Jeffrey MacDonald: A Time For Truth

Imprisoned Former Green Beret Doctor Says He Has New Evidence To Prove He Did Not Kill His Family

48 Hours: Crime Scene Overview 02:47

This story originally aired March 17, 2007. It was updated July 20, 2007.

Three times a week, a woman named Kathryn MacDonald makes the 140 mile drive from her home outside of Washington DC, to visit an inmate at the Cumberland Federal Prison in western Maryland.

As correspondent Bill Lagattuta reports, Kathryn is the newest woman in Jeffrey MacDonald's life. They were married in 2002, in prison, some 23 years after MacDonald was found guilty of the murders of his first wife and 2 children.

Kathryn makes her living running a small school for aspiring young actors, but she has another job as well: she's caretaker of the life Jeffrey MacDonald left behind. Her garage is filled with Jeffrey's belongings – memories that span back decades.

She was instantly fascinated when she first read MacDonald's story. The more she read, the more convinced she was of his innocence. Eventually she decided to write him in prison.

"We just became very close very quickly. And she began visiting. And we began, you know, looking back into the past and looking forward into the future," MacDonald tells Lagattuta.

It's a future which, because of federal prison rules, has yet to include a honeymoon.

"People are fascinated, I think, by women who reach out to men in prison. Is there something about you that had you go that direction in your life?" Lagattuta asks Kathryn.

"No," she says. "I think it's something about him. And that's that he doesn't belong there. He's innocent."

Innocent or guilty, 27 years in prison is an incredible waste for someone whose future was as bright as Jeffery MacDonald's. He made his mark early on, in high school, where he was voted "most likely to succeed." From there he went on to Princeton University, and Northwestern Medical School, and then, at the age of 25, he got a captain's commission as a doctor in the Army's elite Green Berets.

Along the way, MacDonald managed to capture the heart of his high school girlfriend, Colette Stevenson. They were married while he was still in college at Princeton.

Over the next seven years, as their family grew, it appears that the MacDonald's were well on their way to a seemingly perfect life.

But in America, things were far from perfect. The year was 1970.

"This was an era of shock and counterculture rage in America," explains Bernard Segal, who at the time was MacDonald's defense attorney and now is a law school professor in San Francisco. "I was a lawyer for people who felt they were not represented by the system and who were outside the system."

But in 1970, Jeffrey MacDonald, was, in fact, deep inside the system. Jeffrey, Colette and their daughters Kimberly, age five, and Kristin, age two, were stationed at Ft. Bragg, in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Based on home movies taken on Christmas morning, it's easy to believe that the MacDonald family didn't seem to have a care in the world. But some two months later, at 3:33 a.m. on Feb. 17, 1970, all of that changed forever.

What happened in the MacDonald house that night is one of America's most enduring murder mysteries – the subject of a best-selling book, a sensational TV movie, a mystery story kept alive by its charismatic leading man, Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald.

On the morning of Feb. 17, 1970, Army MPs responded to a call for help at the MacDonald residence. They found the couple's children dead in their bedrooms; Capt. MacDonald, wounded and unconscious, lay on the floor, beside the body of his dead wife.