Trial Transcripts

August 21, 1979

Dorothy MacDonald

MR. SMITH:  Your Honor, the Defense calls Dorothy MacDonald to the witness stand.

(Whereupon, DOROTHY MACDONALD was called as a witness, duly sworn, and testified as follows:)

D I R E C T  E X A M I N A T I O N  4:26 p.m.

Q  Is your name Dorothy MacDonald?
A  Yes, sir; it is.
Q  What do your friends call you?
A  Perry.
Q  Is that P-e-r-r-y?
A  Right; yes.
Q  Mrs. MacDonald, where do you live now?
A  In California -- Long Beach.
Q  How long have you lived in Long Beach?
A  Approximately four years.
Q  Are you the mother of Jeffrey MacDonald, the Defendant in this case?
A  Yes, I am.
Q  Where was Jeffrey born and when was he born?
A  He was born in Jamaica, Long Island, on October 12, 1942.
Q  How many brothers and sisters does he have?
A  He has a brother and a sister.
Q  Is his father still living?
A  No, sir; he is not.
Q  When did his father die?
A  In March of 1966.
Q  What was Jeff like as a young boy?
A  He was a very fine child.  He had a sunny disposition.  He was agreeable.  He was a very -- he was a kind child and he was the type of boy that when he had a chore to do, did it cheerfully and without even being told to do it.
     I mean some kids -- every child in a family has a different disposition, but his seemed to be the most amenable to being helpful.
Q  Can you speak up just a little louder or perhaps move up a little closer to the microphone that is in front of you?
A  I can't do that, sir.
Q  Was young Jeff a good student?
A  He was an excellent student.
Q  What about athletics?
A  He was always interested in athletics.  He was, I would say, a well-rounded child.  In fact, when he got into high school, he said: "Mom, you know, if you expect me to be the valedictorian of the class, I probably will not be.  I will do the best I can, but I really want to engage in all kinds of activities and especially in sports."  He was in music, Student Council; he participated in everything -- you know -- he was just an all around kind of person.
     In fact, there was an opportunity for him to have gotten a scholarship based on his athletic ability until he was injured in his last football game.  He ruptured a disc and at that point we were afraid perhaps since we had three children going into college, roughly at the same time -- not entering at the same time, but going in -- that we might have some financial hardship or handicap relative to that.  But Jeff's scholastic ability was such that he was accepted at Princeton anyway.
Q  Sometimes young boys give parents trouble.  Did Jeffrey give you trouble as a parent?
A  I know this sounds unreal, but he never did.  He was a delightful child to know and to have.  Everyone has faults, okay, but by the same token his were not the type that were troublesome in any way.
     I mean, reports came back from the teachers that he was the kind of student that when he was in a study hall, for instance, and there were 200 in a study hall, he could concentrate and do his job -- that kind of thing.
     Also, they said that he could be friends to the brightest kid in the class, as well as to the child who might be mentally retarded, and they both -- you know -- would be treated equally, and with great -- you know -- compassion and understanding.  Jeff is not a snob and he really has always been a friend to everybody.
Q  Did he have any trouble at all making friends with people?
A  Oh, no, sir.  That was, I think, probably his, you know, he had this shining disposition and people just came to relate very well to him.  He was chosen as the most popular in the class in his Senior year and he was also -- I am not sure of the year in high school -- but he was chosen like King of the Prom and so forth and that kind of thing.
Q  Was he industrious?  That is, did he always have a part-time job of some kind?
A  I know this sounds phenomenal, but this is also true, even as a young man, he worked.  When he was probably 14, he worked at a summer camp full time.  The following year, as I recall, he clammed with a man and worked very hard, and the gentleman said that he would normally have to hire about two other people to gather the number of clams that Jeff could gather with him, and he was very happy.  Then, he worked for a man doing work the following year doing lawns, and they would win awards for the finest yards, you know, that kind of thing.  Then, he worked as a taxi driver the following year.  I think he did that for two years.  Well, he worked since he was about 14 years of age and has probably never ceased.
Q  Was Jeff respectful with you?
A  Always, sir.  I, in all honesty -- we have had, say, some slight differences of opinion, but he has never ever insulted me ever in, you know, public places or in private places.  I would say that he is a very loving child.
Q  What about after he grew up, just for a moment, and then we will return to the subject of his growing up.  Has he been respectful of you and cared for you during, say, the recent two or three years?
A  I would say that he is a most caring son.  I have been in the hospital several times, and he has seen to it that I have received the best possible medical care, and he would attend to my needs.  He would come and visit every day.  Following my hospitalization, he would take me home to his house.  He provided a hospital bed so that I would be cared for until I was back on my feet again.
Q  Mrs. MacDonald, would you tell the jury something about Colette and when she first came into your life and Jeff's life?
A  Well, I first knew Colette, I would guess, sometime in the junior high school years or just perhaps prior to that -- perhaps sixth grade or seventh grade.  She was a very, very, you know, a very lovely girl and Jeff seemed very fond of her.  The best I can tell you is that as a little girl, I felt that she was a very well dressed, a very pretty, a very responsive and sensitive, you know, person.
Q  If you had to use one word -- to select one word to describe Colette -- what would it be?
A  I think delightful.
Q  Delightful?
A  Yes.  She really was delightful.
Q  Did she retain that quality all through her life as long as you knew her?
A  Yes.
Q  Was she a delightful person the last time you saw her?
A  Yes.
Q  When was that?
A  That would have been New Year's.
Q  Of what year?
A  That would have been the New Year's of 1969.  I saw her on January 1st of 1970.
Q  Going back to when you first met her, was Colette in your home often?
A  Oh, yes, sir.  She lived with us for periods of time.When Jeff and Colette were first married and he attended Princeton, in that first year, they had a baby, Kimberly, and when his vacation time came about which would start at about the middle of May, he and Colette and Kimberly came home to our house and lived there from I would say roughly the 15th of May until about the 15th of September.  They would come home at Christmas vacations and again stay with us.  They did that, you know, like at Christmas times and at summer time vacations.  They also came home to live with me just briefly at the time of my husband's death, and they were there for about ten days.  Colette then came to live with me in the latter part of August of 1969, and stayed until September when she was able to join Jeff down at Fort Bragg.
Q  As a matter of fact, Colette lived in your home many months during her life; didn't she?
A  That is correct, sir.
Q  Going back to when you first met Colette, when she was just a young girl, were she and Jeff fond of each other early in sixth, seventh, eighth grade?
A  Yes, sir.
Q  Were they together frequently during those years?
A  Yes; they were.
Q  Did that continue into high school?
A  It alternated.  In other words, there were times when they were together.  And then there would be a time perhaps when there would be a separation and Jeff perhaps might be interested in another girl and Colette in another boy.  And those times seemed to be of short nature.  And then you knew that there was this, I would say, very strong attraction between them because they would get together again.
     And high school, they got together.  And there was a time of separation.  And I believe in the final year of high school they got together and Jeff started Princeton.  Colette started into Skidmore.  Every weekend Jeff left Princeton and would travel up to Skidmore to see Colette.  So, at that point we felt that this was a very serious relationship because he spent all of his free time with Colette at Skidmore.
Q  Did you approve of Colette?
A  Absolutely.
Q  You knew, Ms.  MacDonald, that sooner or later they were going to marry; didn't you?
A  I was hoping that they would.
Q  Would you say that you were close to Colette even when she was in high school?
A  I would say that we were friendly during high school times.  I think that our relationship deepened as we got to live with each other.  It was not easy for any human being to naturally come and live with her mother-in-law; okay?  But Colette was just a very -- I would say -- a very understanding and sensitive person.
     She realized that it was a lot of pressure for all of us.  And she adjusted beautifully.  Now, during that time -- that first time -- when they were living with us, naturally because of the fact that I think three people in college at the same time essentially -- there was a need for everyone to sort of pitch in and help.
     Jeff was working.  My oldest son was working.  My daughter was working.  And we were all living together in our family home.  My husband was working.  I was on summer vacation.  I worked in the school system as a school nurse.  And I would have the summer vacation.  So, Colette volunteered to go to work.  Her aunt, a Miss Helen Madison, obtained work for her -- a part-time job in a store called the Bea-Hive in Patchogue.  And Colette went to work part-time during the day.  And I would care for Kimberly who was just a small infant at that time.  So, of course, my association with Kimberly was very close.
Q  You mentioned that your relationship with Colette deepened.  Describe what you mean by that.
A  She was the type of person, sir, that the longer you knew her, the better you loved her.  She was bright, intelligent.  She had a marvelous sense of humor.  She was perceptive.  The best I can say is that she had qualities of motherhood that I really fully approved of.  She might not have been the best housekeeper in the world, and I didn't care, because I am not the best world's housekeeper.  But what I did care about, she also cared about.  And it was those kind of qualities that made her a very dear person to me.  She expanded the world for her children.  She taught them the joys of nature.  She opened up vistas that some people, you know, don't have the sensitivity to do.
Q  When Jeff and Colette married, did they live at Princeton?
A  Yes, sir; they did.
Q  There has been some testimony here about a house they owned or rented.  Can you describe what they did there to earn any extra money?
A  Well, it was a large -- I would call it a Victorian style house.  We called it like a "grandmother" kind of house, you know -- very old-fashioned, which was not uncommon along the side streets of Princeton.
     They did this purposely, because Princeton being an all-male school, on weekends girls would come to visit the boys.  And as a result, the housing was needed.  I think Jeff and Colette very adroitly managed to run a house where there were so many bedrooms that we all sort of pooled our resources.  My oldest son obtained some sheets and pillow cases from a friend of his who ran a laundry.  And they were provided with enough laundry so that they could make up beds for the girls.  They charged them a nominal fee for the staying overnight on Saturday -- like Friday night and Saturday night.  And Colette acted sort of as the house-mother.  And Jeff was sort of the housefather.
Q  After Princeton, where did Jeff and Colette go?
A  Well, from Princeton, sir, they would have gone to med school which would be in Chicago.
Q  Could you state whether or not you maintained close relationship with them while Jeff was in medical school?
A  I would say that it was -- you know -- a close relationship.  Certainly the distance kept us apart, but, by the same token, I made visits there.  I took my daughter Judith there one time, and we stayed and visited.  My son Jay went with me at one time and we stayed.
     I went out for the graduation of Jeff and brought back the children on a plane because after his graduation we felt that it would be time for he and Colette to have a little vacation, and I gave -- you know -- Jeff a check for having graduated, and they took a little vacation.
     So, I brought the children home on a plane at that time.  So, I did keep in contact with them as frequently as I could, but I was working and he would be into the medical program.  Now, during the Chicago days, they did come home and visit with us and, in fact, one Christmas -- I'm sorry, but this is a very painful time.
Q  Just take your time, Mrs. MacDonald.
A  The Christmas prior to my husband's death -- he was very ill, and Jeff was bringing home Colette and Kimberly at that time and he packed the whole car -- it was a station wagon, as I recall -- filled with their belongings, and he closed the doors and locked them because he knew that Chicago was rather, perhaps, an unsafe place and he went upstairs to bring back the baby and his wife, and when he came down, all their belongings had been -- you know -- stolen -- everything, including the diapers for the baby and so forth.
     So, kind neighbors helped by providing, you know, the necessities for them to travel home, and they came home and it was a -- you know -- it was a very painful Christmas because Jeff with his medical knowledge now and myself having been a nurse or being a nurse -- I was tending to the needs of my husband, and we realized that my husband's life was probably getting close to the termination point.
     And it was painful because we had to deal with insurance companies and so forth.  My husband at that time was living on nasal oxygen, and I had taken time off from my work to attend to his needs, but they stayed with us that Christmas.  And so, even during the Chicago days, there were visits home, and I remember another time they stopped and they picked up my daughter Judith from Skidmore and brought her down.  So, that was another vacation time that they came and stayed and lived at home.
Q  Mrs. MacDonald, if you can now, I wonder if you would tell the jury a little bit about Kim and Kris.  Are you able to do that?
A  They were different.  I knew Kim better than I knew Kris.
Q  Let's take Kim first.  Describe Kim.
A  Kim was a -- she was an elegant child.  I say "elegant" -- she was probably not the world's greatest beauty but there was a certain quality of elegance that she had that was undeniable.  She was a very intelligent child, and I know that sounds like a grandma bragging but --
Q  (Interposing)  You can brag.
A  -- the teacher from the school that she was attending at Fort Bragg came to me and said, "Mrs. MacDonald, she probably is the brightest child we ever have had come through our classes."  She was a very -- she was like -- she had the sensitivity of Colette and a very beautiful child.
     Now, Kristie was blond.  Kimberly had dark hair and dark eyes.  Kristie was blond with blue eyes and she had a sturdier body.  She was more of a little tomboy, and she was delightful in her own way.  In fact, on the beach as we would walk down, people would comment on her beauty because she had this sort of golden haired -- you know -- beauty, and temperamentally they were different.
     Now, Kimberly would be like the little mother.  She sort of understood about Kristie, sometimes.  Now Kristy was born in May and I understand that is the Taurus sign and that makes them a little bullish.  By the same token, Kimberly was the type that would be a pacifier and she would understand and treat her very beautifully and they got along very well.  They played together and really enjoyed each other.
Q  During the medical school years, do you recall Jeff's being around the children any?
A  Oh, yes.  In fact, when he came home, they would climb all over him.  They loved him and they would just be ecstatic and say, "Here comes Daddy," and climb over him and so forth.
     I remember one scene very well.  My daughter and I had gone to New Jersey where they were living as he was interning.  He had come from -- it was a very, very, very hot day as I have experienced in Raleigh recently, where the humidity is high and it is very hot.
     We were all sitting around and it was really very -- it was an uncomfortable day.  We were waiting for the arrival of Jeff, and Colette had cooked a meal and we were waiting.  But when he got home, we set up a pool -- a little bit of a plastic pool -- and the children were playing in it and he hopped right in with the children.
     We had anticipated that he would be absolutely tired because he had been on duty for 36 hours, as interns frequently are.  He came home, and Jeff got into a pair of shorts and went out there and he was playing "Horsie" with them, you know, like they would jump on his back and he would ride them all around.
     He had this spontaneity, I mean, his laughter.  He would just, you know, revel in the fact that these kids were there and playing.  I just thought it was beautiful and amazing that after 36 hours of hard labor at Columbia he could still come home and, you know, give this time to his children.
Q  As a matter of fact, Mrs. MacDonald, you talked to Colette and Jeff many times about the number of children they wanted to have; didn't you?
A  Oh, yes, sir.  Well, in fact, I remember a conversation when I went down on Thanksgiving to Fort Bragg to visit with them, and Colette was pregnant now for the third time and informed me of such upon the time that I arrived at Thanksgiving.
     I said to Colette, "Are you concerned?" because she had had some difficulty during her pregnancies.  She put her arms around me and said: "Mom, look, I know how you feel, and I know that there would be some concern but I am all right.  I feel fine.  We have always wanted a large family."
     In fact, they had always talked about, say, about five children.  She said: "You know our dream is to live" -- and they were thinking in terms of, perhaps, when he had finished his medical school and so forth, that he would go to Yale for a residency.  If they lived in that area of Connecticut, they were hoping for a farm where they would raise horses, dogs, cats, and five kids.  It was that kind of feeling.
Q  Mrs. MacDonald, when was the last time you ever talked to them about those dreams?
A  I would say that Thanksgiving probably was the time that we were discussing the fact that they were delighted.  Now Colette was really, truly very happy about the fact that she was having a child again.  Jeff was, equally, and they had expressed the fact that they would hope to have a boy.
Q  Was that Thanksgiving 1969?
A  That is correct, sir.
Q  Did they also talk with you, Mrs. MacDonald, Thanksgiving 1969, about the dreams of going to Yale, and living on a farm?
A  Yes, well that is time -- that would be the time when Colette was telling me that, sir.
Q  Yes, ma'am.  Mrs. MacDonald, let me move away for a moment, now, from medical school, and ask you a few questions about internship.  Where did they go after they finished the medical school years?
A  Then they moved to a community in New Jersey which was across the bridge from Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center which is in New York City.  They chose to live outside of the city for the safety element.  As I recall, my oldest son found an apartment for them in New Jersey, and it was just sort of a short ride across the bridge for Jeff to get to work in his internship at Columbia Presbyterian.
Q  You mentioned safety.  Mrs. MacDonald, do you remember ever having any discussions with either Jeff or Colette about their safety in their home at night-time during those internship years?
A  I am sure that Colette was probably concerned about safety at night because she spent a fair amount of time alone.  Anyone that is married to a man who is going through medicine and internship and so forth would naturally spend some nights alone.
     But I must say that -- I think the thing that's very important to remember is that Colette -- there was one part of her hature that I would call a dependent kind of nature; and she leaned on Jeff in terms of, like he being the strength of the family and the provider.  And she always seemed to feel securer when he was around; so I would suggest to you that her anxieties about, say, locked doors or things of that nature would not occur in his presence.  If he were home, she probably would not be that concerned; and the reason why I think that that is so is because in Patchogue when we lived there we never locked doors.  And, in fact, the day of the tragedy, when I was called down to Fort Bragg, a friend of mine, realizing that, came to my home to lock it, because they thought that I might be gone.  They had heard the news on television before I knew it.  I was flying in a plane, and they found reporters from Newsday inside my home.
Q  Yes, ma'am.
A  Because we just never locked doors.
Q  Mrs. MacDonald, did you maintain close ties with Jeff and Colette and the children during the internship years?
A  Yes, I would say that we, again, visited frequently.  I remember one time also when I knew that Jeff would be on one of his 36-hour stints, I called Colette and asked her, I said I was going down to New Hope, Pennsylvania, and I would love to pick her up and pick the children up and take them down.
     And we visited in New Hope.  And Judy and I visited that time when we watched Jeff playing with the chiIdren in the pond; and I visited, I would say, a fair number of times while they were there, and they came to my home.  Now, I believe it was from there that they came out to celebrate my 50th birthday party, and so forth.
Q  Did you observe during those internship years any deterioration in the marriage?
A  Oh, not a bit, sir.
Q  What did you observe about the marriage?
A  I would say that they were just a very loving couple.  They seemed to enjoy things together when they -- there was great joy.  Jeff was a -- he would be the kind of, you know, man that might pat Colette on the fanny and, you know, say, "You look fantastic tonight."
Q  Was that their relationship during the internship?
A  Absolutely.
Q  Was that, as a matter of fact, Mrs. MacDonald, always their relationship?
A  As far as I can recall, absolutely.  In fact, even at New Year's, when I was down for the New Year's Eve party, Colette got dressed, and I remember Jeff embracing her and saying that she looked, you know, truly beautiful.  And that night when we had dinner and we were dining with officers and other people at the Pope Officer's Club -- this would be New Year's Eve.
Q  Of what year?
A  1960 -- that woald be New Year's Eve of 1969, and the following day was January 1, when I left to go home.  I remember Colette saying, "You know, Mom, I would equate us with Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman," and Jeff laughed and he said,"Well," he said, "I think I'm like, you know, Paul Newman, but I'm not sure that you are like Joanne Woodward."  And I sensed that Colette felt a little distressed by this, so I said to her, "I think you're like Joanne Woodward; I think that you have the same," you know, "characteristics."
     But it developed later, and it was interesting, that the reason why Jeff did not see his wife as Joanne Woodward is because he didn't think Joanne Woodward was beautiful, and he felt that Colette was; and he didn't think that Joanne Woodward's style was like Colette's, you know.  And he just said, "No, I think you are much nicer," you know.
Q  Was there a teasing, joking relationship always between them?
A  Oh, yes.
Q  After the internship years, Mrs. MacDonald, and when the time came for Jeff to go into the military, what was your feeling about his going into the Army?
A  I knew that it would be very painful -- you know, the separation of both of them.  I talked to Jeff and asked him was the military absolutely essential, and it wasn't because I didn't want him to be good for his country, but I realized he had a wife and children.  He felt that all doctors at that time would be drafted and that he had been talked to over and over again and this was information that was given him that the demand for the medical men was strong, so he felt that he would then enter and do what he had to do.
Q  Did you ever talk with Colette any about his going in the Army?
A  Yes.
Q  What was her attitude about it?
A  I would say that, of course, she was essentially saddened -- any woman would be saddened at the thought of being separated from her husband, but she was valiant and understood and recognized that it was just another step in his going ahead and that it was necessary because it was training.
Q  Mrs. MacDonald, when Jeff decided to go on into the military, what did Colette and the children do?
A  They came to live with me -- not directly with me but with a little house that we had just purchased next door so that we would have a little extra land.  We fixed up the house and we put Colette and the children in it.  They stayed with us.
     Then, one day, we got this marvelous telephone call and it was Jeff and he was truly excited and said, "Mom, I have just joined the Green Berets."  I said, "Oh," you know, it came out of the blue -- I said, "I don't understand it."  He said, "Well, it means that Colette and the children can be with me again.  We can go to Fort Bragg.  I will have officer's quarters.  We can live in decent housing and I will get excellent training."  He said, "I feel it is the best branch of the service."
Q  What month would that have been?
A  Probably in the latter part of August of 1969.
Q  Now, you have probably already stated this, Mrs. MacDonald, but at that time, how long had Colette and the children been living there with you in Patchogue?
A  Actually, at that time, probably several weeks.  Then, when I called Colette to the phone immediately, and, of course, she talked with Jeff, she was ecstatic.  She said, "This is great.  We can rejoin Jeff."  Then, arrangements were made and the Army moved her things from Patchogue down to Fort Bragg and she was able to join Jeff sometime in the month of September.
Q  Now, Mrs. MacDonald, after she moved to Fort Bragg, how many times did you see Colette MacDonald again alive?
A  I saw her Thanksgiving of 1969, and the weekend -- I say the weekend -- it was the time of December 28th or 29th -- I should say the 29th and the 30th of December and the first of January of 1970.
Q  Would you state whether or not from time to time, you talked with Colette by telephone?
A  I did.
Q  Did you and Colette ever correspond with each other?
A  I am not a very frequent letter writer, sir.  I do not write to my friends or my family very frequently.  I am remiss in this.  I use the telephone very frequently.
Q  Were there greeting cards on holidays?
A  Oh, yes, always, but then you must also understand that most holidays, they were with us.  In other words, Christmases, it was not uncommon for us to be living together, so it was not a question then of receiving a card at that time, but usually on holidays that we were not together, yes.

MR. SMITH:  We will stop there for the day, Mrs. MacDonald.

THE COURT:  Members of the jury, we will let you retire now.  We will resume tomorrow morning at our regular convening hour of 9:30.  Don't talk about the case.  Remember all those things.  Have a good night, a safe trip home and back.  We will see you tomorrow morning at 9:30.  We will let the jury retire.

(Jury exits at 5:00 p.m.)

THE COURT:  Take a recess until tomorrow morning at 9:30.

(The proceeding was adjourned at 5:01 p.m., to reconvene at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, August 22, 1979.