Former Green Beret and Doctor, Jeffrey MacDonald has been in jail for over 30 years after being convicted of the 1970 murders of his pregnant wife, Colette, and their two daughters in Fort Bragg, South Carolina. A book and movie about the murder, Fatal Vision, were made and now, after more than 30 years, the Fatal Vision Green Beret Doc, Jeffrey MacDonald, gets a chance at new trial.
Jeffrey MacDonald seemed to have it all; he was a Green Beret, attended Princeton and even did his internship at Columbia Presbyterian in New York. He married wife Colette, after a quick courtship, and was taking the world by storm.
Until the fateful night of February 17, 1970 when everything changed.
Jeffrey MacDonald claimed that he was sleeping and woke up to the sounds of his then 26 year old wife and one of his daughters screaming.
He also claimed that he was attacked by three men, 1 black male and 2 white males, in the home that were armed with an ice pick, a club and a knife and that there was also a woman present
MacDonald was the one that called police and by the time they arrived, MacDonald was unconscious with his wife, Colette next to him.
He claimed that the woman he allegedly saw was holding a candle saying, “Acid is groovey”, and “Kill the pigs”
The woman, Helena Stoeckley a known drug user, was identified but not charged
Her name continues to cause controversy amongst both sides in the case even today. She allegedly told Army investigators, who were handling the case due to Dr. MacDonald’s military status, that she thinks she was at the home of MacDonald on the night of February 17, 1970. There was also reportedly a match to blonde strands of hair that Colette was found clutching to fibers found on a blonde wig in Stoeckley’s home. She died in 1982.
The army did not bring any charges against MacDonald and dismissed the case, MacDonald soon began rebuilding his life.
TruTV had this to say about Stoeckly’s possible role,
At the trial, she said that on the night of the murders, she was with her boyfriend Greg Mitchell and several soldiers from Fort Bragg. They were all taking drugs and she did not specifically remember what she did between midnight and 5 A.M. She admitted owning a floppy hat, a shoulder-length blond wig, and boots. She had burned the wig because it connected her with the murders.
Segal questioned her on why she had told six people that she had been in the MacDonald’s house at the time of the murders. She claimed that she did not remember.
One of those witnesses was Fayetteville police detective Prince Beasley who heard her say on the morning of the murders that “In my mind, I saw this thing happen.” Another witness was a friend who heard her admit that she was at the MacDonald apartment and held a candle while the crimes were committed. Two others were police officers who heard her admit to being present when Colette and the children were murdered. Additionally, an Army polygraph expert confirmed that Helena said she was present at the crime scene and had explained that her companions chose to punish MacDonald for refusing to give out methadone to drug addicted soldiers.
Ruling that Stoeckley’s statements were “untrustworthy,” Judge Dupree allowed the witnesses to testify but not regarding statements that Stoeckley made about the murders. This ruling was a major setback to the defense.
Colette MacDonald’s father, the now deceased Alfred Kassab who initially believed in Jeffrey MacDonald’s innocence, had a change of heart and came to believe that his son-in-law was responsible for the murders.
Her pursued the case relentlessly and, largely through his efforts, the case was brought to trial.
He was indicted on January 24, 1975 and brought to trial in 1979; nine years after the murders occurred.
Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder and given three life sentences.
In 2005, the parole board recommended another 15 years to be served before another parole hearing is held, reportedly because MacDonald will not admit any role in the murders.
He had steadfastly maintained his innocence.
Fox news reports that Helen Stoeckley’s testimony, who MacDonald identified as an attacker, will be a large part of the request for a new trial.
A previous MacDonald attorney has said Stoeckley was prepared to testify she was in the MacDonald home the night of the murders until former Prosecutor, Jim Blackburn threatened to charge her with the slayings. She later testified she couldn’t remember where she was that night.
Jimmy Britt, a deputy U.S. marshal when the case was tried back in 70’s, is now dead. He gave a statement to defense attorneys in 2005 that he heard prosecutor Jim Blackburn threaten Helena Stoeckley, a troubled local woman whom MacDonald had identified as one of the attackers.
Blackburn went on to have his own legal issues including being disbarred, according to Fox News.
The other major issue is that 3 hairs that were found do not match any of the family’s hair.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted MacDonald’s request for the hearing. It’s expected to last up to two weeks, and U.S. District Court Judge James Fox will determine whether a new trial will be granted.