05/20/2010 // West Palm Beach, FL, USA // Tara Monks // Tara Monks
Richmond, VA – The savage killings that became known as the “Fatal Vision” forty years ago resulted in three life sentences for the man accused of killing his pregnant wife and two young daughters. Jeffrey MacDonald, now 66 and an inmate in federal prison in Maryland, will go back to court before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, as reported by ABC News.
MacDonald was 26 at the time of the murders, a Green Beret, a Princeton University graduate and a respected doctor. He told detectives he was sleeping on the couch of their home in Fort Bragg, North Carolina when he awoke to wife and children yelling for help. He said he got up and found three male intruders and a woman in a floppy hat and boots chanting, “acid is groovy, kill the pigs.” MacDonald claimed that upon entering the scene, he was attacked, defended himself, blacked out and awoke to his dead daughters and wife.
The February 1970 incident came just months after Charles Manson’s followers slaughtered actress Sharon Tate and others in California. In the same manner that Manson’s family painted the words “Helter Skelter” and “pig” with the victims’ blood, the word “pig” was scribed in blood in MacDonald’s room.
Army investigators and federal prosecutors did not believe MacDonald’s story, finding contrary evidence. The crime scene seemed staged to the investigators; there was little damage done to the house in comparison with the ferocity of the slayings.
MacDonald was sentenced in 1979, after prosecutors presented the story that MacDonald was fighting with his wife because their youngest daughter wet the bed. He picked up a club to strike his wife, Colette, and accidentally struck their eldest daughter, Kimberly, who was trying to break them up. He then killed his wife and mutilated his youngest, Kristen in attempts to cover up the initial killing.
MacDonald’s blood and fibers from his pajamas were found under the victims’ bodies.
Detectives found no DNA evidence that supported the woman in the floppy hat, later suspected to be Helena Stoeckley, was ever there.
Helena Stoeckley, a self-confessed drug addict, came forward after the murders and told authorities she may have been involved in the slayings. She later changed her story though, and claimed she had no memory of the four-hour span in which the murders took place.
Stoeckley died in 1983.
MacDonald remarried in federal prison in 2002. His new wife, Kathryn MacDonald, who runs a children’s theater program outside Baltimore, has hope for the appeal.
MacDonald’s lawyers claim new DNA evidence proves there were other people, intruders, at the scene of the murder. A hair found underneath the nails of one of his daughters was tested in 2006 and came back negative to matching any family member, including MacDonald. His attorneys claim the unidentified hair corroborates the story MacDonald has told since day one.
Another piece of information has come to light concerning Stoeckley’s testimony as well. In 2006, Jimmy Britt, a former U.S. deputy marshal at the trial, swore in an affidavit he heard a prosecutor threaten Stoeckley before she was due to testify.
MacDonald’s attorneys claim that piece of information, of witness threatening, is crucial to the case.
It was also reported from Stoeckley’s mother in a 2007 affidavit that Helena admitted to her just before she died that she was in the house the night of the slayings.
MacDonald, his wife and his attorneys hope these new pieces of evidence will convince a judge to grant an appeal.
A ruling on whether or not he will be granted an appeal is expected to come in the upcoming weeks.