One of North Carolina’s most infamous murder cases is back in the national spotlight, with the release this week of the FX documentary series “A Wilderness of Error.”
Former Green Beret Army doctor Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted in 1979 of the murders of his pregnant wife, Colette, and two small daughters, Kimberley, 6, and Kristen, 2, in their Fort Bragg, N.C., apartment in 1970.
MacDonald claims that his family was beaten and stabbed to death by a group of hippies, but forensic evidence presented in the trial did not back up his claims.
Feb. 17, 1970: Colette Stevenson MacDonald, 26, and her two daughters, Kimberley, 6, and Kristin, 2, are beaten and stabbed to death in their home at 544 Castle Drive on the Fort Bragg Army base, adjacent to Fayetteville, N.C. Army Capt. Jeffrey MacDonald, a doctor and former Green Beret, is found with several stab wounds, but unlike his wife and daughters, his wounds are not fatal.
MacDonald tells Army investigators that his family was killed by a band of hippies, including a woman in a floppy hat, who chanted “Acid is groovy, kill the pigs.” MacDonald was treated at Womack Army Hospital. His injuries include a bruise to his head, minor stab wounds on his abdomen and arm, and a stab wound to his chest that punctured and collapsed his lung.
May 1, 1970: The Army charges MacDonald with three counts of murder.
Oct. 13, 1970: The Army investigator in charge of the case recommends charges against MacDonald be dropped and that a Fayetteville woman (later revealed to be Helena Stoeckley) be investigated.
Oct. 28, 1970: The Army officially concludes that there is not enough evidence to court-martial MacDonald.
December 1970: MacDonald is honorably discharged from the Army and moves to New York to work as a doctor. He is interviewed by Bob Scheffer for Walter Cronkite’s “CBS Evening News” and appears on “The Dick Cavett Show.”
The rest of the timeline is devoted to the civilian prosecution.