Article 32 Hearing
Volume 14

August 13, 1970

Robert Stern

MR. SEGAL:  We have a very short witness that we could dispose of.  He is a personal friend of the family of Captain MacDonald and he has a communication from Mrs. MacDonald that we want read.  I don't think it will take very long, sir.

COL ROCK:  Okay, fine.

MR. SEGAL:  Mr. Robert Stern.

(Mr. Robert Stern was called as a witness by the defense, was sworn, and testified as follows.)

Questions by MR. SEGAL:
Q  Mr. Stern, what us your full name and address, sir?
A  My name is Robert Kent Stern, S-t-e-r-n.  1 Great Oaks Road, New Hope, Pennsylvania.
Q  And what is your business occupation, sir?
A  I am an executive of a computer firm.
Q  Do you know the accused in this case, Captain Robert R. MacDonald?
A  I've known him for twenty-one years.
Q  What was the nature of your knowledge of having come to know him?
A  It was family relationship.  I was -- my wife and I have been close personal friends of the entire family, and their mother and their late father, and we have had a fairly close relationship through the years.
Q  Did you know the wife of Captain MacDonald, Mrs. MacDonald, Colette MacDonald?
A  I did.
Q  How long have you known Colette MacDonald?
A  Probably known her for twelve years.
Q  How did you first come to meet her?
A  I met her in the MacDonald home on one of our numerous visits.  We visited there often, stayed overnight.
Q  Was she then married to Captain MacDonald?
A  No, she was friend of his at that time.
Q  Do you know where Mrs. MacDonald lived before her marriage to Captain MacDonald?
A  I've never been to her home, no.
Q  Did she live in the same community as Captain MacDonald lived?
A  Yes.
Q  Did you have occasion to be in contact with Captain and Mrs. MacDonald during the years of their marriage up until February 17th, 1970?
A  On numerous occasions.
Q  Did you have occasion to visit with them?
A  Yes, both -- not at their home, but their parents' home, and in our home.
Q  Did you know the MacDonald children?
A  Yes.
Q  What was Captain MacDonald's attitude toward his wife, Colette?
A  I would say that he was a very devoted and affectionate husband.
Q  And what was Captain MacDonald's attitude toward his wife?
A  He was --
Q  I mean his children?
A  I think he was a very devoted father, also.
Q  What was Colette's attitude toward Captain MacDonald?
A  I'd say it was on a similar plane.  I think they were very devoted and affectionate, a couple who were concerned for each other, who were concerned about their life together, and I think it was a rather idyllic relationship.
Q  What was Mrs. MacDonald's attitude toward her children and how did she handle disciplining her children?
A  She was very devoted to her children.  She was -- took great delight in them.  I don't think that I can comment on her -- the disciplining relationship, something that you really don't pay attention to.  I think -- I think their relationship was good.  I never saw her abuse or use corporal punishment on the children.  I never took any note of that aspect.
Q  How recently, before February 17th 1970, had you had any contact with the MacDonald family?
A  In June we had visited the family.
Q  June, 1969?
A  June 1969 we had visited the family on Long Island and I'd seen the entire family then, and on the weekend of July 4th 1969, after Jeff had gone to basic training, Colette and the children came and spent the weekend at our house.  That was the last time that we saw Colette and the babies.
Q  Did you have any communications with Mrs. MacDonald thereafter?
A  Yes, we had several letters and the last of which was at Christmas time which was mailed to us from Fort Bragg in December.

MR. SEGAL:  I ask to have marked a photostatic copy of a document which we will identify as being the duplicate of an original.

COL ROCK:  Do you wish to show it to the -- we'll mark it after the government has seen it.

(The document was examined by counsel for the government.)

Q  At this time I've handed you a photostatic copy of a document.  Can you identify what that photostat is of -- what original document?
A  This is a -- a Xerox copy of the Christmas card which we received from Jeff and, written by Colette.  There's a note in it.
Q  Excuse me.  You say it was written by Colette.  Were you familiar with the handwriting of Colette MacDonald?
A  Yes.
Q  Is that handwriting there her handwriting?
A  I believe it to be so.
Q  Would you be good enough to read the message contained therein?
A  "We are having a great all expense paid vacation in the Army.  Looks as if Jeff will be here in North Carolina for the entire two years, which is an immense load off our minds.  Life has never been so normal or as much fun.  Jeff is home every day by five, and most days, even comes home for lunch.  I am taking a literature course at North Carolina State University and have to read two books a week, so consequently I haven't written to a soul since we've moved, but I do think of you.  Oh, by the way we are having such a good time that we are expecting a son in July.  Cheers, Jeff, Colette, Kim and Kris."

MR. SEGAL:  May that be marked, sir?  That's all I have.  Cross-examine.

(The document was handed to Colonel Rock.)

COL ROCK:  Proceed, counselor.  Accused Exhibit A-38, Christmas card to the Sterns, is accepted into evidence.

Questions by CPT SOMERS:
Q  Mr. Stern, did you have an occasion to see Captain MacDonald or know of his being in New York area after June of 1969?
A  No.
Q  Do you consider yourself a close personal friend of Captain MacDonald?
A  Yes.
Q  And were you also a close friend of his wife?
A  Well, I would say yes.

CPT SOMERS:  I have no further questions.

MR. SEGAL:  Just one very brief matter.

Questions by MR. SEGAL:
Q  How would you characterize Mrs. MacDonald's emotional stability while under pressure?

CPT SOMERS:  I object to that.  That's beyond the scope of the cross-examination, and it appears that the defense counsel intends to exceed the scope of cross-examination in all these witnesses.

MR. SEGAL:  I agree it is beyond the scope.  I intended to hurry this witness through so we could adjourn.  I will withdraw the question.

COL ROCK:  The objection is overruled, since I raised the possibility the other day in my cross-examination of Doctor Sadoff.  You may proceed.

Q  Mr. Stern, how would you characterize Colette MacDonald's emotional stability?
A  I'm not an expert on emotional stability, but as far as any observations that I've had, she was an extremely stable person.
Q  Did you ever see her vent to frustration by great anger or violent outburst of any sort?
A  Never.

MR. SEGAL:  Nothing further, thank you.

CPT SOMERS:  I have no further questions.

COL ROCK:  Mr. Stern, you are requested not to discuss your testimony with any person other than counsel for the government or counsel for the accused.  You are excused, thank you.

(The witness departed the hearing room.)

COL ROCK:  Does the counsel for the accused have any further business at this time?

MR. SEGAL:  No, sir, it would be appropriate for recess.

COL ROCK:  We will recess until 1330 this afternoon.

(The hearing was recessed at 1130 hours, 13 August 1970.)