November 16, 2004: E-mail from Mike Pickering re: his
"Recollections of the MacDonald Murders"
Permission to use exclusively on this website
E-mail I received from CID Special Agent (retired) Mike Pickering, one of the investigators of the case:
In May 1970, I was transferred from Thailand to the US Army CID Agency which subsequently became the Criminal Investigation Command (USACIDC). At the time, the CID Headquarters were located in the old Tempo ABC buildings adjacent to Fort Nair, Washington, DC.
While assigned to the Investigation Directorate, I was ultimately attached (March 1971 thru July 1971) to the Special Task Force based in Fayetteville, NC that was reinvestigating the triple homicide which occurred at Fort Bragg in the early morning hours on 17 February 1970. There were several Agents assigned which included, Bill Ivory from Fort Bragg, Dick Mahon, Jack Bennett and of course Peter Kearns. Col Jack Pruett and Major David Reed of the United States Army CID Command also deserve recognition for their participation and leadership. As I recall, there may have been others on the team who left incidental to a PCS (permanent change of station). As I remember, the investigative team worked out of the Court House in Fayetteville.
We worked off a "Lead Sheet" that listed numerous investigative leads to be pursued which were assigned to specific Agents. I was assigned several leads, some of which I followed up on with the late Jack Bennett while others, I investigated alone. When I left the Task Force, I took a copy of the lead sheet with me but I have misplaced it over the years. One lead that comes to mind was to locate the MacDonald's house cat. If memory serves me correctly, it was a Calico Cat. It was not a "serious" lead but one that was intended to lift the spirits of the members of the Task Force who were dealing with this terrible crime and working extremely hard to bring the person(s) responsible to justice and give closure to the Kassab family. I also recall a lead to contact and interview Abigail Van Buren of Dear Abby fame. As I remember, there were some notes on the refrigerator in the MacDonald residence indicating that Colette may have written her regarding a personal matter, possibly related to the bed wetting of one of her daughters and/or a marital problem with husband Jeffrey. I do not recall who was assigned this lead or if Ms Van Buren was ever contacted. I do recall the Dick Mahon, who was a Polygraph Examiner was assigned to conduct a polygraph exam on Helena Stoeckley. I'm not sure of the results, but I believe that the test results were inclusive, possible due to her drug use.
I remember having to go to the quarters next door from 544 Castle Drive, Fort Bragg where the MacDonald's resided to obtain finger prints of family members residing there. I do not recall their name. I do recall the service member being very vocal and criticizing the CID for investigating Jeffrey MacDonald and thinking that he was responsible for the murders of his wife and two children.
I recall flying to Boston Logan International Airport to interview a couple of American Airlines Flight Attendants that Jeffrey MacDonald had been "socially" active with on at least one occasion. As I recall, this was in San Antonio, Texas during one of his trips there for a medical conference. In all honesty, I do not recall the specifics of the interviews other than the Flight Attendants did confirm knowing Jeffrey MacDonald.
I vaguely recall trying to locate and interview a female "acquaintance" of Jeffrey MacDonald who may have been a former Flight Attendant living in Louisiana near Fort Polk. Again, if my memory serves me correctly, I do recall locating this individual who initially claimed to have known him, but later recanted and denied that she did. I think she did know him but had second thoughts about getting or being involved.
I worked a lead which subsequently was dubbed as the Siler City Six. Siler City was a short drive (Northwest) of Fayetteville. I cannot recall how this information came to us, but there were six young adults in Siler City who apparently were talking about the murders and alluding to the fact that they had something to do with killings or knew who did. As I recollect, they were merely trying to impress their peers and what they knew about the murders they read in the newspapers.
I recall accompanying the late Jack Bennett to Jacksonville, FL in April 1972 to interview Cathy Perry who was living in Fayetteville February 1970 with her "hippie" friends and using LSD. She denied being involved in the murders. She stated that she had killed her pet dog by stabbing it to death sometime in November/ December 1970 while under the influence of drugs. She offered this information so as to explain the reason why her name may have been connected to the murders at Fort Bragg.
I recall being given the task to locate two rings belonging to Colette which as I recall were reported missing by Jeffrey MacDonald. I have an original hand drawing of the rings which I believe was authored by Jeffrey MacDonald. One of the rings was yellow gold with heart shaped diamonds. The other was described as white metal (gold) with an "S" shape red opaque stone. I think he was suggesting that the rings may have been stolen during the murders or during the crime scene search. To my recollection, we were unable to locate to rings.
About the same time, I recall having to locate a leather or suede coat or jacket belonging to Colette. As I recall, a Dry Cleaning receipt was found indicating it had been dropped off at a local dry cleaners in Fayetteville. As I remember, the establishment either burned down and/or was demolished by a Hurricane and all items awaiting pickup were destroyed or lost.
I also recall finding a hair brush in a drawer in the master bedroom that had strands of what appeared to be human hair. I cannot recall factually the color of the hair, but I believe it was blondish. The brush as I recall was retrieved and sent to the Crime Lab for analysis. I do not recall what the lab results were or what significance, if any it had on the investigation. I do recall some issues relating to blond hair and hair used in the manufacture of wigs found in MacDonald's quarters. I do not have any information if the hair I found had anything to do with that issue. Probably not.
At one point in time, the CID Command was contemplating sending someone to Huntington Beach, California to conduct a surveillance of Jeffrey MacDonald. I was approached by then Major David Reed, the OIC of the Task Force and told that he had recommended me for the assignment. The idea was short lived as I recall because of the concerns and risk of MacDonald finding out and the possible negative impact it would have on the Army's investigation.
In summation, it is my personal opinion that justice was served when the jury found Jeffrey MacDonald guilty for the murders of Colette, Kimberley and Kristen. I believe that the jury rendered the correct verdict based on the over whelming circumstantial evidence which clearly proved that no one else but Jeffrey MacDonald could have committed the murders. I commend and congratulate Brian Murtagh, the Assistant US Attorney and former CID Command JAG Officer for an outstanding job in presenting the evidence to the jury and successfully prosecuting this most difficult case. I applaud the all members of the Special Task Forces based in Fayetteville who reinvestigated this case.
Christina Masewicz has put a lot of work into this website and has done a fantastic job in reminding the world just what went down in the early morning hours on 17 February 1970 at 544 Castle Drive, Fort Bragg. NC. Jeffrey MacDonald also has a website which, in all fairness, should be visited as well. I also recommend that you read the book Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss and if possible, view the Movie made for TV, which bears the same title. Keep in mind that after all is said and done, twelve jurors unanimously found him guilty of killing his wife and two daughters.
Myron "Mike" Pickering
United States Army CID Special Agent