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Friday, March 10, 2006

RALEIGH - United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney announced today the filing with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina of the report of the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory reflecting the results of court-ordered DNA testing in United States v. Jeffrey R. MacDonald, Nos. 75-26-CR-3, 90-104-CIV-3F. DNA testing, conducted by an independent laboratory selected by Jeffrey MacDonald, has determined that neither the DNA of Helena Stoeckley nor Gregory Mitchell was present in any of the questioned hair or blood samples tested, and thus has produced no evidence exculpatory of MacDonald.

Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted in 1979 in the U.S. District Court in Raleigh for the brutal murders on Fort Bragg of his pregnant wife Colette, and infant daughters Kimberly and Kristen. MacDonald claimed that on the night of February 17, 1970, his quarters were invaded by a band of “hippies,” who attacked him, and murdered his family. At trial, and in numerous post-conviction appeals, MacDonald has identified Stoeckley and Mitchell, both deceased members of the Fayetteville “hippie” community, as being among the hippies who committed the crimes. The physical evidence which helped to convict MacDonald--notably his bloody pajama top which he had placed on his wife’s body and through which he had stabbed her 21 times with an ice pick--could not be accounted for by intruders as described in MacDonald’s statements. Yet MacDonald has persistently but unsuccessfully maintained that any hair or fiber which could not be identified as coming from the MacDonald household is proof of the presence of intruders.

In 1997, based upon the newly available mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) technology, MacDonald’s attorney Philip G. Cormier filed an affidavit, based upon his interpretation of FBI and CID laboratory bench notes, specifically identifying hairs and suspected blood stains found in “critical locations” on the victims and in their bedding, which the government had never been able to identify. Cormier claimed that such evidence, if subjected to mtDNA testing would “further demonstrate Jeffrey MacDonald’s innocence.” Based upon these representations, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit granted MacDonald’s motion for DNA testing and remanded the matter to the District Court. After further litigation, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, of which the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory is a component, was designated, at Mr. Cormier’s urging, by the District Court to conduct the testing.(See Attachments Below)

The results of that testing filed today show that the DNA sequences do not match those of Stoeckley or Mitchell, thus eliminating them as possible donors of the questioned samples.

Instead, the AFIP testing confirms the results of FBI microscopic hair comparisons introduced at trial, and by identifying Jeffrey MacDonald as the donor of hairs found in critical locations, which he claimed would prove to be evidence of intruders. At trial, the prosecution introduced evidence that a hair found in Colette MacDonald’s right hand matched her known head hair exemplar. The DNA testing confirms that result. Also offered at trial was testimony that a fragment of a Caucasian limb hair, found in Colette’s left hand, did not possess sufficient points to be of value for comparison purposes. Since limb hairs can never be the basis for a microscopic identification, MacDonald claimed the hair was left by the murderer. The DNA testing of this hair establishes that Jeffrey MacDonald, and not an intruder, was the source of the hair in Colette’s left hand. The DNA sequence of a previously unidentified hair, that showed evidence of forcible removal and was found on the top sheet, and which the defense claimed to be the hair of an intruder who had struggled with the victims, instead matches Colette MacDonald’s mtDNA sequence. The sheet, part of a pile of bedding on the master bedroom floor, was linked by bloody fabric impressions in Colette’s blood type matching both MacDonald’s pajama top and that of his wife to the movement of her body by MacDonald.

As expected, there remain hairs with DNA sequences that do not match any of the victims, Jeffrey MacDonald, or any now-deceased “hippies.” However, any residence such as the MacDonald apartment would be expected to contain hairs from persons other than the four people who lived there. Evidence presented to the jury in the 1979 trial included numerous unmatched fingerprints, hairs, fibers, and candle wax remains.

Mr. Whitney commended the efforts of all those employed by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology who devoted so much time and effort to DNA testing.

Investigation of the MacDonald case was conducted initially by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command and later by the Charlotte and Laboratory Divisions of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which continue to assist on the case. Trial Attorney Brian M. Murtagh, of the Domestic Security Section of the United States Department of Justice, who has served as a Special Assistant U. S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina since 1984, and Trial Attorney John F. De Pue of the Counterterrorism Section are handling the case for the Government, assisted by John Stuart Bruce, Executive Assistant U. S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Attachments:
Exhibit 1 Affidavit of Philip G. Cormier No. 2 — Request for Access to Evidence to Conduct Laboratory Examinations – Ion Support of Jeffrey R. MacDonald’s Motion to Reopen 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Proceedings and for Discovery
Exhibit 2 Letter dated April 5, 1999
Exhibit 3 Chart of Items found in pile of bedding on floor of master bedroom
Exhibit 4 Memorandum in Support of Jeffrey MacDonald’s Motion for an Order Authorizing the District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to Consider A Successive Application for Relief Under 28 U.S.C § 2255

 

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