TOPIC: Bedding evidence

Pile of bedding (top sheet and bedspread) from bed in east bedroom

Pile of bedding (top sheet and bedspread) from bed in east bedroom

Near the closet in the master bedroom, a blue bedsheet and multi-colored bedspread from the master bed were found rumpled together by CID investigators. William Ivory originally attempted to separate the bedding, but quickly changed his mind after spotting a finger section from a surgeon's glove within the bedding. Ivory and Robert Shaw subsequently placed the rumpled bedding in a plastic bag.  Lab technicians at Fort Gordon typed the blood found on the bedsheet and bedspread, collected trace evidence from the bedding, and later attempted to source the trace evidence.  Jeffrey MacDonald has always maintained that he never touched the bedding on February 17, 1970.

Sheet from floor of east (master) bedroom of 544 Castle Drive
Sheet from floor of east (master) bedroom of 544 Castle Drive
Sheet from east (master) bedroom of 544 Castle Drive
Sheet from east (master) bedroom of 544 Castle Drive

There were 28 blood stains found on the blue bedsheet.  26 of the blood stains were Type A, the same blood type as Colette MacDonald.  Many of the stains were massive, direct bleeding stains.  The other two blood stains were Type AB, the same blood type as Kimberley MacDonald.  The multi-colored bedspread also contained several massive, direct bleeding stains from Colette MacDonald.

In terms of significant trace evidence, there was a forcibly removed body hair with skin attached to the basal area found on the blue bedsheet. The CID could not source the hair due to the fact that only head and pubic hairs can be compared under a microscope. The only means of sourcing body hairs, limb hairs, and hair fragments is through DNA testing. There also was a bloody head hair from Kimberley found in the multi-colored bedspread. The finger section from a surgeon's glove had traces of Colette's blood on it and the word "PIG" written on the headboard in the master bedroom, was written in Colette's blood. The finger section from the surgeon's glove was similar in chemical composition to a box of surgeon's gloves found under the kitchen sink. The blood and trace evidence found in the bedding convinced CID investigators that Jeffrey MacDonald had used the bedding to transport Colette and Kimberley MacDonald back to their rooms.

In 2005, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology performed DNA tests on 28 hair exhibits from the MacDonald case. The forcibly removed body hair found on the blue bedsheet matched the DNA profile of Colette MacDonald. The significance of this result can best be summed up by defense lawyer, Phil Cormier. In 1997, Cormier argued the following to Judge Fox:

"Here, DNA testing could be used very effectively to further demonstrate Jeffrey MacDonald's innocence. One simple illustration makes this point. As noted above, crime scene investigators found in the bedding in the master bedroom of the MacDonald home a brown body hair of Caucasian origin which, according to the government's own lab examiners, appears to have been forcibly removed and appears to have a piece of skin tissue attached to the basal area of the hair. If this hair and piece of skin were subjected to DNA testing, and were such testing to result in a determination that this item did not originate from either Jeffrey MacDonald, his wife, or his daughters, it would be highly persuasive evidence of MacDonald's innocence, for there is little, if any, possibility that this hair and skin found their way into the bedding in the master bedroom other than as a result of a struggle between the victims and the persons who committed the murders."
The right sleeve cuff of Jeffrey MacDonald's pajama top.
The right sleeve cuff of Jeffrey MacDonald's pajama top.

In 1974, Paul Stombaugh was asked by government lawyers to analyze the unusual blood patterns and formations on the blue bedsheet. Stombaugh analyzed the patterns for over a week and came to the conclusion that many of them were fabric and non-fabric impressions. Stombaugh labeled each impression found on the blue bedsheet with a letter designation. The following are the impressions that Stombaugh identified, marked, and testified to at the 1979 trial.

  • Area A     Jeffrey MacDonald's right pajama sleeve cuff
  • Area B     Jeffrey MacDonald's right pajama sleeve cuff
  • Area C     Bloody left hand impression
  • Area D     Bloody right hand impression
  • Area E     Bare left shoulder impression
  • Area E     Jeffrey MacDonald's torn left pajama sleeve cuff
  • Area F     Colette MacDonald's left pajama sleeve cuff
  • Area G     Colette MacDonald's right pajama sleeve cuff

Stombaugh also found a bloody chin impression on the blue bedsheet and a bloody head hair from Colette MacDonald twisted with a bloody pajama seam thread from Jeffrey MacDonald's pajama top on the multi-colored bedspread. To Stombaugh, the entwining of the head hair and pajama seam thread, indicated direct contact between Jeffrey and Colette MacDonald.

The MacDonald defense team hired two respected forensics experts. John Thornton and Charles Morton both looked at specific impressions on the blue bedsheet. Their conclusions were as follows:

  • Thornton agreed with Stombaugh on Areas A, B, and F.
  • Thornton disagreed with Stombaugh on Areas C, D, and the shoulder impression located in Area E. Thornton theorized that the impressions in Areas C and D were the result of direct bleeding.
  • Thornton never studied the impressions found in Areas E and G.
  • Morton disagreed with Stombaugh on Areas C, D, and G. Morton admitted to Brian Murtagh at trial that Area G matched the morphology of Colette's right pajama cuff, but insisted that the impression was a bloody palm print. The morphology of a fabric impression involves its shape, dimensions, and general size.
  • Morton never studied Areas A, B, E, F.

Paul Stombaugh's analysis of the pajama cuff impressions included a theory on how Colette was transported in the bedding. Stombaugh concluded that Colette was placed face-down on the multi-colored bedspread in Kristen's room, that the blue bedsheet was placed over her back, and that the back of her pajama cuffs left bloody impressions on the blue bedsheet. Stombaugh states that in the process of adjusting and lifting Colette's body in the blue bedsheet, Jeffrey MacDonald left bloody cuff, shoulder, and chin impressions on the blue bedsheet. Finally, in the process of placing Colette's body on the master bedroom floor, one of the two surgeon's gloves came apart and a finger section remained inside the bedding. The Type AB blood stain on the lower left panel of Jeffrey MacDonald's pajama top, the two Type AB blood stains on the blue bedsheet, and the trail of Type AB blood leading to Kimberley's room, combined to convince investigators that Jeffrey MacDonald carried Kimberley to her room in the blue bedsheet.