirt was either pulled over my head or it was ripped. I have a feeling it was ripped because I don't have any impression in my mind of something being pulled over my head. I think it was ripped around me in the struggle. In any case, it ended up wrapped around my forearm and partially on my hands. And I'm struggling with these guys, and I grabbed the guys hand and I had the impression that he had on gloves. Now again, you know saying it--especially when you read a statement, it reads black and white--but this was an instantaneous impression in darkness in a struggle where I'd just been hit on the head, and I had the impression that they were gloves. Now they were not--they appeared like rough, you know the yellow kitchen with pebble grain, that the--this is just an impression--but I had the impression that he had gloves on . . . This was one of the white men that had the-- I thought had been punching me.
So I'm grabbing him, grappling with him and, during this, I was holding on his hand. I was holding his hand and I looked at it and I saw a blade in his hand and I realized at this point I was being stabbed and I was not being punched.
Q. Now . . . had you gotten up on your feet? Were you sitting up?
A. No, I was never really on my feet again. I was sitting sort of with one leg on the couch and one leg on the floor, being pushed backward by the people coming on me and I'm holding-- And I thought it plain, it hit me that I'd been stabbed and that I was being punched and I was in a lot more trouble than I thought I was in. You know, on occasion you'll fight people or something and--not that you get punched but this was a whole new thing and it hit me that I was now being stabbed and so I was concentrating on that and . . . now, remember that this cloth top . . .
Q. Did it tie around you and just . . .
A. No, no no. It was just ripped--like as if I ripped this shirt around me--in other words this was a long-sleeve pajama top--it was still on my sleeves so it was in my way now, and I was using this as a buffer, really; as they were striking at me I was using this more as a shield and --I ended up with a total of 12 icepick wounds across the abdomen and three icepick wounds in the left arm, one stab wound in the left arm, two stab wounds right here and a stab wound in the right chest. And it was . . . clear to me how this occurred now in retrospect. I don't see how there can be any question of it that in the struggle, that the shirt itself, which ended up having a lot of puncture wounds--They told me at the hospital they had 14, I don't know how many it had. They haven't repeated that to me but they came into the hospital and said it 14 puncture wounds. I had on my abdomen 10 to 12 puncture wounds and three in my left arm. And I was using this as a shield to fend them off as they were striking at me. The next--At this point, I was aware of being hit on the left shoulder and head with--I kept getting these stars and I started falling. I was pushing the other man with my left leg and we fell sort of toward the stairs or I was falling---
Q. Toward the stairs?
A. Well, at the end of the couch is the hallway. It comes out right there and it's two stairs, and the hallway is two steps higher than the living room. And I just sort of fell that way and, as I fell, I thought I saw, like, you know, a little bit to my left, right in front of me, a knee, and the top of a boot . . . And I saw the top of her knee and I was under the impression that it was a female that I was looking at . . . I saw a knee in the top of a boot and the boot looked brown and I had the impression of it being wet. A brown leather boot, high boot, and I saw a knee and that's all . . . And it appeared to be moist and it was a fleeting glance as I was falling towards the floor and that's the last thing before I woke up . . .
Q. You then went down to your girls' bedroom?
A. The first recollection that I had when I woke up was I was on my stomach on the hallway floor and my arms were still wrapped in this pajama top and I was-- My teeth were chattering and I thought to myself I'm going into shock. Teeth chattering and shivering is an early sign of shock. So I said to myself, "I'm going into shock." And the next impression I had was silence and then I realized that the last thing I remember is that I heard screaming. And so I got up, at which time I was dizzy and confused . . . I had a terrific pain in my chest and it was hard to breathe.
Q. Did you notice at the time you were bleeding?
A. Not at-- I mean, I wasn't, you know, I didn't even think about it. I just realized that something had happened. I had heard screaming and I went down the hall toward the big bedroom.
Q. Well, you didn't realize you were bleeding but you knew you were going into shock?
A. Well, there was blood on me at this point already, and there was some on my hands and pajama top, and I never really thought to myself, "Is this mine or is it someone else's," or what not. But there was some blood involved. But I said to myself, "Jesus, I'm going into shock." And I was laying there. My teeth--when I say chattering they were chattering--now that's different than shivering. You know most people think the teeth chattering will mean they were shivering but it's a sign of early shock . . . Of course, I had a confused feeling and I felt very cold and another symptom of shock is cold--cold, clammy feeling. So I went down to our master bedroom. Now, at this time, I probably turned on the lights. (Pause) My wife was lying off the bed and . . .
Q. When you say "off," do you mean on the floor?
A. Right. Right. And as I walked in, the light switch is right as you walk in the door and probably, as I walked in, I just switched the light on and I had never really . . . I really had no recollection of my distinctly looking ahead. I was just walking toward the bedroom thinking to myself, "what's going on? What has happened?" And as I stepped into the bedroom, I flicked the light on, and my wife was lying on the floor right in front of me. (His voice begins to break.)
Q. I know this is difficult, Captain, but would you describe what you saw then?
A. Umm. (Deep breathe) She was . . . Let me just charge on, then I can get through without --you don't have to listen to tapes of a crying captain or something. Well, I've gone over this several times with my lawyers and we always get to the point and the same thing always happens . . . If I can kind of talk about it factual, you know, like we can get through it and--you follow me--
Q. Sorry, I have to ask.
A. That's all right. My wife was lying on the floor, her feet toward the hallway that I had just come from, head toward the bed. She was lying sort of next to the bed, partially leaning against the green chair--easy chair next to the bed. She was . . . er . . . she didn't look good at all. She looked very bad. She looked . . .
. . . Uh . . . there was a knife sticking out of her chest and as I came in the room I was taking off this top--I don't know--as I came in the room I started taking off this top so my hands were free, and I saw her there, and I saw the knife and I pulled it out of her chest and threw it away or something . . .
Q. You just took it and threw it?
A. Yeah, I just took it out and, you know, just saw the knife and didn't know at the time what I'd done with it. I then tried to give her artificial respiration--mouth-to-mouth resuscitation--but the air bubbles were coming out of her chest and her neck and--I've been a doctor long enough to know what that means and, er . . . for the record it means that I cannot in fact revive her. There's no way that she can sustain her own breathing. At this time--things are a little confusing here. I think at this time I was looking around for something to do and when I was giving her artificial respiration--mouth-to-mouth resuscitation--like, she was kind of leaning against this green chair, her right shoulder was up a little bit so I straightened her out a little and gave her this mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Then I stopped doing that and I didn't know what to do, so I covered her with--I covered her chest with my pajama top under the theory that if she's not dead, she's at least in deep shock and you go over and elevate their legs and lie them flat and, you know, this type of thing. And I don't know if it was now or later that I checked her pulse. And I don't think I checked her pulse now. But at this point, I realized that I had heard Kimmy yelling also.
So I got up again and--by now it was getting hard to breathe, er, real hard to breathe. I had really terrific right chest pain. I went down the hallway, went into the front bedroom on the left and this was--went down there and went in there and this was Kimmy's bedroom. Kimmy's er, Kimmy--(long pause) Kimmy was in her own bed on the right side of the bed where she always slept and she was also--what I thought stabbed repeatedly. I didn't notice any other wound, I just saw a lot of blood.
I don't know if it was now or later, again I repeat, that I tried to give artificial respiration--mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I think I checked her pulse . . .
. . . Did not feel any pulses, turned around, went out of the bedroom and went into the other bedroom and checked Kristy. She was lying in her bed, which is right here and--she also always slept--and where I had in fact put her--and she was lying in bed and she had a lot of blood on her also, and I checked her pulses and I remember trying to breathe then in her mouth and giving her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and the same thing happened that happened with . . . (He put his face down on his hands and began wiping tears from his eyes. Interview is stopped for 10 minutes so he can compose himself.)
Q. Now, the statements we were given at the time--in addition to being--she (Kristy) had not been stabbed but she was apparently severely beaten?
A. No, Kimmy had suffered a fractured skull . . . Kristy had only been stabbed. All I knew at this time was there was a lot of blood, and I assumed from stab wounds. I did not notice anything else about Kimmy. But later on, the autopsy report showed that she had a fractured skill and she had been beaten . . .
At this point I--This may sound ridicules--especially when you hear it over. I was standing right here in the hallway. I came out of Kristy's room--I'm just standing there. And I don't know what to do. You know, I mean, it's probably the only time in my life where I-- You know, I'm kind of a competent-type person, you know, I mean, I would always take charge, I was always like the head of the family and the breadwinner and everything else, and it was the only time I've ever been overwhelmed by everything. And I didn't know what to do and I stood there and I realized how hard it was getting to breathe and I was dizzy and my head hurt. And I put my hand up to my forehead and it came away and it seemed like more blood.
Q. You mean you thought your head was bleeding?
Q. But it wasn't?
A. . . . I don't think the skin was ever really broken. No, it wasn't. But, when I looked at my hand--I went like this--my head was hurting. I was getting dizzy, and feeling faint and weak. And when I looked at my hand, I noticed that there was blood on my hand and I, you know, immediately assumed that it had come from my head, that I . . .
Q. Your head was bleeding?
A. My head was bleeding and I, in fact, had this terrific pain in my head, and I'm standing right here, so the next thing I did, which sounds asinine, is I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror to see what my head looked like. And I looked in the mirror and it didn't look like anything at all in the mirror. And I'm standing and looking at all the--and I realize now as I, you know, as I examined the kids--Oh, I examined Kristy's, I felt her neck for a carotid pulse. Kids sometimes, pulses are hard to get in the wrist, so I reached up for a carotid pulse and apparently this where some of the blood must have . . .
Q. I think you said you tried to give Kimmy mouth-to-mouth . . .
A. No, I tried to give Kristy--I'm sure, the first time. I ended up trying to give both of them after that. But the first time for sure it was Kristy. I'm standing right there and I didn't know what to do. And I rinsed my hands off and dried my hands off with some toilet paper or something and dropped it--I don't know if it was on the toilet or on the floor . . . Now I went back into the master bedroom. And at this time, I noticed that the back door was open. Oh, as I'm coming out of the bathroom here (pointing to a diagram he had provided) now the master bathroom right here--I just washed, you know, for really no reason. There's a closet right here which I had a lot of medical supplies in and I was making up a first aid kit for camping because Kimmy and I liked to go camping. And I had--I must have been thinking that I could start an intravenous. You know, a bottle--I had two bottles of intravenous fluid--so I opened the closet door, or it was open, because I looked in and I didn't see it right away . . . And I went back into the master bedroom.
And I remember now as I'm coming back into the master, that--I guess I'm just trying to avoid it--but I really didn't know if they were dead. You know what I mean, because the first check had been fast and I had looked and I saw all this and I checked bedroom and bedroom so I was back to Colette and I checked her (wrist) pulses and I checked her carotid pulse in her neck and I took away this top--my pajama top and looked at her chest wounds again and I sort of pulled it down on her abdomen a little bit to look at her chest wounds and this time I kind of knew, you know, even though it was . . .
Q. All this was probably in a matter of a few minutes?
A. Oh, that's all it is. You see, in telling this, it sounds so long but, you know, you can walk around that in a matter of 30 seconds. So it was probably not more than several minutes that all this occurred. So I checked Colette's pulses and she didn't have any and then I realized that what had-- You know, I hadn't called for help, nothing was happening.
I was standing here in the bedroom and it was getting very hard to breathe and my head was really hurting and I was getting dizzy and I didn't know what to do. There's a phone in the bedroom. So I went over to the phone . . .
I picked up the phone, dialed 0--this is an off-post phone now, not an Army phone even though it's on base. It had been connected to downtown (Fayetteville). Dialed 0 and the operator came on and I said, this is--something to the effect like, "This is Capt. MacDonald," or Dr. MacDonald, I don't know which. "I'm at 544 Castle Dr. and there's been some people stabbed and we need ambulances, doctors and MPs." And she said, "Is it on post or off post?" And I said, "What the hell are you talking about?" And she said, "Is this on post or off post?" And I said, "For Christ's sake, what difference does that make?" She said, "Well, if it's on post," she said, "it's an MP matter." I said, "It is on post." She said, "Well, you have to contact the MPs." And with that I dropped the phone. Or laid it down on the counter. I just did something with the phone. I think I just laid it down or dropped it . . .
Q. I assume you had no idea what time it was?
A. None at all. None at all. Now, I walked--I'm standing right here-- and I walked edging around Colette and I looked back here and the back door is open. And so I walked over to the back door and looked out the back door, didn't see anything, didn't go out the back, I just looked and saw it was open and walked back inside and realized that I had fully checked Colette now but I hadn't fully checked the kids. Went back to Kimmy and went back to Kristy, checked them for pulses and possibly gave them again mouth-to-mouth, but I know I checked them both for pulses this time and didn't get any pulses at all. And I guess this took about maybe another minute . . . I'm again standing in the hallway here. I'm saying to myself, "What's going to happen?" And a thought passed my mind to go to a neighbor's house and then, "You know, I still can call and try to get an MP." Our other phone is in the kitchen . . .
Q. Is that a post phone?
A. No. Same phone. Just an extension on the same phone . . . Went to the kitchen phone right through the dining room, right through here. Picked up the phone and the operator was on the line. The other phone was off the hook. She had never broken the connection. I said, "This is Capt. MacDonald at 544 Castle Dr.," and she said, "Just a minute. I'll connect you with the MPs." And there was some dial tones and clicks and an MP came on and said, "This is sergeant something or other," and he said, "Can I help you?" And I said, "People have been stabbed." And I asked repeatedly for an MP and doctors and ambulances and "I'm at 544 Castle Dr. And he said, "They're on their way."
And I dropped the phone. And at this time I'm not sure, I don't remember, now it starting to fade into oblivion. But I think that I'm standing there and I'm all covered with blood again from the kids and Colette from checking pulses, and I rinsed off in the sink. I'm standing there not knowing what--I know it sounds terrible for you to hear that--my lawyers are looking at me like this when I (told them)--but I did, it was that compulsive and I'm a surgeon and, you know--so I turned on the water or something and rinsed off in that sink. And that's really the last-- I started out of the kitchen toward the--and it's really the last-- I started out of the kitchen toward the--and it's really the last thing I remember . . .
. . . The next thing I remember was I was being given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by an MP. And I tried to struggle up and he was forcing me back on the floor and I tried to push him away--I wasn't sure what was going on or something . . .
Q. In other words, you don't remember how you got back to the bedroom? I mean, you obviously walked back. But you don't remember walking back?
A. That's right. That's right. And next thing I remember after making this phone call is being awakened or realizing an MP was giving me mouth-to-. And I was right next to my wife on the floor.
And we were struggling with each other. And I was trying--I thought that he said now that I was saying give me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I don't remember that. I just remember struggling with him and saying, "Check my kids." I looked over one time and then I realized and I said, "Jesus Christ, look at my wife." And I said, "Check her pulse," and then I said, "Check the kids." And at this time, with all this yelling, and people were going in and out and the place was an unbelievable scene. They're going back and forth . . . and a guy keeps yelling. "Don't touch that, put that down, don't use the phone," and there's people all around me and all I could see was helmets--you know the MP shiny helmets--and I remember looking up and all I saw was this circle of people and they were all talking and yelling and people are screaming, "Put that down, don't touch her, leave her . . .
Q. Of course, you knew at that point that she's dead?
A. Well, yeah, but knowing it and being, you know, officially . . .
Q. What I'm trying to get at is you knew they were dead but when did you really realize they were dead? Was it the next day or was it at that point?
A. It wasn't now. Odd as--I mean--medically speaking, they should have--you know I should have said to myself they are, but I never said that to myself, you know what I mean. I was just--I checked them, but I kept saying, "Do what you can for them." You know, "Check their pulses and see if they need a doctor." And then he said, you know, "How you doing?" And I said, "I have a terrific chest pain." I looked down and my chest was bubbling . . . So I said, "Jesus, why don't you check me, get a doctor." And, you know, I don't know what happened but, on and off, this guy was giving me mouth-to-mouth. There were people trying to lift me onto a stretcher. They are saying, you know, "Be quiet, and your kids are okay"--now this is where the confusion is 'cause they started --they kept telling me my kids were okay. And so with me hoping for them to be okay, I kept thinking, "Jesus, they're alive." They put me on a stretcher and, as we're going down the hall, I'm trying to get off the stretcher, and I fell off the stretcher--I actually fell in the doorway of Kimmy's room against her stereo--her little hi-fi. And they put me back on the stretcher and we went out into the living room.
And then the next thing really is Dr. (Sebert) Jacobson (in the hospital) was asking me questions and I thought I was yelling at people and they were saying, "Calm down," and I'm saying, "How are my kids? How is my wife?" And they were saying, "Fine. They're okay." Some people were saying nothing and some people would, "Everyone's okay." And they took me to X-ray and my chest--it was really hard to breathe . . . Then they started giving me medicine and I had an intravenous in at the time and they were treating me for shock . . .
Q. Well, when did you come to the realization--to make yourself realize that they were dead? What did they tell you?
A. . . . One of the doctors who was coming in and out was Dr. (Merrill) Bronstein who moonlights with me at these various hospitals. And I kept saying, "How are they?" And he said, "No one's told you?" And I said no, "Everyone said they're okay and they won't say anything." And he said, "They're all dead." You know, he said, "I'm sorry to tell you." So we had this . . . well . . . you know . . . a little scene and . . . (Starts crying.)
Q. Do you want to stop?
A. No. He said, you know, "I'm sorry but they, all three, are dead." And so he . . . I was crying for a while and everything, and he came back in and said, "What can I do?" and I said, "Call my mother and call my in-laws and have them come right away and don't tell them what happened. Just tell them to come."
Q. Let me ask you this: I believe you have said that you feel tremendous guilt in one respect, about not, in your own mind, being able to defend your family.
A. Well, this is what I have to live with. My whole image of myself has been changed drastically. It's been the hardest thing for me to accept that I failed my family when I was needed most. This is what has kept me awake nights and . . .
Q. Well, I mean, I'm not saying what happened wasn't--I mean, if it's four-to-one, no matter how strong you are . . .
A. The point is I didn't defend them and really you can put it in all kind of rationalizations but, in my mind, I feel that I have let them down. Maybe if a patient came to me with the same problem I would say, "Well, that's ridiculous. There were four people against one, you were hit on the head, you were unconscious . . . " But the facts remain I did not defend my family. And they are dead. And I have to live with that and that's been a crushing blow for me to face up to.
Part 2, July 24, 1970
Here is the second half of an exclusive interview with Army Capt. Jeffrey MacDonald, who tells for the first time publicly his version of the massacre of his wife and two young daughters at their Fort Bragg, N.C., home Feb. 17, 1970. Despite his protests of innocence, MacDonald, who was reared in Patchogue, has been accused by the Army of killing his family and then wounding himself. In this edited and condensed transcript of the interview conducted by Newsday reporter John Cummings, MacDonald tells what he went through after the tragedy.
Q. Now, one thing I'd like to ask: Do you know anybody who would want to do this kind of thing to you and your family?
A. No, I don't. This has, of course, been a terrific puzzle. Actually, I think--since I'm in this position right now, facing charges, I'm in this position now of being charge with something for two reasons. One, because I'm alive and they have come to this brilliant conclusion that with the mortal wounds suffered by other people in the family, I should also be dead. And, two, they don't see a motive for anyone else doing this to my family.
Q. But you have no idea of anyone who is fairly rational, would have a reason, have a grudge--
A. Oh, absolutely not. Absolutely not.
Q. Real or imagined grudge?
A. Well, now, let me say one thing about imagined grudges. There are people who every doctor treats that have imagined grudges. With no basis in fact, a person on drugs has no basis for his paranoid delusions and his schizophrenia . . .
. . . (That is) one of the first questions that comes to mind in reviewing the case. You go through all the possibilities, the gods, the fates, chance, and then the reasons. I don't see any logical reason why I was singled out. And I have to assume that it was a chance occurrence . . .
Q. Well, let me ask you this, why do you think the CID (the Army Criminal Investigation Division) has singled you out (as a suspect)--just because you survived and you're the only logical one that they could find or what?
A. I think there are several minor reasons. First of all, I did survive and my injuries, while serious at the time, are not as serious as the rest of the family's, obviously. They had more stab wounds, although in number I had as many--they just weren't as deep and I was defending myself . . .
Q. Had it occurred to you when you told your story (of the murders and the intruders) that you wouldn't be believed? Frankly, I did not believe it.
A. You know, it's funny how long it took me to get that idea--that people--and some people in fact didn't believe that. Since it had happened to me and I had witnessed four people and I had seen my kids and my wife in this condition and everything, and I knew what had happened, you know, it didn't normally occur to me that this wouldn't seem reasonable-- First of all, you'd either have to be on drugs or be psychotic, there's no two ways about it. What was done in that house was not done by normal people . . .
. . . Okay, now we can talk about--we can have a brief or summary of suspect day. Let me add just a few little kind of sidelights that add to this frame of reference that this took place in. April 6 was, let's see, a Monday and it was the day I was named a suspect in this case. Suspect day began at 9 AM, when I called Mr. Grebner (Warrant Officer Franz Grebner, chief investigator) and said is my furniture cleared yet from the house--can I come over and pick up my furniture and sell what I don't want and put in storage my other furniture. I had been bothering him weekly and he kept saying one more week. This had been going on for four weeks. Friday, he had said, "Call me Monday." So Monday, I called him and he said, "Yes, Capt. MacDonald, your furniture. Come on over and we'll talk about it." So I went over to his office and I arrived there about 9:15. I walk in in and Mr. (Robert) Shaw and Mr. (William) Ivory came in behind me and Mr. Grebner said, "Sit down, Capt. MacDonald. We want to talk to you." And I looked around and I said, "This is a little unusual to turn over keys to the house and have three people to do it." I mean it's a very somber act that I walked into. There were three men in business suits with guns on, staring at me, you know, and he said, "We have a few questions to ask you." I said, Fire away." And he said, "First, before I do, let me read to you your rights." And Ivory read Article 31 right then. You know, you have a right to a counsel.
Well, in the prior six weeks, there was absolutely no hint that I was suspect and nothing at all--as a matter of fact, on multiple occasions the public information officer and Col. Kriwanek (Robert J. Kriwanek, the provost marshal) personally had assure the press that I was indeed not a suspect--that I was a witness in the case and that I was to be considered as such and there was no evidence against me and my wounds were multiple and serious and I could not have inflicted those wounds on myself . . .
So I waived it and--my lawyers now are horrified that I ever underwent this questioning . . . I don't think it's unusual at all, that a layman would walk into this and go ahead with questioning at this point. He said to me at this conference that "we have a few unexplained things we'd like to ask your opinion about," and then read me my rights . . .
. . . So they began questioning me and--Mr. Grebner stepped back and he said, "There are some strange, unexplained things in that house and I am the chief investigator on this post and I would like to hear your story because I've heard it completely. I've only heard agents testify, you know, tell me what you said." So I went through for about a half hour the events of that night and the following day in the hospital. And he did not interrupt--there were a few very minor questions, you know, like, "Did you try to give mouth-to-mouth respiration . . . to Kimberly (sic) or Kristy"--or something along that line--but basically, I spoke.
Ummm, let's see, my recollection of this interview was that it was probably a little garbled because I had been trying for six weeks to consciously forget this. I would not any one time at all ever try to remember this . . . There are very minor inconsistencies--nothing at all in, you know, in the heat of questioning or as far as ever they are concerned.
This went on till approximately 11 o'clock. At this time, they said that they had some things they'd like to discuss but could I come back in the afternoon. They said, "Would you like some coffee first?" And I said no. I said I'd go back and have lunch. And . . . so I left and went back to my office--a little over two hours of interview. I went back to my office and it had been, you know, an emotional experience because this was the first time I had really told the story since the week I was in the hospital and I was upset and I did not have lunch and I stayed in the office by myself. And at 1 o'clock I went back to the (CID) office. And now he read me my rights again.
And now the atmosphere was changed. The morning was very easygoing and just my opinion of what had happened. And he--They opened the afternoon session by reading my rights, asking me if I wanted counsel. I said no, I didn't see any need for it. He asked me some questions and I answered them. And they said, "Well, we have a few more questions," and I said, "Okay, go ahead." And at this time, they started asking me questions that were obviously indicative that they felt that the scene was staged. And my impression was--incredible as it sounds at this juncture--my reaction at that was incredulous.
Q. Did you get mad at all?
A. Yes. I got mad at 'em. They-- I was swearing at them as a matter of fact, I said< "You guys are out of your goddamn heads." I said, "What do you mean staging-- Six weeks after the crime is committed, you calmly assume it's staged by me." And they said, "Yes, we have reason to believe so . . ."
The questioning at this point got much more direct and they, in fact, asked me did I murder my wife and kids. And I said, "No, I did not." And I said, "First of all, you've shown me a tremendous lack of investigatory ability. You've had-- You've been really incompetent from the beginning both on the investigation and on your public relations. My wallet was stolen from your custody . . . It's taken you six weeks to figure out that the scene was staged and now you're telling me that I murdered my family and you have absolutely no evidence. And furthermore, what reason do you think I had--" At which point he pulled out a photograph of this girl, the one . . . in San Antonio.
And he passed this photograph to me and he said, "Do you know this girl?" And I looked at it and I said, "Yes, it's a girl I knew in San Antonio." And he said, "How long did you know her?" I said, "One day--one afternoon and evening." And he said, "What happened?" And I said, "Nothing." I said, "I took her out."
And he said, "Did she know you were married?" I said, "She knew I was married and had two kids and I told her so before we even decided on a date that evening." He said, "Did your wife know?" I said, "No, I was away from home and it was a one-night date--pickup--and nothing happened. And there was absolutely no letters, no phone calls, no followup, no before, nothing . . ."
I said, "If you'd like to question the girl about that, feel free." And they said, "We have." And I said, "Terrific--then you know I'm not lying to you." And they didn't say anything. They put the photograph away and put it in a folder. And this was all done in a--in a tremendously Dick Tracy-like atmosphere.
You know, they had a light shining here in my face and two guys were facing me and one guy stood behind me and like every fourth or fifth question was from the guy behind me. And in order to see him and his reaction to either question or any answer that I would give, I'd have to turn to face him. It was really juvenile. And, at this point Mr. Grebner, the head CID agent on post, was not in the room. Mr. Shaw, who had taken the hard approach--he had been the one saying, "You murdered your wife, you staged the scene"--he left the room and they left Mr. William Ivory . . . He was silent for about two minutes and he tried what is called in the Special Forces a "Mutt and Jeff" approach--I'm sure policemen do the same thing but it's a nice basic . . .
Q. He was nice and gentle?
A. Right . . . I did not know this was being tape recorded--they didn't tell me that--they were just interviewing me. I never saw a tape recorder or a microphone or anything like that. He stood behind me. Then he walked over and sat on the desk and he leaned forward and he was very friendly and he said, "Capt. MacDonald," he said, "there have been a lot of allegations thrown around here today. Personally," he said, "I really have no feelings on the matter except I don't like the way some of my . . . er . . . fellow workers do things. I don't like the way they approach the problem and furthermore I don't really believe a lot of the things they have alleged here."
And I looked at him. I said, "Mr. Ivory," I said, "really, now, this is really very juvenile." I said, "I'm sure you're the other half of the "Mutt and Jeff team and you expect, by putting your around me and patting my shoulder, I am supposed to break down and confess." I said, "Let me set you straight. I have nothing to confess to. I have never done anything . . ."
. . . (Later), Mr. Grebner said to me . . . Mr. Shaw said to me, "Would you--" He said, "You have answered all our questions." In other words. "We don't believe you." And he said, "Would you take a lie detector test?" And I said, "Absolutely." I said, "Without any question. I'll take a lie detector test right now." And he said-- And there was stunned silence in the room. And--now you have to realize now this was--I'm talking with hindsight--but I said, "Sure," and I was amazed at their reaction, they were stunned. They just sat there in the room and looked at me and, about a minute later, Mr. Grebner said, "You will?" And I said, "Absolutely." I said, "I haven't lied to you." I said, "I'll take a lie detector test." I said, "Let's take one."
And they looked at each other and they said, "We can't give it to you now." I said, "Why not? You guys have made a lot of allegations. Let's take a lie detector test." And Mr. Grebner said, "Well, "he said, "we have to get him from Washington." And I said, "Well, get him from Washington. I'll take a lie detector test." And, at this point, he said, "That will be all." And I got up and left the office. And I went to my office--it was 3:15 when I got back to the office. And I got a cup of coffee and I was very nervous and, you know, I called Capt. (James) Williams and I said the CID was questioning me for almost six hours and they said that I'd murdered my wife and kids and that I staged the scene. I said . . . I . . . I . . . I had to tell someone . . . I didn't know what to do.
And he looked at me and he was stunned. He said, "I was wondering if they would ever do that." And I said, "What do you mean?" He said. "Well, you know, I mean there were rumors that they were investigating you." I said, "Well, why didn't you tell me?" He said, " 'Cause you're a good friend and my boss and I didn't think--I thought that you must have known." And I said, "How could it be known?" He said the rumors were that had been followed for four weeks and so I got very upset obviously and we sat around talking and he said, "Those dirty son of a bitches," and I said they offered me a lie detector test and he said, "You're crazy," and I said, "And I'll take it."
And I said, "You look very stunned." He said, "You're crazy." I said, "What do you mean I'm crazy?" He said, "You're absolutely insane to take a lie detector test given by the Army." I said, "What do you mean? It's read by CID agents." I said, "If they're making these allegations with no proof--" He said, "They can't submit a lie detector in court. How can that help you or hurt you?" And I sat there and I thought about it and I said, "Well," I said, "as far as I can see, maybe they will stop this ridiculous line of reasoning and I was gonna drive on with my plans." At this time--it was four o'clock--I got a phone call. And it was Col. Kane (Francis Kane, MacDonald's commanding officer) and he said, "Capt. MacDonald, report to my office immediately with Capt Williams." And we reported to the office and . . . he said, "It's my unfortunate duty to tell you . . . that you've been named as a suspect in the murder of your family."
And I said--and I sat down and Capt Williams said--and I said, "Col. Kane, this is an incredible amount of bullshit. I had just been questioned all day and I left the office and they didn't tell me I was a suspect." I said that they said I fully answered their questions and they were going to give me a polygraph exam to prove it. And he said, "Well, I just got a call from the provost marshal." And at this time, his phone rang and the provost marshal was on the line and Col. Kane was just saying, "Yes sir, no sir, he's right here now and I'll tell him." And he hung up and he said, "That was the provost marshal. He was reinforcing his prior phone call to tell me that you are now a suspect." And I said, "Okay, sir," and he said, "You'll need an escort officer daily." And I said, "What do you mean?" I said, "This will all be cleared up in a couple of days." I said, "You know, once you go to them with the facts and clear it all up." And he said, "Well let me assign an escort officer at least for today and tomorrow then. Capt. Williams, you'll be his escort officer." And then he said, "I better also tell you that they're having a news conference with AP and UPI and . . . " This was about 4:15--he said in about a half an hour. And I was just completely stunned--
Q. Did he say you were restricted?
A. Yes. He said you were restricted to post. You were to remain in your quarters except to go to meals. You can go to the PX once a day, you can exercise, but you had to stay out of work, stay in your BOQ (bachelor officers' quarters) otherwise and not go off post. And when you went out of your BOQ, you had to go with an escort officer. And I said, "fine," I said for a couple of days and then we'll square them away." And then he told me about the news conference and I was stunned. Because this was a very significant thing immediately . . . to everyone. This was a very significant occurrence. He said not only were they doing it but they were holding a news conference. This was obviously committing the Army, and even I in my state could see that. That the Army was now being committed to--
A. Yes. I mean it was clear that at this point, they were gonna do something about this. They weren't kidding around. This was no joke. So I went back to my room and Col. Kane said, "Why don't you get a lawyer?" And I said, "I don't need a lawyer. I haven't done anything. What do I need a lawyer for?" And he said, "Capt. MacDonald, this is getting a little serious. You better get a lawyer." And on the way back to the room, Capt. Williams said, "You better get a lawyer." So I sat in my room that night and--when I got back to the room, there was an MP guard set up in my hallway and he wouldn't let me go in and out except with the escort officer. He said I could not make any phone calls. I got to my room, my phone lines had been cut in the room--my private phone-- and the MP guard told me I could not use the hallway phone and I said, "What do you mean, I can't call anyone? I can't call my parents?" He said , "No, I have orders, strict orders not to allow you to call anyone." I said, "What right do you have to cut off the phone in my room?" He said, "I don't know, sir, I'm just following orders." Col. Kane arrived in my quarters at 6 PM and he said, how I was doing and I said fine except my phone was cut off and I can't call my mother or anyone else. And he said they had no right to do that. He said, "I'll look into it and get your phone service restored . . ." I said fine. I then stayed in my room the rest of the night and this was probably the bleakest night in my life except for, you know--
Q. I'd like to know a little more about that night. You were alone the whole night.?
A. A. That's correct. My escort officer went home shortly after 6. Col. Kane went home. I could receive no phone calls, get no phone calls, make any phone calls. All I knew was that Capt. Williams had promised to try to call my mother . . . to warn them of the upcoming new conference . . . the TV and the radio. You know, bulletin, bulletin, bulletin--Capt. MacDonald on For Bragg . . . called a suspect in the grizzly, bizarre murders of his family-- that he claimed, you know, words to that effect. And this was probably the depth of despair except for, you know, obviously, the immediate period following the original crime. The period in the hospital and maybe a week or so afterward when, you know, everything was black. This was not approaching that but it was the second worst thing I've ever gone through. And I must admit in all honesty that I really didn't sleep at all. I just tossed and turned and didn't know what to do.
And as asinine and silly and melodramatic as it sounds at this point, I thought of suicide. Now, me, you know I just, when I think back, it just--that whole thing is an unreal episode. I was laying in bed and this is all night without any sleep, and at 4 AM, I was looking at the pipe running across the barracks, an exposed pipe with all that dirty green chipped paint, you know, and it's really crummy looking at these pipes and I was looking at my belt and I was saying to myself, "If I jump off my desk with a belt, will it work?" And I figured out that I think my feet will probably touch and I'll screw up the attempt and it will be melodramatic and won't be effective and it'll be worst than having done nothing.
Q. Were you seriously contemplating suicide?
A. Absolutely. Absolutely. I thought I was. Now in retrospect--
Q. No, I'm saying at that moment in time?
A. At that point. Absolutely.
Q. You were going to do it? You were seriously considering it?
A. Absolutely. What did I have to live for? I had lost my family. Everyone. My wife, the girl that I had loved since, literally, since eighth grade, seventh grade and junior high school. Two kids. My wife was pregnant with our third child, which we hoped to be a boy, and, in fact, the autopsy showed that it was a boy. And we were the happiest we had ever been. We had finances coming in. We had an easy life. We had everything. I was a doctor now, you know, practicing medicine. And we had a whole life to look forward to and I had this fantastically crushing blow, and lost my family, and six weeks later, I get charged with the murder of them.
Q. What stopped you from doing it? . . .
A. . . .I think-- I thought about this--'cause I wondered myself did I really think so, and I honestly believe that I was very close to it--I really do. I'm a man of action, really. You know, I don't think that long about, you know, in other words, like I'm a surgeon instead of an internist. Or in the Army I'd be a command man instead of a staff man. You can see the difference. I'm not impetuous. But I do things and I don't mull them over for, you know, like weeks before I make up my mind about them.
Q. You make quick decisions?
A. Yes. Right. I'm good in the emergency room, for instance. And I was sitting there at my desk and lying on my bed and looking at the ceiling and the desk and I was entirely, I thought, lucid and very serious about this thing. And I think two things stopped me. One was the possibility that--would it work? And it will be this fantastically idiotic and melodramatic attempt that failed and it would be the second greatest bungling that I had ever done--the first one being not defending my family . . .
. . . And the other thing was--this sounds funny but dawn was 'breaking and since I suddenly had this, you know, sense of outrage more than anything--as dawn was breaking, it was getting light out and I got angry rather than feeling this sorrow for myself--what was facing me--of what I had been feeling all night-- You know, why me? Why me in this position? Why is my family dead? You know, why couldn't it have happened to my neighbor? Why couldn't I have been killed instead of my, you know, my three girls? And stuff like that.
And so dawn was breaking. I got angry at the Army, at people, I hated everyone. The only time in my life that I ever hated people. And I hated everyone . . . I got angry and saying, "Well they're not going to do it. This is wrong and it's a gross misjustice and I'm not going to let them do it." And I said, "I'm going to get a lawyer." And all of a sudden, my resolve crystallized and I said to myself, "That's what I'm going to do, I'm going to get a lawyer. Col. Kane said I should and Jim Williams said I should. And I'm going to get a lawyer at 8 o'clock in the morning. And we're going to make asses out of the CID and the provost marshal. And, I'm going to walk out of here and thumb my nose at these Jerks."
I said, "Even (if) I'm never happy again." This obviously severely hurt my medical career. Forever. And there's always going to be a cloud in some people's minds no matter what happens. If every person in the world attended the court-martial and every supposed fact was refuted at the court-martial there would still be a large group of people who would assume that I was guilty. And there's a great number of people who assume because the federal government brings charges, they're true. You know, in other words, it isn't like a local sheriff or another claimant bringing a charge. A lot of people have the feeling that if the federal government is bothering to press charges, well, it would kill me. And this was part of it and I said this is ridiculous. I know I didn't do it, so I know they can't convict me . . .
I was angry and I got dressed at 6 AM and waited for my escort officer and he got there at a quarter to 8 and he said, "What are you gonna do?" And I said "I'm gonna"--No, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, this is the important thing. I got dressed and I'm standing around pacing, waiting to get--go over and get a lawyer and start yelling and shouting and beating on desks and showing what asses the CID are and there was a knock on the door and there was the CID. It was two agents from the CID and they said, "Mr. Grebner wants to see you." And I said, "I don't want to see him." And they said, "I'm sorry, we have to take you." And I didn't know any better and I said okay, I'm stuck.
We went over to Mr. Grebner's office and we walked in and Mr. Grebner was nervous. He was pacing up and down. He had two pipes lit and he had a cup of coffee he was holding and, as he was trying to drink it, he was spilling it on his hand, his was shaking so much. This is a fact . . . The coffee was spilling all over his hand.
And I said, "Yes, Mr. Grebner?" And he said, "Are you going to take a polygraph test?" And I said, "I want to see a lawyer." And he said, "I asked you if you want to take a polygraph test." And I said, "Is your man here?" He said, "No, he'll be here tomorrow." I said, "I want to see my lawyer . . ."
. . . So I stood there and waited a few minutes and Jim Williams walked in, my escort officer . . . And Jim William said, "Hurry up. We have to get back to the BOQ. There's a phone call coming in on the hallway phone. It's for you" And I said, "Oh, really? Who is it?" And he said, "It's your mother and she has a big criminal lawyer in Philadelphia for you."
And with that, Mr. Grebner stopped in the doorway and said, "You cannot leave this room until I return." And I said, "Capt. Williams is here, he's my escort officer. I'm going to leave." And he said, "You cannot leave this room . . ."
. . . And he went down the hall. We watched him. He went into Col. Kriwanek's office. He was there for 25 minutes. He came out, he was visibly shaken and pale. And he came back in the room. He said, "You're free to go." And we left and we went back and of course the phone call (from the attorney) had come in and the MP had said we weren't there. He didn't tell them that we were at the CID office, although the MP already knew that . . .
. . . Capt. Williams and I left, went over to the JFK Center (Green Beret headquarters) and I walked in to the JAG--the lawyer's office--and I announced my name. I was Capt. MacDonald and I wanted to see a lawyer there. And the entire office stopped . . .
. . . The whole room, people were fixing coffee, and everyone stopped and exactly what they doing and looked up. And I said, "What the hell is the matter here? All I said is that I want to see a lawyer." And (a sergeant) stood up and said, "I'll help you, sir," and he went in Maj. (Pedar) Wold's office (chief legal officer at JFK center). I went in to see Major Wold, said, "Maj. Wold, I'm Capt. MacDonald. I wish to see a lawyer." (He) never shook my hand, never said, "How are you?" Never said, "Sit down." Nothing.
He sat there and changed his expression and said, "Am I under the impression that you wish counsel?" And I said. I said, "It is abundantly clear from what I just said, I want a lawyer. That's counsel, isn't it?" And he said, "Yes." He said, "I think have the man for you." And he left the room and he came back five minutes later and brought me in the next office. And he introduced me to Capt. James Douthat . . .
As I saw Jim Douthat, I knew he was the man--it sounds ridiculous but his hair was just a shade too long and his boots weren't polished highly. Even though I did that--my hair was always right and my boots were always right, but I knew somehow that most doctors and all good lawyers in the Army don't do that. They're not Army first, they're professionals first and then Army. And Maj. Wold is a (all Army), you know, from head to-- He gets a haircut every four days and he gets a starched uniform every day, spit-shines his boots every night and this kind of thing. This is what's important to him.
And Capt. Douthat was holding a cup of coffee and, I'll never forget this, it was unbelievable, as I walked in he said--he was holding the cup of coffee and he started shaking and it spilled all over his hand and I said, "Capt. Douthat, I don't know what's going on here but everyone I talk to starts shaking so much the coffee spills." And he put the coffee down and started laughing, and he shook my hand and he said, "Have a seat." And I said, "Well, I really don't think I have to stay long. I have a few problems but I think we're gonna clear them up real fast. Everyone seems to think I need a lawyer and I decided three hours ago I do need a lawyer and I want to talk to you about a few things.
And he said-- He looked at me--he was all red, blushing, he was very embarrassed--and he said, "Capt. MacDonald," he said, "you sit down because we have a few things to talk about. You are in serious need of a lawyer." And I sat down. I was taken aback by his approach. And I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "I've been waiting for you for four weeks." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Maj. Wold told me four weeks ago that when you were charged that--" Capt. Douthat said, you know, "Maj. Wold said, 'Jim, when Capt. MacDonald is charged, you will be assigned his case.'" And I said, "You knew this four weeks ago?" And he said yes and he got very red, and he said, "I'm sorry but it's unethical to contact the client. I cannot do that." He said, "I will admit that I placed a few phone calls to friends of friends who were trying to get a hold of you this morning at 6 AM, but the MP would not let the phone calls go through. And they were going to suggest to you to come a Capt. James Douthat. But I had no way to contact you, directly." He said, "I have been going crazy for four weeks--I have done investigation on the case already." He had spies in the CID office, spies at the corps . . .
Q. He said that he know this for four weeks, then?
A. Four weeks. And I was dumfounded. I said, "What do you mean you've know this for four weeks?" He said, You have been tailed wherever you're gone for four weeks. Your mail was being screened . . ."
He said, "Let's get on thing straight." He said, "When the Army held that news conference (announcing MacDonald was a suspect) last night at 4:15," he said, "you are going to be charged with the crime." He said, "Whether or not it's gonna be a court-martial depends on the Article 32 (hearing)." And I knew nothing at all about justice, military, legal matters, and he then explained in five sentences what Article 32 was. And he said, "We might be able to beat it if, in fact, you're innocent at your Article 32, but I have a strong feeling that they can bulldoze through a 32 and get you to a court-martial . . .
. . . At this time, he asked me what had transpired recently. And I told him about this interview and he kept sinking lower and lower into his chair. Every time I told him something that transpired, he'd sink a little lower. He seemed very kind. He never called me stupid. He just made a few casual observations like, "Why didn't you call a lawyer?"
. . . And we set up a conference for later that afternoon to start beginning the interview so he could understand what had happened. And I was back to my BOQ and, at approximately 12:30, I got a call from Philadelphia, a conference call from (Attorney) Bernard Segal's office, and Robert Stern, (a friend) who retained him, gave him initially $2,500 for my mother. We didn't have any money . . .
. . . And Bernard Segal said . . . "I have two questions. Do you want me as counsel?" So I said, "I don't know anything about you." He said, " I'm a criminal lawyer. I've written a two-volume text. I'm a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Bob Stern recommended me." I said, "That's good enough for me." He said--And I said, "What's your second question?" He said, "Do you have a military lawyer?" I said yes. He said, "That leaves me with two more questions." I said, "Go ahead" He said, "What do you think of him?" I said, "I like him." He said, "Second question: are his boots shiny?"
And I knew I had the right lawyer in Philadelphia. And I started laughing even under the circumstances. I couldn't help it. I said, "That was a fantastic question, Mr. Segal." I said, "No, he does not shine his boots." And he said, "Good. We have the right man . . ."
. . . At this point, of course, this was the only phone call that I had gotten. This is Tuesday and . . . the MP in the hall said after this, I still could not use the phone. It was Friday before I could make another phone call and I could not receive any phone calls during that time. So I was without use of a phone, even to call my lawyer, mind you. I specifically requested on four occasions . . . I haven't been charged with a crime, I am called a suspect in a case . . .
. . . I'll just say a few words about charging day. This was on Friday, 1 May 1970. I'd been in my BOQ for four weeks, leaving only to eat, exercise, go to the PX. We had persistent reports . . . we had extensive numbers of informants . . .
Col. Kane, on Tuesday, three days before Friday, 1 May, was given instructions by (Maj.) Gen. (Edward) Flanagan to charge me. He was given a charge sheet from Gen. Flanagan, the convening authority for the possible court-marshal, and was told by . . . the staff judge advocate of the post to charge Capt. MacDonald. And Col. Kane said, "Well, let me look into this a little bit before I charge a man under my command . . ."
. . . On Wednesday, Col. Kane called the doctors who took care of me and they said, "Absolutely impossible that he could have inflicted these wounds on himself. There were too many and too great severity and, if he had--even assume he could have, the number and the severity--he wouldn't have picked the ones he did." For instance, the stab wound--there's no way I could have known if I was going to stab my liver 'cause . . . you die if you've been stabbed in the liver. Now, if I'm going to do it, I would have done it right here . . . (pointing to abdomen).
Q. Well, which has been said--that a fellow like yourself would know where to stab yourself.
A. I know that. But the stab wound itself is located over the liver, the liver extends up in the chest under the diaphragm but extending, like pushing up into the chest to the level of the fifth rib. The stab wound was below the seventh rib and there is no way in a stab that you could have known that you would not stab the liver. It would be an extremely . . .
Q. It's a common conception that a person can stab himself in a certain place in the chest area and not kill himself.
A. No. Absolutely not. No. I don't see . . . That, now, we're assuming that in the stab the lung is punctured, it's almost impossible--I can't conceive of a way of doing that without puncturing a lung . . .
Q. There's no cavity . . .
A. No, this is a potential cavity. The lung is out against the chest wall. It's only two, thinner than cellophane, membranes, with a little fluid between them that are gliding back and forth. And now, I'm sure, if you very very carefully--it might be possible to do this without actually going into the lung-- but you would not know that you had done that. In other words, if you did it a hundred times, maybe a couple of times you won't end up stabbing the lung--you know, just collapse right in front of your--whatever you're stabbing yourself with. But that would be extremely unlikely and you could not know that. There is no way you can stab yourself without knowing that you would stab the lung. And . . . once the lung is punctured, no one can say what's going to happen . . .
Q. A doctor would have a better chance but . . .
A. Not in the lung area. No one would--if you were choosing a wound--you know, hypothetically, and I stress that, if you were choosing a wound, you would not choose the lung, you would go to the abdomen . . .
Q. Okay, I wanted to get that cleared up. The doctor had told them the wounds were serious?
A. He said they were very serious and that he said that any time I could have died within three minutes.
. . . Thursday went by. We expected to be charged on Thursday originally and then nothing happened, and we kind of waited around to be charged. And then Jim, from one of his sources, said we were going to be charged on late Friday afternoon so we couldn't respond to the press. In other words, all the press releases would go out, and then the Army shut down for the weekend, and all the press releases would go out and so the whole country would get this for three days before there could be any response or any questions even to CID or to Col. Kane or anyone else . . .
And he (Capt. Williams) got a call from Col. Kane at 1 o'clock saying, "Be in my office with Capt. MacDonald at 4 PM sharp." We went to his office at 4 PM sharp. And this was not a . . . day for me, believe it or not . . .
Q. Well, you were expecting it.
A. Yeah. I had been built up . . .
. . . The prior week, we had gone to Philadelphia . . . for certain tests, so my own lawyers would feel safe about defending me. You Know, in other words defend my family and things along that line. But they wanted in their own mind to have . . .
A. Psychiatric. Have ammunition to use for me and also to see . . . if I were guilty, you know, what was the scoop here. And so I went up and underwent four days of psychiatric and psychological testing. And the reports were 100 per cent behind me. I mean, they found little things in my character, that they would find in everyone--said I was compulsive and I was extremely upset about not being able to defend my family and things along that line. But (the psychiatrist) said that in his estimation . . . there is no way that I could have done it . . .
. . . Now he said, of course, he couldn't testify that at that moment, 17 February, that I wasn't on drugs, but unless they could prove that and show that I was a drug-user, there was no other way that I could have committed these crimes.
. . . We went to (Col. Kane's) office Friday at 4 PM. We walked in and I saluted him and he said, "Sit down," and we sat down and he said-- Col. Kane, before this, had talked on the phone with Jim and had said, "I don't want to read these charges. I don't want to affect Capt. MacDonald that way." And when he hung up, Jim said, "I told Col. Kane he doesn't have to read them. He's just going to say you're being charged with the murders."
And I got furious. And I said, "God damn it to hell! If he has the gall to charge me, he's going to read the charges. Is he's that much of a nice guy that he doesn't want to hurt my feeling but he can go and charge me, he's going to sit there and read them to me." And Jim said, ""No, let's not get him angry." He said, "He doesn't want to read them. He doesn't want to embarrass you, and he doesn't want to see an emotional scene." I said, "I don't care what Col. Kane wants. If he's going to charge me, let him do something correct and read the charges The article says he has to read the charges." So we walked in there and Col. Kane looked at me and he said, "You are being charged." I said. "No." I said, "you read the charges to me, Cpl. Kane. If you're charging me, you read them for the record." And he read the charges . . .
. . . (Later), Capt. Paul Raines, (escort officer) he took me to dinner at the mess hall. We were sitting in the mess hall at 6 PM and, in the middle of a song, about two minutes to 6, the bulletin came over. We were sitting right under this big loudspeaker in the mess hall when this bulletin: "Capt. Jeffrey MacDonald, who claimed two months ago that his family had been the victim of a bizarre attack, today was formally charged by the Army in the grisly murders."
And that was a very weird and surrealistic scene, sitting there eating dinner with my escort officer and listening to this thing over your head about yourself. You're sitting there and you're hearing, "Capt. Jeffrey R. MacDonald," ringing through this room, "murdered his wife and, " you know, "and kids." And, it was weird. And we back to the BOQ and now the MP has told me that no longer can I make any phone calls. Again, including my lawyers. And it wasn't until Tuesday morning that I could again call out or receive a call from my lawyers. And it wasn't until Sunday night that I got any phone calls at all, one from my mother . . .
Q. Is there anything else you'd like to say?
A. I don't know if I mentioned it to you in all my garbling, but what is really stunning about all this is: can you imagine what would have happened to me if I was a private--or colored?
Q. You'd be in the stockade?
A. In the stockade? I'd be Leavenworth, right now, convicted. There's no question, absolutely none, in my mind, now that I have seen this procedure work. There is no question of it; if I was a private, or if I was a low-ranking--especially colored--type, I would be in the stockade for something I didn't do, right now. Convicted. There's no question . . . that if you can afford a decent lawyer . . . you're all right.
Q. Has this taught you anything? Is there any moral in all this for you? Is there any philosophical point in all this. . .?
A. Right . . . I've just said one of the real moments of truths that I've found, that this country is not really--I've always been an optimist, a terrific optimist and I always look on the good side of things, and I always see the best in everything and everybody for that matter. And I don't mean to sound vicious or bitter . . . But this has really shown me a whole new side to this country.
Q. You've been radicalized? I'm not talking about the ones who burn flags . . .
A. No, not burning and looting . . . This has really opened my eyes. Every single thing I read in a newspaper is read differently now. Little tiny things. You know, like a man filed a charge against police for pulling him off the street for no reason because he was colored. This really hit home now. And I have a whole new attitude as to how people are treated . . . It's just been stunning to watch how this works. It's just been unbelievable. Not only that, managed news by the public information office, managed to an extent that is almost unbelievable . . . and it's taken as gospel because the government is putting it out . . . The government should be very carefully questioned by individuals, much more frequently.
Q. Like these college students?
A. Yes, to some extent . . .
Q. Would you say this has radicalized you, not a flag-burner. . .?
A. No, no but I understand them now, whereas before, I didn't even understand them . . . I understand their feelings and frustrations. When there seems to be absolutely nothing you can do against an apparently, an impossibly strong setup . . . a steamroller setup, that is really unfeeling, uncaring unsensing--and wrong . .