TOPIC: Pajama top theory

The pajama top of Jeffrey MacDonald contained 48 icepick holes.  When examiners arranged the top to match the position in which it was found on Colette MacDonald's body, the 48 holes in the pajama top matched 21 holes in Colette's chest.

The pajama top of Jeffrey MacDonald contained 48 icepick holes.  When examiners arranged the top to match the position in which it was found on Colette MacDonald's body, the 48 holes in the pajama top matched 21 holes in Colette's chest.

Jeffrey MacDonald's pajama top was found on top of Colette MacDonald's chest when CID investigators arrived at 544 Castle Drive on February 17, 1970.  The pajama top was placed in a plastic bag by CID investigators William Ivory and Robert Shaw, and later transported to the U.S.  Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory at Fort Gordon.  The Fort Gordon forensics team began marking and processing the evidence on February 21, 1970.  The pajama top contained 48 puncture holes and two cuts with 17 of the puncture holes being found in the back of the garment.  This struck CID investigators as extremely odd, for Jeffrey MacDonald did not receive any stab wounds to his back and Womack Hospital medical reports could only verify four puncture-type wounds on MacDonald's body.  This led CID investigators to the conclusion that the 48 puncture holes were the result of Jeffrey MacDonald placing his pajama top on Colette's chest, obtaining an ice pick inside the residence, and stabbing Colette with that ice pick through the pajama top.

In 1971, a year after the conclusion of the Article 32 hearings, the FBI was asked to analyze some of the physical evidence found at the crime scene.  Paul Stombaugh, chief of the chemistry section of the FBI laboratory, looked at the puncture holes under a microscope.  He noticed that all 48 puncture holes were perfectly round with no ragged or torn edges indicating that the pajama top was stationary when punctured.  This conclusion was at odds with MacDonald's claim that he used his pajama top as a shield to fend off an ice pick wielding intruder in the living room.  Stombaugh and CID investigators were convinced that in MacDonald's scenario, the pajama top would have been in motion as he was blocking the thrusts from the ice pick, yet none of the 48 puncture holes had any torn edges.  Three years later, Stombaugh was asked by government lawyers if there was any way to prove that the pajama top was punctured after it was placed on Colette MacDonald's chest.

In 1974, Stombaugh asked physical science technician Shirley Green to assist him in proving or disproving this theory.  Stombaugh and Green first looked at the autopsy report of Colette and crime scene photographs of the pajama top on Colette's chest.  The autopsy report stated that Colette sustained 21 ice pick wounds to her chest, 16 on the left side of her chest, and five on the right side.  The pathologist also indicated that her body was stationary when stabbed with the ice pick.  The crime scene photographs demonstrated that the right sleeve of the pajama top was folded inside out and the left panel, which contained no puncture holes, was trailing off alongside Colette's body.  The combination of the autopsy report and the crime scene photographs raised the curiosity levels of Stombaugh and Green to new heights.  In 1971, Stombaugh analyzed the pajamas worn by Colette and similar to her husband's pajama top, every single puncture hole in her pajamas was perfectly round with no torn edges.  He realized that the totality of the puncture hole evidence pointed towards the ice pick penetrating Colette's body, her pajamas, and her husband's pajama top while they were stationary.

Stombaugh then instructed Green to attempt a series of experiments to determine whether or not the puncture hole pattern in Jeffrey MacDonald's pajama top matched the ice pick wound pattern in Colette MacDonald's chest.  Shirley Green's attempt to align the 48 puncture holes in the pajama top with the 21 ice pick wounds in Colette's chest was akin to fitting a broken piece of headlight glass found at a hit and run scene back into the light on the suspect's car.  Green was subsequently able to find a matching pattern using three different techniques.  Green's techniques included a graph paper overlay, a numbering system using push pins, and the insertion of steel rods into the puncture holes in order to duplicate the hole patterns.  Several weeks before the 1979 trial, Green was able to replicate the results of her experiments using the same three techniques.

At trial, Brian Murtagh began his direct examination of Shirley Green by asking her about the significance of the steel rods that were inserted into each puncture hole in MacDonald's blue pajama top.  Green stated that the rods or probes were used to "demonstrate the alignment of the holes" in the pajama top with the wound pattern on Colette's chest.  Green admitted that some of the probes went through several layers of fabric and that a singular probe could encompass a grouping of puncture holes.  For example, Green discovered that puncture holes one through 12 could be aligned with five separate probes.  Murtagh then asked Green whether she was able to align all 48 puncture holes in MacDonald's pajama top with 21 probes going through any other holes.  Green stated that her painstaking analysis, "took over a week just to find one solution, to find this solution."

Green then described how she was able to replicate this pattern using a completely different technique.  Green began by folding MacDonald's pajama top in the manner in which it was found on Colette's chest.  Green pointed to several crime scene photographs which depicted the "inside of the pajama top facing upward, the right collar area over to the right, to the victim's left, right shoulder seam over to the right."  Green then placed a piece of graph paper over a box, she put the folded pajama top down on the box, and inserted 21 push pins through the pajama top.  Green discovered that the puncture hole pattern in the graph paper and the box matched the puncture wound pattern in Colette's chest.