For researchers of the Jeffrey MacDonald case: The murders of Colette, Kimberley and Kristen MacDonald


October 23, 1974
Dillard Browning (CID) at the Grand Jury

I, Mary M. Ritchie, being a Notary Public in and for the State of North Carolina, was appointed to take the testimony of the following witness, Dillard O. Browning, before the Grand Jury, Raleigh, North Carolina, commencing at 3:00 p.m. on October 23, 1974. All Grand Jurors present.

Whereupon, DILLARD O. BROWNING, having been first duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows:

Q  Will you state your full name, please, sir?
A  My name is Dillard O. Browning.
Q  Where do you live at the present time?
A  At the present time I'm living in Tokyo, Japan.
Q  Can you give us an address, sir?
A  Yes. It's USADIC, Camp Zama, Japan.
Q  Maybe you'd better spell Camp Zama for us.
A  Z-a-m-a. Camp Zama.
Q  Where are you employed, Mr. Browning?
A  I'm employed by the army's Criminal Investigation Laboratory at Camp Zama.
Q  How long have you been employed by the army, sir?
A  Since February, 1965.
Q  And, from February 1965 to date, what has your employment been?
A  The first year and a half was at Fort Gordon, Georgia. That was followed by three years at the Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory in Germany. Frankfurt, Germany. I then returned to Fort Gordon in 1969, remained there until January of 1973, and I left for the laboratory in Tokyo.
Q  And you are employed in what capacity, sir?
A  At the present time, I am Chief Chemist at the Tokyo lab.
Q  And have you been employed by the army at these various laboratories as a chemist, and, let's say, as a forensic chemist?
A  Yes. This is correct.
Q  Now, will you, just briefly, state what your educational background is.
A  I have a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from George Peabody College, Nashville, Tennessee. I also have twelve semester hours in advanced organic chemistry at the University of Chattanooga and four semester hours in advanced biochemistry at Augusta College, Augusta, Georgia.
Q  Will you briefly tell us what your work consists of?
A  Well, it can consist of the entire spectrum of examining physical evidence sent by the investigator in the field to the laboratory for analysis. This includes everything from marijuana and drugs right on through glass, soil, fibers, hair. Anything of any nature that needs a chemical determination of its composition.
Q  What techniques are involved in, let's say, examination of fibers?
A  Examination of fibers is both a microscopic technique and a chemical technique. We use instrumentation for the determination of fibers. We run on an instrument called a gas chromatograph, these fibers, and we are interested in trace elements present in the various, particular fibers. Not particularly the main constituents, but only the trace elements. And, if the trace elements are grossly similar, in the case of synthetic fibers that are manufactured by a company, we can tell whether or not the same fibers came from the same original batch.
     We can do the same thing with paints, glass, or any substance that is at one time a single run or single batch. Microscopic examination, of course, is just that. We examine the hair for microscopic similarities. We don't necessarily try to identify fibers as such. We are mainly concerned with whether or not it compares to a known source that we have. We compare one against the other.
Q  How about wood chips?
A  Wood chips are essentially the same -- same thing. Of course, first you have your microscopic examination. We compare the physical similarities. Then we digest the portion of the wood chip and put this in a slide, stain it, and observe the cellular structure of the wood.
Q  Now, in this manner, are you able to take a wood chip and a known piece of wood, state whether or not this wood chip matches a known piece of wood?
A  Yes. We like to give what we call a "could have" opinion. We can match all of the physical characteristics and then determine that it has the same cellular structure and everything is identical one to the other, but we are still not able to say that this definitely came from this piece of wood. In the physical structure, for instance, we look at such things as resin ducts, the growth rings. All of these, if it's on the same piece of wood, have all the particular characteristics. They would have different characteristics if they were from different parts of the wood. For instance, your resin ducts near the bark or near the outside of the tree are larger. And, a little more irregular shape than toward the center or the heartwood of the tree. There the comparison then gets smaller. So, we can look at two -- if we have two pieces of two by fours, say two pieces of wood, we can look at these and tell whether or not they came from the same, approximately the same location in a tree. Of course, we can determine whether or not they are the same type of wood by digesting, staining, and observing the cellular structure. The cellular structure of all types of wood would be different if it's a different type of wood.
Q  How about wax?
A  Wax is a little more difficult. Once again, we go to the gas chromatograph because we are interested in the, what we call, the organic substances present, like -- well, the perfume. Many candles are perfumed. They have certain dyes that are present. This is about the only way that you can identify wax because the bulk of the wax is either a paraffin base or beeswax base, and it's very difficult to tell one kind from another.
Q  Now, sir, you say you've been engaged in this work since approximately 1965. How often have you testified as an expert witness?
A  I've testified in, I'd say, between three hundred and four hundred U.S. Courts. I've testified for the West Germany government on twenty-one occasions and for the British government on eight, for Canada on two occasions, and several smaller governments. I worked for the government of Guam on four cases and those have been the federal courts on Guam. All in all, I would say, close to four hundred cases in court.
Q  Now, on each of these occasions you testified as an expert concerning scientific examinations made by you in a laboratory examining items of physical evidence?
A  Yes. This is correct.
Q  Now, in connection with the MacDonald investigation, at that time you were appointed to the lab in Georgia. Is that correct?
A  Yes. That is correct.
Q  Now, were items of physical evidence that were picked up at the crime scene at 544 Castle Drive, Fort Bragg, sent to the laboratory?
A  Yes. They were.
Q  And, did you examine some of the physical evidence that was sent to the laboratory?
A  Yes. I did.
Q  Now, did you make any of the blood examinations, that is, the blood typing?
A  No. That was handled by three other chemists. I did no blood work at all.
Q  Now, what physical evidence did you examine? And, tell us what you were looking for when you conducted the examination.
A  I examined the hairs, fibers, paints, beeswax, and the wood. We call these miscellaneous materials. I was looking for anything of an evidential value that I could find. The location of certain wood chips that matched other pieces of wood. Like, in this case the murder weapon, one of the murder weapons, was a wooden club. So, anywhere wooden chips were found, particularly bloodstained ones, we examined and made a note of where they were picked up, examined to determine if they were the same wood as the death weapon. We noted where they were in case this was important later on in the investigation.
     We did the same thing with hairs. We catalogued where they were and attempted to identify who they belonged to. There was a presence of quite a few small purple and blue fibers, which we later identified as part of the jacket, exhibit 210, I believe we called it -- D210. We noted where these were found and we examined these to determine if they were the same thread, same type, same color, all physical characteristics similar to that of the jacket. We noted where they were found and the number and recorded those.
     The waxes at that time, I think there was a question as to candle wax being in the house. There were numerous candles found in the house and some places there was candle wax found, I believe, on three different locations. I examined the candle wax found on a chair, I believe, the coffee table, and I compared these against the known candles I came across in the house. None of these matched. They were all different. The three locations were also different, the wax on the three locations. In other words, the wax found on the coffee table was different from that on the chair, and so forth.
Q  All right, sir. While we are on the wax, I see from certain notes that I have before me three specimens. One, G123. Is that wax from the bedspread?
A  Yes. That's wax from the bedspread. Yes.
Q  One is G131. Is that wax from the chair?
A  Yes. It was.
Q  And, the next is G201. Is that wax from the coffee table?
A  Yes.
Q  You say you compared these waxes with each other?
A  Yes.
Q  And, you compared them with the candles that were found in the house and made available to you. Is that correct?
A  Yes. This is correct.
Q  Now, was item G123 from the bedspread compared with items G121 and G201 from the chair and coffee table?
A  They were all three from a different source of origin.
Q  So, none of these compared with any of the others?
A  They did not. No.
Q  Is it your conclusion that if somebody had walked around in this house with a candle, dripping wax on the bedspread, the chair, and the coffee table, and they carried one candle, that the items would be similar?
A  Yes. They would be from a common source if only one candle was involved.
Q  And, so, the emphasis is that they were all dissimilar. That they came from different sources. Is that correct?
A  Yes. That would be my opinion.
Q  All right, now. Let's go to the paint. What examination did you make with respect to paints?
A  We examined that, both for the organic constituents and the physical characteristics.
Q  All right. Now, what items of physical evidence did you examine? I have noted here A4, E203, and E299.
A  Yes. That's correct.
Q  What are those items?
A  These are items of -- well, A for instance is the murder weapon. But, the murder weapon contained a paint stain. There's paint on each of these items listed here. I think E203 was from the sidewalk behind the MacDonald house. E299 was removed from a pair of rubber gloves in a secured storage room in back of the house. A4 is a piece -- is another piece of wood. The wood itself did not match, the best I can remember, exhibit A, but the paint on exhibit A4 did match the paint on exhibit A.
Q  Do you have any indications where A4 came from?
A  These exhibits were received over a long period of time. They weren't received in set order, so it makes locating the exhibits a little difficult. I don't have it here.
Q  I have this. One length was approximately seventeen and one-eighth by five and three-eighths by one and a half, bearing suspected paint stains.
A  Yes. That's the way I have it listed, too.
Q  Now, E203 --
A  It's listed as paint removed from sidewalk behind MacDonald house.
Q  And, E299, I have as one pair of rubber gloves bearing white paint stains from secured storage shed at 544 Castle Drive, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Is that correct?
A  Yes. That's the way I have it listed.
Q  Now, upon comparing these -- the paint on these four separate items, what conclusions did you arrive at?
A  They all originated from a common source. The common source once again the same manufacturer, the same run, the same batch. The paint is easy to determine its origin that such things as fibers. Every run of paint will pick up certain trace elements in the raw materials used, or from contamination in the vats and so forth. And, even from the same manufacturer, the same brand of paint, the same color and everything, each run will show up several trace elements that are different in each run. We are talking now about very small amounts, say three or four parts per million. But, this is what we are interested in, not the main constituents of the paint itself. In this case, all four of these exhibits matched perfectly with each other, indicating that all this paint came from the same manufacturing run.
Q  All right. Now, exhibit A is the club, is it not?
A  Yes. It is.
Q  What's referred to as the murder weapon.
A  Yes.
Q  All right. Now, going to the wood chips, will you tell us what specimens you examined?
A  There are wood chips found in exhibit E5. Do you want to recall what they are?
Q  All right. What is E5?
A  E5 was debris removed from the left hand of Colette MacDonald.
Q  All right.
A  E19A I have as debris from sheet on bed in east bedroom. D23 I have listed as three wooden splinters bearing red-brown stains and other debris from floor near body outline in east bedroom. That would be the master bedroom, I guess. I have E63NB --
Q  I have debris from bottom sheet on bed in north bedroom. Is that correct?
A  Yes. That's correct. And, I have E116 which is debris from pulled-back bedding in back bedroom. E119 which is debris of bottom sheet of bed in south bedroom. Then I have the two pieces of wood listed A1 and A2. We took samples from those. And, also, list E301 and E303. E301 is hairs and fibers from near left arm of body in east bedroom and E303 is fibers and debris and wood chips from trunk and leg area of rug under body in east bedroom.
Q  All right. Let me ask you. Did you go from E116 to D118 to E119?
A  I believe I missed D118.
Q  All right. I have that indicated as wooden splinter with reddish-brown stain and debris off of north pillow from bed in south bedroom. Is that correct?
A  That's correct. Out of that group --
Q  So, two of these groups came from the south bedroom and the rest came from the east bedroom. Is that correct?
A  Yes. Except E63NB. One exhibit came from the north bedroom.
Q  E63NB. So, that would be one exhibit for the north bedroom and two from the south bedroom and the rest from the --
A  (Interposing) Master bedroom.
Q  -- master bedroom. All right, sir. Now, what was your conclusion with respect to these wood chips?
A  This was all the same type wood and basically, microscopically, it was from the same general area of the tree. Some of these -- exhibit A for instance, and A2, of course, were not the murder weapon. They were pieces of wood found at the house, but they were from the same general area, the same type tree and all as the piece of wood found at the house, exhibit A, the murder weapon.
Q  So, it's fair to say that A1, A2, and all the other items, E5, E19A, D23, E63NB, D118, D119, E301, E302 are of the same type of wood, cut from approximately the same location of the same tree?
A  Yes. This is right.
Q  Can you tell us whether or not, in a particular specimen that was sent to you, whether there might not be more than one wood chip?
A  Oh, yes. Several of these exhibits had two or three or even more, I think, wood chips in the same exhibit. In this case, I only examined one chip to be able to state that the wood in that particular exhibit was similar. Most of the other chips were returned with evidence.
Q  Was any wood chip provided that came from this part of the house? You testified about wood chips that came from this part of the house, and this part, and this part. How about this part?
A  No. There were no wood chips from the living room or the hall area of the house.
Q  And, of the wood chips provided for you, the most numerous quantity came from the east bedroom, the master bedroom.
A  The master bedroom, yes.
Q  And, there was one example from the north bedroom and two from the south bedroom. Is that correct?
A  Yes. You're referring now to exhibits actually, say, the two exhibits in the south bedroom, there may have been several splinters.
Q  All right, sir. Now, let's talk about the hair. Were you able to break the hair down into three separate groupings?
A  Yes. I examined hair from Kristen MacDonald, the younger child, which was taken at the autopsy. The hair I examined for the other two victims, since they failed to obtain hair samples from the bodies itself prior to burial I requested and received from the CID at Fort Bragg several exterior garments, like winter coats, things of this nature, belonging to each of the other two victims. And, from these garments I removed between thirty and forty hairs and compared them against each other. And, when they all compared with each other, I used those as a control for the person whom the clothing belonged to.
Q  Let me ask you this. Is this a standard procedure used by scientific examiners, that is, forensic scientists, in examining hair?
A  Of course, the ideal procedure was to get an absolute known from the body of the victim or from the person. This, of course, eliminates any chance of argument or later problems.
     This is done, has been done many times in the past, particularly with missing people when a body is found too deteriorated to identify in other ways. The hair remains in perfect condition for many, many years after death. In fact, they are still analyzing hair from the Egyptian mummies; the tombs have been buried for two thousand years or more. But, in the case of missing people, like this, when a body is found and hair is a consideration, then they do get hair from the missing person's clothing and use that as a known to compare the hair found on the unidentifiable body. This is what we used in this particular case.
Q  Now, I see a reference here to D209, D227, and D290. I'm sorry, D229.
A  D209?
Q  D209 and D227. Were those hairs taken from the clothing of Colette MacDonald? Well, I'll back up and start all over again. Just forget about my question, Ms. Reporter. What hairs in the listing that I have here are the standards that you used?
A  I don't think the standards were actually ever entered in as an exhibit, since they were removed from a closet and weren't used for other purposes.
Q  All right. Well, are you familiar with the document that I have in front of me, here?
A  Yes. I am familiar with that.
Q  Now, I refer you to those items that are bracketed at the top.
A  Those are listed by me as Colette MacDonald's hair.
Q  And, you arrived at that conclusion by comparing these specimens with hairs removed from her garments. Is that correct?
A  Yes. That is. These were removed from garments that were not entered into evidence, as an item of evidence. They were simply obtained, put in plastic bags and brought to me at the laboratory for the precise purpose of picking off hairs of each individual involved. Like I said earlier, I compared these against each other and then I compared them against the other two known victims to be sure that there's no correlation at all.
Q  And, approximately how many did you have that were removed from her garments and used as a standard and compared with each other?
A  On each of the two, Kimberly's and Colette's, I took thirty to forty samples.
Q  All right. Now, these specimens that you examined and identified as being hair of Colette MacDonald, can you tell us where they came from?
A  Yes. They came from the exhibit 209 which is clothing bearing red-brown stains from Mrs. MacDonald, herself.
Q  That would be clothing that was on her body, such as her pajamas. Is that correct?
A  Yes. Exhibit D227, which is a green/blue/yellow throw rug bearing red-brown stains from the east bedroom, 229 is a multicolored bedspread bearing red-brown stains from the east bedroom, and E3 was the area around the mouth area of Mrs. MacDonald, debris from the mouth area of Colette MacDonald. E5, again, was the debris from the left hand of Colette MacDonald. E7 was hair-like substance from cage over arm chair in east bedroom. E19A was debris from sheet on bed in east bedroom. E28, debris from pillow case in east bedroom. E50 was hair and debris from hall bathroom sink. E63NB, again, was debris from bottom sheet from bed in north bedroom. E210 was the hair removed from pajama top of Captain MacDonald.
     The pajama top, iteself, was D210. So, they gave it an E designation since all hair dealt with E. This is hairs removed from the pajama top of Captain MacDonald, and E302 was fibers and portions of rug bearing red-brown stains from near north corner of footboard of bed in east bedroom. All these exhibits contained hair from Colette MacDonald as compared to hair removed from her clothing, using that as a known.
Q  And, this hair came from around her face, from her clothing and from his pajama top?
A  Yes.
Q  As well as other places in the east bedroom and one place in the bathroom. Is that correct?
A  And one in the north bedroom.
Q  All right. Now, with respect to Kimberly MacDonald, what hair were you able to identify?
A  In this case, once again, I used Kimberly's knowns, selected from her exterior clothing in the same manner as I did Colette's. And using that as a known, I found hair in D221, which was a terrycloth robe bearing red-brown stains. This was hanging on the door from the hall to the master bedroom.
Q  In other words, it would be hanging on the door about in this location?
A  Yes. D227 was a green/blue/yellow throw rug bearing red-brown stains in the east bedroom, 229 was a multicolored bedspread found with red-brown stains in the east bedroom, and I found it also on E10, which was hair samples from dress on chair in the south bedroom.
Q  Was E10 north bedroom or south bedroom?
A  I have it listed here as south bedroom. All hair samples from yellow coat in closet in south bedroom. And, E12 hair samples -- it's E13, hair samples from blue coat on hook in south bedroom. E50, hair and debris from hall bathroom sink; E116, debris from pulled-back bedding and bed in south bedroom, and E120 was debris from under pillow in south bedroom. This was Kimberly MacDonald's hair. Of those, two were bloodstained.
Q  All right. Now, one thing I want to get clear. This hair came primarily from two sources -- the east bedroom and the south bedroom. Is that correct?
A  Yes. That's correct.
Q  In the east bedroom it came from the -- what part of the bedroom? It came from the bathrobe.
A  I'll have to go back again. From the bathrobe. Correct. In the east bedroom.
Q  From the bathrobe.
A  E27 was a throw rug bearing red-brown stains. And 229 was a multicolored bedspread. Yes.
Q  And the throw rug, which was at the feet of Colette MacDonald, it was in the bedspread which was found in a heap here with the sheet and where else in the east bedroom?
A  I believe -- let's see -- it was also found in the hall bathroom sink.
Q  Hall bathroom sink? That would be here, as was likewise, the blood. I mean hair from Colette MacDonald. Is that correct?
A  Yes. That's correct.
Q  Both of them in the sink?
A  The remaining exhibits were all in the south bedroom.
Q  Which was Kimberly's bedroom.
A  Yes.
Q  Tell us about Kristen MacDonald's hair. Where was that found?
A  In the case of Kristen MacDonald, I had an autopsy sample from the victim, itself. So, we had no problem with knowns. In that, let's see, E48NB with red-brown stains from floor on the east side of bed from north bedroom. And, I go to D227.
Q  And included in this stained area was a hair which was submitted to you for examination. Is that correct?
A  Yes. The next exhibit was found, D123, which was purple bed cover bearing red-brown stains from bed in south bedroom.
Q  That would be Kimberly's bedroom. Is that correct?
A  Yes. And let me go over to E8. E8 was hairbrush containing hairs from dresser in east bedroom. E9 is hair samples from clothing in north bedroom closet. E12 is hair samples from pillow in south bedroom closet. E56NB, 57NB, and 61NB were all from the north bedroom. 57NB was debris from pink blanket on bed in north bedroom. 56, which I called earlier 56NB, was debris from bedspread on bed in north bedroom, and 61NB was debris from pillow from bed in north bedroom.
Q  Now, was any sample furnished to you which included hair of Kristen MacDonald taken from the east bedroom? I'm not sure that I have this straight.
A  Yes. I think one hairbrush from the east bedroom had Kristen's hair, I believe.
Q  I see. So that would be a hairbrush?
A  Yes. A hairbrush containing hairs from dresser in east bedroom. Also contained Kristen's --
Q  There was a hairbrush on the dresser?
A  Yes.
Q  What I'm interested in -- was there any of her hair found on this bed?
A  No. It was not.
Q  Or whether it was found in any of the debris that was scattered around on the floor?
A  No.
Q  But the hair of Kimberly was found in various items that were in the east bedroom?
A  Yes. It was.

JUROR:  Was any found on the bed itself? Of Kimberly's, I mean? In the master bedroom?

MR. WOERHEIDE:  We hope to go back over these. E21 is the multicolored bedspread from the east bedroom and that bedspread was on the floor.

A  No. According to my notes here, none was found on the bed in the east bedroom, the master bedroom, the bedspread on the floor.
Q  Was some of the hair that you examined bloodstained?
A  Yes. In the case of Colette, I had five bloodstained samples; Kimberly, two; and from Kristen, one.
Q  Was any of the hair crushed?
A  The hair in E50 I believe was crushed hair. That was in the sink of the bathroom. I'll look again through my original notes. Here. Yes. My notes here say hair and debris removed from sink in hall bathroom. Vial contained one long human head hair plus some of the head hair of Mrs. MacDonald. Also two short broken pieces that are similar to the hair of Mrs. MacDonald and one short hair broken in two places. The roots are similar to the head hair on Kimberly MacDonald.
Q  Now, would that tend to indicate that this hair had been damaged by, let's say, a blow?
A  Yes. Pretty definitely so, because hair itself is pretty hard to damage. And you can jerk the hair out and treat it pretty rough, but it's pretty hard to actually break a hair. You would have to either hit it a blow or you would have to go through great effort to break it.

FOREMAN:  Mr. Woerheide, the clock is running out on us. How much more do you think --

MR. WOERHEIDE:  You're coming in tomorrow?


MR. WOERHEIDE:  Well, we haven't gotten to the fibers yet. And the fibers is as long as this. So --

FOREMAN:  Let's recess until 9:30 in the morning.