August 27, 1974
Testimony of Robert Caverly (FBI)
Scans of original transcript
I, Mary M. Ritchie, being a Notary Public in and for the State of North Carolina, was appointed to take the testimony of the following witness, Robert H. Caverly, before the Grand Jury, Raleigh, North Carolina, commencing at 2:20 p.m. on August 27, 1974. All Grand Jurors present.
Whereupon, Robert H. Caverly, having been first duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows:
EXAMINATION BY MR. WOERHEIDE:
Q Would you state your name, please?
A Robert H. Caverly.
Q Where do you live?
A Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Q Where are you employed?
A A special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Q How long have you been with the Federal Bureau of Investigation?
A It'll be twenty years the 27th of September of this year.
Q Where were you stationed as an FBI agent on February 17, 1970?
A In Fayetteville.
Q In the course of performing your official duties on that day did you have occasion to contact one Captain Jeffrey Robert MacDonald?
A Yes, sir, I did.
Q Tell us how that came about.
A I was one of several agents conducting a dual investigation with the Criminal Investigation Detachment of Fort Bragg regarding a triple murder which occurred on the Fort Bragg Military Reservation on the morning of February 17. I was instructed by the agent in charge of the investigation to accompany an investigator, a CID investigator by the name of John Hodges to Womack Army Hospital to interview Captain Jeffrey MacDonald.
Q Having received those instructions, what did you do?
A I proceeded to Womack Army Hospital arriving shortly before noon.
Q Were you accompanied by Mr. Hodges?
A Mr. Hodges? Yes, sir. Accompanied.
Q Where did you go when you got to the hospital?
A We went to the ward, I believe it was on the second floor, and Mr. Hodges and myself talked to a doctory on duty. I cannot recall his name. We told him what we were there for. We asked him if we could have permission to interview Captain MacDonald. We asked him first if he was under sedation, if he was capable of being interviewed. We were informed by the doctor on duty that he had had some type of sedation. I don't know, a tranquilizer or something of that sort, to relax him and that he was capable of being interviewed and could be or was alert at the time.
Q Now, thereafter, did you go into the room where Dr. MacDonald was?
A Yes, sir, we did.
Q Now beside Dr. MacDonald and yourself and Mr. Hodges, was anyone else present?
A No, sir.
Q Tell us what you observed in respect to his appearance, his physical condition, his mental attitude, his psychic reactions and tell us what you said to him and what he said to you.
A I introduced myself and Mr. Hodges introduced himself to Captain MacDonald, who was in an Army hospital bed. He was propped -- the bed was propped up, his head was actually on an angle. He was wearing a pair of pajama, white pajama pants, as best I recall, had a sheet pulled up to his waist, his chest was clear. There was no top. I recall a pack of gauze or bandage of some type right here on his right lower part of his chest. And I am almost sure there was a tube protruding from this. I noticed some scratch marks -- what appeared to be scratch marks right up here on the left, almost near the shoulder, right on the upper part of the left breast and two bandaids on his left arm. Dr. MacDonald appeared to me to be calm or to be alert and his physical appearance was one of -- he didn't appear to be sick.
Q Did you notice any, what could be, stab wounds made by an ice pick on any area of his chest?
A This is what I was describing right up here on this -- it appeared to me there were just little scratches, not abrasions, the skin was broken right up on the --
Q Something that could have been done by an ice pick -- not by an ice pick but by fingernails?
A That's what it looked like to me.
Q This ran from the shoulder area toward his chest?
A Toward the middle of his chest to the best of my knowledge. I recall a -- not a bump -- an abrasion of some type, a reddish mark somewhere around the left side of his head. It was not a goose egg type and the skin to my knowledge was not to my recollection was not broken.
Q Just a little swelling there?
A Yes, sir, I'd say a little swelling.
Q It was sort of slightly discolored?
A It was slightly red. I did not have to -- to the best of my recollection there was no iodine or mercurochrome color. It was sort of a scrape or an abrasion, it was a little rough. It was distorted, I know that.
Q Now tell us what he said to you.
A We identified ourselves and Captain MacDonald agreed to be interviewed even though he said he was under sedation and was emotionally upset over the events incurred against him and his family. He stated on Monday the 16th of February -- the whole purpose of the interview was to get a chronological sequence of events that happened during the preceding day up until the time of MacDonald's injury. He stated that on the 16th of February 1970 he arrived at his residence at about 5:00 - 5:30 p.m. from work after having played basketball with some members of his office which was the headquarters -- the Headquarters Company of the Sixth Special Forces Group of Fort Bragg. He ate his supper and then his wife, Colette, left to attend classes at North Carolina State University Extension at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He said that after his wife had returned home from school they watched television and shortly before the Johnny Carson Show came on television, which would be 11:30 p.m., his wife took some medication to help her sleep because she was some three to four months pregnant. He stated that he and his wife were laying on the floor watching television when their youngest daughter, Kristen, started to cry. Captain MacDonald stated he went to Kristen's room at which time she stated that she did not want to sleep alone. In the meantime he said his wife, Colette, had gone to bed in the master bedroom. Captain MacDonald stated that he believes he went to the kitchen and got his daughter a bottle of chocolate milk and went back to her room. Stated he then took his daughter to the master bedroom where his wife was in bed and he placed Kristen in the bed next to his wife. Captain MacDonald estimated this to be 12:30 - 12:45 on February 17, 1970. He said that after he put his daughter to bed he returned to the living room and watched television again. He stated that after the Johnny Carson Show was over at 1:00 a.m. he read about fifty pages of a novel, then did the dishes in the kitchen, and stated it was approximately 2:00 - 2:30 when he went to the master bedroom to go to bed and noticed that his daughter had wet his side of the bed. He stated that he picked up his daughter and took her back to her room and he went to the living room where he prepared to go to sleep on the sofa. He believes he finally lay down on the sofa in the living room somewhere around 2:30 a.m. Captain MacDonald stated he was awakened at some unknown time when he heard his wife screaming, "Jeff, Jeff, help me. Jeff, why are they doing this to me." He said that at about the same time he heard his oldest daughter, Kimberly, scream "Daddy, daddy, daddy" over and over again. He said he sat up on the couch on his elbows at which time he saw some people standing at the foot of the couch. There was one Negro on the far left walking toward him. He observed two white males at the foot of the couch, and then he observed a white male moving to the side at which time he saw a white female standing behind the two men holding what appeared to him to be a lighted candle in her hands in front of her body. He stated before he could say anything the Negro male was next to him with a club in both hands raised over his head. He stated he raised his hands and arms to defend himself and was hit on the arm and across the forehead. He recalls -- at this time he said he recalls that just before he was hit on the forehead he heard the white female chanting in a monotone voice "Kill the pigs, acid and rain are groovy man, acid is groovy." He stated he was then hit on the forehead and fell back on the couch which at the same time the white female was continuing her monotone chanting. Captain MacDonald stated he began fighting with the Negro and one of the white males. When he was fighting with the Negro, one of the white males hit him in the side. He stated he grabbed the club from the Negro's hand in order not to be hit again, at which time he pulled the club down toward him and noticed that the Negro male was wearing an army fatigue jacket with sergeant E-6 stripes. He stated that he recalled that the Negro's hands were wet and slippery and all the time he was fighting with the Negro who had the club, he continued getting hit in the side by the white men, and shortly after the fighting he felt a severe pain in the side and one in his chest. He stated that the Negro and white male continued fighting with him and he pushed them away from the couch toward the hallway, at which time both individuals begain tearing at his pajama top. He stated that the pain in his chest became severe and he fell to the floor in the hallway. He recalls as he was falling on the floor he saw the white female with high, brown or dark fake leather boots and saw her knees showing just above the boots. He said that he noticed the knees and the boots were wet but were not bloody. That is when he passed out in the hallway. He stated that he recalls that while fighting with the males in the hallway that the white male had what appeared to be a knife or an ice pick in his hand. He stated he observed the shiny blade but could not say what type instrument it was. Captain MacDonald stated that he does not know how long or did not know how long he was unconscious, but when he was awake -- when he awoke he was on the floor with his pajama tops bloody and torn and twisted around his wrist. He stated he got up from the floor and went into Kimberly's room and saw blood all over the bed. He felt her heart and pulse but could find no life. He then went to Kristen's bedroom and found the same thing and he found no pulse or heart beat. Captain MacDonald stated that he used the telephone in the bedroom and called the Fayetteville telephone operator and said that "I need an ambulance and MPs at 544 Castle Drive." He said the operator started asking him questions such as his social security number, the reason for the ambulance, at which time he laid the telephone down and returned to the daughters' bedrooms and again checked their bodies but was unable to find life. He stated that he went to the kitchen and again called the operator and repeated his previous comments. He estimated he talked about five minutes when he heard a male voice on the telephone and other voices in the background. He stated the male voice said make that ASAP which in army language is as soon as possible. MacDonald stated that he returned to the master bedroom to his wife and pulled a small knife from her chest and threw it to the side and attempted mouth to mouth resuscitation. He stated he could feel no life in his wife's body and covered her then with pajama top and a towel. He stated that the next thing he remembers is being awakened by a military policeman as he was laying over his wife's body. At this time during the interview Captain MacDonald became emotionally upset and was not able to follow any logical sequence. So we had to go jump back and forth until we got logically what happened. He then furnished a physical description of the four individuals that he observed.
Q Can you summarize the physical descriptions that he gave you?
A Number one was a Negro male, eighteen to twenty-four, approximately five feet, eleven, a hundred and seventy pounds, medium brown complexion, medium build, black close -- black hair cut close to his head and he was wearing an army fatigue jacket with sergeant E-6 stripe. Number two was a white female, sixteen to twenty-five, five foot six inches, long, light blonde hair hanging down to the middle of her back, wearing a large, floppy hat, dark colored, high, brown or black fake leather boots, either a short skirt or shorts. Number three was a white male, eighteen to twenty-five, five feet, eleven inches, wearing a sweat shirt with a hood hanging down his back. Number four was a white male, eighteen to twenty-four, five feet, eight wearing a moustache.
Q Now these are all his words that you have given to us?
A Yes, sir.
Q You say you were taking pains to get a sequence of events in chronological order. On this occasion he said when he came to in the hall he first went to Kimberly's bedroom, then to Kris, then to the telephone, then he checked his daughters again, and made another telephone call and went back to his wife, and then removed the knife from her chest, and gave her artificial resuscitation.
A Yes, sir.
Q That's the chronological sequence of events that he gave you at that time. Is that correct?
A Yes, sir.
Q Did you see Captain MacDonald again?
A Yes, sir, on the 18th of February, 1970.
Q That would be the next day?
A The next day, which I believe was a Wednesday. I returned to the hospital again with John Hodges from CID and again talked to Captain MacDonald. Again advising him of the nature of the interview was to get additional facts and stated -- MacDonald stated --
Q By the way, at that time did you check with any of the doctors to ascertain what his condition was?
A Yes, sir. I was with John Hodges at the time and John went to the doctor on duty and asked him. He again told us that he was capable of being interviewed, that his mental condition was good and that he was alert.
Q When you went into the room and saw MacDonald, what was your observation as to his mental condition, his physical condition?
A He looked very alert to me. Physically he was a healthy speciman of a man, anyway. He was alert, cheerful.
Q Was he again sitting on the bed in an upright position?
A Just about the way he was the day before. He still did not have a top on of his pajamas. He still had the bandage or gauze on his right side and I still believe the two bandaids were on his arm.
Q He seemed to be physically in good shape as well as mentally in good shape?
A Yes, sir. I remember -- as a matter of fact I wrote it down here. He told us he was not under sedation and he would try to be more coherent during the interview than he was the day before.
Q All right, sir, now tell us what information he gave you on that day.
A We again asked Captain MacDonald to go over the events that happened the evening prior -- on the 17th and he furnished substantially the same sequence of events that I just read. He did state, however, that he and his wife had a drink of orange liquor prior to retiring for the evening. He stated that the difference was that his wife went to bed prior to the end of the Johnny Carson Show and that his youngest daughter, Kristen, started crying after his wife had retired to bed. He said that he went to Kristen's room and his daughter did not want to sleep alone. He went to the kitchen, got a bottle, carried it to her in the bottle -- or carried the bottle to her, and picked her up and took her into the bed. He stated he again finished watching the Johnny Carson Show, did the dishes, and started to bed when he noticed that his daughter, Kristen, had wet his side of the bed. So he carried her back to her room and he went to bed on the couch in the living room. At this time he stated he checked only the windows in the house on the evening of the 17th of February, prior to his retiring and checked the children's room windows to see if they were open and if it were too cold for the children. He stated that he did not believe that he checked either the front or the back door, as his family seldom used the back door. He stated he recalled turning the light in the hall and the bathroom as well as the light in the kitchen on prior to his going to bed, which he had done many times in the past for the children's safety during the night in the event they got out of bed. Captain MacDonald said he believes after the fight with the Negro and the white male, and after having been hit in the forehead and suffering the pain on his right side of his chest, that after awakening in the hallway he went and looked into the bathroom which is located at the hallway to see how badly he was hurt and to see if it was necessary for him to put a compass, a compress rather, on his forehead to stop the bleeding. He stated he believes he looked into the bathroom after he checked his wife and children. Captain MacDonald stated he made the first telephone call from the master bedroom and then went to the kitchen. But now, at this second interview, he recalled that he did not dial the operator the second time but heard voices, first a female voice, and then a male voice. Captain MacDonald stated he believes he heard his wife and daughter screaming while he was being hit and while he was fighting with the Negro and a white male. He remembers he stated when the struggle and the fighting started he saw four people standing over him in the living room but does not believe he saw all four of these individuals together again while he was fighting and struggling with the two males. He stated that he recalled that the shorter of the two white males, one in the hallway with the ice pick or the iknife in his hand was wearing lightweight gloves. He stated these could have been surgical gloves as he has several pairs of surgical gloves in his residence which his wife uses while washing dishes or cleaning to protect the skin on her hands. He told us at this time that he believes he may be able to recognize the Negro male and possibly the white female, but could not identify the other two individuals who were in his residence.
Q All right, sir. Now did you have occasion to have a third interview with Captain MacDonald?
A Yes, sir. We went back again. This was in the -- somewhere to the best of my recollection it was around 2:30 - 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon of February 19th. We again returned to Womack Army Hospital, and again we checked with the doctor on duty, and were again informed that Captain MacDonald was not under sedation, and was alert, and could be interviewed. At this time I was accompanied by CID investigator John Hodges and special agent Crawford F. Williams, the FBI agent stationed in Wilmington, North Carolina. We started again and had Captain MacDonald again go over the sequence of events that happened at his residence on the night of the 17th. But he could add nothing further from what I have already testified. This was to get some background information concerning him and some events that led up to the evening of the 17th of February. MacDonald stated that he entered the U.S. Army June 27, 1969, arrived at Fort Sam Houston July 1. He stated that he spent about five weeks at Fort Sam Houston, Texas and subsequently three weeks at jump school at Fort Benning, Georgia, and arrived at Fort Bragg August 20, 1969 and was assigned to the Third Special Forces, Group Surgeon. He remained in that position until December 31, 1969 when the Third Special Forces was disbanded and he transferred to the Sixth Special Forces where he was presently in the preventative medicine section. He stated that his requirements in this section was to care for the Sixth Special Forces Group personnel on sick call and the normal dispensing of medication to military personnel. He also told us that at this time he was moonlighting at civilian hospitals during his off duty hours and on weekends. He told us at this time that he went to work. He worked at a civilian hospital in Hamlet, North Carolina, went to work from 6:00 a.m. Sunday Feb. 15 until 6:00 a.m. Monday, February 16. He returned to his residence at 544 Castle Drive in Fort Bragg and approximately 7:45 a.m. he ate breakfast with his wife, showered, dressed, and left for the office at 8:20. He arrived at his office at approximately 8:30 on February 16 and stated he went home for lunch at about 11:30, returned to his office until about 3:30 when he left for the John F. Kennedy Center Gymnasium where he played basketball until approximately 4:45 or 5:00 p.m. He left the gymnasium and went to feed his horse which is on a -- behind a store located on Bragg Boulevard in Fayetteville and arrived home between 5:00 and 5:30 p.m. He stated that he took a shower, put on his pajamas, ate supper, and after, his wife left for classes at North Carolina State University at Fort Bragg at approximately 6:20 p.m. She took their family automobile, a 1965 Chevrolet, black top, white bottom. She was to pick up another girl who was in her class. Captain MacDonald stated he remained at his residence with his two children. He had no visitors, and received no telephone calls. Captain MacDonald stated that his youngest daughter, Kristen, was in bed by 7:00 p.m., the oldest daughter, Kimberly, was in bed at about 9:00 after watching a television show called Laugh-In. He stated he saw the Bob Hope Show at 9:00, his wife returned home at approximately 9:40 after stopping at a store on Fort Bragg for milk. He stated he and his wife watched television and shortly after the news started at 11:00 his wife changed and got ready for bed. He stated he and his wife then watched the Johnny Carson Show until she went to bed just prior to the show being over and he finished watching the show until 1:00 and then read about fifty pages of a novel, did the dishes, and started to bed. He stated he could furnish no additional information regarding the events of February 17, but he stated he believes that he may have looked out the back door after making the telephone call to the operator after being awakened or after the fight and he awoke in the hallway. He stated that he does not remember if it was raining outside or not and he remembers that he had a lot of blood on himself, but feels at this time, he told us, that he felt that the blood was probably from the wife and children due to the nature of his wounds.
Q All right, sir. When you contacted Captain MacDonald on the 17th, 18th, or 19th was he contacted as a possible witness or was he deemed at that time to be a possible subject of your investigation?
A No, sir, he was contacted on all three occasions as a victim to an assault, as a witness.
Q And that was because the story that he had told you and other people at that time was given credence and was relied upon and you were looking for these intruders into his house?
A Yes, sir, as I understand it. He was interviewed just slightly by somebody from CID. I can't remember whether it was Paul Connolly or Bill Ivory, one or the other, basically I think to get just enough facts and descriptive data of the individuals. I was instructed to accompany CID to the hospital to get a thorough interview with him.
Q Mainly, this was for the purpose of being able to identify these intruders, get a physical description of them?
A Yes, sir, and to find out --
Q And also to ascertain the chronological sequence of events.
A Yes, sir. Right.
Q Had you deemed him at that time to be a subject you would have warned him of his constitutional rights, I take it?
A Yes, sir.
Q That would be standared operating procedure?
A Yes, a standard.
Q But at this time he was regarded as nothing other than a --
A He was a victim of assault and a possible witness.
Q Mr. Caverly, as an FBI agent, have you been trained in taking and lifting of fingerprints?
A Yes, sir.
Q Is that a regular part of your duties?
A Yes, sir.
Q Are you familiar with the type of fingerprint examination that are made by the FBI?
A Yes, sir. There are various -- I'm not a fingerprint expert, so all I can tell you -- there are certain counts on everybody's hands and fingers. We take the palm prints, we take rolled impressions. That's when you get the little fingerprint card and put the ink on the hands and roll the fingers. On major cases, particularly bank robbery, bank burglary, extortion type cases, we take palm impressions which -- we ink the whole hand and get a cylinder of some type, like a roll, it would be a tube or something about this big around and just roll the hand over this way, getting ridge counts and all the different lines in a person's hands. At scenes of crime we pick up -- we dust an area that was touched by any particular individual -- we throw powder on it. If it comes up as a print we'll either put some type of tape or rubber sheet which has a piece of plastic over the top down on top of the fingerprint and lift it up that way. We call that a latent fingerprint because it would be one or two.
Q In an ordinary case, what does the FBI fingerprint section require for identification purposes in the way of prints?
A I believe it's been in court. I think it was seven but we normally, I know, the best one I had had sixteen points of identification.
Q Well, apart from the points of identification, how many fingerprints do they need in order to check their files?
A They would need ten fingerprints in order to make a positive comparison. Now, they can take one latent fingerprint if you've got a set of prints and a man's name, and date of birth, and place of birth, social security number, if he has been fingerprinted, they can take that set of prints and one that was picked up at a scene of a crime and he can positively state that the set they got is identical with the latent fingerprint.
Q Well, let's say you pick up one fingerprint at the scene of a crime, it's an unidentified fingerprint, what check will the FBI make of that single print?
A They classify the thing first. And it's virtually impossible to search the complete FBI Identification Division fingerprint files. There are somewhere -- there are over one hundred seventy-eight million sets. When I say sets, I mean ten fingerprints, ten fingers on a card. There are one hundred seventy-eight million, better than that, almost one hudred seventy-eight and a half million which they would have to take, and take that one latent print that they found -- that we found and send up there. They would have to take a hundred seventy-eight million, times ten, which I have no idea what it would be.
Q That's one billion, seven hundred and eighty million.
A Yes, that's right. It would take that many, you would have to look at that many fingers in order to classify one unidentified print. Now if that one print is known or if you suspect that it's a person you can send it up there and have them check an individual card in the files.
Q Have you ever lost a fingerprint?
A You mean physically lose it?
Q Well --
Q Let's say have you ever dusted and you found a latent print and somehow or other in the process of -- in the course of processing that print something happens to it.
A I remember a couple of times I put too much dust on them and too much powder and didn't brush it off enough, put a piece of scotch tape over it and when I lifted it, it just came out black.
Q What if you dust a print and you cover it with plastic surface and take a photograph of it, and then come back a week later and the humidity in the house has changed, is it possible to lose a print that way?
A I would say, there again, it hasn't happened to me, but, I have known of cases where scotch tape will crack in a print. I mean if you've got it up against a surface, the change in the atmosphere, there again, I am not an expert, but I would say it would have a tendency to crack or to -- have you ever seen scotch tape that's been on -- I know in college and high school they tape it outside a notebook, it'll eventually -- or a sheet of paper or something, it will eventually crack with age.
Q Do the Grand Jurors have any questions to ask him?
JUROR: I have one. Mr. Caverly, in what rooms of the hospital did you interview Dr. MacDonald? Was this all in the emergency room or --
A No, sir. This was in a regular hospital room. Seems to me it was on the second floor. I can see the room, but I don't know the number of it.
JUROR: It all took place in the same room?
A Yes, sir.
MR. WOERHEIDE: May Mr. Caverly be excused, Mr. Foreman?
FOREMAN: That seems to be all the questions. Thank you very much.
[ROBERT H. CAVERLY DISMISSED]
Webmaster note:The original stenographer's misspelling of Connally was corrected to Connolly in this transcript.