TOPIC: Defense claims

Bloody gloves

There were multiple gloves found at the crime scene which bore traces of blood.  Jeffrey MacDonald's advocates argue that multiple bloody gloves found in the kitchen points to multiple intruders.  Traces of blood were found on these gloves, but could not be typed due to the paucity of the stains.  The minute traces of blood on these gloves indicates a transfer of blood rather than the gloves coming in direct contact with a bloody object or objects.  In addition, the gloves found in the kitchen were oven mitts and dish gloves.  It is doubtful that intruders would ignore the number of surgical gloves present in the MacDonald home, yet use the more cumbersome oven mitts to commit these horrific murders.  A finger section of a surgeon's glove was found in the rumpled bedding on the floor in the master bedroom.  The finger section was stained with Colette MacDonald's blood and was probably used to write "PIG" on the master bed headboard.  Considering that the word contained no ridge lines, the author was probably wearing gloves.  Two small pieces of a surgeon's glove were also found on the master bedroom floor near Colette's body.  One piece was the size of a dime and other piece was the size of a quarter.

Fibers On The Club

Q89 (CID E205) pillbox
Q89 (CID E205) pillbox
In 1970, CID chemist Dillard Browning examined debris found on the club and noted that two pajama fibers, several rayon fibers from the throw rug in the master bedroom, and several animal hairs were adhering to the club in Colette's blood.  Browning labeled the debris found on the club as CID Exhibit E-205, and he placed the two pajama fibers in a vial.  In 1974, FBI physical science technician Shirley Green labeled the debris from the club as FBI Exhibit Q89.  Green placed the pajama fibers in a pillbox, and Paul Stombaugh later matched the fibers to the seam threads from Jeffrey MacDonald's pajama top.

In 1979, co-lead prosecutor Brian Murtagh requested an FBI re-analysis of the fibers found at the crime scene.  Two dark woolen fibers were found on the club during this re-analysis.  Considering the fact that these dark woolen fibers were not listed in the 1970 CID lab reports or the 1974 FBI lab reports, advocates for MacDonald felt that something was amiss.  They ultimately concluded that the two fibers listed in the initial lab reports as coming from Jeffrey MacDonald's pajamas, were actually the two dark woolen fibers listed in the 1979 FBI fiber re-analysis.  In essence, advocates for MacDonald claimed that this was a classic case of fiber misidentification.  The documented record says otherwise.

In preparation for the 1990 evidentiary hearing before Judge Dupree, the FBI took two color photographs of the pajama seam threads in the pillbox and the photographs were labeled as FBI Exhibits 76 and 77.  The dark woolen fibers found on the club were placed in a vial.  In 1990, FBI hair and fibers expert Michael Malone determined that the two dark woolen fibers differed in optical properties which meant that the fibers came from different source materials.  This conclusion mirrored FBI Special Agent Robert Webb's chemical composition analysis of the two dark woolen fibers found on the club.  The documented record clearly indicates that both pajama fibers and dark woolen fibers were found on the club.

Hair fragment found in Kristen's nail scrapings

In 1970, CID chemist Janice Glisson looked at fingernail scrapings from Kristen MacDonald and listed a hair fragment being found under her fingernail.  The significant portion of Glisson Lab Note R-11 reads, "#7 fingernail scrapings left hand smaller female MacDonald.  1 hair? 2 fragments."  MacDonald advocates point to this lab note as proof that Kristen fought with an intruder on February 17, 1970.  In 2006, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology released DNA test results and the 5mm hair fragment was one of three unsourced hairs found at the crime scene.  There is no clear evidence, however, that points to this hair fragment being found under Kristen's fingernail.  Several other chemists, including Dillard Browning, looked at the fingernail scrapings from Kristen prior to Glisson's analysis, and not one of them noted the presence of this hair.

There is no record of a hair under Kristen's fingernail being observed at the autopsy and Glisson's analysis was more than six months after Kristen's autopsy.  Kristen's hands were not bagged prior to her body being removed form the crime scene, she was active on February 16th, and she was not bathed prior to going to bed.  The totality of the documented record indicates that the presence of this hair fragment was the result of contamination at the Fort Gordon Lab.  The government surmised that a hair from a laboratory technician adhered to the slip of paper used to label Kristen's fingernail scrapings.  The FBI determined that this hair was naturally shed (e.g., not bloody, club root), so logic dictates that this hair is an extraneous artifact as opposed to the result of a violent struggle.

The alleged "bloody palmprint"

In 1997, MacDonald's advocates put forth the claim that an unidentified bloody palm print was found on the footboard of the master bed.  CID Exhibit D-270 states "Red-brown stain from left edge of bed footboard in east bedroom," and Exhibit W-5 states "one partial latent palm print on the footboard."  There is not a single lab document that describes the unidentified print as a bloody palm print and if the print had any discernable ridge lines, it would have been labeled as a patent palm print.  Photographs were taken of both evidentiary items and they clearly depict the items as being located in two different areas of the footboard.  It is impossible to determine when the unsourced palm print was deposited on the footboard, but there are several prosaic explanations as to the potential source of that partial print.  Those sources include movers, prior tenants, and visitors to the residence who were not asked to provide print exemplars to the CID or FBI.

The candle wax

During the 1979 trial, Bernie Segal argued that three unsourced candle wax drippings found at the crime scene indicated the presence of intruders.  The fact is that Colette MacDonald loved candles as evidenced by CID Exhibits G-9 through G-17.  These exhibits included several glass bottles which bore traces of multi-colored wax.  There were also 14 unused candles found at the crime scene.  In terms of the three unsourced wax drippings, all three differed in chemical composition, which indicated that the drippings came from three different candles.  Two of the three wax drippings were found in Kimberley MacDonald's room.  One wax dripping resembled birthday candle wax and the other wax dripping was similar to wax found on a glass bottle in the dining room.  The third unsourced wax dripping was found on the left slat of the coffee table in the living room.  This particular wax dripping was comparatively old and contaminated with household debris.  The argument that the three wax drippings are unrelated evidentiary items is bolstered by the fact that there was no trail of wax drippings leading from the living room and extending into Kimberley's room.

Colette's head hair twisted with thread from MacDonald's pajama top

In 1995, MacDonald's advocates implied that something nefarious occurred with a specific evidentiary item.  In preparation for the 1974-1975 Grand Jury hearings, the FBI did a forensic re-analysis of all the evidentiary items with the exception of blood typing.  In 1974, Brian Murtagh hand-carried the evidence to Paul Stombaugh and when Stombaugh found a head hair twisted with a pajama seam thread, the MacDonald defense team began to ask specific questions.  For example, the defense team knew that in 1970, the CID did not list a head hair twisted with a pajama seam thread.  Once they discovered that Murtagh delivered the vial that contained this evidentiary item, they began to wonder whether Murtagh had manufactured this trace evidence.  The documented record, however, provides a more prosaic explanation.  In 1970, the CID listed two pieces of blood-soaked thread being found in the multi-colored bedspread, and designated this evidentiary item as CID Exhibit D-229.

In 1974, Stombaugh noted two long pieces of blood-soaked thread with one of those threads having a head hair twisted with it.  Stombaugh added that the head hair had traces of blood along its shaft.  Stombaugh labeled the debris as FBI Exhibit Q96, the seam thread was soaked in water to remove the hair, and the hair was then placed on a slide.  Stombaugh stated in his notes that "the hair had no root, but was probably broken due to blow to head."  Stombaugh then compared the hair to head hair exemplars from the MacDonald family and the hair microscopically matched the hair of Colette MacDonald.  In order for the defense theory to work, Brian Murtagh would have had to have found an extraneous broken, bloody head hair from Colette, and twisted it around an extraneous bloody seam thread from Jeffrey MacDonald's pajamas.

Unsourced hairs

During the 1979 trial, Bernie Segal pointed to a number of unsourced hairs found at the crime scene as proof of intruders.  MacDonald advocates listed 19 hairs as being unidentified and were hopeful that the DNA test results conducted by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology would strengthen their position.  That didn't happen.  In 2006, the DNA test results for hairs collected at the crime scene did not result in a single DNA match to a known intruder suspect.  Helena Stoeckley and Greg Mitchell were the defense team's main intruder suspects, and their DNA profiles did not match a single exhibit.  A limb hair found in Colette MacDonald's left hand was one of the keys to the defense team's position that Colette was killed by an intruder.  Greg Mitchell's name was even bandied about as being the probable donor of that limb hair.  The importance of this hair lay in the fact that a splinter from the club was also present in Colette's hand.  To everyone involved, this indicated that the donor of the hair was also the wielder of the club that brutalized Colette.  The test results demonstrated that the limb hair from CID Exhibit E-5, matched the DNA profile of Jeffrey MacDonald.  Body hairs found on the multi-colored bedspread and on top of Kristen's bed also matched the DNA profile of Jeffrey MacDonald.

Unsourced fibers

The MacDonald defense team has argued that unsourced fibers found at the crime scene are proof of home invaders being present at the MacDonald home on February 17, 1970.  The FBI, however, has a policy which specifically states that without source material to compare it to, unsourced fibers are forensically insignificant.  The focus of the defense team's fiber arguments are the five dark woolen fibers found at the crime scene.  Since 1989, several defense motions have put forth the argument that the source of the five dark-colored fibers was clothing worn by Helena Stoeckley.  What is missing from these motions is the fact that Stoeckley never mentioned wearing dark woolen clothing items on February 17, 1970.  Two fibers were found on the club and three fibers were found on Colette's body.  Three of the five fibers differed in chemical composition, indicating three different source materials.  There was no dark woolen clothing available for comparison purposes due to the fact that most of the MacDonald family clothing items were discarded after the Article 32 hearings.  There are, however, home movies and photographs of the MacDonald family wearing multi-colored stocking caps, dark-colored sweaters, and dark-colored hats.

The alleged "half-filled bloody syringe"

During the 1984-1985 appeals process, Jeffrey MacDonald's lawyers argued that the government suppressed the existence of a half-filled bloody syringe found in the hallway closet.  Judge Dupree ruled against the defense after becoming aware of the fact that CID chemist Craig Chamberlain and CID agent Hagan Rossi stated without reservation that no half-filled syringe of any kind was found at the crime scene.

The three saran fibers

Known saran doll hair, from FBI reference collection
Known saran doll hair, from FBI reference collection
During the 1990 and 1992 appellate process, Jeffrey MacDonald's lawyers argued that three saran fibers found at the crime scene was evidence of a wig-wearing intruder.  Intruder suspect Helena Stoeckley made several post-trial statements claiming that she wore her wig to 544 Castle Drive on February 17, 1970.  Stoeckley, however, testified under oath at the 1979 trial that she wasn't wearing her wig on the night of the murders.  The three saran fibers were 24, 22, and nine inches in length.  All three fibers were found in a clear-handled hairbrush located in the dining room next to Colette's purse.  In 1974, Paul Stombaugh analyzed these three fibers, and labeled them as FBI Exhibits Q46 and Q49.  Stombaugh listed the fibers as "synthetic filament yellow, type used on dolls, Halloween costumes, etc."  In 1990, FBI Special Agent Robert Webb analyzed the fibers and concluded that the 24-inch and nine-inch saran fibers differed in chemical composition to the 22-inch saran fiber.  This indicated that the three saran fibers came from two different source materials.  In terms of dolls being the source material for the three saran fibers, Kristen MacDonald had 20 dolls in her collection, and Kimberley had several dolls of her own.

In 1990, hair and fiber expert Michael Malone matched the 24-inch saran fiber to doll hair in the FBI's exemplar collection and none of the saran fibers matched any wig exemplar in the FBI's reference collection.  There were also two platinum-colored synthetic hairs found in hairbrushes at the crime scene and Malone matched these synthetic hairs to a fall owned by Colette MacDonald.  In 1992, the U.S. Department of Justice sent a post-argument letter to MacDonald's defense team.  In regards to Malone's fiber analysis, the government stated that "Examiner Malone added that standard references that he had consulted do not reflect the use of saran fibers in human cosmetic wigs."  The letter also addressed the claim that the 22-inch and the 24-inch saran fibers were too long to be doll hair.  The government stated that "doll hair is doubled or looped when placed in the skull of a doll.  A 22-inch fiber, therefore, is consistent with an 11-inch hair strand on a doll.  Appellant has never attempted to rebut this explanation."  Unfortunately, there were no doll exemplars available for comparison purposes due to the fact that Kristen's and Kimberley's doll collections were discarded after the Article 32 hearings.  In a 1990 People magazine article, Freddy Kassab addressed this issue and stated that Kimberley or Kristen brushing their dolls hair with the clear-handled hairbrush was a far more logical scenario than Stoeckley brushing her wig during the course of a home invasion.

The "Gurney Theory"

Ray Shedlick was hired as a private investigator by Jeffrey MacDonald in 1984.  In 1985, Shedlick created the "Gurney Theory" as a way to explain the formation of three bloody footprints found exiting Kristen MacDonald's room.  Shedlick argued that when Jeffrey MacDonald was being wheeled out of 544 Castle Drive on an ambulance gurney, he grabbed the door frame to Kimberley's room, and subsequently got off the gurney.  During this process, he stood up at the entrance to Kristen's room and with his feet having been contaminated with Colette's blood from the master bedroom floor, he formed the three bloody footprints.  There are a myriad of problems with Shedlick's theory.  The distance between the gurney and the bloody footprint inside Kristen's room is almost four feet.  That's quite a distance to cover when you have an MP on either side of you as you're being wheeled down the hall on a gurney.  The footprints were exiting Kristen's room, so in order to duplicate this sequence, Jeffrey MacDonald would have needed to do a back-flip off the gurney.  Jeffrey MacDonald's testimony at the Article 32 hearing casts further doubt on the validity of Shedlick's theory.  Jeffrey MacDonald stated that he backed into the stereo in Kimberley MacDonald's room after getting completely off the gurney.  There is also the distinct possibility that Jeffrey MacDonald never even got off the gurney.  Lieutenant Joseph Paulk testified at the Article 32 hearing that Jeffrey MacDonald only got to a sitting position on the gurney.

Pajama fibers under Colette's body

Captain William Neal, Professional Officer of the Day for Womack Hospital, arrived at the crime scene to make the official pronouncements of death.  Neal's subsequent testimony at the Article 32 hearings has become fodder for the MacDonald defense team in regards to cultivating an explanation for the 24 pajama fibers found under Colette's body.  Neal testified that he removed the pajama top found on Colette's chest and turned her body over in order to check her back area.  The MacDonald defense surmised that in the process of rolling Colette's body back to its original postion, Neal set Colette down on top of the 24 pajama fibers.  The problem with this theory is that no other witness corroborates Neal's claim that he moved Colette's body.  As a matter of fact, three witnesses disputed this claim while under oath: CID agents William Ivory, Robert Shaw and Paul Connolly all stated that Neal never moved Colette's body.  In addition, all three agents stated that Neal did not have any medical instruments such as a stethoscope with him, and that he simply used his hands to check for a pulse on Colette's neck and hand.

White sheet over Colette's body

Ray Shedlick interviewed Kenneth Edwards in June of 1984.  In February of 1970, Edwards lived a few doors down from the MacDonald family, and he told Shedlick that he entered the crime scene and saw Colette's body covered with a large white cloth.  Shedlick immediately thought that he had found the reason why bloody pajama cuff impressions were present on the blue bedsheet.  Shedlick theorized that an unnamed MP had covered Colette with the light blue bedsheet and that the pajama top on Colette's chest, and her own pajama cuffs, had transfered the bloody cuff impressions onto the bedsheet.  There were, however, a myriad of problems with Shedlick's theory.  Edwards claimed that MacDonald was sitting on a stool in the living room and that he attempted to console him.  Edwards also claimed that an unnamed MP told him that "This man killed his wife and children and he's also hurt."  Edwards' claims are not backed by a single witness who was present at the crime scene.

To a man, the testimony described MacDonald being taken from the master bedroom on a stretcher, and wheeled out the front door.  The crime scene had not yet been processed when this occurred, so it's highly unlikely that an MP would have any opinion as to the nature of these murders.  There are no photographs nor did any witness testify to Colette's body being covered with a sheet.  Finally, the bloody pajama cuff impressions found on the blue bedsheet are of the back of Colette's cuffs.  Colette was face-up on the master bedroom floor, so the bloody impressions would have been of the front of Colette's pajama cuffs in the scenario described by Edwards.  The left sleeve of MacDonald's pajama top was also found trailing off Colette's body, yet there was a bloody impression of MacDonald's torn left pajama cuff found on the bedsheet.  Shedlick's theory would not account for this particular cuff impression.

Four bisected blood stains

MacDonald advocates argue that during the 1979 trial, Bernie Segal disproved the theory by Paul Stombaugh that Colette MacDonald's blood stained the pajama top of Jeffrey MacDonald in four locations before it was torn.  Fred Bost went a step further by claiming that the stains never existed and that at the 1979 trial, he could not point out the blood stains by sight or with the use of a light box.  Bost also argued that no photographs were taken of these blood stains when Stombaugh initially examined the pajama top in 1971.  The following is the initial exchange between James Blackburn and Paul Stombaugh at the 1979 trial regarding the blood stains on the pajama top which could be seen with the naked eye.
Blackburn:  Now, if you would, sir, maybe place it back up on the stand a little bit higher so everyone can see.  Now, what examination, if any, did you conduct with respect to the blood-stained areas of that pajama top?

Stombaugh:  The next question the CID wanted answered was whether or not this pajama top was torn before or after bloodstains were placed on it.  In examining the torn areas to determine this, you look for a stain that has been placed on an object and then torn through.  The contours of the edges would be the same.  We found stained areas where such had occurred.  These areas were up here in the left shoulder and down the sleeve area down at the cuff, and the cuff area, and in the left seam.  These stains had been placed on there and then later on more blood added, but the stains were heavier and were easily visible at the time of the examination.

Blackburn:  I wonder, sir, if you could maybe move the little table over here in front of the jury and maybe take the pajama top off the mannequin, or leave it on, whichever is best, and point out the areas to which you are referring.

Stombaugh:  I am going to have to locate them first, Mr. Blackburn.

Blackburn:  Maybe the jury could stand up.

Stombaugh:  One of the stains is located right here.  It is in a continuation.  There is a larger stain on this side.  Here is a small stain that was on there before it was torn.  Here is in the cuff area of the left sleeve slightly up from the cuff area, I would say 2 to 3 inches.  Up about 5 inches above that is another one, and then up in the shoulder area in this area here you can see a continuation of the stain from this portion which would be the left portion of the sleeve to the back portion where it was torn through.  I found another area.  This stain continues —

Blackburn:  Before you start, for the record tell us.

Stombaugh:  This is on the left side seam between the front left panel and the left side of the back panel.  The continuation of this stain here, the heavier stain, and it comes around to here.  At the time I examined it, I put some white marks on it, and another stain is just below that near the base of the stain and is a continuation of this stain here.

Blackburn:  So it is your testimony that the blood got on the pajama top in those areas prior to its being torn; is that correct?

Stombaugh:  That is correct.
The following is an exchange between Bernie Segal and Paul Stombaugh at the 1979 trial in regards to the existence of photographs of the blood stains and whether the stains could be seen with the use of a light box.
Segal:  Did you ever look at those stains with a light box underneath of it?

Stombaugh:  Yes, sir.

Segal:  Did that help any?

Stombaugh:  It helped; yes.

Segal:  Would you like to show these stains with a light box to the jury?

Stombaugh:  That is up to you, Mr. Segal.

Segal:  Yes, if the Government will make a light box available, we will do that too.  All right; that takes care of the stain on the front.  Let's talk about the other stain — the one you say there is a tear through.

Stombaugh:  There is a very small stain in this area, sir.  The best stain was on down toward the cuff area.

Segal:  Which picture is that?

Stombaugh:  We do not have that.  When they blew this up they left the cuff area off of it.  I can show you on the pajama top itself.

Segal:  Certainly.  But as far as you know, what you just pointed out to us today — the area that you pointed out in the G-617 — that's the only large photograph that you have seen which purports to show how this fabric was torn after it had been stained by this tear that went right through this previous existing stain, is that right?

Stombaugh:  That is correct.

Segal:  And in 1971, only one of those stains was photographed, and that is the picture we have up here this morning, is that right?

Stombaugh:  I believe the whole left sleeve was photographed, sir; but I can't be sure.

Segal:  Do you think it would aid us if we would go back to — the biggest and the best of these stains is the one right here in the middle; isn't that right, Mr. Stombaugh?  The one in the middle of the torn garment?

Stombaugh:  This is one stain.  The ones on the left sleeve are good, and the ones in the left shoulder area are good.

Segal:  Would you select one, since it is a little awkward for us all to work with the light box?  Would you pick the one that you think is the clearest showing of how the garment was torn after it was bloodstained?

Stombaugh:  We are getting too much light here, Mr. Segal.  It obliterates just about everything.

Segal:  I'm sorry, Mr. Stombaugh, I'm not sure we are clear on that.  You say that the light box is giving off so much light that you cannot see the stains through it?

Stombaugh:  It obliterates the stains, sir.

Segal:  That is no help to us now?

Stombaugh:  No help.

Segal:  All right, thank you, Mr. Stombaugh.  You may go back to the stand.  But you say it was a help in 1971?

Stombaugh:  The stains were much more vivid in 1971 and the light box had a Rheostat on it to control the amount of light coming through.

Segal:  But you didn't actually need it, you say, in 1971 to find the 4 stains you are talking about today.

Stombaugh:  No sir, I did not.

Segal:  Those were obvious and transparent.

Stombaugh:  Yes, sir.

Clothing in the hallway

MacDonald advocates attack the sequence of events in regards to CID evidence collection in a variety of ways.  A prime example is the comparison of crime scene photographs with the testimony of military police in terms of where items were in the apartment during the initial stages of the investigation.  During the April 6, 1970 interview, there is an exchange between Franz Grebner and Jeffrey MacDonald regarding the sequencing of crime scene photographs with clothing items that were found on the hallway floor near the steps leading into the living room.  The items photographed at the end of the hallway included Colette MacDonald's large red coat and Kimberly MacDonald's red and white nightgown.  The coat and nightgown seemed to be important pieces of evidence due to the fact that they were located in the area of the hallway where MacDonald states he was knocked unconscious, yet contained no trace evidence of any kind.  The following is the exchange between Grebner and MacDonald:
Grebner:  If you had a struggle right in this area — see these?  (Inaudible) They were on the couch.

MacDonald:  They what?

Grebner:  Up in the hallway at the top of the two little steps here.

MacDonald:  They — they were what sir?

Grebner:  They were in the hallway.

MacDonald:  Yeah.

Grebner:  Right at the top of the steps.  If you had been in a struggle there, there sure as hell would have been some of them kicked back down in the hallway.

MacDonald:  We often piled, you know, loose stuff in the living room at the end of the hallway there.
MacDonald advocates have never provided any proof that the clothing items were not on the hallway floor when investigators arrived at the crime scene.  Multiple military police personnel testified at the Article 32 hearing that the coat and nightgown were on the hallway floor when they arrived at the crime scene.

Woman on the corner

Bernie Segal attempted to prove that Helena Stoeckley was the woman seen standing on a street corner at 3:45 a.m.  on February 17, 1970.  The following is an exchange between Captain Clifford Somers and Ken Mica at the Article 32 hearing in 1970:
Somers:  Would you describe for us, please, just exactly what this female looked like you saw on the corner of Honeycutt and Lucas?

Mica:  Yes, sir.  From what I remember she had on a wide brimmed hat, what appeared to be a rain coat, trench coat type, came just above her — her knees, and she appeared to have long hair.

Somers:  What color was her hair?

Mica:  I don't remember, sir.

Somers:  Describe her facial details for us, please.

Mica:  I couldn't describe her face.

Somers:  You say she was wearing a rain coat?

Mica:  I believe it was a rain coat, sir.

Somers:  And how much of her figure was visible with this coat on?

Mica:  Well, sir, just — actually the only part that was visible under the coat was right above her knees on down.

Somers:  You don't really know kind of shape this woman was in, do you?

Mica:  Well, the only way I could judge, you know, is comparison to other people I've seen wearing rain coats.  She had pretty nice legs.

Somers:  From her knees down?

Mica:  Yes.

Somers:  I gather then that she wasn't wearing boots?

Mica:  I don't remember, sir.
Mica also admitted that he saw the woman for only a few seconds, that the main source of light for this sighting came from a traffic signal, and though unusual, it was not the first time he witnessed a woman standing alone at night in that part of town.  Mica's testimony did little to foster a link between this woman and Helena Stoeckley.