TOPIC: Suspects

The CID reinvestigation uncovered a number of potential suspects, but two groups of people came to the forefront.  The New York Four consisted of Kenneth Barnett, Annette Cullity, Gary Burnett, and Joseph Lee.  The Stoeckley group consisted of Helena Stoeckley, Greg Mitchell, Don Harris, Dwight Smith, Cathy Perry, Bruce Fowler, and Allen Mazzerolle.

New York Four

Law enforcement officers arrested Kenneth Barnett, Annette Cullity, Gary Burnett, and Joseph Lee in Suffolk County, New York on May 9, 1970.  The Suffolk County police subsequently contacted the CID due to the fact that these four individuals matched the physical descriptions of the intruder suspects in the MacDonald murders.

CID agent Bennie Hawkins subsequently traveled to Suffolk County to discuss the case with police officials.  Hawkins discovered that these four individuals had rented a house in Fire Island with Jeffrey MacDonald's brother, Jay, in the summer of 1969.  Jeffrey MacDonald had visited his brother during that summer and was seen conversing with people who matched the descriptions of the New York Four at the Shortstop Bar in Long Island.  Joseph Lee was an African-American male, Gary Burnett and Kenneth Barnett were Caucasian males, and Annette Cullity was a Caucasian female.  Lee was seen wearing an army field jacket and Cullity was known to wear a floppy hat and hip boots.  The number of intruders, their racial make-up, and their clothing items all matched the descriptions provided by Jeffrey MacDonald.  Hawkins obtained fingerprint exemplars of the New York Four and their prints did not match any of the prints found at 544 Castle Drive.

In December of 1970, Jeffrey MacDonald and his lawyer, Judge Rogers (William Rogers), went to the Suffolk County Police Department to read the May 9, 1970 arrest report.  This trip occurred several months after the completion of the Article 32 hearings.  Despite the New York Four matching the descriptions of the four intruders, MacDonald never publicly commented on this visit to the Suffolk County Police Department.

Stoeckley group

As a result of various statements levied by Helena Stoeckley after the conclusion of the Article 32 hearings, the CID investigated the following individuals for their possible involvement in the murders of Colette, Kimberley, and Kristen MacDonald.

Helena Stoeckley

Stoeckley graduated from high school in June of 1969, began associating with individuals with significant drug histories, and was subsequently kicked out of her parent's home as a result of her own severe drug use.  Following the MacDonald murders, Stoeckley began a 13-year journey involving confessions, denials, loss of memory, and physical and mental deterioration.  The first time that Stoeckley attempted to insert herself into this case was on February 19, 1970.

Pat Reese was a well respected newspaper reporter for the Fayetteville Observer and through his work as a drug counselor, he was aware of Stoeckley and her group of friends.  Stoeckley told Reese that she had no memory of her whereabouts on February 17th due to her excessive drug use.  This version of events was the only story that Stoeckley would repeat in the next 13 years.  Her multiple confessions over the next decade were a series of contradictions and/or stories which are at odds with the facts in this case.  Let me give you a specific example followed by my comments.

In 1981, Stoeckley provided a signed confession to a defense-funded, private investigator by the name of Ted Gunderson.  Stoeckley told Gunderson that she was a member of a Satanist group calling itself the Black Cult and that she was instructed to call the MacDonald residence to find out whether they would be home in the evening.  Stoeckley stated she called at 6:20 p.m., spoke to Colette MacDonald over the phone, and Colette told her she was going to her college class.  Stoeckley claims that Colette also gave her the name of the school she was attending, and that the babysitter was going to watch the children until Doctor MacDonald returned home.

Stoeckley states that cult member Bruce Fowler drove Stoeckley and four other cult members to the MacDonald home.  She said that the cult members entered through the kitchen door and that they did not bring any weapons with them even though they planned to "annihilate" the entire family.  The cult members then confronted Jeffrey MacDonald in the living room, demanded that he sign a prescription for Dexedrine, and MacDonald agreed to call a friend in order to procure the Dexedrine.  Jeffrey MacDonald then dialed the post operator in an attempt to summon the military police.  The cult members then beat MacDonald for a second time, MacDonald fell unconscious on the hallway floor, and Stoeckley subsequently gave MacDonald mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  Stoeckley stated that she wore a floppy-sleeved blouse, a denim skirt, and was the only cult member carrying a candle.

Comments

Several months after making this confession to Gunderson, FBI agents reported that Stoeckley was encouraged by Gunderson to "talk about a cult," and that "she was of the opinion that the mention of cult activities in her statement was primarily Gunderson's idea and not hers."  In 1982, Stoeckley told Gunderson that the cult called itself the Children Of Light.  During his time at Fort Bragg, Jeffrey MacDonald was called Captain MacDonald, not Doctor MacDonald.  Jeffrey MacDonald was home at 6:20 p.m., no babysitter was hired for the evening, and Colette MacDonald left for class at 6:15 p.m.  It does not seem plausible that Colette would give out personal information over the phone to a perfect stranger.  Bruce Fowler had an airtight alibi for his whereabouts on the night of the murders and Stoeckley friend, Maggie Mauney, allowed Stoeckley to borrow her car on the evening of February 16, 1970.  According to Mauney, when she awoke the next morning, her vehicle was parked outside her residence at the Cape Fear Valley Hospital.

The kitchen door was locked when the military police arrived at 544 Castle Drive, Jeffrey MacDonald made no mention of a discussion with the intruders or a second beating, and Stoeckley made no references to wearing dark woolen clothing items.  In 1982, Stoeckley told Gunderson that she arrived at 544 Castle Drive wearing a skirt and pants.  The three unidentified candle wax drippings found at the crime scene differed in chemical composition which pointed to three separate source materials.  The content of Stoeckley's other confessions are equally absurd.  In a 1980 confession, Stoeckley claimed that Jeffrey MacDonald was beaten for eight full minutes in the living room, and that Colette was clubbed to death on the master bed by two unidentified people.  Stoeckley added that one of the children remained asleep on the master bed as her mother was being beaten to death.  In a 1982 confession, Stoeckley claimed that the cult planned on obtaining blood from Colette for ritualistic purposes and that she knew that one of the children was transported back to her own bed, even though she did not witness this event taking place.

The information that Stoeckley provided to Ted Gunderson was included in a 1984 appeal for a new trial.  The government responded to this and other appeal issues in a 91-page report.  In comparing audiotapes of Stoeckley's interviews with Gunderson to the typed transcripts, the government concluded that "it became apparent that these were not transcripts of recorded interviews but rather questions and answers which had been extracted from the tapes, arranged in a sequence designed to delete conflicting responses by Stoeckley and blended into a transcript like statement, which Stoeckley later initialed."  The government also states that during certain audiotapes, "Stoeckley had come perilously close to contradicting her previous whereabouts."  The following note to his secretary made it clear that Gunderson was concerned about Stoeckley's disjointed statements.

"June, this is all we're going to record on this tape.  I'm going back and try to pick up the mistakes that I made on the other tapes.  So, in order to avoid confusion, that's the end of this tape.  Don't type anything more off of it."
The following synopsis of Stoeckley was included in the 91-page report:
"What distinguishes Stoeckley's confession from the others is not only the factual details of the crime which she managed to weave into her narrative (not unlike the malingerer who learns the symptoms of obscure diseases), but also her complex motivations.  These motivations include grandiose delusions of her medical and scholastic ability, a propensity for histrionics, a vicarious interest in police matters, and a bizarre conception of herself as a benevolent witch."
The Government also responded to a post-trial claim levied by the MacDonald defense team that Stoeckley's 1979 trial testimony was greatly effected by the "passage of time."  The following is an excerpt from the Government's brief:
"Further, that if her lack of memory was due to the passage of time, it is just as likely that Stoeckley's memory lapsed during the four and half years appellant's various interlocutory appeals were pending.  In any event the record is clear that appellant's didn't want Stoeckley as a live witness, what he wanted was her unavailable under rule 804 FRE.  When the Government foiled this ploy by making her physically available, appellant sought the subterfuge of impeaching her by the use of her hearsay statements.  However, it is clear from the record that the passage of time had nothing to do with the exclusion of Stoeckley's statements, but rather, they were excluded because the trial judge found them inherently untrustworthy and excluded them pursuant to 804 (b) (3) FR."
The defense made no mention of how Stoeckley's multiple medical difficulties may have altered her mental state.  In the nine-year period leading up to her trial testimony, Stoeckley was diagnosed with hepatitis, she had a stroke, and she was diagnosed with Schizoid Personality Disorder.

In terms of her presence at the crime scene, there is not a shred of physical evidence linking Helena Stoeckley to the murders.  In 1971, head hair and fingerprint exemplars were obtained from Stoeckley, and no match was found at the crime scene.  In 2006, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology released their DNA test results on 28 hair exhibits found at the crime scene.  None of the exhibits matched the DNA profile of Helena Stoeckley.  Stoeckley died in 1983 of pneumonia, brought on by cirrhosis of the liver.

Greg Mitchell

Mitchell was Stoeckley's boyfriend at the time of the murders.  Stoeckley implicated Mitchell as being the ringleader of the Stoeckley group.  In 1971, CID investigators Dick Mahon and William Ivory interviewed Mitchell, he denied any involvement in the murders, and he passed a CID-administered polygraph exam.  The CID collected head hair and fingerprint exemplars from Mitchell, and no match was found at the crime scene.  In 1981, the FBI questioned and cleared Mitchell as a suspect.  In 2006, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology released their DNA test results on 28 hair exhibits found at the crime scene.  None of the exhibits matched the DNA profile of Greg Mitchell.  Mitchell died in 1982 of cirrhosis of the liver.

Bruce Fowler

Fowler was acquainted with Stoeckley, Mitchell, and Don Harris.  In 1971, Dick Mahon and William Ivory interviewed Fowler, he denied any involvement in the murders, and he passed a CID-administered polygraph exam.  The CID collected head hair and fingerprint exemplars from Fowler, and no match was found at the crime scene.  In addition, Fowler had an alibi for his whereabouts on February 17, 1970.  Stoeckley's roommate, Kathy Smith, told the CID that she was with Fowler at his trailer on Highway 59 until 7:00 a.m.  In 1981, the FBI questioned and cleared Fowler as a suspect.

Don Harris

Harris was acquainted with Stoeckley and Mitchell.  The CID obtained fingerprint exemplars from Harris and no match was found at the crime scene.  In 1982, the FBI questioned and cleared Harris as a suspect.  In 1983, Harris was interviewed by Fayetteville newspaper reporters Steve Huettel and Pat Reese, and he denied any involvement in the murders.  Harris called Helena Stoeckley's confessions the "ravings of a madwoman."  Harris also had an alibi for the morning of February 17, 1970.  Stoeckley roommate Diane Cazares told the CID that Harris was with her at 1108 Clark Street until 5:00 a.m.

Dwight Smith

From 1970-1997, the MacDonald defense team considered Smith to be the prime African-American intruder suspect.  Smith lived in the same apartment complex as Pat Reese, he was questioned by the FBI in 1982, and subsequently cleared as a suspect.  In 1983, Smith was interviewed by Steve Huettel and Pat Reese, and he denied any involvement in the murders.  Smith called Helena Stoeckley's confessions the "craziest thing I've ever heard," and "totally insane."  In 1997, author Fred Bost admitted that it was unlikely that Smith was a viable suspect.  Bost based this on the fact that Smith does not match the physical descriptions of the unidentified black male intruder provided by MacDonald in 1970 and 1979.

Allen Mazzerolle

Mazzerolle was dealing drugs in the Fayetteville area during the time of the murders and he was well acquainted with Helena Stoeckley.  Mazzerolle was arrested on January 28, 1970 for possession and transportation of 539 doses of LSD.  He remained in jail until March 10, 1970 making his presence at 544 Castle Drive on February 17th, a physical impossibility.  Mazzerolle was questioned by the FBI in 1982 and cleared as a suspect.  The FBI also obtained fingerprint exemplars from Mazzerolle and no match was found at the crime scene.  In 1983, Mazzerolle was interviewed by Steve Huettel and Pat Reese, and he denied any involvement in the murders.  Mazzerolle labeled Stoeckley's statements as "ridiculous," adding that Stoeckley was "the one who fingered me to the narcotics agents."

Cathy Perry

Perry was an acquaintance of Stoeckley's, but Stoeckley did not implicate her in the murders until the early 1980's.  In 1971, CID investigators Mike Pickering and Jack Bennett interviewed Perry in Florida and she denied any involvement in the murders.  The CID also obtained head hair and fingerprint exemplars from Perry, and no match was found at the crime scene.  In 1971, Perry was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and she had a history of severe drug use.

In 1984, Perry called the FBI and stated that she wanted to confess to being involved in the MacDonald murders.  Perry's confession was a bizarre tale with no connection to the facts of this case.  Perry claimed that she was picked up off the streets by a group of unknown individuals who recruited her into partaking in a home invasion.  Perry states that the group entered through the front door of the MacDonald residence, that she went upstairs to kill one of the two MacDonald boys, and that Jeffrey MacDonald was subdued in the living room with narcotics.  Perry added that one of the white male intruders was dark-skinned and that she killed Colette by stabbing her in the legs and stomach.  Perry recanted this confession later that same year.