During the Army hearing it became clear that the preliminary investigation at the murder scene had been a fiasco with vital evidence contaminated due to negligence and incompetence by the military police. The catalogue of mistakes was staggering.
It was reported that the ambulance man had not only moved items at the crime scene, but had also stolen the wallet of MacDonald. Fingerprints had been wiped from the telephone and a hair strand taken from MacDonald turned out to be from a pony that he had bought for his eldest daughter.
But worse for MacDonald was the fact that a young investigator, William Ivory from the Army CID believed that MacDonald had invented the whole story about the attack by crazed hippies. As a consequence the army put its focus on finding MacDonald guilty.
Colonel Warren V. Rock was assigned to head up what is known in military terms as ‘Article 32’, which relates to when a member of the armed services is charged with a crime. On the defence side, Bernie Segal was assigned as MacDonald’s attorney.
Freddy Kassab, MacDonald’s father in law and step-father to Colette MacDonald, was incensed that his son-in-law was being accused of the crimes. In response, he started a publicity campaign to prove MacDonald’s innocence. Kassab was also dumbfounded by the fact that the army authorities chose to keep the hearing closed.
The woman in the floppy hat who had been seen by officer Mica and Lieutenant Paulk was now identified as Helen Stoeckley. She was known to be a heavy drug user who also had a keen interest in witchcraft and the occult. However, the Army’s CID, William Ivory was accused by the defence of carrying out an inadequate investigation of the woman and her associates. By the time she came to be asked to testify she could not be found.
Medical witnesses testified to MacDonald being a man of sound personality with no obvious mental health problems or issues. Furthermore they did not believe he had lied about events on the night of the murders.
Apart from the revelation that MacDonald had participated in a few extra marital flings, the majority of military and medical witnesses testified to him being a loyal family man who loved his wife and children.
After six weeks of public humiliation for the army, the case was dismissed and Colonel Rock ordered further investigations into Helen Stoeckley. According to the defence team, the Army was still determined to convict MacDonald.
MacDonald discharged himself from the Army and around the same time he committed a grave error in judgement when he took it upon himself to talk on chat shows about his experiences and worse, criticise the Army further. His celebrity appearances only helped to undermine his cause and personal loss.
Helen Stoeckley was eventually traced, interviewed and given a polygraph test. She told the Army CID that she ‘believed’ she was present during the murders. However, due to the fact that her prints could not be matched with any of those remaining from the crime scene she was dismissed as a suspect.
Jeffrey MacDonald began to rebuild his life, returning to work in medicine and receiving praise for many initiatives he brought about in that field. He proved he was well liked and admired and was even made an honorary lifetime member of the Long Beach Police Department.
After several years, a grand jury was presented with a new theory about MacDonald. When MacDonald was said to have refused to take a sodium amytal test this led to the grand jury indicting him.
After studying the Article 32 transcripts, MacDonald’s father-in-law also became convinced of his guilt and began a successful campaign to have him brought to trial. A grand jury in North Carolina indicted him on 24 January 1975 and within an hour MacDonald was arrested in California.
It was to be the kind of high profile case that could make careers. The lead prosecutor, Attorney James Blackburn, later went on to a higher position in North Carolina. Ironically, he was later convicted for fraud and embezzlement.
MacDonald was unfortunate that Judge Franklin T. Dupree Jr. who was to preside over the case, was also a close friend and in-law of a Government official who was out to get a conviction. It appeared the odds were stacked against the suspect. MacDonald was indicted over a period of five years, but not charged. His trial was finally set for mid 1979, nine years after the murders had occurred.