Jeffrey MacDonald's former brother-in-law vows to make sure he stays in prison

Jeffrey MacDonald is guilty; latest hearing ‘nothing new,’ he says

ablythe@newsobserver.comSeptember 18, 2012 

— As Jeffrey MacDonald continued his latest effort to win freedom from prison Tuesday, his former brother-in-law stood outside the courtroom where the legal proceedings were taking place.

Forty-two years have passed since Colette MacDonald was found stabbed and bludgeoned to death, along with her lifeless daughters, in a Fort Bragg apartment.

And many years have passed since Bob Stevenson, Colette MacDonald’s now 73-year-old brother, picked up the mantle for the family – insisting that the man convicted in 1979 of murdering Colette and daughters Kimberly, 5, and Kristen, 2, should live out his years as federal inmate No. 0131-177.

“There is nothing new,” Stevenson said Tuesday during a break in the proceeding, which is expected to last through the week. “There has been nothing new. They drag the same ‘new’ crap out of the old sewer.”

MacDonald is in Wilmington in front of U.S. District Judge James Fox. His attorneys are arguing that DNA evidence and two statements from key figures in his protracted case bolster his contentions that intruders were in his apartment on Feb. 17, 1970, when the family was found murdered.

Defense lawyers have called witnesses to bring fresh light to evidence from three hairs tested six years ago and sworn statements taken during the past decade that raise questions about the 1970 murder investigation and prosecutorial conduct at the 1979 trial.

For more than four decades, MacDonald and the many members of his defense team have focused on the whereabouts and actions of Helena Stoeckley, a Fayetteville woman who abused drugs and alcohol before her death in 1983.

Stoeckley is known to close followers of the case as “the woman in the floppy hat” that MacDonald, a Green Beret captain and doctor, reported seeing in his home as his wife and daughter screamed for help. MacDonald, who was found injured inside the apartment, told law enforcement officers that he awoke to a strange scene the night of the murders – four intruders, one of them a woman in a floppy hat covering stringy, light-colored hair chanting “acid is groovy, kill the pigs” while holding a lit candle.

Over the years, Stoeckley told many people that she was in the home when the murders occurred. On Tuesday, her brother, Gene, led a parade of witnesses called to recount some of those times.

Gene Stoeckley, a Fayetteville resident, said his late mother was of sound mind and failing eyesight when she signed a sworn statement that said her daughter told her she was in the MacDonald home and saw an old boyfriend and another man commit the killings while under the influence of drugs.

‘Become a wizard’

Sara McCann, a woman who took Helena Stoeckley into her home in 1982 in South Carolina, months before her death, broke down in tears while testifying Tuesday, saying, “I know as well as I’m sitting here today that Jeffrey MacDonald is innocent.”

Helena Stoeckley, McCann said, told her that she went with some men to the MacDonald home after they told her they were going to “rough up” the doctor and give her an opportunity to “become a wizard of their occult group.”

Stoeckley was called to the stand at the 1979 trial, and the MacDonald defense team was disheartened when she failed to testify that she was inside the home the night of the murders.

Since then, the defense team has tried to show – with statements from her mother and from Jimmy Britt, a retired U.S. marshal who has since died – that Stoeckley was coerced into saying otherwise by a prosecutor who threatened to hit her with a murder charge.

Stevenson, Colette’s brother, who now lives near Boston, said the court proceedings are “much ado about nothing.”

As dogged as MacDonald is in his fight, Stevenson plans to fight just as determinedly to remind people that his sister is the victim in a case that goes on and on.

“I have absolute and total contempt for the man,” Stevenson said.

Blythe: 919-836-4948

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