The story of the Green Beret physician, who has maintained for decades that it was a group of free-thinking bohemians chanting “acid is enchanting, k*ill the pigs” who brutally mu*rdered his wife and two young daughters, is likely to endure in the halls of justice.
The lives of Jeffrey MacDonald’s pregnant wife and two daughters were tragically extinguished on the 17th of February, 1970, within the confines of their Fort Bragg-based family home. Jeffrey MacDonald, who is now 70 years old, has been incarcerated for the remainder of his life.
Despite the most recent judicial rejection of his claims of innocence and his request for a new trial, his attorney, Gordon Widenhouse, stated on Friday, ‘Further legal proceedings are forthcoming.’
MacDonald, who was convicted in 1979, had a brief reprieve in 1980, and was re-arrested in 1982, has maintained his innocence claim for the past 44 years.
Based on a hearing held nearly two years prior, Judge James C. Fox rejected both MacDonald’s claim of innocence and his request for compensation. “…the court concludes that MacDonald has not established, through clear and convincing testimony, that no reasonable fact-finder would have found him responsible for the mur*ders of his wife and daughters…” Fox inscribed, adding that MacDonald ‘fell short of substantiating any purported plea of absolute innocence.’ During that momentous hearing, the legal counsel for MacDonald emphasized Helena Stoeckley’s exclusion from any involvement in the homicides, arguing that she was unaware of her location when Colette MacDonald, Kimberley, and Kristen met their tragic ends.
During the 2012 hearing, her attorney, Jerry Leonard, testified that Stoeckley, who died in 1983, conveyed two divergent narratives: one describing her absence from the residence and the other asserting her presence, albeit uninvolvement in the criminal events. ‘We are undeniably disheartened by Judge Fox’s denial of our requests for redress, as we believed that we had presented credible evidence that had escaped the jury’s attention during the trial, particularly the revelations emanating from Helena Stoeckley. We were convinced that, given the circumstantial evidence presented by the prosecution during the trial, these disclosures could have altered the outcome,’ lamented Widenhouse.
U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker revealed in a press release that MacDonald must obtain permission from the prestigious 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals before appealing Fox’s verdict.
The legal team representing MacDonald hypothesized that novel evidence, including DNA extracted from the residence, a genetic blueprint incompatible with that of MacDonald or his relatives, supported MacDonald’s claims. In addition, they presented witness testimony that elaborated on statements made by a now-deceased retired U.S. marshal, implying that a prosecutor coerced Stoeckley into lying under oath.
Judge Fox argued that the marshal’s declarations were likely to be ‘fabrications or convoluted recollections,’ casting doubt on their veracity. The DNA evidence, according to the judge, “fails to demonstrate unequivocally and persuasively MacDonald’s absolute innocence.”
Colette MacDonald’s sibling, Bob Stevenson, expressed on a Friday his profound satisfaction with Judge Fox’s decision. He expressed little surprise at MacDonald’s determination to pursue the case, stating, “I am aware that the saga will continue until either his or my demise.”
The tragic m*urders of the MacDonald family instilled a sense of foreboding in the community, as they occurred only a few months after the atrocities committed by Charles Manson’s followers in California, where the word “pig” was scrawled in blood on the threshold of the home containing Sharon Tate and four other unfortunate souls. Similar to the Manson mur*ders, the MacDonald family massacre inspired literary works, the most notable of which was ‘Fatal Vision.’
Written by Joe McGinness, this book – and the subsequent miniseries that drew inspiration from it – concluded with MacDonald’s guilt being established. Prior to the 2012 hearing for MacDonald, the documentary filmmaker Errol Morris released ‘A Wilderness of Error,’ a volume that posited that MacDonald was denied a fair trial, casting doubt on his innocence.