The Botched Crime Scene in the Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald Case

In chapter 2 of the book Fatal Justice there are a lot of examples on how the crime scene was just a huge debacle. In this excerpt of that chapter “Early Crime Scene Protection” even the Doctor’s wallet was stolen. This section just floored me. Reading just this chapter anyone can see that the good Doctor should not be in jail.

The army based its claims of MacDonald’s guilt upon Ivory’s staged-
scene theory. (William Ivory is the Army’s lead investigator on the scene)Ivory had based his theory upon the crime scene as he found it, but without checking whether anything had been moved, touched, or otherwise altered before he arrived. However, case records prove there had been people in the apartment, many people, for approximately fifteen minutes before Ivory arrived — and Ivory’s own later admissions reveal that he ignored the activities of MPs, medics, neighbors, and strangers in the home during that critical period. He didn’t factor in their movements in the home as he developed his theory.

Testimony and statements by MPs and medics leave no doubt that
some of the men whose job it was to protect the apartment were clearly
stunned by the grisly murder scene they entered. For instance, MP Mica
saw Williams standing in a state of shock in the hallway; and Morns was
told to go outside because he looked as if he were going to be physically
sick. And MP statements show that the MPs who were watching Mica’s
attempts to revive MacDonald failed to block further entrance to the
yard and the apartment. Large numbers of late-arriving military police-
medics, and gawkers loitered in the yard and entered the home,
not as investigators, but as unsupervised spectators wandering through
the fragile crime scene.

In the MacDonald backyard, even before three murder weapons were
found, military police, ostensibly standing guard, allowed neighbors to
walk across the grass. Janice Pendlyshok stood in the unprotected, yet
unprocessed, backyard and talked to a military policeman, as did Captain
Jim Williams, a man who worked with MacDonald. James Paulsen, one
of the ambulance drivers, walked out of the rear of the house, looked
around the yard, and returned inside without being challenged. Later
that morning, Dick Blount, from the Fayetteville Observer, crossed the
yard to take a picture through the window of Kristen’s bedroom, and
he and other newsmen continued to roam the grounds freely. And still
later, military police in the backyard allowed garbage collectors to walk
across the yard and empty the MacDonald trash cans before they had
been examined for possible evidence by lab technicians. Such actions
are precisely the reasons crime scenes are immediately roped off, some-
thing which was not done in the MacDonald case.

When military policeman Richard Tevere had first approached the
apartment early that dark morning he noticed that the front windows had
been open. Yet crime-scene photographs taken later that morning, and
described by the CID as “the crime scene as found,” show the windows
all closed. When military policeman Robert Duffy first entered the master
bedroom, he noticed a bureau drawer was open and the contents appeared
to have been rifled. By the time photographs were made later in the
morning, that drawer was closed. Records reveal no attempt by the CID
to determine who had been looking through the drawer or who had
closed it.

The first military policemen on the scene had used flashlights to scan
the girls’ rooms. Yet the medic Paulsen reported that the light was on
in Kimberly’s room when he arrived minutes later. Then, when William
Ivory later examined that room, probably only moments after Paulsen
examined the child’s body, the light was off again.
According to CID chief Grebner, shortly after he arrived he observed
“footprints in the kitchen with blood contamination”,
but when the kitchen floor was processed later that week, no such footprints were found.
The confusion during the first hours at the crime scene was most
graphically illustrated by what happened to Jeffrey MacDonald’s billfold.

Shortly after the arrival of the MPs, Mica saw the wallet on the living
room floor, but someone in the crowd of people in the house soon
moved it to the top of a desk near the front entrance. It lay on a corner
of the desk when Major Joe Parson and CID chief Grebner first became
aware of it around 5:15 A.M. But at about 5:30, a military policeman in
the living room noticed that the wallet was no longer there. Grebner and
Parson first performed embarrassed searches of each other, then they
searched the MPs and medics. Finally, they had the vehicles searched,
including Paulsen’s ambulance, but to no avail. The wallet was gone.

When questioned ten months later as part of the army’s re-investigation
of the case, ambulance attendant Paulsen freely admitted that it was he
who stole the billfold. He took the money, SIX dollars, and tossed the
wallet out of the ambulance window on his way to the hospital later that

But even more theft occurred after the apartment came under the
control of the CID agents. A large bottle of Eskatrol diet tablets, used in
a weight control program MacDonald had set up for his troops, disap-
peared from the hall closet where Jeffrey MacDonald kept his medical
supplies. Both Dr. William P. Neal, who examined the bodies, and lead
CID investigator William Ivory had seen the bottle there. Since the
theft of the highly valued amphetamines occurred after the CID was on
the scene, after Ivory and Dr. Neal had seen them, they were not taken
by intruders but by crime-scene personnel or unsupervised visitors. Yet
two rings that disappeared from Colette MacDonald’s jewelry box might
have been taken by outside persons.

If the rings weren’t stolen by someone controlling the crime scene (as
the wallet, and apparently the amphetamines, had been), then who took
them? Ivory, by his own admission, had dumped the contents of the
jewelry box into a plastic bag without inventorying the items. That bag
was placed in a bureau drawer in the apartment, all but forgotten. When
Colette’s mother, Mildred Kassab, asked specifically for two of Colette’s
rings weeks later, the bag was checked, but the rings weren’t present.

Did the CID or MPs take the rings, or were they taken by intruders?
The latter possibility was never officially considered. Ivory came under
blame on the matter, and claimed another investigator had already given
the rings to MacDonald. But the other agent was never Identified, and
CID paperwork necessary for turning over property has never surfaced.
When MacDonald made a formal claim on November 23, 1970, alleging that the rings were lost due to army negligence, the CID didn’t challenge
The army paid MacDonald for the rings.

Chaplain Kenneth Edwards and his wife, Rosalie, who lived two doors
away in the same building as the MacDonalds, complained that nothing
was done on the murder morning to seal off the apartment or the area
around it. The Edwards had been awakened by loud voices under their
second-story window and by the flashing of red and blue lights on
emergency vehicles. They looked down to see MPs in MacDonald’s front
yard and military vehicles, emergency lights flashing, parked at the curb.
Chaplain Edwards put on a robe and went out to see if he could be
of assistance. From her upstairs bedroom window two apartments away,
Rosalie watched him cross the grass to the MacDonald apartment and
enter it. She said she saw “a lot of people milling about, people from
the neighborhood as well as military policemen.” According to Mrs.
Edwards, all the people going in and out of the house were not military
police. “No,” she said. “Neighbors. People just going in to see — the
curious crowd went in to see. They were not stopped.

At the 1979 trial William Ivory told the jurors he had seen only four
MPs, but CID agent Robert Shaw had already secretly addressed this issue
back in 1970 in an official statement. “Prior to the arrival of Mister Ivory,
who was the first investigator on the scene, there were approximately
eighteen military policemen who went through the quarters.” Shaw him-
self judged this as “incompetent.” In like manner, one of the first
military policemen on the scene, Richard Tevere, named twelve patrol
members who he was certain had been in the apartment or on the

Chaplain Edwards says he entered the murder house unchallenged
and walked down the hallway to the back bedroom and saw Colette’s
body. Another neighbor, Donald Kalin, also entered the apartment and
looked around. Captain Jim Williams was allowed into the murder
apartment without challenge. Dr. William Neal, called to the scene
shortly after 5 A.M. to confirm the deaths, saw about fifteen people
crowded into the apartment at that time, some of them “appearing to
be spectators.” And later Master Sergeant Medlin, chief technician in
charge of laboratory analysts sent from Fort Gordon, Georgia, said the
local army CID investigators conducted at least one VIP tour through
the crime scene for some of the ranking officers on post. Medlin recalled
that while dusting the important flowerpot in the living room for finger-
prints the day after the murders he became aware of this group of officers
watching over his shoulder. He said it made him so uncomfortable that
he put the pot down and went to another room. Medlin never got back
to dusting the flowerpot. He forgot it. And any prints on it were lost

Fred Bost and I agreed, after reading the MP and CID statements, that
the prosecutors’ claims of a protected crime scene were overstated, to
say the least. In those first fifteen minutes, major errors had occurred.
We then addressed a more crucial question: Did the failure to guard the
scene during that fifteen minutes lead to contamination of any key pieces
of evidence, items which, specifically, led to Ivory’s theory, and to the
army’s accusation?

The latest news on Dr. MacDonald’s 4th appeal is at