Grand Jury

November 13, 1974

Testimony of Dr. William Straub, M.D.

I, Mary M. Ritchie, being a Notary Public in and for the the State of North Carolina, was appointed to take the testimony of the following witness, William Henry Straub, before the Grand Jury, Raleigh, North Carolina, commencing at 4:00 p.m. on November 13, 1974.  All Grand Jurors present.

Whereupon, William Henry Straub, having been first duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows:

Q  Will you state your fully name, please, sir?
A  William Henry Straub.
Q  Are you a medical doctor, sir?
A  I am.
Q  What is your residence address, Dr. Straub?
A  Current, I live in Midland, Michigan, 920 West Sugnet.  S-u-g-n-e-t.
Q  What's your office address?
A  4005 Orchard Drive, same town.
Q  Are you at this time in the private practice of medication, sir?
A  I'm a practicing radiologist.  Yes, sir.
Q  And, in February of 1970 were you at that time in the military service?
A  Yes.
Q  And were you in the Army Medical Corps?
A  Yes.
Q  Where were you stationed?
A  Fort Bragg.
Q  And, were you also a radiologist in the --
A  (Interposing) Yes.
Q  Army Medical Corps?  Were you on duty the night of February 16, 17, specifically in the early morning hours of February 17?
A  Yes.
Q  And, what was your duty at that time?
A  I was working as as an emergency room physician at that time.
Q  Now, while you were on duty, was there a patient known as Captain Jeffrey R.  MacDonald brought into the emergency room?
A  Yes.  He was.
Q  Do you recall approximately when it was?
A  Well, it was early morning.  I think two or three o'clock in the morning.  Something like that.
Q  Could it have been about sometime after four o'clock in the morning?
A  It could have been.  Yes.  It was very early.
Q  And, did you come to the emergency room and examine him?
A  I was in the emergency room at this time.  I recall that we had sleeping quarters right there, close by, and I was called to examine him.
Q  Tell us what you recall concerning his appearance and any injuries that you observed and his behavior, his apparent state of mind at that time.
A  Now this, of course, is four and a half years ago, so may I refer to this?
Q  Surely.  Please do.  And, by the way, did you make a diagram at that time?
A  I think that would probably be the most helpful thing.  I looked this thing over just before I came in here to refresh my memory.  Here's the diagram which I drew.  There's no date on this.  Yes, there is -- February 18.  That must have been the next day and the wounds that I discovered when we examined him were what I would describe as a laceration of the abdominal wall here that I estimated was 3 cm in length and it was superficial.  In other words, it went through the skin and into the muscle of the abdominal wall.  But it did not, from my exam, enter the peritoneal cavity, that is the cavity where the small bowel, stomach, colon and vital organs are located.  It went through the skin into the muscle, but not into that cavity.  And, he had a penetrating wound in the right anterior chest wall, which would be about in here.  And, I didn't examine that wound as I recall, because there was a piece of gauze with Vaseline that had been placed over the wound.  Anytime you have a stab wound or any type of wound of the chest wall that looks like it could puncture the lung, an alert Corpsman, which they did in this case, put some Vaseline gauze on this wound to prevent developing pneumothorax or sucking air in the chest cavity.  And, to prevent a sucking type wound.  And, so there was that -- then there was a superficial puncture wound of the left arm, which was about here.  I have listed one to two cm which is a little less than an inch.  And, then I have listed a bump on the forehead, right in this area.  But I have noted here that the skin was not broken on that.
Q  That bump was a slight swelling.  Is that it?
A  Right.  Correct.  With an abrasion, I believe.  There was some swelling, I believe.
Q  Now, I have Captain MacDonald's medical record here and perhaps you can also refer to that to refresh your recollection.  Will you tell us what his vital signs were?
A  You probably want the one from the ER notes which is the one I am trying to find.  There is a work-up here by Dr. Jacobson.
Q  How about this?
A  Okay.  We've got February 18, 1970 at 0500 hours his blood pressure is listed as 120/70 with a pulse of 76.  Respirations is 26.  And temperature is 99.  Followed by 0515 when it is essentially the same.
Q  This would be February 18.  I notice they were taking it every fifteen minutes, I'm just wondering about the accuracy.  I see February February 18 up here and then I see 18 February down here.  Is that indicative of the fact that this should be the 17th of February?
A  He came in the 17th.
Q  He came in the morning of the 17th.  And, his record started about five a.m.
A  Well, I guess you would probably have to assume that this was a mistake, then, on the date for that.
Q  Now, was there any evidence of shock?  When I say shock I'm talking about psychological shock.
A  Not really judging from the vital signs.  Those were pretty normal vital signs.
Q  Do you recall whether his color was good?
A  No.  I don't.
Q  What do you recall about his appearance?
A  Well, let's see.  I said he was conscious; and he was naked from the waist up, and had some dry blood on his face; and he had a wound.  I've covered that, in the right chest, covered with a piece of gauze and a bruise on his left forehead; and a stab or laceration in his left upper abdominal wall.
Q  Well, he was bare from the waist up and he had some blood on him.
A  Right.
Q  On his visage, on his face and hair.
A  [Nods affirmatively]
Q  Do you recall what he was wearing below the waist?
A  No.  I don't.
Q  Whether he was wearing pajama bottoms?
A  At three or four in the morning, I would assume.  I don't really recall.
Q  Do you recall that there was blood on his pajamas bottoms?
A  No.  I really don't even have a visual image of what he even looked like.
Q  All right.  Now, were you able to talk to him?
A  As I recall he wanted to -- he inquired -- the first thing he wanted to know was whether he was going to be all right.  He said, "Am I going to be to be all right, doc?" And I said, yes.  I think you're going to be all right.
Q  Did he appear to be oriented as to time and place?
A  I didn't question specifically on that, but I have to say he was.
Q  But he knew you were a doctor.  He knew he was in the emergency room at the hospital?
A  Right.
Q  And, he didn't seem to be a lost soul?
A  No.  He didn't appear to be completely incoherent or anything like that.
Q  Now, I'm going to ask you to refresh your memory, to examine the record that you have there and particularly the FBI report.  Can you recall anything that he had to say concerning --
A  The thing that I really recall, I guess the most, was the inquiry about his own physical well being and I think he inquired about his wife and children, too, what their status was.  And, I told him I didn't know -- which I didn't.  And, the FBI report, I did mention that, it said here with regard to any possible conversation he had, that the only thing I recalled was that MacDonald said he pulled a knife from his wife's chest.  I did say at that time that he did not recall, or that I did not recall, [whether] he had any blood on his feet, but he did have a moderate on his face, hair and hands.
Q  And, now, is there anything else that you can recall about Dr. MacDonald or Captain MacDonald, appearance or anything he said that you could add at this time that might be helpful to the Grand Jury that is inquiring into this matter?
A  I don't think so.  I was really the first one to see him, but as soon as we saw this wound in his chest we rushed him over, we called the surgeon on duty, and he he came down and we took him right over to x-ray.  And I stayed in the emergency room.  So, about the only thing that I really recall was the inquiry about his own well being and his wife and kids and the possibility of this --
Q  I know you were asked this before because it's in your testimony and I'm going to ask you again.  Could the wounds that you observed on Dr. MacDonald have been self-inflicted wounds?
A  I think so.

MR. WOERHEIDE:  Any questions?

FOREMAN:  I have one.  Did you, that morning, before they brought him in, did you hear the ambulances leave with the sirens on and their lights on?  Did you see or hear any of them leave that morning?

A  After they brought them in?

FOREMAN:  Before they brought him in.

A  I don't think so.  I don't really recall exactly what happened, but it seems to me that just before I had gone back to lie down, one of the nurses -- I think there had been a telephone call and they said they were bring somebody in with some stab wounds or something to that effect.  And I said, I was going back to lie down.  Wake me when they bring them in.  But I don't recall hearing the sirens or anything.

FOREMAN:  Anyone else?

MR. WOERHEIDE:  If I may ask a question or two.  After your examination of him, was Dr. Jacobson called in?
A  Yes.  I'm a radiologist.  I look at shadows and x-ray pictures all the time.  So I'm not really handy at taking care of stab wounds involving a possible pneumothorax.  So we called the surgical officer of the day who was Dr. Jacobson and he came down and saw him right away.
Q  And, was Dr. MacDonald then taken up to or removed to another place for the purpose of taking --
A  He was taken to the x-ray department right from the emergency room, promptly, because we felt that the stab wound or the wound in the chest could have possibly hit the lung, so he went and had a chest x-ray to see whether it had or not.  And it, in fact, had and then he was taken up to one of the surgical floors, I think from the x-ray department.
Q  And, even though you are a radiologist you did not make the x-ray photographs of --
A  No.  There are technicians that take them and I can't even recall whether I saw the films that night.  I may have.  Jacobson may have come over and asked me to look at them with him.  But, I think Dr. Jacobson accompanied Captain MacDonald to the x-ray department while it was being done.
Q  Well, we have the films here and we have the viewer there and they have already been testified to.  Would it serve any purpose to ask you to look at the films at this time?
A  Not if the interpretation is right.

JUROR:  Dr. Straub, being in the position that you are in, that you understand the lungs and the rib cage and all that stuff, if you were going to self-inflict a wound upon yourself, would you pick this particular area, or would you pick another?

A  I wouldn't pick that area.  This is just conjecture.  I, myself, would not pick that area.

JUROR:  If you wanted to leave the impression that you were stabbed and beat up, would you pick the other side?

A  I wouldn't pick the chest hardly at all.  It's a bad place to get a stab wound because of the -- the interior chest particular because the heart -- I don't recall exactly how far laterally it was, but the heart is, you know, more on the left side than the right.  And, so you are a little safer if you didn't want to hit your heart to stab yourself on the right side, but there is still a lung there and interiorly you could possible hit your heart which is no serious problem, of course, but the chest, in general, if I was going to self-inflict a wound I wouldn't pick the chest.

JUROR:  But, if you did which part of the chest would you pick?  I mean if you were thinking about hurting yourself --

A  If I was going to pick the chest, which part of the chest?  I'd be more inclined probably to stab myself in the back because the heart interior again, the right side of the liver's also here and, boy, it's not an A1 spot to pick to stab yourself, so it's possible I think to try something like that.  

JUROR:  Well, let me ask you this.  If you were familiar with the structure of the body and you are able to control the depth of the stab wound, do you believe that as a doctor or physician with medical training and experience in, let's say, emergency room operations that you could inflict a stab wound at this point, in this seventh intercostal space without damaging your liver or your diaphragm?

A  I think you could do it intentionally, so you wouldn't hit the liver, but -- I'll just leave it at that.

JUROR:  How about the lungs?

A  Say, that's very -- I think I testified to this before.  I'm not a thoracic surgeon.  I don't deal in lungs all the time either, but we see a lot of pneumothoraxes and they vary from one day to next in percentage.  We usually determine the percent of a lung that has collapsed or the percent of the air space of the pneumothorax space present and these are frequently followed by chest x-rays and they vary from day to day and I don't see how you can possibly really puncture the lung and determine, say I'm going to give myself a ten percent pneumothorax and just put the knife in a little way.  It just takes a little puncture of the lung and the lung will completely collapse.

MR. WOERHEIDE:  What if you don't puncture the lung, but make a penetration sufficiently deep to enter the pleural cavity?

A  You could -- the parietal and viscera pleura are together exactly like that.  Even a surgeon opening the chest, of course, once you go through it, it will open up.  But with a quick stab wound or something it would be very hard to do that, because they are in such close proximity.
Q  You could produce a pneumothorax by using a needle, the type used for injection.  Could you not?  And, if you did use a needle you could control the amount of air that went into the pleural cavity, could you not?
A  You have to be super cool to do that, I tell you.  You really would.

MR. WOERHEIDE:  Any other questions?

FOREMAN:  I think not.  Thank you very much.

JUROR:  Let me ask you one question.  To make it look good you might give it a try, wouldn't you?

A  Give it a try.

JUROR:  Yes, to make it look good.

A  Well, all of this is very conjectural.  you never know what, you know, somebody that is desperate.  So, I would just have to say that from my personal opinion that anything is possible with a desperate person.

JUROR:  What about if it's all planned ahead of time?

A  Like I said, I wouldn't stab myself in the chest if I was planning it ahead of time.  I just really wouldn't pick that.  That wouldn't be a good thing to do.

MR. WOERHEIDE:  Are we all through?  May the witness be excused, Mr. Foreman?

FOREMAN:  Yes, sir.  Thank you again.