Jeffrey MacDonald, the man convicted in the 1970 murder of his pregnant wife and two daughters, is getting another shot at innocence on Monday.
MacDonald, a former Green Beret and doctor, to this day maintains that a group of Charles Manson-type hippies committed the crimes and has filed several unsuccessful appeals attempting to overturn his convictions.
The new trial is said to include something that wasn't available when the now 68-year-old was first put on trial - DNA evidence. According to The Examiner, a federal judge plans to view and consider new DNA evidence and witness testimony that MacDonald says will finally clear him of a crime that caught the nation's attention over 30 years ago.
"This is Jeff's opportunity to be back in court almost 33 years to the day of his conviction," Kathryn MacDonald, the woman who married him a decade ago while he has been in prison, told The Examiner.
Macdonald, who's story is the basis for Joe McGinniss' best-selling book "Fatal Vision," is not eligible for parole until 2020. Since his conviction, he has never wavered from his claim that he didn't kill his pregnant wife, Colette, and their two daughters, 5-year-old Kimberley and 2-year-old Kristen.
According to reports, on the morning of February 17, 1970, dispatchers at Fort Bragg received emergency phone call from MacDonald, who reported a "stabbing." Not long after, several military police officers under the impression that they being called to settle a domestic disturbance, arrived at 544 Castle Drive.
The four MP's reportedly found the front door closed and locked before they circled to the back of the house where they found the back door itself wide open. Upon entering, they found Colette, Kimberley, and Kristen all dead in their respective bedrooms.
MacDonald has maintained that he awoke on the sofa inside their home at Fort Bragg in the early morning hours of Feb. 17, 1970, as they were being attacked by three men and a woman.
The killings came only three months after the Manson Family slayings in California were discovered. MacDonald's account of the attack consists of, among other things, a description of the woman attacker chanting "acid is groovy, kill the pigs." The defense gave validity to the rumor that Manson-type killers were on the loose in North Carolina.
In addition to the bodies, investigators discovered the word "pig" written in blood on a headboard. The same word was written on the door of pregnant Manson victim Sharon Tate's house in Los Angeles.
The charges of murder against MacDonald were eventually dropped, with the Ivy League-educated man even receiving an honorable discharge.
Years later in 1979, MacDonald's father-in-law who initially believed in his innocence, changed his mind and eventually persuaded prosecutors to pursue the case in civilian court. As a result, MacDonald was charged, convicted and sentenced to life in federal prison in Cumberland, Md.
As MacDonald gears up to return to court, U.S. District Court Judge James Fox will consider two types of evidence -- three hairs that don't match the family's DNA and a statement from Jimmy Britt, a deputy U.S. marshal when the case was tried. According to The Examiner, Britt, who has since died, gave a statement to defense attorneys in 2005 that he heard prosecutor Jim Blackburn threaten Helena Stoeckley, a troubled local woman whom MacDonald had identified as one of the attackers.
Reports indicate that MacDonald attorney has said Stoeckley was prepared to testify she was in the MacDonald home the night of the murders until Blackburn threatened to charge her with the slayings. She later testified she couldn't remember where she was that night.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted MacDonald's request for the hearing. It's expected to last up to two weeks, and Fox will determine whether to order a new trial.
My name is Carey Vanderborg and I'm a journalist working in New York City. I love food, travel, craft beer, live music and writing about all of the above.