The Jeffrey MacDonald Case, Domestic Violence, and Media Gullibility

Colette, Kristin, and Kimberly MacDonald

Colette, Kristin, and Kimberly MacDonald

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article at Alternet by Lynn Stuart Parramore called: How I Changed My Mind About the Jeffrey MacDonald Murder Case. Parramore announced that she had read a new book on the MacDonald case by Errol Morris, A Wilderness of Error, and that

After traveling a months-long journey that has led me from certainty to doubt to horror at a grave injustice, I’m going to turn in this article and then go run some errands and make myself a bite to eat. Mundane things that Jeffrey MacDonald has not been able to do for over 30 years. The simple acts of coming and going as I please and caring for my own basic needs have been denied him. His wife Colette and his children have also been forever denied these things — but not, I have come to believe, by the man who is currently serving three consecutive life sentences.

A little background…

Jeffrey MacDonald

Jeffrey MacDonald

MacDonald was accused of murdering his wife Colette and their two little girls, Kimberly, age 5, and Kristin, age 2, in their home at Ft. Bragg military base in North Carolina on February 17, 1970. Colette was five months pregnant when she was murdered.

MacDonald claimed he had been sleeping on the couch in the living room, because his daughter Kristin had gotten into bed with his wife and had wet the bed. His story was that he had awakened suddenly to see these four people standing over him, and at the same time he had heard his wife and two daughters calling for him. He claimed that the woman was saying “Acid is groovy, kill the pigs,” and that the three men attacked him with a club and an ice pick, that somehow his pajama top was pulled over his head and he had used it to protect himself.

(It’s important to note here that these events took place only a few months after it was revealed that the Tate LaBianca murders in Los Angeles had been committed by so-called “hippies,” who were part of the “Manson family.” In addition, MacDonald had recently read a copy of the latest Esquire Magazine, which included a number of articles about the Manson murders and about hippies, drugs, and “witchcraft.”)

MacDonald said that he had eventually been knocked unconscious and when he came to he was lying in the hallway near the couch. He then went into the master bedroom and found his wife covered in blood–she had been bludgeoned repeatedly, and both her arms were broken. She had been stabbed 21 times with an ice pick and 16 times with a kitchen knife. The two girls were in their bedrooms. Kimberly had also– been bludgeoned–so badly that a bone protruded from her face.  She had also been stabbed repeatedly in the neck.  Kristin had been stabbed in the chest and back, 33 times with a knife and 15 times with an ice pick.

In contrast, MacDonald’s injuries were relatively minor. He had a bruise on his forehead, some small puncture wounds, and a wound in his right chest that partially punctured his lung. He did not even require any stitches. He was, however emotionally overwrought and his doctors were concerned about that.

MacDonald was initially released after an Army hearing, but after a thorough re-investigation, the Justice Department indicted him in 1975. In 1979 he was found guilty by a jury. He has had eight appeals, including two that went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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