“He goes and gets the club. Colette has a pattern bruise with the end of it on her breastbone. So, he’s using it like a bayonet thrust to keep her away. There is something she’s holding that he doesn’t want to get in contact with. It’s the knife with the bent blade. I think she got it from the dresser. Its blade is consistent with a cut on his left sleeve, but on no other injury to anyone.
“Then, he swings the club. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think he was going for the girl. I think he swung at Colette but he missed and cracked Kimmy’s head open like a walnut. She falls and bleeds copiously on the shag rug.
“Colette screams, ‘Jeff, why are you doing this?’ It’s loud enough that he thinks a neighbor might have heard it, so he’ll include it in in his story, but he turns it into, ‘Jeff, why are they doing this?’ The true version makes a lot more sense.
“At this point, he has to render Colette unconscious, because she has just seen her child mortally injured, and she’s going to fight to the death. This is where she grabs Jeffrey and tears his pajama top. This is where both her arms are broken, with massive blunt trauma to the head and face. She’s down.
“Now, he’s really in it and has to figure out how to get out of it. He goes into the living room and breaks down. An upstairs neighbor hears what she identified as either laughing or crying. There’s a magazine on the coffee table with a story about the Manson murders. He gets his idea.
“What I think happens next is that Colette gets up. She’s staggering into Kristen’s room to try to get her out of the house. Jeffrey sees, follows her in and clubs her from above. Her blood spatter is on the wall, consistent with centrifugal force from the club. He’s knocked her out again. Kristen is probably still asleep.
“Now, you have to start moving bodies to make it seem as though everyone was attacked in her own bed. You transport Colette in a pile of bedding, get her blood on it, from an imprint of your own sleeve.”
I couldn’t help notice that Murtagh had slipped into the second person.
“Now, you’re improvising. You must support the story of multiple intruders. ... ”
Murtagh won’t really admit this is personal to him, that it’s really under his skin. That would be un-lawyerly. Ask him why he has stuck with this case so long, pressed so vigorously to keep Jeffrey MacDonald in prison, and he quotes federal case law about the appropriate penalty for first-degree murder.
But it is personal. This case made Murtagh famous, but it also, ironically, circumscribed his career. Despite his formidable talents, to stay with this case, he has had to remain a federal prosecutor, at government salary, his whole life. He has been the institutional memory of the case, indispensable to fighting a relentless series of appeals, one of which was deeply personal, charging him with misconduct for supposedly suppressing evidence. He won that, too. He has stayed on because of an abstract sense of justice, but also because of a concrete duty he feels to three people who died very badly.
“So,” he continues, “you get the Old Hickory knife from the kitchen, and the ice pick, because now you’ve got to make this convincing. This has to seem like a frenzy. And you go to work on them.
“You probably do Kristy last. She is still asleep. The first thing she knows is when you go through her chest.
“You put on a surgeon’s rubber glove. You write ‘Pig’ in blood on the headboard of the master bedroom, without leaving fingerprints, but you accidentally shed a thread from your torn pajama top near it, where it shouldn’t be.
“Then, you go into the bathroom. You get a scalpel blade, and you do yourself in front of a mirror. You’ll drip your own blood there.
“Then, you call the police.”
I had one question: If Kristy slept through it all, why did he have to kill her?
For the first and only time, Murtagh’s composure slips a little. He starts to speak, stops, swallows and starts again.
“He had to do it,” Murtagh said, “because it’s so unthinkable. That was the one, the cold one, that no jury would believe a father could do.”
Jeffrey MacDonald and his lawyer declined to answer questions or comment for this article.
A ruling on the claims made in the evidentiary hearing in Wilmington is expected early next year. If the ruling goes against him, it will probably be appealed to a higher court. And if that court denies the appeal, Jeffrey MacDonald might be out of options, finally.