Jeffrey MacDonald, a clean-cut Green Beret and doctor convicted of killing of his pregnant wife and their two daughters, is getting another chance at trying to prove his innocence—more than four decades after the slayings terrified a nation gripped by his tales of Charles Manson-like hippies doped up on acid slaughtering his family in their own home. The case now hinges on something that wasn't available when he was first put on trial: DNA evidence. A federal judge will convene a hearing on Monday to consider new DNA evidence and witness testimony that MacDonald and his supporters say will finally clear him of a crime that became the basis of a best-selling book (Fatal Vision) and a made-for-TV drama.
It's just the latest twist in a case that has been the subject of military and civilian courts, intense legal wrangling, and shifting alliances. "This is Jeff's opportunity to be back in court almost 33 years to the day of his conviction," says Kathryn MacDonald, who married him a decade ago while he's been in prison. MacDonald, now 68 and not eligible for parole until 2020, has never wavered from his claim that he didn't kill his pregnant wife, Colette, and their two daughters, ages 5 and 2. He has maintained that he awoke from a slumber on their sofa in their home on the base of Fort Bragg in the early morning hours of Feb. 17, 1970, as they were being attacked by intruders—three men and a woman. The gruesome stabbing and beating deaths came just three months after the Manson-family slayings in California.