April 21, 1982: Dr. Stephen Shea's letter in support
of Jeffrey MacDonald
Note: Translation of the letter following the scanned pages
Note: Translation of the above letter as I read it to be
April 21, 1982
I am writing this letter as a friend for someone who both needs and deserves my help. On March 21, 1982, the Supreme Court of the United States again overturned the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Doctor Jeffrey MacDonald was denied his basic constitutional right to a speedy trial. As a result of their action Dr. MacDonald is again incarcerated in Terminal Island Penitentiary for a crime he did not commit.
Since that time, many people have expressed their dismay in a system we all must live under that seems relentless in its prosecution of an innocent man. Many have asked what they can do to help. This letter will outline a plan of action that we feel is both timely and necessary to assist Jeff in his quest for freedom.
I have known Jeff for 11 years as a physician, colleague, associate and friend. I have worked beside him in a busy Emergency Department where tension and stress are a way of life. I have witnessed the emotional ups and downs that are inherent to a life that really is not his own; more a life for the courts to decide. In all aspects of my associations with Dr. MacDonald, there is a recurrent theme that is constant in everything he does; he is a good and giving person. My opinion is shared by all who have know him. The basic fiber of a man does not change.
In the early hours of a February morning in 1970, Collette, Kimberly and Kristen MacDonald were brutally murdered in their home on the Army base at Fort Bragg. The murders were peculiar because of their viciousness and brutality. The purpose of the killers was not merely murder but more destruction and mutilation, certainly inconsistent with anything that resembles sanity. Dr. MacDonald was alive when the MP's arrived but unconscious, as a result of 17 stab wounds and blunt head truma. One of the stab wounds, placed over the liver, collapsed his right lung. He was treated in the Intensive Care Unit at Fort Bragg Hospital and his wounds were considered potentially life threatening. On the morning of the murders Dr. MacDonald described four assailants that he had struggled with that morning in his house and based on his description of a "girl with with long blond hair, floppy hat and white boots," Helena Stoeckly was picked up by the local police as a primary suspect in the murders. An MP on his way to investigate the MacDonald murders that morning described such a person standing on a street corner in Fort Bragg, close to the MacDonald residence. Neighbors also described seeing a band of people in the neighborhood matching the description Dr. MacDonald supplied on the night of the murders. Helena Stoeckly was observed by a neighbor arriving home at 4:30 a.m. in the company of others, also on the morning of the murders. When questioned as to her whereabouts, she
stated she did not know because "I was stoned on drugs." Two days later, Helena burned her blond wig, white boots and floppy hat. Shortly, following the murders, Helena told her first account of what had transpired that night to a friend. This story was presented on several occasions to several different people over the next nine years, right up to the night before the trial in 1979. She consistently stated that she thought she was there the night of the murders, she remembered holding a candle (which matched Dr. MacDonald's recollection of the girl with the blond hair and boots holding a light), but she denied participating in any of the killings herself. She described vividly scenes of blood and violence and often times broke down during her recollection of these events. She described items in the house that she could only know about about if she had been there. This story was repeated by Helena to seven witnesses who were prepared to testify to that fact at the trial in 1979. One of the witnesses was a CID polygraph expert who polygraphed her during her statements and was convinced that she was telling the truth when she stated that she had been there. None of these seven witnesses were allowed to testify in 1979 due to a capricious ruling by the Federal Judge, Franklin Dupree. He stated that Helena was a "burned out drug freak" and that anything she stated could not be considerable reliable. Expert medical testimony was presented at trial that directly refuted Judge Dupree's "theory" but this was ignored. Detective Beasley of the Fayetteville police force described Helena as the "most dependable and reliable informant I have ever worked with." Still, Judge Dupree disallowed testimony by the seven Stoeckly witnesses. Helena was allowed to testify, but while on the stand she stated that she had no recollection of the night of the murders. She stated no recollection in court the day following recounting her previously described story the night before to yet another witness who was not allowed to testify. Judge Dupree remained consistent throughout the trial, denying 17 major motions of evidence to the defense while giving the government prosecutors free reign. By disallowing the Stoeckly witnesses, he effectively destroyed Dr. MacDonald's defense. "Everyone deserves the right to a fair and speedy trial." Had the jury been allowed to hear the Stoeckly witnesses, they could not have been convinced "beyond any reasonable doubt" that Dr. MacDonald had committed the murders of his wife and children.
The trial In 1979 was not the first testimony had been presented in the MacDonald murders. While still in the Army in 1970, the longest Article 32 in history of the government investigated the killings. The investigating officer in a 90 page summary stated the charges against Captain MacDonald "are not true" and that he had been falsely accused. He also recommended that Helena Stoeckly be investigated by the local authorities concerning her participation in the murders. A suggestion that was never thoroughly undertaken. Helena at that time was the daughter of a high ranking officer in the Army.
Since Dr. MacDonald's conviction in 1979, we have retained a private investigator, Ted Gunderson, a former West Coast Division Chief in the FBI. He has been able to secure some valuable information in Dr. MacDonald's defense.
We have in our possession a 53 page signed and witnessed confession from Helena Stoeckly concerning her involvement in the MacDonald murders on that February morning in 1970. She has named the other participants involved and described a motive for the seemingly motiveless crime. During that time, Helena and her friends were heavily into drugs. They were also members of a Satanic cult. The cult regularly sacrificed small animals as part of their religious ceremonies. Human sacrifice was considered the highest form of their "religion." Dr. MacDonald was selected because of his involvement in a drug rehabilitation program at Fort Bragg. He refused to treat drug addicts by supplying alternate drugs and this greatly angered some members of the cult. It was also decided that the greatest harm to Dr. MacDonald would be to destroy his family and leave him alive so that he would suffer maximally. This seems to explain why he was not killed with the others. The Stoeckly confession has not been heard by the courts.
This information was recently presented to the FBI. They have responded by stating they are reopening investigation in the MacDonald murders. The government prosecutors are attempting to block this investigation. We are asking your help in writing letters to those included on the attached sheet as soon as possible. Dr. MacDonald's motion for bail will be decided within the next two weeks and that is our number 1 priority. We would also ask that you strongly urge the FBI to conduct a full scale investigation into tracking down the other killers named by Helena. Our fear is that they will conduct only a cursory investigation and no new evidence will be obtained. We are convinced that a full scale investigation will finally clear an innocent man who has been unfairly persecuted during the last 12 years following the destruction of the one thing closest to him, his family.
Dr. MacDonald was convicted in 1979 because he was not allowed either a fair or speedy trial. The government presented without a motive. Dr. MacDonald was depicted as a crazed killer, capable of mutilating his family. Their entire case was based on circumstantial evidence that was incomplete and fabricated. What happened to the 56 sets of fingerprints that were lost or destroyed? How do you reconstruct evidence from a rime scene that by the government's own admission, was virtually destroyed? How do you explain the hair fibers found in Colette's hand that did not match Dr. MacDonald's or any members of the household? How do you explain wax drippings found in the house that did not match any candles in the MacDonald residence? An innocent man is imprisoned.
Is it coincidence that on the night of the murders a woman matching Dr. MacDonald's description is seen on a street corner by an MP coming to investigate? Is it coincidence that a Fayetteville policeman picks up Helena Stoeckly for questioning after hearing the description of the murders? Is it coincidence that Helena owns a floppy hat, blond wig and boots and that she destroys them shortly after the murders? Is it coincidence that she is observed returning home at 4:30 a.m., the morning of the morning of the murders and has no alibi? Is it coincidence that a woman who exactly matches Dr. MacDonald's description subsequently confesses to her part in the murders on several occasions? Is it
coincidence that she is able to name the others involved from an artist sketch of the killers given by Dr. MacDonald? An innocent man is imprisoned.
We need your help so that the truth will eventually be known. Please take the time to write a brief letter to any or all of the addresses enclosed. Timing is extremely important.
Those of you who know Jeff are, I'm sure, as convinced of his innocence as I am.
The basic fiber of a man does not change.
I thank you in Jeff's behalf,
Stephen R. Shea, M.D.
If I can be of any assistance to you in this regard, you can contact me or my secretary, Barbara Gallagher, at _________________.