Did Jeffrey MacDonald Kill His Family? Or Was It A Group Of Manson Family–Esque, LSD-Raving Hippies?

Jeffrey MacDonald [Free Jeffrey MacDonald Facebook page]

The case of Jeffrey MacDonald has been puzzling the world since 1975. On one horrific evening, the doctor’s entire immediate family were slaughtered in the comfort of their own home. Only MacDonald survived, which led many to believe that it was he, himself, who killed his wife and children.

The Backstory

On February 17, 1970, the Military Police responded to a domestic dispute (or so they thought) from the MacDonald’s Fort Bragg, North Carolina, home. Jeffrey, a Green Beret officer and physician, called authorities and reported a “stabbing,” but when police arrived, they quickly assessed that the situation was more dire than they had imagined.

JEFFREY MACDONALD, 1970 [AP]

JEFFREY MACDONALD, right, 1970 [AP]

Colette MacDonald, 26 and pregnant with her third child, lay dead on her bedroom floor. She’d been clubbed over the head and stabbed numerous times with an ice pick and knife. Kimberly, 5, lay her in bed, lifeless, with apparent head trauma and numerous stab wounds. Kristen, 2, was found in her bed, stabbed to death, with at least 33 ice pick and knife wounds all over her body.

Jeffrey was alive, but in clear need of medical attention. He was found lying by his wife, with multiple stab wounds. However, his wounds were not nearly as severe as his family’s. He was rushed to a hospital for treatment.

Related: Crime History: The Manson Family & The LaBianca Murders, 47 Years Later

While recovering, Jeffrey gave an account to detectives that they found hard to believe. According to Jeffrey, a group of “hippies” broke into their home, and while chanting, “Acid is groovy, kill the pigs,” began attacking the family. He said he was asleep when the attacks occurred, awakened only by his youngest daughter’s screams. When he went into the girl’s room, he said he was attacked by three males who overpowered him.

The Investigation

The Criminal Investigation Division (C.I.D.) of the Army had a hard time believing MacDonald’s story, which to them, seemed far-fetched and delusional. How did three men — “hippies” — whom MacDonald said were “drugged up,” overtake a Green Beret Army officer with extensive combat experience?

Related: Serial Killer Cinema: 9 Movies “Inspired” By Charles Manson And The Manson Family Murders

Additionally, the physical evidence didn’t support MacDonald’s version of the incident. Investigators found little signs of struggle inside the home, although MacDonald claimed he put up the fight of his life while trying to protect himself and his family.

Detectives noticed the word “Pig” written in blood on the headboard of a bed. Upon further investigation, they determined that the blood had been written with the tips of surgical gloves; MacDonald had the same brand and type of surgical gloves in his supply room. Although this wasn’t enough to confirm MacDonald killed his family, as other evidence began piling up, investigators believed they had their man. MacDonald was charged with murder, convicted, and, in 1979, sentenced to life in prison.

A handcuffed Dr. Jeffrey Macdonald is led away from Federal Court in Raleigh on Wednesday, August 28, 1979 after a jury found him guilty of one count of first degree murder and the two count of of second degree murder. (AP Photo)

A handcuffed Dr. Jeffrey Macdonald is led away from Federal Court in Raleigh on Wednesday, August 28, 1979, after a jury found him guilty of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder. (AP Photo)

“I’m Innocent”

It has been more than 35 years since Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted of murdering his family. Yet, he’s always maintained his innocence. In 1980, he filed an appeal, and the panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed his conviction in a 2–1 decision. He was released, but on August 16, 1982, he was returned to prison after the U.S. Supreme Court accepted the case “en banc.”

Related: Charles Manson Moved Back To Prison Amid “Failing Health” Reports

In 1991, MacDonald was eligible for parole. He declined it, maintaining he was absolutely innocent and wouldn’t admit to crimes he didn’t commit. He fought for a new trial, but in 1992, it was rejected.

In 1997, DNA testing cleared other reported suspects in the case when there wasn’t a match to the evidence.

In 2005, MacDonald applied for parole, but continued to deny that he had any part in his family’s murders. His request was denied.

In 2007, MacDonald filed an affidavit stating that the mother of Helena Stoeckley, one of the “hippie” suspects, said that her daughter had admitted to being in the MacDonald house twice on the night of the murders.

Although her claims have vacillated over the years, in 1982, in an interview with investigator Ted Gunderson, Stoeckley attested that she had been a member of a drug-using Satanic cult that targeted MacDonald because he refused to help heroin addicts by giving them drugs and prescriptions. She claims that they entered the MacDonald house to make him “change his ways,” with the understanding that they would “rough him up” and do something to Colette’s unborn baby if MacDonald refused to cooperate.

In the interview, she refused to provide any names and many details, claiming she was in fear of her own life and that of her unborn baby, as the Satanic cult had threatened to sacrifice her baby, as it would be her first-born child.

Related: 5 Shocking Real-Life Cases of Satanic Ritual Killings

In a previous interview, in 1981, she explained that the home-invasion was deliberately designed to mimic the infamous Manson Family murders, saying, “the idea was to make it look like some of the Manson group went from California to North Carolina to commit the murders.” She has also alternately claimed to have been so high the night of the murders that she didn’t remember all of the details.

Stoeckley passed away in 1983. MacDonald’s motion was denied, based on Stoeckley’s character and reputation.

MacDonald remains behind bars in a federal prison in Cumberland, Maryland. He still maintains his innocence.

Tune in for more episodes of the 10-part true-crime series, People Magazine Investigates, on Mondays at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery. And watch full episodes with ID Go.

Read more:

TheJeffreyMacDonaldCase.com

Vanity Fair

People.com

Washington Post

Main photo: Jeffrey MacDonald [Free Jeffrey MacDonald Facebook page]

  • 36XYZ

    ‘Fatal Vision’ is a clear indictment of MacDonald’s guilt.

  • Sam Powell

    The evidence is a clear indictment of his guilt. Fiber and blood evidence particularly. However, even as a 12 year old in Raleigh, NC hearing about his claims of hippies saying Acid is Groovy, I knew then he was full of crap. By 1970. groovy was already passé and no self respecting hippie would have said that. Dig more into Stoeckley and you’ll find she would say anything for a Big Mac. Sad drug addict.