Frequently Asked Questions Asked Questions
About the MacDonald Case

Why was Jeffrey MacDonald considered a suspect in the murders?
The outrageous nature of the crimes demanded quick action and the naming of a suspect/suspects by officials, who had clearly botched the initial investigation.  Then, upon following up on MacDonald's descriptions of the assailants, they changed their tack when it became clear Helena Stoeckley was involved.  She was a drug informant, drug user, and daughter of a retired army Lt. Colonel.  In addition, as is common in similar cases, family members are generally the first to be suspected and then either cleared or tried.  In Jeffrey MacDonald's case, the Army investigated him (Article 32 hearing) and then exonerated him of any involvement in the murders, stating the charges against him were "not true".

Why was Jeffrey MacDonald left alive, while his family was not?
Helena Stoeckley and Greg Mitchell, two of the alleged assailants told numerous people, including officials, friends and clergy that they did not go to the apartment to kill anyone, just to "shake up" MacDonald, whom they believed to have taken a hard line against drug use on post.  Mitchell and his group assaulted MacDonald, who fell unconscious in the hallway.  They were so high on drugs that their violence escalated.  They say they left in a panic when the phone rang and Helena answered it, throwing the weapons out the back door, without further thought to whether their victims were still alive or not.

What motive did the prosecution give for these crimes?
The prosecution could not come up with a reason why Jeffrey MacDonald would have killed his family. He had no history of domestic violence, and was evaluated by numerous reputable psychiatrists who did not find his personality to be of the type prone to rages or psychotic behavior.  There was no evidence of drug or alcohol abuse.  There were no reports of an unhappy marriage - to the contrary, Colette had written her mother just weeks before her death, telling her that this was the happiest time of her marriage.  The government tried in vain to find other possible motives- and  failed.  MacDonald admitted to some casual sexual encounters during his marriage, but the government could not find "another woman" or long term affair that would indicate a motive for murder.   So, they turned the tables and, by hiding evidence that supported MacDonald's account of the murder night, told the jury that if they could prove Jeff MacDonald committed the murders, they didn't have to prove why he did so, or that he was the kind of person who would do so.  

Why didn't the government pursue other suspects?
The woman MacDonald described upon being resuscitated was a known drug user and informant for the Fort Bragg military police.  She was also the daughter of an retired Army Lt. Colonel.  She had no alibi for her whereabouts on the murder night, and later confessed to burning her clothing from that night because it would incriminate her.  The Army had a vested interest in not pursuing Helena Stoeckley and her friends, quite possibly because of some of its own officers involvement in drug trafficking.  Once MacDonald was exonerated by the Army, investigators failed to follow up on suggestions that they pursue Stoeckley and her boyfriend, Greg Mitchell.  At trial, all testimony from the group was deemed "unreliable" by Judge DuPree because they were known drug users.

Why did Jeffrey MacDonald's father-in-law turn on him?
Contrary to the notion that Alfred Kassab became convinced of his son-in-law's guilt after reading the Army transcripts and touring the murder apartment, "Freddie" actually changed his mind when Jeff announced he had taken a job in California and would leave New York.  The Kassabs wanted Jeff to go to the graves each day; they couldn't understand why he wanted so much to move on with his life.  They felt, by moving, that Jeff was abandoning the family.  In reality, Jeff's way of coping with the loss of his family was to try to move forward and be productive.  This is considered very healthy behavior by mental health experts - to honor your loved ones by doing something they would be proud of.  The hectic pace of the emergency room was a productive way for Jeff MacDonald to escape the nightmare of the tragedy, to give something back, and help others, when he couldn't help his family.  It is very common for people who have suffered great trauma to throw themselves into their work, and block out the events causing them pain.  The Kassabs did not handle the trauma the way Jeff did, and they told him, in front of witnesses, "If you move, you'll live to regret it." 

Why did Jeffrey MacDonald lie to his father-in-law about finding one of the assailants?
Alfred and Mildred Kassab had become extremely reclusive, rarely venturing from their home, except to visit the gravesites.  They kept the curtains drawn, and were completely consumed by the tragedy, engaging in activities such as baking endless loaves of bread, and dressing life- size dolls in Kim's and Kristen's clothing.  Jeff, at 27years old, trying desperately to provide some relief to the Kassabs, impulsively told Alfred that he had found and "taken care of" one of the assailants.  Alfred knew this was not true, as did Jeff, during the conversation.  It was an unspoken plea from Jeff to the Kassabs to try to become productive again, and not let the tragedy overtake their entire lives.  In retrospect, Jeff realized it was an immature and awkward way to handle a difficult situation.  However, the episode was never the life-altering, confidence-shattering event it was later made out to be.

Why did Jeffrey MacDonald go on the Dick Cavett Show?
His father-in-law, attorney, and Congressman Allard Lowenstein of New York persuaded him to do the show, and urged him to blast the Army for their sloppy work at the crime scene and their failure to arrest the assailants.  Much later, Alfred Kassab contended he did not arrange for MacDonald to go on the Dick Cavett show, when in fact, he did.

Why did the jury convict Dr. MacDonald?
Instead of being innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, MacDonald was put in the unenviable position of having to disprove hypotheticals set forth by the government.  The line of questioning allowed by the Judge was outrageous.  For example, MacDonald was asked  "If the jury should find (x), how do you explain it?" Not only had "x" not been determined to be fact, but in many cases "x" was what was left for the jury to consider without evidence to the contrary.  Another tactic followed this pattern:   MacDonald was asked "You say you fell unconscious in the hallway.  How do you explain that there was no blood or pajama fibers found in the hallway."  MacDonald answered that he did not know, he only knew that's where he fell.  In truth, blood and fibers were found in the exact place MacDonald said he fell, but the prosecution kept this from the jury.  Believing they were aware of all the physical evidence, and that it did not appear to support Jeff MacDonald's story, they convicted him.

How was it possible for the Army to exonerate MacDonald, and the Justice Department to prosecute him for the same crimes?
Ironically, the Army Colonel (Colonel Rock) who presided over Jeff MacDonald's Article 32 hearing, dismissed the charges against him before progression to Court Martial.   If he had been court martialed, and cleared, the Justice Department would not have been able to try him.  But, because the charges against him were dropped, and a full court martial was not deemed necessary, they could and did.

Why did Jeffrey MacDonald move to California after the murders?
Jeff and Colette had originally planned to move to the country, leave Army life, and raise their children while Jeff pursued a career in orthopedics.  After his family's deaths, Jeff craved a fast-paced environment where he would be constantly busy, useful, and able to save lives.  He chose Emergency Medicine, and was offered a job in California by Dr. Jerry Hughes, a former Army doctor and friend.  He decided to make a fresh start, to leave New York and the unrelenting sadness that surrounded him there.

What did Jeffrey MacDonald do after he left the Army and before he was sent to prison?
He practiced Emergency Medicine at St. Mary Medical Center in California, and eventually became the Director of the Emergency Department.  He was instrumental in developing new techniques in emergency medicine, and co-authored a text book on the subject.  He lectured and taught courses in trauma, recognizing and stopping child abuse, CPR, and other life saving techniques.  He was the medical director for the Long Beach Grand Prix for several years, and was the first honorary member of the Long Beach Police Association - an award he received for saving so many officers' lives.  When he was tried and sent to prison in 1979, the nuns at St. Mary kept his job for him, his office still intact, awaiting his appeal.  Jeff MacDonald returned to work for 18 months after being released from prison in 1980, but his appeal was reversed by the Supreme Court, and he was returned to prison in March of 1982.

How does Dr. MacDonald spend his time in prison?
Jeff has remained extremely productive, despite being incarcerated for 26 years, to date.  Aside from working on his case on a daily basis, he studies his medical books in order to keep up with the latest findings and technology.  He has, in past years, taught classes to other inmates (Smoking Cessation, Cardiovascular Fitness, and Nutrition).  Currently, his job is in the food services area of the federal prison in Cumberland, MD.  He also works hard to stay physically fit, believing strongly that this keeps him mentally fit.  He subscribes to over as many publications as possible,paid for by friends and family.  He enjoys staying abreast of world events, sports, and health news.  Most weekends, he visits with his wife, and keeps up with friends and family via letters and visits (when possible).

Can Dr. MacDonald visit, write or call anyone he wants to?  What restrictions are part of prison life?
Visits to federal prisoners are limited to family (and long term friends who are pre-approved), during limited hours 3 days per week.  Mail is limited to correspondence (an inmate may not receive magazines, books, or newspaper articles, except from the publisher).  Inmates may only call persons on a pre-approved phone list, at the inmate's expense, and phone time is limited to 300 minutes per month.  Inmates may not receive any items outside of letters, cards and photos.  There are no weekly movies at some federal prisons, including FCI Cumberland.  There is no equipment for weight-bearing exercise in federal prisons. Inmates are limited to aerobic exercise (such as running and walking).  Movement of inmates is limited to a window of 10 minutes each hour, during which the inmate may move between his cell (which is 6 feet by 9 feet and shared by 2 to 3 inmates) and the law library, chapel, chow hall and outdoor/indoor recreation areas.

What are Jeffrey MacDonald's hopes for the future?
Jeff, Kathryn and everyone who cares about them are very hopeful that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will see fit to review the totality of the evidence of the case, based on the sworn statement of US Marshal Jim Britt and the DNA test results, and new/existing law.