title>Jeffrey MacDonald - An Analysis of His Claim to Innocence

Statement Analysis®

Jeffrey MacDonald


On February 17, 1970 at Ft. Bragg, NC, someone entered the residence of Green Beret Captain Jeffrey MacDonald, M.D. and murdered his wife, Colette, and his two children, Kristen and Kimberly. When the M.P.'s arrived at the house, they found MacDonald unconscious and injured. When he regained consciousness, MacDonald stated that he had fallen asleep on the couch. He was awakened by the screams of his wife and his oldest daughter Kimberly. MacDonald stated there were four people in his house who attacked him and left him unconscious.

Despite his denials that he murdered his wife and kids, in 1979 MacDonald was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison. Over the years a lot of controversy has surrounded this case. Many books have been written about the murders including Joe McGinniss' "Fatal Vision" published in 1983. Some of these books convict MacDonald while others vindicate him. Let's see what Jeffrey MacDonald has to say about what happened that night.

His Statement

"Let's see. Monday night my wife went to bed, and I was reading. And I went to bed about, somewhere around 2:00. I really don't know. I was reading on the couch and my little girl Kristy had gone into bed with my wife. And I went in to go to bed, and the bed was wet. She had wet the bed on my side, so I brought her in her own room. And I don't remember if I changed her or not; gave her a bottle and went out to the couch 'cause my bed was wet."

MacDonald does not introduce his wife by name. If you are with a friend and you meet another friend, it would be considered rude if you do not introduce them to each other. The same thing applies when writing. It is impolite not to introduce a character. He introduces his kids but not his wife. This is an indication of tension in their relationship.

He mentions 2:00 but tells us "I really don't know." The word "really" is a word that indicates untruthfulness. It is like saying "honestly" or "truthfully." Deceptive people will try to convince you they are telling the truth. Perhaps he does know what time it was.

In an open statement, the subject should only report what he remembers. When a person states that he does not remember something, he is telling us that he remembers that he does not remember! This is a strong indication the subject is withholding information.

"Gave her a bottle." Who gave her a bottle? He didn't use the pronoun "I." In Statement Analysis, nothing is understood. We believe what people tell us. If his daughter was dead at this point in his story, then we can see why he could not say "I gave her a bottle."

The subject should only tell us what he did or what happened. Explaining why something happened (cause, therefore, since, etc.) is considered out-of-bounds. In obtaining a statement, an interviewer is usually asking "what happened?" and not "Why did it happen?"

"And I went to sleep on the couch. And then the next thing I know I heard some screaming, at least my wife, but I thought I heard Kimmie, my oldest daughter, screaming also and I sat up. The kitchen light was on and I saw some people at the foot of the bed. So, I don't know if I really said anything or I was getting ready to say something. This happened real fast. You know, when you talk about it, it sounds like it took forever, but it didn't take forever."

In an open statement, phrases such as "the next thing I know" "the next thing I remember" are usually used to conceal information. MacDonald could have said, "I went to sleep on the couch. I woke up hearing my wife screaming."

He describes the killers as "people." That is a very polite term for someone who slaughtered your family. This will also have significance later in his statement.

He said the people were at the "foot of the bed." We are not sure what bed he is talking about. This seems to contradict his statement that he "went to sleep on the couch."

Deceptive people will sometimes use the phrase "you know" to get you to believe their story. They expect you take for granted what they are saying is the truth. The problem is we do not know. They have to tell us what happened. If this phrase appears a lot in the statement, then it may be a habitual speech pattern.

"And so, I sat up and at first I thought I was - I just could see three people and don't know if I - if I heard the girl first, or I think I saw her first. I think two of the men separated sort of at the end of my couch, and I keep - all I saw was some people really."

The phrase "at first I thought" means he had a second thought which he does not share with us.

Three is a liar's number. When deceptive people have to come up with a number they will often use the number three. It is not an absolute but an indication of deception. If MacDonald did kill his family, then we can see that he did struggle with three people - his wife and two kids.

By using phrases such as "I think" and "sort of," MacDonald is not committing himself to his story. "I think" can also mean it may not have happened. "Sort of" means it kind of happened.

He talks about two of the men separating "at the end of my couch." Earlier he said, "I saw some people at the foot of the bed." So, when he was awakened and sat up, where were the people? At the foot of the bed or at the end of the couch?

MacDonald states he could see three people. Let's count them. He mentions he "heard the girl first." That's one. He then states "two of the men separated." That's two and three. However, if "two of the men separated" that implies at least one other man was present who did not separate. He did not state "the two men separated." MacDonald has just contradicted himself. He realizes this and he pauses in mid sentence, "and I keep - all I saw was some people really." He appears to be flustered and goes on to say that he saw "some people" instead of giving us a specific number. He adds the word "really" which is a word that indicates untruthfulness.

"And this guy started walking down between the coffee table and the couch, and he raised something over his head and he just sort of then - sort of all together - I just got a glance of this girl with kind of a light on her face. I don't know if it was a flashlight or a candle, but it looked to me like she was holding something. And I just remember that my instinctive thought was that 'She's holding a candle. What the hell is she holding a candle for?' But she said, before I was hit the first time, 'Kill the pigs. Acid's groovy.' Now, that's all, that's all I think I heard before I was hit the first time, and the guy hit me in the head."

"And this guy started walking..." The word "this" indicates specificity but it also indicates closeness. Why would he use a word that shows nearness to his attacker? He could have stated, "And one of the men..." The word "guy" is a buddy term. We would expect him to use the word "man" or "men." The word "walking" is a very casual term for someone who is moving throughout your house attacking you and your family. If a struggle took place, we would expect to see language such as "ran." The word "started" means the guy did not complete the act of walking. He only "started." Since he is telling us what happened, a better statement would be to use the past tense verb "walked."

"...he just sort of then - sort of all together -" He never tells us what the guy did. He changes his thought and begins talking about the girl.

He again uses the word "this" in talking about his attackers - "this girl." He changed his language because earlier he called her "the girl." Calling her "the girl" is specific because there was only one female offender. There is no reason to call her "this girl." It appears his use of the word "this" indicates closeness which does not make sense and points to him making up the story about the girl.

"...before I was hit the first time" This means he was hit a second time.

He repeats the words "that's all" which may be an attempt to stall for time to think about what he is going to say. His statement "I think" means he is not certain if that was all he heard.

"So, I was knocked back on the couch, and then I started struggling to get up, and I could hear it all then - now I could - maybe it's really, you know - I don't know if I was repeating to myself what she just said or if I kept hearing it, but I kept - I heard, you know, 'Acid is groovy. Kill the pigs.' And I started to struggle up and I noticed three men now, and I think the girl was kind of behind them. And the guy on my left was a colored man, and he hit me again but at the same time, you know, was kind of struggling. And these two men, I thought, were punching me at the same time."

By using the word "so" he is explaining what happened as opposed to telling us what happened.

"I started struggling to get up" The word "started" tells us that he did not get up.

MacDonald uses phrases such as "I think" "you know" "I don't know" which means he is not very committed to his story. I understand that he claims he was asleep and was suddenly awakened and was still in a daze. He also claims he had been hit on the head so he may have a hard time recalling what happened that night. That does not change the fact that phrases such as these indicate he is not fully committed to his story.

"...kind of struggling." Either he was struggling or he was not struggling.

A fourth person enters his story making it a total of "three" men and the girl. When talking about the two men punching him, he states "I thought were punching me." Therefore, we do not know if they were punching him.

"Then I - I remember thinking to myself that - see, I work out with boxing gloves sometimes. I was then - and I kept - 'Geeze, that guy throws a hell of a punch,' because he punched me in the chest, and I got this terrific pain in my chest. And so, I was struggling and I got hit on the shoulder or the side of the head again, and so I turned and I, and I grabbed this guy's whatever it was. I thought it was a baseball bat at the time. And I had - I was holding it. I was kind of working up it to hold onto it. Meanwhile, both of these guys were kind of hitting me, and all this time I was hearing screams. That's what I can't figure out, so, let's see, I was holding - so, I was the - and all I got a glimpse was, was some stripes. I told you I think they were E6 stripes. There was one bottom rocker and it was an army jacket, and that was a colored man, and the two men, other men, were white. And I didn't really notice too much about them."

MacDonald does not finish his sentence "I was then - and I kept." Maybe he was thinking "I was then in shape." "And I kept in shape." These are not incriminating statements. Why not make them? Perhaps he realized he was not in shape to defend himself, or maybe he did not struggle with these two men.

"I was struggling and I got hit on the shoulder or the side of the head." He does not know where he got hit.

"I grabbed this guy's whatever it was. I thought it was a baseball bat at the time." MacDonald is not sure what he is being struck with. He mentions a baseball bat but the phrase "at the time" tells us he later changed his mind as to what the object was. Later in his story he will call it a club.

He again uses the word "this" in talking about the guy. Earlier in this portion of his statement he referred to him as "that guy" which would be correct. The word "that" shows distance.

Deceptive people will sometimes use language which shows us they skipped over a portion of their story. This can include phrases such as "later on" "shortly thereafter" "afterwards" and "meanwhile." We would like to know what information he is withholding.

"Both of these guys were kind of hitting me." What does he mean by "kind of" hitting me? Either they were striking him or they were not striking him. When you look at the brutality of the attacks on his wife and kids, it is hard to imagine that the attackers were "kind of" hitting him.

"..so, let's see..." Who is MacDonald taking to here? He is talking to himself. Is he trying to recall what happened or is he pausing to think about what story he will tell next?

"I told you I think they were E6 stripes." Apparently at a previous interview, perhaps at the crime scene or hospital, MacDonald told the investigators about the E6 stripes. When a person is asked to give a statement, he should only report what happened. When a person makes statements such as "I told you" or "As I already have said" he is relying on what he said in a previous interview. This should draw our suspicion. Truthful people will usually not make these comments and will just state the facts again. The word "think" tells us MacDonald is not certain they were E6 stripes.

"And I didn't really notice too much about them." The shortest sentence is the best sentence. The word "really" is not needed. The use of this word means he did notice something about the two white men, or the men never existed and he is trying to convince us they did exist.

"And so I kind of struggled, and I was kind of off balance 'cause I was still half way on the couch and half off, and I was holding onto this. And I kept getting this pain, either in, you know, like sort of in my stomach, and he kept hitting me in the chest. And so, I let go of the club, and I was grappling with him and I was holding his hand in my hand. And I saw, you know, a blade. I didn't know what it was. I just saw something that looked like a blade at the time."

Again we have MacDonald telling us that he "kind of" struggled. He was also "kind of" off balance.

Twice he uses the phrase "you know." When we look at his entire statement, we find that eleven times he uses the phrase "you know." In my opinion, that is not enough to say that he has a habit of using this phrase. Most of the times when he uses this phrase, it is at key points in his statement; "I saw, you know, a blade."

"And so, then I concentrated on him. We were kind of struggling in the hallway right there at the end of the couch, and then really the next distinctive thing, I thought that, I thought that I noticed that - I saw the top of some boots. And I thought that I saw knees as I was falling. But it wasn't what was in the papers that I saw white boots. I never saw white muddy boots. I saw - saw some knees on the top of the boots, and I told, I think, the investigators, I thought they were brown as a matter of fact. And the next thing I remember though, was lying on the hallway, at the end of the hallway floor, and I was freezing cold and it was very quiet. And my teeth were chattering, and I went down and - to the bedroom."

You can obtain a lot of information by looking at the pronouns in a statement. This is the one and only time MacDonald uses the pronoun "we." In addition to indicating plurality, the pronoun "we" always means there is a partnership. This is why in a rape case you will not see the pronoun "we." The victim is not going to partner up with her attacker. Instead of saying "We went into the bedroom" a rape victim will say, "He took/dragged me into the bedroom." Instead of saying, "We were kind of struggling in the hallway" he could have said, "I was struggling with him in the hallway." The pronoun "we" tells us that MacDonald either formed a partnership with the attacker or he is making up the story.

MacDonald is still "kind of" struggling with the man in the hallway.

"...really the next distinctive thing..." Here he is skipping over something in his story. He is telling us about the next distinctive thing. As an interviewer we should ask him what is the next thing he remembers. Leave out the word "distinctive." The word "really" also indicates he is withholding information or he is making up the story.

"And the next thing I remember..." Again MacDonald may be withholding some information at this point in his story. When a person says he does not remember something we can usually obtain more information by backing the person up in their story and having them repeat what happened.

"I went down and - to the bedroom." He calls it "the" bedroom and not "my bedroom" or "the master bedroom."

"And I had this - I was dizzy, you know. I wasn't really, real alert, and I - my wife was lying on the, the floor next to the bed. And there were - there was a knife in her upper chest. So, I then took that out and I tried to give here artificial respiration but the air was coming out of her chest. So, I went and checked the kids, and - just a minute - and they were - had a lot of - there was a lot of blood around. So, I went back into the bedroom and I - this time I was finding it real hard to breathe, and I was dizzy. So, I picked up the phone and I told the asshole operator that it was, my name was Captain MacDonald and I was at 544 Castle Drive and I needed the M.P.'s and a doctor and an ambulance. And she said, 'Is this on or off post?' Something like that. And I started yelling at her. I said, finally I told her it was on post, and she said, 'Well, you'll have to call the M.P.'s.'"

He again uses the phrase "you know" along with the words "really" and "so."

He again calls it "the bed" and not "my bed" or "our bed." We see the same thing with "the bedroom."

"...just a minute..." Is MacDonald pausing to think about what happened or is he pausing to think about what story he will make up next?

He calls the operator an "asshole." Yet, earlier in his story he called the intruders who attacked him and killed his family "people."

MacDonald asked the operator for three things: 1. the M.P.'s, 2. a doctor, 3. an ambulance. Order is important. There is a reason why he mentioned the M.P.'s first and the ambulance last. We know a crime has been committed so the authorities (M.P.'s) will be needed. But, why mention them first? Perhaps he knew his family was dead. A doctor and an ambulance were needed but they would not be able to provide any assistance. Therefore, he asked for the M.P.'s first so they could start their investigation and catch the perpetrators. Another possibility is that he was planning to turn himself in for the crime he just committed. This caused him to ask for the M.P.'s first. We will see how this plays out later in his story.

"And I started yelling at her." MacDonald yells at the operator. Yet, he never tells us that during his struggles with the men he yelled at them or used harsh words with them.

"So, I dropped the phone and I went back and I checked my wife again, and now I was, I don't know. I assume I was hoping I hadn't seen what I had seen or I'd - or I was starting to think more like a doctor. So, I went back and I checked for pulses. You know, carotid pulses and stuff. And I - there was no pulse on my wife, and I was - I felt I was getting sick to my stomach and I was short of breath, and I was dizzy and my teeth were chattering 'cause I was cold. And so I didn't know if I was going - I assume I was going into shock because I was cold. That's one of the symptoms of shock; you start getting shaking chills. So, I got down on all fours and, I was breathing for a while. Then I had realized I had talked to the operator and nothing had really happened with her. But in any case, when I came back to check my wife, I then went to check the kids. And a couple of times I had to - thinking that I was going into shock and not being able to breathe. Now I, you know, when I look back, of course, it's merely a symptom, that shortness of breath. It isn't - you weren't really that bad, but that's what happens when you get pneumothorax. You, you think you can't breathe. And I had to get down on my hands and knees and breathe for a while, and then I went in and checked the kids and checked their pulses and stuff."

We have fragmented sentence; "I assume I was hoping I hadn't seen what I had seen or I'd..." I can think of two possibilities for finishing this sentence. "I assume I was hoping I hadn't seen what I had seen or I'd heard what I had heard." This is not an incriminating statement. If that is what he was thinking, then why did he not say it? Another possibility is, "I assume I was hoping I hadn't seen what I had seen or I'd done what I had done." If this is the case, then we can see why he did not finish his sentence.

"That's one of the symptoms of shock; you start getting shaking chills." Here MacDonald deviates from telling us what happened to giving us a lesson on the symptoms of shock. Remember deceptive people will try to convince you they are telling the truth.

We have another unfinished sentence. "And a couple of times I had to..."

"And, I don't know if it was the first time I checked them or the second time. I checked them, to tell you the truth, but I had all, you know, blood on my hands and I had little cuts in here and in here (pointing to his mid-section), and my head hurt. So, when I reached up to feel my head, you know, my hand was bloody. And so I, I think, it was the second circuit it, by that time, I was, I was thinking better, I thought."

"...to tell you the truth..." This is another phrase that indicates untruthfulness. If MacDonald is telling us that he is being truthful about checking his kids, does that mean he is not being truthful about the rest of his statement?

And I went into that - I went into the bathroom right there and I looked in a mirror and didn't - nothing looked wrong. I mean there wasn't even a cut or anything. So, I - then I went out in the hall. I couldn't breathe, so I was on my hands and knees in the hall, and I - and it kept hitting me that really nothing had been solved when I called the operator. And so I went in and - this was in the - you know, in the middle of the hallway there. And I went the other way. I went into the kitchen, picked up that phone and the operator was on the line. My other phone had never been hung up."

The evidence is that when the M.P.'s found MacDonald he had several wounds. MacDonald supporters state he suffered from blunt trauma to the forehead, he had a large bruise on his left upper arm, he had a complete through and through knife wound on his left biceps, he had several puncture wounds on his chest, he had a collapse lung and abdominal lacerations. However, MacDonald tells us that when he looked into the mirror "nothing looked wrong. I mean there wasn't even a cut or anything." So when did MacDonald receive these injuries? Based on his language, he received the injuries sometime after going into the bathroom and looking in the mirror. This follows the prosecutors theory that his wounds were self-inflicted.

And she was still on the line, and she said, 'Is this captain MacDonald?' I said, 'Yes it is.' And she said, 'Just a minute.' And there was some dial tones and stuff and then the sergeant came on. And he said, 'can I help you?' So, I told him that I needed a doctor and an ambulance and that some people had been stabbed, and that I thought I was going to die. And he said, 'They'll be right there.' So, I left the phone and remember going back to look again. And the next thing I knew an M.P. was giving me mouth-to-mouth respiration next to - next to my wife. Now, I remember I saw - I don't know if it was the first time or second trip into the bedroom to see my wife - but I saw that the back door was open, but that's immaterial I guess. That's it."

MacDonald tells the sergeant that he needs "a doctor and an ambulance." Notice what is missing from his first request that he made to the operator. This time he did not ask for what was originally at the top of his list, the M.P.'s. As I previously stated, MacDonald may have asked for the M.P.'s because he was going to turn himself in. However, when the operator told him that he would have to call the M.P.'s, this may have caused him to change his mind. Also, at this same time he stated that he started to "think more like a doctor."

MacDonald refers to his family as "some people." He uses the same language to refer to his family as he did to describe the killers! You cannot get much more impersonal than that.

"I thought I was going to die." The first time MacDonald was on the phone with the operator he did not mention this. Why does he now feel he is going to die? Perhaps because the stab wounds inflicted by the intruders were now taking there toll. Or, it may be that after looking in the mirror and seeing no cuts, he then stabbed himself.

Lastly, we have a classical blatant blunder made by MacDonald. He ends his statement telling us "I saw that the back door was open, but that's immaterial I guess." Out of no where he throws this into his story. Why? Because he has to provide some way for the intruders to enter his residence. He stated that he thought this information was immaterial. If it is immaterial, then why mention it? He knows full well that this is important information. That is why he included it.

Twenty-nine times MacDonald uses language that is noncommittal. Words or phrases such as: "kind of," "I think," "I thought," "I don't know," "about," "like" and "sort of." We cannot believe something happened unless the person tells us it happened.

At least twelve times, and probably more, he used fragmented unfinished sentences. This is another indication he is withholding information.

When we look at MacDonald's language, we have to conclude that he is being deceptive and that he is responsible for the deaths of his wife and kids.

UPDATE

On November 5, 2005, the CBS News show "48 Hours Mystery" aired a segment on the Jeffrey MacDonald case. MacDonald was interviewed for the show but correspondent Bill Lagattuta never questioned MacDonald about his original statement that he gave to the investigators. In reviewing a transcript of the show, MacDonald never denies committing this crime. He never states "I didn't do it" or "I did not kill my family." Like most guilty people he claims he is innocent which only denies the conclusion that he is guilty. He did not deny the act of killing his family. If he did make those denials, CBS chose not to air them.

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