TOPIC: DNA Evidence

In 1997, the 4th Circuit Court granted MacDonald's motion for DNA testing of blood and hair evidence in this case.  Judge Fox ordered a DNA protocol hearing on March 23, 1999 and decided that the testing procedures would involve both Nuclear and Mitochondrial DNA analysis.  In response to blood evidence, Brian Murtagh processed with Judge Fox that, "with respect to Nuclear DNA exemplars, we don't have blood samples from the victims at this point.  I mean, they were sent to the third army toxicology laboratory in 1970, and apparently consumed in analysis then."  The defense requested that the DNA testing be done at the Armed Forces Institute Of Pathology.

Three days later, Judge Fox ordered that 15 hair exhibits be DNA tested at the Armed Forces Institute Of Pathology and that the packaging of these exhibits be videotaped by the FBI.  The government, however, packaged 29 DNA exhibits with a majority of those exhibits being hair exhibits.  For reasons only known to defense counsel, Helena Stoeckley and Greg Mitchell were the only DNA exemplars from known intruder suspects to be analyzed by the AFIP.  The DNA exhibits and exemplars were sent to the AFIP in 2000 for testing.

Two events, however, caused a significant delay in the testing process.  As a result of 9/11, the AFIP was assigned the task of identifying victims via DNA technology.  The other event was the AFIP identifying soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.  These events resulted in the AFIP being unable to provide extensive DNA testing in the MacDonald case until 2005.  In 2006, the AFIP completed DNA testing in this case and their conclusions are as follows.

Jeffrey MacDonald's DNA profile matched a body hair found on Kristen's bed, a body hair on the rumpled bedspread found in the master bedroom, and a limb hair found clutched in Colette's left hand.  The two body hairs were not considered inculpatory due to the fact that both hairs were naturally shed.  The condition of the limb hair, however, inculpated MacDonald in the murder of his wife.  The hair was bloody, broken, and located next to a splinter from the club.  Prior to DNA testing in this case, MacDonald advocates argued that the presence of a splinter in Colette's left hand indicated that the source of the limb hair was the wielder of the club.  Considering that the left sleeve of MacDonald's pajama top was torn down to the cuff, one could argue that Colette used her left hand to rip a hair from her husband's exposed left arm.

A bloody body hair on the rumpled blue bedsheet found in the master bedroom matched the DNA profile of Colette.  This was significant for in 1999, defense attorney Phil Cormier argued to the Court that there was a good possibility that the source of this hair was a known intruder suspect.  In addition to Colette's bloody hair, there were several evidentiary items (e.g., bloody fabric and non-fabric impressions, fibers, bloody finger portion of a surgeon's glove) found on the blue bedsheet that indicated that someone wearing MacDonald's pajama top carried Colette in the bedsheet from Kristen's bedroom to the master bedroom.

Of the 29 DNA exhibits tested by the AFIP, only three were unsourced.  They included a body hair found on Kristen's bed, a pubic hair found in the body outline of Colette, and a 5mm hair fragment found in the fingernail scrapings of Kristen.  The body and pubic hairs are not exculpatory due to the fact that both hairs have club roots, neither hair is bloody, and Colette was not sexually assaulted.  All of these factors demonstrate that the hairs were naturally shed.  In regards to the hair fragment, the government has convincingly argued that the hair in Kristen's fingernail scrapings is the result of lab contamination.

Their arguments include the fact that no hairs were found under Kristen's fingernails at autopsy, that the presence of the hair fragment was first noted over five months after the murders, and that a slip of paper was contained within the fingernail scrapings.  This slip of paper was used to label this particular evidentiary item and it is quite possible that a tiny hair was attached to the paper slip prior to the paper being placed in the evidentiary container.  Further evidence that the hair fragment was not exculpatory lay in the fact that the hair had a club root nor was it bloody.

At the 2012 evidentiary hearing, the defense put forth the argument that unsourced hairs equals hippie home invaders, but Judge Fox felt that this argument lacked merit as evidenced by his denying MacDonald a new trial in 2014.  The 4th Circuit Court also denied MacDonald's motion for additional DNA testing in 2016.