TOPIC: Case Overview
On February 17, 1970, a 3:42 a.m. phone call to Fort Bragg dispatch resulted in military police officers responding to what they thought was a domestic disturbance at 544 Castle Drive. The phone call was placed by 26-year-old Green Beret group surgeon Jeffrey MacDonald who lived on post with his 26-year-old wife Colette, his five-year-old daughter Kimberley, and his two-year-old daughter Kristen.
Upon arrival at the MacDonald residence, officers found the battered and mutilated bodies of Colette, Kimberley, and Kristen MacDonald in their respective bedrooms. Jeffrey MacDonald was found lying across his dead wife's chest and one of the MP's gave MacDonald mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. MacDonald subsequently claimed that he was attacked in the living room by a black male wielding a club, and two white males brandishing knives. MacDonald added that there was a white female standing in the background chanting, "Acid is groovy. Kill the pigs." As CID investigators were entering the crime scene, MacDonald was being wheeled into an ambulance by medics.
By the late afternoon of February 17, 1970, CID investigators were skeptical that the murders were the result of drug-crazed intruders. The lack of disarray in the apartment, the proliferation of blood and fibers from MacDonald's pajamas in all three bedrooms, and the lack of trace evidence in the living room all combined to lead investigators in the direction of Jeffrey MacDonald. On April 6, 1970, MacDonald was questioned by CID investigators and was charged with the murder of his family several hours after the conclusion of that interview.
In the summer of 1970, MacDonald attended a six-week Army pre-court martial (Article 32 hearing) in order to decide his fate within the military judicial system. Due to insufficient evidence, the presiding officer did not hold MacDonald responsible for the murder of his family. The Article 32 decision resulted in the formation of the CID reinvestigation team in the winter of 1970. The reinvestigation team reviewed the original CID investigation, requested that the FBI re-analyze the forensic evidence, and proceeded to interview 699 people in 32 states. The final reinvestigation report took two years to complete and it recommended that MacDonald be prosecuted for the murder of his family.
In 1974, MacDonald was brought before a Grand Jury in North Carolina, and he was indicted on three counts of murder in 1975. Due to several legal motions, the trial did not get underway until the summer of 1979. In a trial that lasted over six weeks, the government introduced over 1,000 evidentiary items, and MacDonald was convicted of three counts of murder in less than seven hours. MacDonald spent a year in prison before speedy trial issues garnered him 18 months of freedom. The speedy trial decision was overturned in 1982 and MacDonald has remained in prison ever since.
MacDonald has appealed his conviction in 1984, 1990, 1992, 1998, 2006, and 2010. He first became eligible for parole in 1991, but he didn't seek this alternative until 2005. MacDonald's defense team presented their case to the parole board in the spring of 2005, but the board denied MacDonald's request for parole. MacDonald is not eligible for parole again until the year 2020.