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Lawyers for a former Green Beret convicted in the 1970 slayings of his wife and daughters, a crime dramatized in the best seller and miniseries "Fatal Vision," say a new witness has come forward and the court should throw out his murder convictions.
A former deputy U.S. marshal now says he heard a defense witness tell a prosecutor she was inside Jeffrey MacDonald's home the night of the killings, according to a motion filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Jimmy B. Britt, who was part of the security detail for MacDonald's 1979 trial, says he heard prosecutor James Blackburn tell the witness he would indict her for murder if she told the same story in court.
The witness, Helena Stoeckley, later testified she couldn't remember where she was the night of the slayings. She had been an early suspect because she fit MacDonald's description of one of the intruders he says attacked his family.
Britt, now 67, said in an affidavit that he kept quiet for more than 25 years out of a sense of duty to people he worked with, but the secret eventually became too much to bear.
Blackburn denies the allegation.
"She never told us she was there," Blackburn told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "I never threatened her with murder prosecution. She testified at the trial that she was not there. I don't know why this man is coming forward 25 years later. I don't know what his motivation is, but he's simply mistaken."
Blackburn entered private practice soon after the MacDonald trial and later spent 3 1/2 months in prison for forgery, fraud embezzlement and obstruction of justice unrelated to the case. He was disbarred and now works as a motivational speaker.
MacDonald, 62, is serving three consecutive life sentences in a federal prison for the murders of Colette MacDonald, 26, and their daughters Kimberley, 5, and Kristen, 2.
He has always claimed that intruders broke into his Fort Bragg, N.C., home and stabbed and clubbed his family to death in an attack that left him seriously injured.
According to MacDonald, one of the attackers was a woman with a long blond wig and floppy hat. He said he heard her say, "Acid is groovy, kill the pigs." Stoeckley, who died in 1983, fit the description, according to court papers.
Britt said Stoeckley's interview with Blackburn was not the first time he heard her say she was in the MacDonald home the night of the murders. She told him the same story as he drove her from Greenville, S.C., to Raleigh for the trial and even described a hobby horse in the home, he said in the affidavit.
Hart Miles, an attorney for MacDonald, said he hopes the appeals court finds Britt's affidavit persuasive enough to grant a hearing. The motion seeks permission to present the new evidence to the U.S. District Court in Raleigh.
"It's a retired government official who's come forward. Nobody sought him out," Miles said.
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