Trial Transcripts

August 22, 1979

Carol Butner

(Jury enters at 3:31 p.m.)

(The following proceedings were held in the presence of the jury and alternates.)

THE COURT:  Members of the jury, at the risk of having the Court's credibility seriously questioned, I must say to you one more time that the time that you have spent, while certain legal matters were being resolved in court, is time which has been well spent.
     In my opinion, you have been saved a considerable amount of time in the trial of the case, so today has been by no means been a dead loss.  As a matter of fact, you are way ahead at this moment.  The Defendant may call his next witness.

MR. SEGAL:  Yes, Your Honor.  The Defendant calls Mrs. Carol Butner to the stand.

(Whereupon, CAROL BUTNER 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

Q  Mrs. Butner, would you tell us, please, where you reside now?
A  I live in Houston, Texas.
Q  In 1970, in July of 1970, where were you residing?
A  In July of 1970, I was in Okinawa.
Q  In Okinawa?
A  Yes.
Q  I beg your pardon.  Perhaps I am in the wrong year.  We have got to go back a little bit.  Let's try July of 1969?
A  In July of 1969, I think we were at Fort Sam.
Q  Fort Sam Houston, in Texas?
A  Right, in San Antonio.
Q  Was your husband in the Army at that time?
A  Yes, he was.
Q  What was your husband?  What branch of the service was he in?  What branch of the Army?
A  At the time we were at Fort Sam, he was in the Medical Corps.  He later became a member of the Special Forces assigned to Fort Bragg.
Q  Was your husband a physician?
A  Yes.
Q  When did your husband get assigned to Fort Bragg?
A  I don't know exactly when he was assigned.  I remember we went to Fort Bragg the end of August, 1969 -- in August 1969.
Q  Was there some special problem that was associated with your husband's assignment to Fort Bragg?
A  Well, it was not exactly a problem -- this was a goal.  Something he had always wanted to do was to be in the Special Forces.  The trip there was not one of the more pleasant trips.  He had broken his leg on his second parachute jump at Fort Benning.  We were in an MGB, and I had to drive.  We sent our luggage on the bus, so I remember that trip quite vividly.
Q  From Fort Benning to Fort Bragg?
A  Right.
Q  When you were out at Fort Bragg, were you able to get your housing accommodations and get settled down at that time?
A  No.  We were told it would be several weeks before we could get into housing.  It was well into September before we actually were settled into any housing.
Q  At that juncture, did you meet either Jeffrey or Colette MacDonald?
A  Yes, very soon after we arrived.  We were staying in the -- I forgot what they called it -- the Officer's Quarters, temporary housing.  As I said, my husband had a broken leg and there was no walking cast, so I became a chauffeur.  That was primarily all I did was to drive him around.  We met Jeff and Colette and Frank Moore about -- I would say -- within the first few days we were there.
Q  You met, then Captain Frank Moore at the time, an MSC officer?
A  I think he was a captain at that time, yes.
Q  What was your first contact with Colette MacDonald; how did you come to meet her, and what was the nature of your relationship thereafter?
A  My first meeting with Colette was -- as I said, I believe it was the first complete day we were there, and my meeting with her was my first positive feeling about being at Fort Bragg.  As I said, I was having a little bit of difficulty joining into the spirit of things -- as I said, in an un-air-conditioned MG, when your husband is on crutches, and you are carrying all the luggage -- I must say that my attitude was not the finest.  And I was ready to maybe go into the Navy or something at that point.  I remember Bob came out after I had been sitting in the car about three hours, and he said, "I have met someone that I think that you would like to meet, and we have been invited to their house for lunch."
Q  And that is when you met Colette MacDonald?
A  Right.
Q  Did you and Colette MacDonald become friends thereafter?
A  Yes.
Q  How often did you see Colette MacDonald in the beginning of your friendship?
A  Well, at first I saw her several times a week or talked to her on the phone.  She was sort of a source of information for me.  She had been through very successfully what I was going through, and she was able to tell me things like where the PX was, how to get a check cashed, where to go to get this, that, and the other.
Q  Did you develop a relationship beyond finding out where the geography of Fort Bragg was located?
A  Yes; I considered Colette one of my best friends at Fort Bragg.
Q  Did you see her frequently in the weeks thereafter, after you first arrived?
A  Yes.
Q  Did you also meet the children of the MacDonald family at that time?
A  Yes; the two girls, Kimmie and Kristie.
Q  Did you see how Colette related to the children and how she treated them?
A  Yes; it was very obvious --

MR. SEGAL:  I think that is the Navy that is doing that.

THE COURT:  That is all right.  I will forgive you for your reference to the United States Navy.  You had no way of knowing, did you?


THE COURT:  You were treading on judicial toes.

MR. SEGAL:  All right; I think we have silenced that.

THE COURT:  But I won't forgive him.  He knows better.  Go ahead.

Q  Now, what did you observe about the relationship between Mrs. MacDonald and her children?
A  Colette was, in my estimation, an excellent mother.  At that time, I was in my -- well, let's see, I was -- I guess 24 at that time; and our friends had just started having children. And I was just becoming aware of how people acted as mothers; and I think if I had to describe Colette in a very few words, I would say that she very patient and very gentle, but very aware of what her children were doing.
     She was not a mother who could just forget what was going on, but she was very interested in and aware of what her children were doing; but very calm and patient with him and could explain things to them.
Q  How did she handle the children when they tried to interrupt or get involved with adults or break up the routine of adult life?
A  Just a very mundane example, I just remember one time I dropped in.  It was in the late afternoon.  I think it was Kristie that wanted a book read and I was talking to Colette, just jabbering on about something.
     The little girl came up several times with the book.  Colette said, "Not now" or "Later, Kristie," several times to her.  She kept coming in and said, "Read now.  Read now."
     As a person who at that time did not have children and still does not have children, I was very aware that my conversation was being interrupted and finally Colette said, "Excuse me, Carol, for just a minute."
     She turned to Kristie and said, "Kristie, Mommy has a friend over here right now, just like when you or Kimmie has a friend.  My friend is here to talk to me for just a minute and it is very rude and inconsiderate if I do not listen to her.  We will read the book later tonight."
     I gather they had a time when they read the book.  "That will be our time together.  But right now Mother's friend is here and I need to talk to her."
     This satisfied the child and she toddled off with the book after a few minutes.  This is very impressive to me because too many times I was the one that was told to be quiet while the Mother listened to the child, and then she eventually got back to me.  So I was very impressed with the way she handled the situation.
Q  Did you see Jeff and Colette MacDonald together?
A  Yes.
Q  Did you and your husband see them socially sometimes?
A  Yes.
Q  What was Colette's attitude towards her husband?
A  They seemed to be a very devoted couple.  They seemed to be a couple who honestly communicated very well with each other.
Q  What do you mean when you say, "they communicated very well with each other"?
A  I had the feeling that they talked over their decisions about the children, about the house, about what they were going to do.  There were a couple of little things that I think communicated Jeff's concern for Colette.
Q  Could you share one of those with us, please?
A  There was one time I was over there, and I would say it was after lunch.  Jeff had been there for lunch and was leaving and I was sitting down to talk to Colette.  As he was leaving, he was mentioning some things that were going to get done.
     Then he turned to the older girl, Kimberly, and said: "Now, Kimmie, you remember what we talked about.  I want you to make sure that Mom does that."
Q  Do you know what he was talking about at that time?
A  At that time I didn't know.  I was just sitting there, listening.  He said: "I want you to be sure and do it," and she said, "Yes, I will."  Shortly after he left, Kimmie came back in.
     Colette and I were sitting on the couch and she said, "Mommy, put your legs up."  Colette said, "I will," and she said, "No, I promised Daddy and you put vour legs up."
     So Colette put her legs -- there was a coffee table or something -- so she put her legs on the coffee table.  I thought it was kind of strange and I said, "What are you putting your legs up for?"
     She explained she had had some problems with varicose veins and that this was part of the -- that she was supposed to keep her legs up.
Q  Did you find out whether she had any special conditions at that time?
A  Well, I think this was after Thanksgiving.  At that point, I had suspected that she was pregnant because of a conversation I had overheard.  I had been around enough medical people to know that certain conditions were aggravated by pregnancy.
     I don't know if it was that day or shortly thereafter that I found out she was pregnant.
Q  Did you find out at any time what her attitude toward her pregnancy was -- was she happy or unhappy about having another child?
A  I think it was a very positive attitude.  I can't remember an exact conversation, but I felt that they were very happy about the situation.
Q  Did you ever observe the attitude of Kristen and Kimberly MacDonaId toward their father Jeff MacDonald?
A  Yes.
Q  Could you tell us anything about that -- what was that attitude?
A  There were several things.  I remember once we were over there for dinner, and just the attitude of the girls just seemed to be very close to Jeff -- very anxious to communicate with him, to tell him how their day had been.
     One afternoon I dropped by to return something.  It was late in the afternoon; I was on my way home and Jeff happened to be arriving.  And I noticed the reaction of the children as he arrived; and, again, I didn't have many friends at that time who had children old enough that there was an observable reaction when the father arrived home.
     And I have to -- maybe I was impressed because of my own experience.  I have a wonderful father, a wonderful father; but a very stern, German father, who happens to be a judge and has ruled forever that way.  And, you know, when he came home, we were always very glad when he was home, of course, but --


THE COURT:  (Interposing)  All right, go ahead.

THE WITNESS:  But he -- it was more -- we were in awe of him.  And I happened to be there when Kristie, you know, started yelling, "Daddy's home, Daddy's home."
     And they ran out, and there was this screen door, I think; and they ran out and there was this hugging.  And there was a period of communication between the father and the daughters.
     And to me the MacDonald family seemed to be a very close, happy family.

Q  Did you see the -- or talk to Colette MacDonald after Thanksgiving of 1969?
A  Yes; in fact, several times.  I remember, right before Christmas they were at our house for dinner because --
Q  (Interposing)  That would be Christmas, 1969?
A  Yeah.  We were going -- we were driving to Texas for the holidays, and they were over at our house for dinner; and they were very excited.
     Well, Jeff kept talking about a surprise.  It was Christmas and we were all getting kind of excited, and he was talking about a surprise.  And Colette kept saying, "Well, what is it; what is it?"  And he said, "You just wait; you just wait."  And we weren't going to be there for Christmas, so we finally said Colette could go in the kitchen and let him tell us what the surprise was.  And it had to do with the pony.
Q  Dr. MacDonald had purchased a pony?
A  A pony for the girls; and later I found out that -- through my husband who was working with Dr. MacDonald -- that a lot of spare time was spent building some sort of cubicle or some place for the pony to live, and that was how he was spending his free afternoons.  And this was going to be the big Christmas surprise.
Q  Did you talk with Colette MacDonald during January of 1970?
A  Yes, I did; because I remember talking to her about the pony; and she told me about going over there on Christmas morning and how the girls were just -- I mean, I guess every child wants a pony, and not many of them get them.  And I think it was just a really big Christmas.
Q  Did you see or detect any change in Colette's attitude toward Jeff in January or even February of 1970?
A  No.
Q  Do you recall the last time you had -- what month was the last time you had any connection with or contact with Colette MacDonald?
A  No; I know that I talked to her several times after Christmas.  I would say January, February -- maybe -- well, surely January and February.
Q  Did you detect any concern about her forthcoming pregnancy at that time, whether it was January or February, when you were concerned about her medical condition, about having this third child?
A  No.  Colette did not seem to be one of these people that dwelled -- you know, was always talking about physical change.
     In fact, if I hadn't known she was pregnant, I would not have known she was pregnant.  That sounds like a stupid statement, but she was not one of these people who was always trying to look sick at her stomach or complain.
     I never was aware of any problems at all.
Q  The last time you talked to Colette MacDonald, did she indicate in any way there was any unhappiness in her marriage to Jeff, or any unhappiness or problems with her relationship with her children?
A  No.

MR. SEGAL:  Thank you, Ms.  Butner.  You may cross-examine.

MR. BLACKBURN:  Just a few questions, Your Honor.

C R O S S - E X A M I N A T I O N  3:50 p.m.

Q  Ms.  Butner, I believe you testified on direct with respect to the relationship that Colette had with her two children that she was both very patient and very gentle; is that correct?
A  Yes; she was, but also firm.  I mean it was no the sort of relationship where you felt that there were not standards.
Q  How often, would you say, in November and December, would you say that you saw or spoke with Colette during a week, say?  Was it on a weekly basis or a daily basis?
A  Not daily.  I would say right at first several times a week.  Sometimes it would just be a telephone conversation.
Q  When you say "right at first," did it tend to drop off or something like that?
A  Well, she -- we didn't have quarters for several weeks, and I recall being over there a lot during that time, and then my husband's leg was in this cast for it seemed like years but actually it was only a couple of months, but still he was unable to drive so I spent a lot of time chauffeuring him around.
Q  Well, did Colette appear to take up a lot of her time with her two children?  Is that a fair statement?
A  She spent -- she did spend time.  I had the feeling that they were friends, that they did things as friends -- more Kimmie and Colette maybe because the little girl was a little too small to do things.  But they did things together in the afternoon before dinner.
Q  Would you characterize Colette as protective of her two children in any way?
A  Well, I guess that's the maternal extinct we always hear about.  Of course she was protective.
Q  Now, with respect to her pregnancy, did Colette ever tell you of the difficulty that she had in her pregnancy with Kristen?
A  No; the only problem that I ever knew was about her varicose veins with Jeff saying, "Put your legs up."  That was the only problem that I ever heard about.
Q  She never spoke to you about how her previous births of her children took place; that is, by Caesarian section?
A  No; I was not aware of that.
Q  She did not indicate, I take it then, any fear of her third pregnancy to your knowledge?
A  No.
Q  Now, the last time -- you say you saw her or spoke with her several times after Christmas, 1969.  Was that still on a weekly basis?
A  Yeah; I would say probably once a week or once every ten days, something like that.  As I became more at home at Fort Bragg, I got involved in some activities and so I didn't probably talk to her as much as I did when we first arrived, but I still did talk to her.
Q  If you can recall, when was the last time, to your knowledge, that you either saw her or spoke with her?
A  I'm really sorry.  I can't -- that was nine and a half years ago and I just couldn't be specific at this time.
Q  Do you know whether or not it was in February?
A  I think it was.  I think that I talked to her -- you know -- throughout January and February, but I'm just -- it was a long time ago.

MR. BLACKBURN:  No further questions, Your Honor.

MR. SEGAL:  One very brief matter.

R E D I R E C T  E X A M I N A T I O N  3:54 p.m.

Q  Did Mrs. MacDonald indicate to you whether or not she desired to have a third child?
A  She merely said to me, "We are going to have 'x' number of children."  I always had the impression that Kimmie and Kristen were the beginning of a family, not the end of a family and, as I said, I had a feeling that she felt a very positive feeling about this pregnancy.

MR. SEGAL:  I have nothing further.  Anything else from the Government?

(No response.)

MR. SEGAL:  Thank you, Ms. Butner.  You may step down.

(Witness excused.)

THE COURT:  Call your next witness.

MR. SEGAL:  We have nothing else at this time, Your Honor.

THE COURT:  Very well.  Let me see you about some scheduling matters at the bench.

(Bench conference -- unreported.)