Part One:On February 17, 1970, at 0340 hours, at the US Army base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on a rainy night, Captain Jeffrey R. MacDonald (Gary Cole), US Army Medical Corps, stumbles about in his on-base house. He makes a call for an ambulance and medics, and gives his address at 544 Castle Drive. He then says, "They're dying!" and "I think I'm gonna die" and drops the phone. Then he goes to a bathroom mirror, where there is an abrasion on his forehead, made by a blunt instrument. He is clad in only pajama bottoms, his whole face and chest is covered in blood and he also has what appears to be a stab wound on his right side. Then he goes to the kitchen and picks up the phone again, giving the same message saying "stabbing"..
. , before he drops that phone, too. A small group of military policemen arrive at the house shortly thereafter. Upon entering the back door of the darkened house, they express shock at the sight of two adults lying on the bedroom floor: Captain Jeffrey MacDonald and his wife Colette (Wendy Schaal). They then realize that MacDonald is alive. There are two young girls in their respective bedrooms, both dead, and the walls splattered with blood.
The ambulance arrives, and its crew take MacDonald to the post hospital. Sadly, the MP's make a major mistake as they carry MacDonald out: they accidentally knock over a potted plant, then stand it back up. The chief investigator, Captain William Ivory (Scott Paulin), arrives. The MPs show him what remains, and the evidence, including the bloody word PIG on the headboard in the master bedroom.
In the hospital, MacDonald calls out for news of his family. Ivory struggles to secure the scene and interview witnesses. Meanwhile, the doctor at the hospital phones Colette's parents, stepfather Alfred "Freddy" Kassab (Karl Malden) and his wife Mildred (Eva Marie Saint). Next morning, more medics remove the bodies of Collette and daughters Kristen (Dylan Galer) and Kimberly (Brandy Gold). One of the medics seals MacDonald's wallet from the house.
Captain Ivory and his men find more evidence, including blue pajama-top threads in the master bedroom. Another investigator recovers the pajama top and finds a bunch of neat punctures in it. At the hospital, the pathologist tells Ivory that he has found a blond hair in Colette's hand, and a piece of skin under one of her fingernails. The Kassabs arrive at the hospital, followed MacDonald's mother Perry (Paddi Edwards).
A sobbing MacDonald tells all of them the same story: intruders broke into his house killed his family and he couldn't protect them. The local police start rounding up suspects that fit the profile of the intruders that MacDonald gave the MPs: three hippie bearded men (two white men and one black man wearing a Army sergeant's jacket) and a woman in boots, long blond hair, a big floppy hat, and holding a candle. Jay MacDonald (Rex Ryon) gives a statement to the press in support of his brother Jeff. And, of course, the Army holds a triple funeral for Colette and the girls. MacDonald attends the funeral and openly weeps for his dead wife and two children.
Several days later, Bill Ivory talks to a technician who finds inconsistencies: no threads, no blood, no splinters from a wooden club in the living room (where MacDonald is supposed to have fought the intruders off), but splinters and threads in the bedroom. Sadly, a piece of rubber glove, also recovered at the scene, has been misplaced and lost along with the skin sample taken from the dead Colette's fingernail. Freddy and Mildred mourn for their daughter and granddaughters. Next day, Freddy drives along Castle Drive and looks at the house. In a flashback to the spring of 1969, he remembers driving Colette and the girls to the house shortly after Jeff's arrival. When they go in, they find the house unfurnished. Though Freddy suggests they stay at a motel, Jeff insists that the family stay in the house, in sleeping bags. At the end of the flashback, an MP tells Freddy to move on.
Another week later, Bill Ivory has to admit to the Provost Marshal (Jack Rader) that he has no evidence, no suspects, and nothing to suggest anything except a repeat of the murders of Sharon Tate and her house party in California, the previous year. Meanwhile, Freddy Kassab worries that four murderers are on the loose, and the Army can't seem to find them. Six weeks after the three murders (April 1970), MacDonald goes to see his commanding officer, Colonel Franz Grebner (Barry Corbin) of the CID about getting his furniture out of the house. But Grebner has another agenda.
He introduces Ivory and Robert Shaw (Andy Wood), the two CID investigators. Grebner starts a recording and takes a statement from Jeff, beginning with observing that he was inducted into the army in July of 1969--and then giving him the Miranda Warnings. The story Captain MacDonald tells is this:On that evening, his wife went to bed first, and MacDonald stayed up late to watch The Tonight Show. At 0200 hours, he went to bed, but found that Kristen had crawled into bed with Colette and wet the bed. So he put Kristen to bed and slept on the couch in the living room.
Some hours later, MacDonald wakes up to screams: Kimberly yelling, "Daddy! Daddy!" and Colette yelling, "Jeff! Jeff! Why are they doing this to me?" He also remembers as he got up off the living room couch, three rugged men suddenly appeared in the living room trying to club him. Two men were white and one was black and the black man was wearing a US Army jacket with the sergeants strips on one sleeve. Before Jeff could react, one of them punched him in the gut, and another one of them raised a bladed weapon. He describes also a girl with blonde hair standing nearby in a big floppy hat, holding a lighted candle, wearing a raincoat and high-heeled boots, and saying, "Acid is groovy! Kill the pig!" Then he remembers being in the hallway, with his pajama top wrapped around his arms. He received a blow to the head and passed out. When he regained consciousness, the four intruders were gone. He went to the bedroom and found his wife lying on the floor, with a knife sunk into her chest. That is all he "remembers," except for a lot of blood on Colette and the girls.
Vital signs, according to MacDonald, were all negative. Briefly and silently stunned by the story, Grebner starts questioning MacDonald more closely, but MacDonald doesn't quite answer the questions, preferring instead to reinforce his own account. The location of Jeff's pajama top especially puzzles Grebner. Getting more nervous and agitated, MacDonald embellishes his account about where his pajama top was first by saying it was pulled off and over his head during the struggle, then adding that it was around his wrists while fighting one of the intruders. Jeff makes a few slips about the details of the living room scene and then corrects himself by adding statements like: "I forgot to say that," etc. He then mentions the puncture wounds on his abdomen. Then Bill Ivory strikes the first sour note. He casually suggests that MacDonald wounded himself.
MacDonald shrugs this off at first. Then Grebner observes that the three people were "over-killed" with multiple stab wounds, but MacDonald survived with only one serious stab wound among superficial cuts and lacerations. Grebner and Ivory also notice that the screams came from Colette and Kristen, while MacDonald was lying on the couch. So it might be possible that there may have been two more intruders involved...
intruders that MacDonald never described? How could six people crowd into a house that size? Why didn't the house, walls, and furniture sustain more damage? MacDonald again shrugs and states that he doesn't know. Then Grebner comes out and says it: Jeff MacDonald's story doesn't ring true. Grebner shows MacDonald photographs taken of the inside of the house taken on the day after the murders and proclaims: "I've seen living rooms where all-night poker parties took place that caused more damage". In addition to the relative lack of damage to the inside of the house and the living room, the flower pot (which the MP's knocked over and stood back up) is standing up, and the living room coffee table is leaning over on its side. Grebner remarks that the table is top-heavy, and it should have landed upside down.
The table was very likely and gently turned on its side. Conclusion: MacDonald staged the scene after killing his wife and two daughters himself. MacDonald suddenly stands up from his chair and reacts in anger and outrage at them implying that he killed his wife and kids in cold blood for no reason, but Grebner repeats that such things have happened before. MacDonald strongly denies killing his wife and two children and then accuses Grebner of picking him for a scapegoat just to close the case. However, Ivory, Shaw, and Grebner are all unsympathetic. They point out that experience says that the crime scene is inconsistent with MacDonald's story. The discussion, of course, goes nowhere as MacDonald basically pleads how much he loved his family and couldn't have done it.
Grebner also has other evidence, however: he shows Jeff photos of two "other women" in MacDonald's life. Grebner openly speculates that MacDonald may have cheated on his wife with the two women and that Collette found out and it led to a fight which resulted in MacDonald killing her and his two daughters on a spur-of-the-moment rage. MacDonald admits to knowing the two women while he was working at a military hospital, but denies having any sexual relations with any of them. Jeff MacDonald then calmly and arrogantly says, "You're more thorough than I thought. "A few days later, Freddy Kassab thinks the Army is stupid for suspecting Jeff of the murders, and so does Mildred.
Freddy is determined to fight for Jeff as hard as he can. Perry MacDonald travels to Philadelphia and calls in a civilian lawyer named Bernie Siegel (Barry Newman) to represent her son. He asks the usual "defense lawyer questions" before he takes Jeff's case. Siegel agrees to talk to Jeff after talking to Perry.
Mildred places roses on Colette's grave as the voice of Jeff narrates a letter to the Kassabs, giving his impression (negative) of the investigation. In further scenes, Jeff takes a Rorschach inkblot test, then a polygraph lie detector test, and then what might be a Thematic Apperception Test (though this is not shown clearly). Bernie Siegel and his assistant Dennis Eisman (Lance Rosen) are confident in their case. Freddy tells the press how angry he is with the U. S.
Army for holding Jeff. Days later, Freddy comes home to hear from Mildred that the Army will charge Jeff with three counts of murder in the deaths of Colette and the girls. Freddy pledges his support. But Mildred takes down a picture and has her own reminiscence:In Mildred's flashback, she is playing with Kimberly (Judith Barsi as Kimberly, age 3) in their home in Chicago back in 1967. The pregnant Colette ruefully observes that Jeff's medical-school schedule keeps him busy. Later, of course, Colette goes into labor and is admitted to Lakeside East Hospital, to bear Kristen. He is almost obsessively solicitous of Colette.
Kimberly stays with Mildred at the house while Colette recovers. There she receives the joyous news that she has another granddaughter. But the next day, Jeff insists that Colette had been nearly neglected in the hospital. (Whether that was true or not, the show never makes clear.
)Back in the present, Freddy tells Mildred that he's spoken to Jeff. Freddy reveals that the Army wants hair samples from every part of his body, to try to match it to the hair strand that Colette was grasping when she died. Freddy is still frustrated with Jeff for not telling him any details of the crime. So Freddy offers a $5,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of the "intruders" who killed his stepdaughter and two granddaughters.
On May 1, 1970, the US Army holds an Article 32 hearing in Jeff's case. Character witnesses, including the Army psychiatrist, testify in support of Jeff. Freddy is frustrated with the Army for closing the hearing to the public. But Jeff boasts to Freddy about how Siegel showed that the MPs had not adequately secured the scene or the evidence. Freddy asks Jeff to get a daily transcript of the hearing. Jeff vaguely promises to "try" to get one. Jeff gives an interview to the Long Island Register and gives a lot of details that he never gave Freddy. That is the first thing that puzzles Freddy about Jeff's casual attitude.
Mildred mourns that her granddaughters will never see something as simple as two blue jays feeding from a bird feeder. Days later, the Army investigators create an incident when they take Jeff into custody to take hair samples. In the process, Jeff, for no clear reason, kicks one of the investigators in his leg. As a result, one investigator manhandles Dennis in front of Bernie, who then goes on a rampage, yelling at anyone in sight, "Now you know how the Army operates!" Naturally that provokes Jeff to write another letter to Freddy at how he is being treated, and apparently a letter to newspaper columnist Jack Anderson.
A few weeks later, a private investigator named William Posey (Joe Mays) tells Siegal and Eisman that he found a hippie woman named Helena Stoeckley (Alexandra Johnson), who wears high-heeled boots, a blond wig, and a big floppy hat. But after February 17, she never wore those items again. Instead she went about in "mourning," hung a funeral wreath on her door, and placed votive candles all over her apartment. Posey even quotes Stoeckley as saying, "We can't get married until we go out and kill some more people.
"Bill Ivory goes to see Helena Stoeckley first to question her about the MacDonald case. He gets little out of her, because she won't let him take notes. She admits just one thing: that she takes a lot of drugs (including marijuana), and never can keep straight what she does from week to week, let alone that far back in time. Helena claims that the blond wig she had was borrowed; the floppy hat she gave away; the boots she threw away; she denies having anything to do with witchcraft.
Helena says that she will not "get involved," and more to the point, says, "I wasn't there. "At the Article 32 hearing, Bernie Siegal has a field day with Ivory, showing that Stoeckley was anything but "frank, candid, and open" as Ivory tried to say. Next, Freddy Kassab testifies at the Article 32 hearing and gives more character testimony, including that if he had another daughter, he'd be happy to have Jeff marry her, too. Now Jeff testifies, describing in a proud tone about his clubs and sports teams in school, scholarship at Princeton University, medical training, and decision to join the U. S. Army. Then he re-tells this story of the night of the deaths:At 1815 hours on the night of February 16, Colette left for a night class.
Then he put away some dishes from dinner in the kitchen sink, and stayed up with the two girls as they watched TV. He put Kristen to bed and fell asleep in the living room with Kimberly until Colette got back at 2100 hours. When Colette does come back, he proposes a nightcap. They sit in the living room for a while, and Jeff tells Colette that he's still working on going to Russia with the Army boxing team. Colette went to bed, and Jeff watched more TV and washed the dishes, wearing rubber gloves. He finished reading a novel at about 0200.
Then he found Kristen on his side of the bed, which was wet, and put her to bed. He went to sleep on the couch, and then came the screams, the fight with the three hippie-looking men, and all the rest that he earlier had told Franz Grebner. The pajama top comes up, and he can't remember how it came to be wrapped around his arms in front of him. He remembers dropping the pajama top, but doesn't know where. He pulled a knife out of his wife's chest and tried to resuscitate her without success.
Then he picked up the pajama top and covered her chest and face with it. The Army has two old knives that were found at the crime scene (a bent one beside the dead Colette and the other one outside the back door), which Jeff denies recognizing. An ice pick is introduced as another murder weapon. Again, Jeff denies ever seeing it before.
Jeff also says that some of his drug-rehab patients threatened him with death in the course of his treatment of him. On October 13, 1970, the Army decides to drop the case with lack of evidence. Jeff is writing letters to a publicity agent when he is ushered into the office of the Provost Marshal, who tells Jeff that Colonel Rock has recommended dropping all charges. Afterwords, Jeff MacDonald resigns from the US Army and receives an honorable discharge. Freddy and Mildred are ecstatic about Jeff being cleared, but Freddy still wants a copy of the transcript of the Article 32 hearing. Jeff is far more interested in talking to reporters--including reporter Betsy Gilmore, who openly flirts with him over the telephone, a thing he's interested in. 'Look' magazine gets interested, and a interview is granted with both Jeff and Freddy.
During the interview, Freddy says that he still wants to find "the real killers" by now. Freddy contacts a set of reporters to investigate the case, but Jeff wants the investigating paper to pay him. That's the second thing that puzzles Freddy. Jeff also tells Freddy that the Army has instructed him not to give him a transcript of the hearing, a thing Freddy won't accept.
In December 1970, Jeff appears on a TV talk show, he tells the interviewer Dick Cavet (Billy James) about his interrogation, and that he had 23 stab wounds, some life-threatening, and then needed surgery. Watching the interview, Freddy knows that's false, because he remembers Jeff's hospitalization and nothing like that ever happened during it. At the CID, Colonel Pruett (Carmen Argenziano) summons Major Peter Kearns (Dennis Redfield) to reopen the investigation. Jeff MacDonald has made the Army resent him with his salacious interview.
Col. Pruett's investigators find Helena Stoeckley, now living in Nashville. She then for the first time tells the Army that Jeff may have did the deed himself. Some time later, Freddy finally gets a copy of the Article 32 transcript. That makes him even angrier when he finds even more inconsistencies in Jeff's story:* Whom was Colette shouting to ("Jeff, why are they doing this to me?"), if Jeff was in the living room, she in the bedroom, and the four intruders were fighting with him there? And how could she talk at all?* Jeff was knocked back on the couch by the intruders and blacked out. Why didn't they finish him off?* Jeff heard Kimmie screaming, "Daddy!" But her skull was crushed by then, wasn't it?* Why was there no blood on the living room floor, where he fought the intruders?* Jeff never washed a dish in his life, with or without rubber gloves. * Jeff used a kitchen phone to call for help.
But there was no blood on that phone. In summary: Jeff made 123 statements during the hearing that Freddy knows are false, or impossible to believe. Now, for the first time, he believes that Jeff might have done the deed. Meanwhile, Jeff MacDonald moves out to California, where he has signed on to a civilian hospital as an emergency-room physician. Perry MacDonald sees him off. Part Two:In March 1971, Freddy Kassab drives up to the vacant MacDonald house on 544 Castle Drive in Fort Bragg, carrying the copy of the Article 32 transcript. With him are Colonel Pruett and Major Kearns.
Freddy wants to determine whether any part of Jeff's testimony could have been correct. And Freddy concludes, after walking about the house and wrestling with memories, that they were not:* Threads from Jeff's pajamas were found underneath the bed and underneath Colette's body in the master bedroom. How did they get there? Is is possible that Jeff wrote the word. "PIG" himself?* Why would four murderers fleeing the scene of the crime throw their weapons under a bush just outside the back door?* Four Valentine's Day cards sent by Freddy and Mildred to Jeff and his family a few days before the murders still stand upright on the top of the china cupboard in a corner of the living room. Freddy demonstrates that by stomping his foot on the floor, the four cards would have fallen down in any fight.
* Two minutes is not enough time for Jeff to have done all he said he did between the first call and the second. * Jeff could never describe accurately the four intruders who attacked him as he did during the hearing, because he never testified that he turned on any lights in the dark living room when he claimed to have first saw the three men who attacked him. In the meantime, Jeff writes that he now has a good career in Long Beach, California, has bought a cabin cruiser speedboat (which he names 'Recovery Room'), and has begun an affair with Randi Amato (Nadine Van der Velde), a secretary in a yacht dealership. Now convinced that Jeff MacDonald indeed killed his wife and two daughters, Freddy from this point onward, becomes determined to bring Jeff to trial for the three murders. Over the next several months, he gets impatient with the Justice Department for not pushing the investigation. He announces to Mildred that he will "twist the arm of every Congressman in Washington" if he has to. In December 1972, Mildred, alone again, looks at a Christmas picture of Jeff and his family, and remembers Christmas of 1969 with all of them together in Fort Bragg, when Jeff gave Kimberly a pony of her own. Mildred notices Colette looking unsettled and emotionally distant while watching Jeff help Kimberly ride on the pony.
Mildred thinks that Colette is just distraught about announcing her latest pregnancy (Jeff MacDonald's reaction to this is never shown, but from her appearance it might be speculated that he did not react well due to another child on the way). Mildred, Freddy, Jeff, Colette and the two girls then go inside the house for more unwrapping of gifts. But later that day comes a sour note: Jeff asks some of his Army neighbors over for a drink, though the family is already fixing dinner. And then Mildred recalls another important thing: the MacDonalds did have an ice pick in their freezer. A few days later, Jeff and Freddy have an angry telephone conversation about (what else?) the investigation, and about allegations that Jeff had an affair with someone during the Article 32 hearing. (Freddy claims to have talked to the girl..
.. who is never named or appears on-camera. ) Jeff insists that Freddy is hurting people with his crusade and tells him that he just wants to move on with his life. Freddy quietly says he will not stop until Jeff is brought to justice for killing his family. Jeff continues to deny killing his wife and two daughters.
Freddy, refusing to believe Jeff anymore, hangs up. In 1973, Mildred finds Freddy in the local library, where he tells her that he has found out that he could file a citizen's complaint to force the Justice Department's head to bring Jeff to trial. Freddy and CID Captain Brian Murtaugh (Joel Polis) go to the Washington DC office of Federal District Attorney Victor Worheide (Andy Griffith) to discuss the case. Worheide is openly skeptical: they have no confession, no apparent motive, and no witnesses to MacDonald killing his wife and two daughters. But Murtaugh and Freddy insist on pressing the matter. Freddy's motive: justice for Colette and the girls. Worheide visits FBI forensic specialist Paul Stombaugh (Mitch Ryan), with Freddy and Murtaugh in tow.
Stombaugh tells them that the pajama top's damage is not consistent with someone stabbing at it with an ice pick while it was moving. It should have been torn, but it wasn't. But the pajama top's 48 holes, all clean, exactly match the 21 ice pick wounds on her body. And: Colette's blood was on the pajama top, in a perfect pattern, "before it ever got torn. " Conclusion: Collette was stabbed with the ice pick while the pajama top was laying over her. Meanwhile, Jeff has made a lot of friends in Long Beach, especially among police officers when he treats their buddies who are wounded in the line of duty. They and the nursing staff support him completely as he knows he must go back East to face a grand jury. In July 1974, at the grand jury hearing in North Carolina, Worheide presses the point with witnesses who say that the MacDonalds did have an ice pick in the house, and that no user of LSD would ever say, "Acid is groovy.
" Nor could four persons using LSD organize anything as elaborate as a home-invasion murder. Jeff comes in for more embarrassment, because he has a copy of Esquire magazine. Worheide lets into evidence the February 1970 copy of Esquire which described the August 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders committed by the Charles Manson cult. Jeff also refuses a sodium amytal exam, and breaks down in the middle of the doctor's note recommending against it. Worheide also has Colette's body exhumed, long enough to recover blonde hair samples from her body to test against the hair recovered from her hand. Stombaugh later concludes that the hair belonged to Colette herself, not to any woman in a big floppy hat. MacDonald then has a field day with Colette being exhumed without his permission or even his knowledge. Another witness at the grand jury hearing, a local psychiatrist, describes that Jeff MacDonald may have a "paranoid-type psychosis," in which the patient is convinced that his version of facts is the only possible one, any evidence to the contrary not withstanding.
This is to show that Jeff's attitude shows all the signs of a "paranoid-like syndrome. " He testifies that Jeff MacDonald may have a "narcissistic-paranoid" mental disorder where he really believes his own lies (which is why Jeff was able to pass a lie detector test) and that he might have killed his wife and two daughters during an amphetamine rage. Jay MacDonald testifies that his brother is getting a raw deal, and Jeff protests that the government is harassing his family. Still, Worheide draws from Jeff an admission that he collected a lot of medical supplies while working at US Army hospitals in Fort Bragg and elsewhere, including Escatrol diet pills (or speed) which were found in his house on the morning after the murders. At another private strategy session, Murtaugh wants to make something of extramarital affairs that Jeff MacDonald had during his marriage. Worheide dismisses that as inconsequential and non-probative and that since Colette may have never known about it, showing any proof in open court that Jeff was cheating on his wife would be thrown out as bias and hearsay. Worheide says that on the morning after the murders, MacDonald was tested at the military hospital for all kinds of drugs (marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD, PCP, Dexedrine, Thorazine, painkillers, alcohol, etc.
). The results were all negative, but he was never tested for amphetamines or Escatrol pills. Then, Stombaugh reminds the group that all the members of the family had different blood types. Worheide leaves the room at this point, with Murtaugh in tow. But Freddy prevails on Stombaugh to narrate the events. The blood types are as follows: Colette - type A, Jeff - type B, Kimberly - type AB, Kristen - type OAnd on that basis, Stombaugh produces this narrative:In a possible real flashback, an argument started in the master bedroom, between Jeff and Colette, possibly over Kristen wetting his side of the bed while sleeping there and Jeff having to sleep on the living room couch. Either Jeff or Collette slapped each other as the fight escalated.
Colette then hit Jeff on his forehead with a hairbrush (found on the bedroom floor beside the bed), which was the result of his head concussion. Jeff hit her back with his fists. She tore at his pajama top with her fingernails. Colette found a small knife from her nightstand and tried to defend herself with it, stabbing Jeff to defend herself, making more cuts in the pajama top, stabbing his left arm and left side at least twice. Kimberly heard the struggle and got up and walked into the master bedroom. (That's when she cries, "Daddy! Daddy!" after seeing him hitting Collette and she apparently shoved him in outrage.
) Jeff then picked up the wooden club, swung it at Collette, and may have hit Kimberly with it at least once on the head (possibly by accident), and he then hit Colette several times with the club until both of her arms were broken and her head bashed in. Shocked by his own actions, Jeff dropped the club, picked up the mortally Kimberly, and carried her to her own bedroom. After Jeff stumbled into the living room and cried over his actions, he got the idea of staging the scene after reading about the Tate-LaBiana murders in the Esquire magazine sometime earlier. So, he put on a pair of surgical rubber gloves and armed himself with an Old Hickory knife and the ice pick from the kitchen.
In Kristen's room, he stabbed Kristen in the back and chest with the one of the knifes while she sleeps (intending to kill the potential witness). He then went back into Kimberly's room (who may have been already dead by this point) and clubbed her a second time, and stabbed her a few times with the same knife. Sometime during this, Colette regained consciousness and went into Kristen's room. Jeff found her there and beat her to death with the club, leaving her blood on the sheets and walls. In the master bedroom he collected the bedspread and sheet and carried her into the master bedroom. He left plenty of evidence for the investigators to find, including a bare footprint of Colette's blood.
Then he found the wooden club and the knife. In a rage, he came back to Colette and struck her so hard he scraped the bedroom ceiling with the club at least once. He wrote "PIG" on the headboard with Colette's blood. He stabbed Kristen many times with the ice pick, and then he used the same ice pick to stab the dead Colette while she was draped in his pajama top. That explains the clean holes in it. Next he staged the living-room scene by turning the coffee table on its side, then went to the bathroom to wound himself with a scalpel. He wiped the weapons clean of fingerprints using a bathroom mat, threw them outside in the back yard, disposed of the scalpel used to wound himself and the surgical gloves (either in the trash or flushing them down the toilet) and then picked up a telephone to call for help at 0340 hours.
The narrative, of course, upsets Freddy, and he weeps bitterly. But he wanted to know, and now he knows. Next scene: Jeff testifies, and displays the same hostile and cocky attitude as he did with the Army investigators back in 1970. But he offers no explanation for the evidence introduced.
The grand jury takes a long time to decide, as Murtaugh tells Freddy over the telephone. Victor Worheide, furthermore, is ill with heart disease. Freddy is not satisfied, and won't be until the case goes to trial. On January 24, 1975, the grand jury does act. They return a true bill of indictment for murder all three murders. Three FBI men show up in Long Beach to arrest Jeff on the strength of that later that same day. The trial is set to start on August 18, but no trial takes place.
On January 31, Bernie Siegel files an appeal for dismissal because Jeff "did not receive a speedy trial. " Jeff gets out on bail, and will stay free until his lawyers exhaust all recourse. Victor Worheide, meanwhile, dies in October 1975 from a sudden heart attack (off-camera). A few days later Brian Murtaugh, now employed at the Justice Department, breaks the news to Freddy in Chicago. In 1976, Jeff takes Randi over the ocean, in his cabin cruiser, to Hawaii for a vacation. There Siegel assures him that he had the indictment quashed.
Freddy receives that news badly. He obtains a permit to carry a gun. A shocked Mildred begs him to appeal to courts, and not take the law into his own hands. Freddy decides to follow her advice and go to the courts himself.
Mildred vows to endure more delays, anything but watch him become a murderer. Freddy sends out a spate of letters. In a jump forward to June 1979 in Long Beach, writer Joe McGinnis (Frank Dent) meets Jeff for the first time, after the Supreme Court has ordered Jeff brought to trial after all. Jeff's first interview with Joe strikes one critical sour note: Jeff wants to be "cut in" for "a share of the take" from any book project. In the next scene, the Long Beach Police Officers' Association gives Jeff a big fund-raising party. In Raleigh, North Carolina, Murtaugh introduces Freddy and Mildred to Federal prosecutor James Blackburn (Gary Grubbs), who admits he's never tried a murder before in his career. While in Raleigh, Freddy reminisces about Jeff mowing the Kassabs' lawn and shovel their driveway, and how Freddy used to drive Jeff and Colette to the movies.
On July 16, 1979, after more then nine years of delays, Jeff MacDonald's murder trial begins in the Federal courthouse in downtown Raleigh. Judge Franklin Dupree (Albert Salmi) presides over the case. Blackburn and Murtaugh open their case by saying that MacDonald murdered his pregnant wife and two daughters in a spur-of-the-moment of rage. Jeff's lawyer, Bernie Segal, argues that the case and evidence is old and that Jeff is the victim of circumstantial evidence brought by the government looking for a suspect. During the whole trial, Bernie's wide-open style of combative advocacy does not sit well with Judge Dupree and the two of them verbally clash repeatably during the whole trial.
A few days later, the jury visits the crime scene (still vacant since the night of the murders). Jeff goes inside before the jury and tours the house with Bernie, Dennis, Joe McGinnis and their staff. When they emerge, a gaggle of gawkers gaze at him. Then the jury gets off a bus to inspect the crime scene themselves for 20 minutes. The children's furnishings and blood stains interest them the most.
But afterwords, Jeff just wants to "hit the track and the bar bells before dinner. "Back in the courthouse, Stombaugh testifies and introduces the bloody footprints and the pajama top. Jeff still displays his hostile and cocky attitude while away from court to Joe while they are working out. Meanwhile, Freddy expresses fear that James Blackburn is not up to the aggressive standard of Victor Worheide. Mildred tells Freddy to trust Blackburn's judgment. At a birthday party for Bernie, Bernie's staff give Bernie a dartboard. They then mount a picture of Brian Murtaugh on the dartboard and take turns throwing darts at it. Jeff scores a bulls-eye.
Bernie calls forensic expert named Dr. James Thornton (Roy London) to say that an ice pick could have made clean holes in a pajama top. But Brian Murtaugh, with Blackburn's help, demonstrates using a pajama top to defend against an ice pick. Murtaugh wraps a similar pajama top around his wrists while Blackburn stabs at it with the ice pick. Result: Murtaugh sustains a minor wound on his left hand, but also shows that the holes in the pajama top are jagged and torn, not smoothly cylindrical like the ones in MacDonald's pajama top. Between sessions, Bernie interviews Helena Stoeckley and tries to wring from her an admission that she was at the murder house.
But Miss Stoeckley insists, politely at first and then angrily, that "I wasn't there. I don't know what you're talking about. I wasn't THERE!!!" (Her testimony is not shown on camera. )Next, Bernie urgently tries to prepare Jeff to take the stand in his own defense.
He does not want Jeff to display any more hostility. He especially does not want Jeff to spout off at Blackborn as he did at Worheide during the Grand Jury hearing. Jeff suddenly loses his temper again roars at Bernie about Worheide, calling him a Nazi and that it's all Worheide's fault for at bringing this whole thing to trial...
. quite forgetting that Worheide is dead. He also has some choice words for Bernie about the jury. But finally he calms down long enough to tell Bernie not to mention the pony he once gave the girls. Bernie examines Jeff on the witness stand, and leads him to describe his family in warm, loving, grieving terms. (The jury do not seem impressed by Jeff's Crocodile tears. ) Then the ever-courteous Blackburn rises to cross-examine.
He concentrates on the pajama top with all the clean, neat holes in it. He points out that Jeff received no wounds from any ice pick. He asks several questions of fact, based largely on Stombaugh's conclusions. Then Blackburn asks several questions of this sort: "If the jury should find such-a-thing, have you an explanation for that?" Jeff shrugs with indifference and in every case gives the same answer: "No.
" Or, "Making the very large assumption that the Army CID knows how to type blood... no. " (During a break, Siegel tells Jeff that he is generally pleased with Jeff's performance and tells him to continue to keep cool. ) At one point in Blackburn's "suppose the jury should find" examination, Bernie files an objection for argumentative examination. That night, Freddy and Mildred hold each other in bed as they know they must hold out for one more night. The next day, Blackburn makes his closing argument, laying out the government's evidence, and explaining why he said, "If the jury should find this and that, can you explain it?" The point: Jeff "cannot" explain it.
Blackburn suggests that the fight started inadvertently and escalated. And Blackburn ends by observing that Colette's words, "Jeff, why are THEY doing this to me?" sounds awfully close to "Jeff, why are YOU doing this to me?"In his closing argument, Bernie tries to counter by reminding the jury where the burden of proof truly lies. Whether he is arguing for jury nullification is impossible to say. But in the process, Bernie makes the same mistake that he warned Jeff not to make: getting angry in open court. August 29, 1979. The case goes to the jury. After 42 minutes, a package arrives from the Long Beach Police Officers' Association: a bulletproof vest. Jeff dons it, at Bernie's orders.
Six hours later, the jury finally brings in a verdict:In the death of Colette: "Guilty" of murder in the second degree. In the death of Kimberly: "Guilty" of murder in the second degree. In the death of Kristen: "Guilty" of murder in the "first" degree. The jury had apparently believed the prosecution's case; Colette and Kimberly were killed by Jeffrey MacDonald on the spur of the moment without any planning or premeditation, but Kristen was killed with premeditation.
Seated nearby, Freddy and Mildred are both relieved and satisfied that it's over. Jeff's family and friends seated nearby are shocked and upset over the verdict. A shocked Bernie asks the judge to poll the jury. This is done, and every juror present says the same thing: "Guilty. " Jeffrey MacDonald sits beside himself and slumps back emotionally defeated. An overlaid text in the freeze-frame stated that after the verdict, Jeff MacDonald was sentenced by Judge Dupree to the maximum and harshest sentence allowed under Federal government law; three consecutive life sentences (obviously to make sure that Jeff will never leave prison alive). The following year in July 1980, Jeff appealed the verdict and was freed on the grounds of being denied a speedy trial as well as judicial bias, which went from the local Federal court all the way to the Supreme Court in Washington DC.
In March 1982, the appeal was denied, and Jeff was returned to prison and his license to practice medicine was revoked for good. He is serving his three consecutive life sentences in a Federal prison in Texas, and will be eligible for parole in 1991. (As of this writing in 2017, Jeffrey MacDonald continues to remain in prison and will probably do so for the rest of his life for the murders of his wife and two daughters... murders he continues to strongly deny committing).
The final closes with old photographs of the real Jeffrey MacDonald which shows his induction into the U. S. Army, his wedding day, his high-school baseball picture, a picture of him in the church choir, a picture of him as a boy, and finally a baby picture. And that baby picture (his first picture wearing big-boy clothes), which holds during the end titles, implies that Jeffrey MacDonald was just as likely to get angry about not getting his own way even then..