Adrift In The American Gulag

By Jeffrey R. MacDonald, M.D.

Reproduced with permission from Soldier of Fortune Magazine, July 2000


The charges against Captain Jeffrey R. MacDonald are not true.

It was late October 1970, and this finding of the Article 32 hearing, until then the lengthiest in the history of the U.S. Army, proved the claims against me to be false. Fort Bragg officials had charged me with the 17 February 1970 murders of my pregnant wife, Colette, and my two daughters, Kimberly, 5, and Kristen, 2, in our quarters at 544 Castle Drive, Fort Bragg, N.C.

At the time I was a medical doctor, a captain, in the U.S. Army Special Forces. The hearing officer, Colonel Warren V. Rock, after hearing 56 witnesses and reviewing more than 2,000 pages of evidence, saw I was innocent and suggested the focus be turned toward a young local woman, an undercover law enforcement asset named Helena Stoeckley. He officially recommended that appropriate civilian authorities investigate her whereabouts and actions on the day of the murders.

The Rock investigation had been far-reaching and efficient. Since he also wanted to hear from others besides defense psychiatrists, he even sent me to Walter Reed Army Hospital for an intensive two-week evaluation by the three top Army psychiatrists. He then went to the crime scene with his legal officer and reenacted some events, determining that the CID’s theory of a "staged" crime scene was false. His 90-page report explicitly detailed the reasons why the charges against me were "not true." With the hearing over, I was released from "restriction to quarters", having been locked in my BOQ and guarded by five armed MPs for seven months.

The facts as I know them are: I had been sleeping on the couch that night because my younger daughter had wet my side of the bed in the master bedroom. I was awakened by the screams of both my wife and older daughter, and was immediately confronted and attacked by three men accompanied by a female with long blonde hair and a floppy hat. The black male carried what seemed to be a baseball bat; he was wearing E-6 stripes on a field jacket. He used the bat on my head. Two white males in civilian clothes were simultaneously attacking me from the front.

Medical and court records substantiate that I was knocked unconscious, received 17 stab and puncture wounds from knives and an ice pick, and suffered blunt trauma to my head, left shoulder and arm. My right lung collapsed from one of the stab wounds and required two surgical procedures. Yet, the CID claimed, and still claims, that my injuries were self-inflicted.

The first arriving MP, Specialist Ken Mica, gave me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Once revived, I described my assailants. Mica immediately suggested that someone "Check the female in the floppy hat", an individual he and his partner had spotted a few blocks away, at 0355 on that cold, rainy, murder morning, as they sped to my home in response to my emergency call. However, testimony later revealed that First Lieutenant Joe Paulk never issued an order for someone to investigate the mystery woman. Instead, Mica was ordered by his superiors not to mention that he had seen her standing in the winter rain on the desolate street corner.

18th Airborne Corps commander, Lieutenant General John Tolson, wanted the grisly post crimes resolved. But because the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) had focused immediately and solely on me as responsible, my acquittal suddenly became an embarrassment. Targeting me meant that at least four violent murderers were roaming free on post, the streets of Fayetteville, or points beyond.

Colonel Francis B. Kane, my CO in the 6th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and an astute political observer, was certain that the CID would persist in a vendetta against me.

Captain Jim Williams had been at the crime scene early that terrible morning, and he had also testified on my behalf at the hearing. It had been Williams who pointed out to everyone that Fort Bragg military doctors, myself in particular, were viewed by drug-using troops as "snitches." It wasn’t until years later that Helena Stoeckley told an ex-FBI agent that her group had gone to my house that night "to teach the arrogant captain a lesson about what happens when you’re not sympathetic."

In the late spring of 1971, now a civilian and just before I was to start a residency at Yale, I was offered a position in Long Beach, Calif., by former Captain Jerry Hughes, another former Special Forces physician. I accepted his kind offer and began practicing and teaching in the then-new specialty of Emergency Medicine.

Not surprisingly, the exhaustive inquiry by Col. Rock did not deter the CID. After my military discharge, I criticized the lead CID investigators on national television, calling them perjurers, and, along with my ex-father-in-law, I lobbied Congress to investigate the CID's handling of the case.

CID’s response was to come after me with a vengeance. I was now a civilian, no longer subject to military jurisdiction. Under the Posse Comitatus Act, it was illegal for the CID to investigate me, but they ignored the law and monitored my every movement, my mail, my phone records, and my bank statements; also, my remaining family, friends, and my civilian attorney, Bernard Segal, of San Francisco.

The CID "reinvestigation" took all of 1971, and part of 1972. Ironically, when the CID conclusions were first presented to the United States Department of Justice by an Army lawyer, Capt. Brian Murtagh, the Department refused to take the case because of the amount of exculpatory evidence that remained in my favor.

In time, however, with evidence being manipulated and withheld, I was indicted by a federal grand jury in 1975, and tried in 1979. I was convicted and am currently serving my 20th year of a triple-life sentence.

The 1979 trial was a travesty. The defense had been prevented from doing any laboratory testing on evidentiary material or conducting any minute examinations - an unimaginable event in most murder trials. We made 24 motions to allow examinations, and were denied all 24. In contrast, the prosecution won seven of their eight evidentiary motions.

It wasn’t until four years after trial that ex-FBI agent Ted Gunderson, found a possible reason behind Judge Dupree’s rulings: Dupree was the father-in-law of former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jimmy Proctor, in Fayetteville, a key engineer of the 1971 reinvestigation. Both men later admitted that this case was the most important case "in their respective careers."

Many years later we discovered how the defense, the jury, and the judge were prevented by prosecutors from seeing the extensive evidence of outside assailants collected at the crime scene as revealed in CID laboratory notes. This critical material - my entire defense, if you will - remained hidden. As later proven in documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act, the critical CID lab notes had been carefully collected by prosecutor Murtagh, who left the Army to build his career on my case. He had kept the lab notes in his briefcase in the courtroom throughout my seven-week trial.

Murtagh’s fellow prosecutor, James Blackburn, repeatedly told the court, "Where is the evidence of outside assailants? Where is the evidence that Helena Stoeckley was ever inside 544 Castle Drive?"

Our cross exam of government lab experts about evidence analyzed from the crime scene was hamstrung by the court’s refusal to let us see their notes. In essence, the jury was given an edited and false picture of the so-called scientific evidence of hair, fibers, and blood. To make it worse, the powerful psychiatric evaluation - including the three favorable exams from the government’s own Walter Reed Army Hospital - were ruled inadmissible by Judge Dupree, who also ruled inadmissible Col. Rock’s report and the testimony of seven witnesses who were in court to tell of Helena Stoeckley’s statements of watching the murders.

Despite Colonel Rock’s belief that she might be implicated. Dupree ruled Stoeckley "unreliable", as though reliability was a criterion for committing murder.

In the late 1990s we learned the full, sour truth of the government’s deception. There are now upwards of 40 witnesses who placed Stoeckley and her boyfriend, Greg Mitchell (an ex-82nd Airborne trooper and heroin addict), and their accomplices in the vicinity of my home on the murder morning. Some of the assailants were even seen in bloody clothing and boots shortly after the murders in a Bragg Boulevard doughnut shop; and later that morning in a Murchison Road grocery store. Several other persons, including Greg Mitchell’s own niece, heard him confess soulfully to taking part in the murders.

Helena Stoeckley (who died in 1983) was the daughter of a retired Army lieutenant colonel, and a drug user, and drug dealer. William Ivory, the lead CID investigator, was closely acquainted with her. (Read Fatal Justice, co-authored by Jerry Allen Potter and retired SF Sergeant Major Fred Bost. W.W. Norton, 1995, hardcover; 1997, updated paperback).

Potter located an ex-CID agent who had been a former partner of Bill Ivory at the time of the murders. The ex-agent told Potter of how investigators from the very beginning were talking about Helena Stoeckley possibly being involved; of how he and Ivory sought out Stoeckley and took her to a safehouse for questioning, and how Ivory questioned her alone, just two days after the murders, the results of which have never been disclosed.

Witnesses heard Stoeckley tell of wearing a blonde wig that night, and of being worried the rain would ruin it. Twenty-two-inch and 24-inch synthetic blonde wig fibers were found in a hairbrush at the murder scene, their existence kept hidden. Long-suppressed CID lab notes now confirm the presence of black wool fibers on Colette’s mouth, her shoulder, and on a splintered club used as one of the murder weapons. No one in my family was wearing black wool; no matching black wool was found in my quarters.

A hair, dissimilar to my hair, was found clutched in Colette’s hand along with a splinter from the club. Even more important, hairs were found under the bloody fingernails of my daughters. The CID tried to match these hairs to me; when that failed, they promptly hid the hairs’ existence.

Today, I work daily on my case while in federal prison in Sheridan, Ore., awaiting DNA tests which the courts finally ruled were my right under law. (We had asked to test all the biological exhibits - perhaps 50 - but the court saw fit to limit us to 15.)

So far, Mr. Murtagh has delayed and obstructed these tests - tests which were ordered by the court two-and-a-half years ago.