Friday, January 10, 2014

The MacDonald Case: The Living Room

According to Jeffrey MacDonald's account of the night of February 16-17, 1970, the living room is where he struggled with four assailants and fought for his life, as well as the lives of his wife and children.  If you've read about the Manson murders or seen the crime scene photos, you will notice furniture askew and, most importantly, not just the large areas of blood directly under the bodies but footprints, hand prints, castoff blood and spatter from the victims who attempted to escape.  None of these things were found in the MacDonald living room despite this room being as cramped with furniture and items as the dining room. 

The sofa remained in what appeared to be its normal position.  No investigative reports mention marks or indentations in the wall where the sofa may have been pushed or rammed as you would assume during a struggle between a Green Beret and three male intruders.  Pillows and an afghan remain relatively neatly on the sofa.  An end table with candles and several items on it, including a lamp that looks to be top-heavy, remained in place.  The lampshade isn't even askew.  A picture hanging directly above the sofa is still straight and even. 

The coffee table is overturned and lying on its side.  Magazines and children's games rest underneath it.  An upturned plant is on the floor, going toward the front door, a relatively large distance from the table.  Its flowerpot is upright and next to the table.  Interestingly, one of MacDonald's bedroom slippers rested on top of the leg of the overturned table.      

An expensive stereo system, on the wall adjacent to the dining room, is untouched.  Breakables in the stereo cabinet and resting on top of the stereo speakers, are undamaged.  Pictures on these walls remain in place. 

MacDonald's reading glasses were found on the floor, directly underneath one of the windows.  Both sides that go over the ears were found upright.

Blood was found in only two locations in the living room, both in very small quantities.  The first location was a blood smear found on the cover of the Esquire magazine featuring an article on the Manson murders.  The second was a speck of blood, typed as Kristen's, found on the outer lense of MacDonald's eyeglasses.

That is the sum total of the disarray to the living room. 

Despite MacDonald alleging that one of the intruders tore his pajama top in a struggle on the sofa, not one pajama top fiber was found in any location in the living room. 

Despite MacDonald claiming to have been struck with the club that beat both Colette and Kimberley, not one drop of their blood was found in the living room, either on the floor (from blood dripping from the weapon) or in cast-off marks on the walls.

Despite MacDonald claiming to have been struck with the club, no scrape marks were found on the living room ceiling. 

Despite MacDonald's claims that his feet were bound up in the afghan when he fell off the sofa to the floor during the attack, the afghan was found on the sofa. 

Quite a struggle. 


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The MacDonald Case: The Dining Room

Area of the MacDonald dining room, showing Colette's handbag and the clear handled hairbrush on the sideboard, as well as a portion of the rug.  Marks where blood smears leading into the kitchen were found are visible.

When investigators arrived at 544 Castle Drive early on the morning of February 17, 1970, they found the dining room area of the apartment remarkably untouched. 

A table with four chairs was positioned in the middle of the room.  There was a buffet table with Valentine's Day cards placed atop it, all cards still standing upright.  Several sidechairs jockeyed for space.  None of  the furniture was broken or displaced.  A rug that was easily scuffed and moved remained flat on the floor.  Colette MacDonald's handbag sat on the sideboard, untouched, along with a clear handled hairbrush, with a few strands of hair.  Blood smears led from the dining room floor to the kitchen doorway. 

Just feet away, Jeffrey MacDonald allegedly fought with at least four murderous intruders who, according to him, had already slaughtered his family or were in the process of slaughtering his family, and were intent on killing him.  MacDonald was a 26 year old Green Beret, physically fit.  Despite having been woken from sleep on the sofa, according to his account, he claimed to be fighting for his life and the lives of his wife and children. 

So wouldn't you expect for the fight to spill over into the adjoining dining area?  Wouldn't you expect for the table and chairs to be shoved around?  For the cards on top of the relatively unstable buffet table to fall down?  (In fact, Freddy Kassab upon his revisit to the crime scene stomped his foot several times and the cards fell down).  For the cabinet itself perhaps suffer broken glass?  For the rug to be bunched up and moved around?  For the sidechairs to be pushed aside, knocked over?

Close up of Colette's handbag and the infamous clear handled hairbrush.
Wouldn't there be some evidence of intruders, especially if blood was found anywhere in that room - - even in minute quantities?  The victims' blood being found there would indicate that either a victim or victims bled in that room or their killer or killers were in that room in a bloody state. 

Since the blood found was in small quantities, that rules out direct bleeding by a victim.  It's likely the blood was transferred from or smeared by a weapon or a piece of clothing or fabric.  An intruder, having just committed murder, and walking around the apartment in the dark (per MacDonald's testimony of no lights being on in the living room, dining area or kitchen) would very likely stumble into a piece of furniture, don't you think?  Or leave fingerprints on said furniture or walls. 

So why was blood found there?  I believe it's from the bloody bedsheet that was used to transport Colette's bloody and bleeding body into the master bedroom and Kimberley's body into her bedroom.  I think the killer, in an attempt to clean up and stage the crime scene, planned to take the bedsheet to the kitchen, where the washing machine was located, to launder it and in doing so, left those marks.

Below are more pictures taken of the dining room on the morning of February 17.  Note how close the room is to the living room, where the life and death struggle supposedly took place.  Note how cramped the space was.  Now imagine a minimum of four intruders fighting with a Green Beret and what that room should look like.


The MacDonald Case: Fayetteville, Fort Bragg and Castle Drive circa 1970

In order to fully dissect the crimes and study the evidence, I think you need to have a good idea on the background of the location. 

Fayetteville, North Carolina (as well as the U.S. in general) was very different back in 1969 and 1970.  Home to the Army's Fort Bragg, there were major changes during the 1960s - - from the Vietnam War to politics to segregation (still alive and well in that era). 

Fort Bragg did not send many large units to Vietnam but from 1966 to 1970, more than 200,000 soldiers trained at the post before leaving for the war.  Many of them would return to Fayetteville (if they were fortunate enough to survive) broken, disillusioned and addicted to drugs. 

At the time the MacDonald family arrived in September of 1969, Fayetteville was not so affectionately known as "Fayettenam" due to the large number of soldiers discharged from the Army who had seen action in Vietnam.  The drug culture was at its height, along with the omnipresent hippies who made Hay Street in the downtown Haymount District their crashpad. 

Fort Bragg at the time was an open post, meaning that there were no guards, no gated entry, no military ID or pass required.  While there was Military Police (MPs) on a constant patrol, anyone could drive on or off base and without any record or notation. 

544 Castle Drive was on-post military housing which, in 1970, meant that you couldn't dial "0" for assistance (911 had not come into being yet).  You had to contact the Military Police on base.  The home was set out like a duplex from the exterior, with the front doors being side-by-side but the MacDonalds' neighbors actually living above them.  The apartment itself consisted of a living room, dining area, kitchen, utility room, bathroom, master bedroom and two additional bedrooms.  In viewing the floorplan, you can see how relatively small the apartment was. 


The exterior of 544 Castle Drive.  The area outlined in red is the upstairs neighbors' apartment.  The MacDonald front door and apartment are to the right in the photo.
February 17, 1970 was also a mere seven months after the gruesome Manson murders - - murders committed by "hippies" against the white establishment they deemed "pigs". 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Oscar Pistorius: Accident or Murder?

Are you keeping up with the Oscar Pistorius/Reeva Steenkamp case?  Surely I am not the only one who drew similarities from this case with the O.J. Simpson case or even the Jeffrey MacDonald case.

Right off the bat (no pun intended), I will tell you what I think happened based on what information is known now.  I don't think Pistorius and Reeva went to bed that night.  It's been rumored that Reeva was found in the yoga clothing she was wearing earlier in the afternoon/evening which would indicate they had not been in bed asleep, as Pistorius states.  The neighbors allegedly claim they heard sounds of a verbal argument.  I think these two got into a fight - - over what, who knows for sure?  It was Valentine's Day; perhaps one wanted to break off with the other or slow things down.  Regardless, at some point the cricket bat came out and was used.  If Reeva was indeed found to have a skull fracture (there is so much misinformation in the media right now, who knows), I think Pistorius hit her with it.  If not, she may very well have picked it up to defend herself and struck him with it. 

Given that Pistorius has a reputation in South Africa and in the Olympic community as a real douchebag - - and has a previous incident with domestic-type abuse - - I think it would infuriate him to be struck by a woman (shades of Jeffrey MacDonald, anyone?)  His high tempered reaction would have been to either strike her back or to pick up a gun and shoot her.  Somewhere in there Reeva would have run to the bathroom and locked the door, seeking to protect herself and was then shot multiple times through the door. 

Either Pistorius calmed down and, realizing what he'd done, intended to make the intruder story fit the scene and bashed down the door with the bat or he did it out of rage and was going to carry Reeva's body out of his house and dispose of her somewhere.  He was spotted by neighbors carrying her down the stairs, which makes little sense unless he was going to meet arriving emergency services (that he did not call immediately) or get rid of her.

 His entire story seems manufactured to me.  If you are so worried about intruders, would you really go to sleep with your sliding door open?  If you did hear a noise and get up to close the door, wouldn't you notice your girlfriend being gone from the bed you share?  And wouldn't your first instinct upon believing an intruder is in the house be to wake your sleeping girlfriend and then call the police?  Why would an intruder be lurking in the bathroom if they supposedly entered your home through your bedroom?  Did they have to take a pee break?  Or maybe a quick shower?  If Reeva did indeed get up to use the bathroom, why would she lock the door?  And if she was found in her yoga attire, did she get up and change out of her nightclothes and into them before proceeding to the bathroom? 

Most importantly, if Pistorius had indeed shot her accidentally, multiple times, why didn't he call for an ambulance immediately?    Why would he call friends or family first?  Wouldn't your first instinct be to save this person's life by either performing CPR or calling for people that are trained to save lives?  And why wouldn't he do this on the bathroom floor versus carrying her downstairs?

Pistorious seems not only like a violent piece of work but a narcissist as well.  I don't expect him to admit that he had an extreme reaction due to the steroids supposedly found in his house, lashed out and killed her.  I expect he will stick with this ridiculous story of an intruder, all while keeping his PR team busy expounding on how devastated he is over the loss of his "partner".  I am sure that we will eventually hear about how difficult this has been on him.  Maybe he could be shipped over here to the States and given a cell to share with Jeffrey MacDonald and both of them can bemoan how victimized they've been.

Jeffrey MacDonald: Killer Husband, Killer Father

Every February 17 I spend in contemplation about the victims of Jeffrey MacDonald.  As a true crime "afficionado" (for lack of better word), I have read a lot of cases and yet this one - - known as the Fatal Vision case by most - - has stuck with me and affected me the most.  I didn't know the victims - - I was not yet two years old at the time of the murders, my family didn't know them and I have absolutely no connection other than one that was conceived when I saw the miniseries back in 1984 or 1985 and then read Joe McGinniss' excellent book on the case.  It sprouted a seed that still lives on today, that has caused me to reread Fatal Vision many times, as well as every other book written on the case and many articles both in print and online.

Despite MacDonald's vast number of supporters, there really isn't a mystery here.  The physical evidence says that MacDonald killed his pregnant wife and two young daughters.  His own words are damning and incriminating.  And yet so many - - myself included - - have become obsessed with this case, desperately wanting to know what happened, how it happened and why

There is so much information and topics with regard to this case that I cannot simply make one post as I did with the Betty Broderick case.  So I am going to break down what I can and devote a post to each subject.  I will include the facts, as well as what is in dispute and, of course, my opinion.  I welcome any and all comments. 

For Colette, Kimberley and Kristen MacDonald, as well as the unborn baby boy Colette was carrying at the time of her death, you will never be forgotten.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Betty Broderick: Deadly Divorce

Betty & Dan - early 1980s

In the early morning hours of November 5, 1989, the most contemptuous and bitter divorce San Diego had ever seen came to a brutal and bloody end as Daniel T. Broderick III and his second wife Linda were shot in their marital bed by his ex-wife Elisabeth ("Betty").  Despite being big local news and making newscasts nationwide, with Betty both hailed as a hero by wronged women and as a blonde-headed devil by others, this should have come as no surprise to people who knew the inside story and especially, to Dan and Linda. 

Linda as a bride
Betty as a bride

1965 - Daniel T. Broderick III and Elisabeth Bisceglia meet at a party in South Bend, Indiana
April 11, 1969 - Daniel T. Broderick III and Elisabeth Bisceglia are married in Eastchester, New York
January 1970 - Daughter Kimberly is born
July 1971 - Daughter Lee is born
1973 - After Dan graduates from Harvard Law School, the Broderick family moves to San Diego and Dan begins work with Cary, Gray
1976 - Son Danny is born
1978 - Dan leaves Cary, Gray to open his own practice
1979 - Son Rhett is born
1979 - Betty receives her real estate license
1983 - Dan hires Linda Kolkena as his personal assistant
1984 - Betty becomes fully knowledgeable about the extent of the affair between Dan and Linda after Dan admits the affair and requests a separation
1985 - Dan files for divorce
Early 1989 - After a four year legal battle, Dan and Betty Broderick are divorced
March 1989 - Betty purchases a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun for "protection"
April 22, 1989 - Dan Broderick and Linda Kolkena are married
November 5, 1989 - Dan Broderick and Linda Kolkena Broderick are shot and killed by Betty Broderick
Dan & Linda


Elisabeth Anne Broderick was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder in her second trial after her first trial ended in a hung jury.  She received two consecutive terms of fifteen years to life, as well as a two year sentence for illegal use of a firearm.  She is serving out her sentence at the California Institution for Women in Corona, California. 

Her first parole hearing was in January of 2010.  Betty was denied parole because she did not show remorse and did not acknowledge wrongdoing.  She may reapply in 2013 and is due for release in 2021. 

Two of her children spoke at the parole hearing, requesting release for their mother, while the other two requested that she remain incarcerated. 
Betty during one of her trials

The Broderick case, more than 20 years on, continues to create an interesting divide in public opinion.  There is a strong and vocal camp for Betty, who feels that she was wronged not only by Dan and Linda but also by the justice system and was driven to commit murder.  This camp feels that she has served her time and should be freed from prison.  There is an equally verbal camp who believes that Betty is a cold-hearted monster who drove Dan to Linda, who killed her ex-husband and his new wife out of jealousy and is exactly where she belongs and where she should stay.

Was Betty a victim?  Were Dan and Linda innocent victims?  Did Betty drive Dan away?  Was Dan cold and unfeeling?  Was Linda a shameless golddigging homewrecker?

Dan's final resting place; Linda's name is on the headstone but she has reportedly been laid to rest elsewhere

I think the truth, as is usually the case, lies somewhere in the middle.  It's a well known fact that all was not well in the Broderick marriage before Linda Kolkena entered the picture.  Both Betty and Dan seemed to place appearance, status and money fairly high on their priority list.  When you focus on those things solely, your marriage and your family is going to get lost in the shuffle.  I personally think that Dan was hitting his late-thirties, had been married for 15 or so years, and was looking for a little excitement.  He had a wife who was probably not easy to live with, four children, a busy and involving law practice, an exorbitant lifestyle and salary.   

I think Betty was a woman of her generation - - her role began and ended with being Mrs. Daniel T. Broderick.  She may not have been happy with Dan and with her marriage but she was happy with her place in life and in society.  In her world, you didn't throw away your marriage.  You didn't leave your wife for the office receptionist.  You didn't divorce. 

Bottom line, I think if Dan had been honest with Betty from the beginning and come clean about his affair with Linda, none of what followed would have happened.  There is no doubt in my mind that Betty would have taken Dan back if he had just taken a tumble with Linda and then returned home.  Just as there is no doubt in my mind that years of lying, years of being told she was imaging things, years of having his affair rubbed in his face, of not knowing what was happening, of not being able to control it and properly deal with it, caused Betty to lose it. 

I am not defending Betty, although I do understand why she did it.  Having been in a relationship with a self-involved cheater, liar and general narcissistic fuckwit myself in my early 20s, I remember the feeling of absolute devastation, the grief, the questions, the anger, the rage and, most of all, the hopelessness, helplessness and fear I felt.  I was so consumed by his wrongdoing that I felt powerless to help myself out of it - - for a time.  That, of course, is the difference between me and Betty.  She let Dan's actions and Linda's actions consume her entire life and take over - - permanently, it seems.  Even today, she still seems to act and react like it's still 1989.  Dan and Linda are both long dead and Betty is still being victimized by them. 

It's sad, really.  I can't help but have sympathy for the woman Dan and Linda called "The Beast".  She may have been a pain in the ass to live with but Dan married her.  He chose to have children with her.  He stayed married to her for sixteen years.  He let her raise their children by herself, work different jobs to allow him to go to school to get his M.D. and then his J.D.  She was thanked with a long-term affair, name-calling, questionable legal tactics and some flat out harassment.

So let me talk about Linda for a minute.  When I first read Until the Twelfth of Never back during my early 20s/narcissistic fuckwit period, I absolutely despised Linda Kolkena and had zero sympathy for her.  I felt she got what she deserved.  Twenty years later, I still see her as a selfish homewrecker but I do have a bit of sympathy for her.  Why?  Because she was headed down the same path as Betty.  She entered Dan Broderick's orbit as a receptionist with only a high school education.  She had been fired from Delta Airlines (where she was a flight attendant) for inappropriate behavior with a passenger.  She was "promoted" from temporary receptionist to Dan's legal assistant/paralegal due to his personal relationship with her.  As a degreed paralegal myself, it's insulting to insinuate that someone with no legal experience or background, nor the ability to even type, can man the phones for a couple of months and then just slide into a paralegal position and perform the job accordingly, as Linda's family and friends have insisted in the past.  Linda got the paralegal title and "job" because she was screwing her boss, that's the truth.  But just like Betty, Linda's life revolved around Dan.  She waited around for six years while Dan dithered over whether to leave Betty, end his marriage, marry his mistress.  Either she was in love, determined or both.  She broke up with Dan once, due to Dan's indecision on whether to end his marriage, but she didn't quit her job and the break didn't last long.  She turned away a man who claimed to genuinely love her to wait around for Dan.  Had she lived, she likely would have spent her married life much as Betty did - - doing for Dan, waiting for Dan, everything for Dan.  Except for her youth as an excuse, it's shocking that Linda appeared to have no sympathy, no compassion, no understanding for Betty - - the woman she was effectively replacing -- whatsoever.  On her own, or through Dan's vitriol, she viewed Betty as crazy, deranged, a monster, a beast.  I can't help but wonder if she and Dan had lived, if she would have found herself in Betty's shoes, or if she would have put Dan in Betty's shoes.  A question that will never be answered. 

Did Linda love Dan?  Or Dan's money?  Did Dan love Linda?  It's been said that Linda cheated on Dan weeks before their wedding with an ex-boyfriend.  It does make you wonder how deep her commitment was.  For his part, Dan strung Linda along for years, while cohabiting with his wife.  Later on, she was concerned with Betty breaking into their house and expressed this concern to a fellow attorney.  She even requested that Dan wear a bulletproof vest at their wedding.  Dan refused.  Neither did he act upon her fear of Betty breaking into the house; there was no alarm when Betty did indeed commit her deadly break-in.   Perhaps most importantly, when their bodies were found on the morning of November 5, 1989, Linda looked as though she had been moving toward Dan, perhaps for protection, when she was shot and killed.  Dan's body was located on the floor, away from Linda, as if he had been moving away from the bed to save himself, not trying to protect his new bride.  Maybe the blast from the gun propelled him from the bed, we may never know.  But Dan seemed to continually act in his own best interests, not in his children's, not in Betty's and not in Linda's. 

This story is just sad all around and claims many victims.  Dan and Linda Broderick lost their lives.  They may not have been sympathetic but their actions did not constitute murder.  I see Betty as a victim as well.  She was (and continues to be) a victim of Dan and Linda but she's also a victim of herself.  She's locked up physically in a prison cell but she appears to be locked up mentally as well.  She simply cannot let go of what Dan did.  Listening to her you would think Dan committed adultery three months ago, not thirty years ago.   

I don't think Betty will ever be paroled and if she is, it won't be for a while.  She has never expressed remorse over the murders.  She has never admitted that she went to that house to murder Dan and Linda.  If she would admit these things, she may likely be given parole.  I also think she's being used as a poster child of sorts, for the San Diego legal system to show the public what will happen if you try to take them on.  Many people have committed murder, and first-degree murder, and received less time than Betty.  I'm not saying that twenty years compensates for the loss of two lives but there most certainly is not equality in the system.

The most easily forgotton victims in this case are the Broderick children - -now adults.  Dan's selfish actions fractured the family.  Betty's selfish actions took not only their father away permanently but also removed their mother from their lives.  In that sense, Betty did far more to destroy the Broderick family; she left the Broderick boys, still minors at the time, orphaned, dependent on various family members to raise them and care for them.  I feel sorry for them.  They grew up in a house parented by two people who clearly should not have married and who acted in a more childish manner than the actual children themselves.

For more information on the Broderick case and murders, the best source is Bella Stumbo's outstanding book, The Twelfth of Never.  It's unbiased, setting forth the facts in a straightforward manner and does not take sides. 

There have been two movies made about the murders and Betty's two trials, Betty Broderick: A Woman Scorned and Her Final Fury:  Betty Broderick, the Last Chapter.  Both movies star Meredith Baxter, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Betty.  However, both movies were made with the cooperation of Dan Broderick's brother, Larry, and the Kolkena family and as such, are heavily biased to represent that Dan and Linda were not involved until after his divorce, that no harassment went on, no shady legal manuevers and Betty was an absolute loon from the get-go.  Meredith Baxter's performance is excellent, if inaccurate, and the movies should be viewed only for entertainment value and not for specifics on the case.

The murder house in Hillcrest

The back door where Betty snuck in

Dan & Linda's bedroom where they were murdered