Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald

What Really Happened

There was a very serious drug problem in the Fort Bragg area.  Many soldiers returning from Vietnam were drug addicts a situation which the Army was ill-prepared to address.  Added to this Army drug problem was the explosion of drug use in the local hippie community during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The Army was about to change its policy on soldiers who used drugs.  Under the new policy, base physicians would have to report soldiers who continued to use drugs.  Many physicians were concerned that the new policy would cause drug-addicted soldiers to avoid Army medical treatment and thereby worsen the drug problem.

Personally, Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald was very unsympathetic to drug users and the drug-loving hippie community.  MacDonald was known by the community of drug users as someone who threatened to make drugs more difficult to get.  Helen Stoeckley told Fred Bost, "MacDonald was just one of several people giving the drug users a hard time...It's kind of like if you tell somebody that they're going to be cut off [from drugs]...they said, 'Look, you know it's happening to us now.  I could be you next'....there was simply going to be a little pushing around [at the MacDonald house], you know, and trying to get a point across..."

In 1980, Stoeckley married and her new husband believed firmly that she was involved in the murders, but had not killed anyone herself.  Former FBI agent Ted Gunderson and police detective Prince Beasley offered her immunity and she signed a confession to that effect, bolstering her credibility by remembering certain details about the crime scene that were not released to the public.  She underwent three polygraph tests which supported her story.  She also gave the names of some of her companions one of whom actually murdered Colette and possibly one of the girls too.

Helena Stoeckley in 1981
Helena Stoeckley in 1981

She remembers seeing only one person attacking Colette her boyfriend Greg Mitchell.   One of the children was lying motionless next to Colette during the attack.   Helena thought that Colette was fighting to protect the child.  By that time, she became hysterical at the sight of all the blood and ran out of the MacDonald house.  She thought that MacDonald was dead when she left the house.

Fortunately for MacDonald's defense team, these confessions were videotaped because Helena Stoeckley died at the age of 30 from complications of liver disease in January of 1982.


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