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


July 27, 1979
Robert Caverly (FBI) at trial

MR. BLACKBURN:  Mr. Bob Caverly.

(Whereupon, ROBERT H. CAVERLY was called as a witness, duly sworn, and testified as follows:)

D I R E C T  E X A M I N A T I O N  2:36 p.m.

Q  Please state your name, sir?
A  Robert H. Caverly.
Q  Mr. Caverly, where do you presently reside?
A  In Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Q  And what do you now do, sir, for a living?
A  I retired in December of 1978, as a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Q  How long had you been associated with the FBI?
A  Twenty-four years and three months.
Q  Where were you stationed at the last?
A  The last 17 years in Fayetteville.
Q  As a special agent for the FBI?
A  Yes, sir.
Q  Now, directing your attention to the 17th of February, 1970, did you have an occasion to become involved in the MacDonald investigation?
A  Yes, sir, I did.
Q  How did that take place, sir?
A  I was instructed by my agent-in-charge to proceed to Womack Army Hospital to interview Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald. I proceeded to the hospital with an investigator from the Criminal Investigation Division at Fort Bragg, John Hodges. We went to the doctor in charge of the intensive care unit. I cannot remember his name.
Q  What time of day was this, morning or afternoon?
A  Now, this was about 2:15 in the afternoon, or 2:15 p.m.
Q  And after you got to Womack Hospital, you went up to the ward where Dr. MacDonald was, is that correct?
A  Yes, sir.
Q  Before you went into the room where Dr. MacDonald was, did you have occasion to talk with any of his doctors?
A  We talked to the doctor who was in charge of the ward. I can't remember his name.
Q  What was the purpose of your talking with him?
A  To find out if Dr. MacDonald was under any type of sedation or was in a position where he could not be interviewed. We tried to find out if he was in a position physically to be interviewed concerning the assault on himself and his family.
Q  What did the doctor say to you, as best you can recall?
A  Best I recall, he said he was under sedation but he was -- he could be interviewed.
Q  As a result of that, what did you do?
A  We went -- myself and John Hodges went into the room. After identifying ourselves by use of credentials, we talked to Captain MacDonald, and we told him what the purpose of the interview was to be concerning the assault on him and his family.
Q  Excuse me, who else besides yourself and Mr. Hodges was present in the room at this time?
A  Dr. MacDonald.
Q  No medical people were in the room?
A  Not at that time, no, sir.
Q  Were you all standing up or sitting down?
A  To the best of my recollection, Mr. Hodges was in a chair at the foot of the bed. I sat down in a chair to the left side of the bed at about Dr. MacDonald's head. I subsequently moved to the foot of the bed at his request.
Q  Was Dr. MacDonald lying down or sitting up?
A  The bed was raised -- the head of the bed was raised up, where he was on a slant. I remember the top portion of his body was raised.
Q  How was he dressed?
A  He was -- he had nothing on from the waist up, and I believe from the waist down he had a white sheet over bottom, or bottom part of his body.
Q  What if anything did you observe with respect to his body from the waist up?
A  I observed a bandage -- gauze bandage right on the -- I would say at the bottom of the rib cage on the right side; and the bandaging had, to the best of my recollection, two pieces of tape on it.
Q  What else did you observe?
A  There were some scratches and marks on him on the left side of his body.
Q  How many other bandages, if any, did you observe on his body?
A  I am trying to recall whether there was a BandAid or not, I'm not sure. I did not see any other gauze bandages, to the best of my recollection.
Q  His entire chest area was exposed, is that correct?
A  Yes, sir, and except for this one gauze bandage with the tape right below his breast to the ribs.
Q  What did you observe with respect to his right and left arms?
A  There were some scratches on it or what appeared to be scratches -- marks.
Q  Now, Mr. Caverly, I believe you stated just a moment ago that you informed Dr. MacDonald of what was to be the purpose of your interview; is that correct?
A  Yes, sir.
Q  What was the purpose of your interview?
A  The purpose of the interview was to determine the chronological sequence of events that happened earlier that morning, and we were interviewing him as a witness or as a victim to an assault.
Q  What did he say to you after you informed him?
A  He agreed to be interviewed. He said that he was under some type of sedation and that he was emotionally upset over the recent events involving himself and his family.
Q  Did he appear to you to be coherent and alert?
A  Yes, sir.
Q  During this interview, did you have occasion to take notes?
A  Yes, sir; I took detailed notes from questions that Dr. MacDonald had answered at my request.
Q  After you took those notes, what did you do with them?
A  I returned to the office, and it was the policy at the FBI at that time to transcribe these notes, which I did, and I sent the transcription to the stenographer's pool in Charlotte where it was typed and the finished product was returned to me.
Q  What happened to your original notes?
A  They were destroyed.
Q  Is that the general policy?
A  That was the general policy; yes, sir.
Q  Now, proceeding, sir, to your interview with Dr. MacDonald, what did he first say to you?
A  He told me that he arrived back at his residence somewhere between 5:00 and 5:30 p.m. on Monday, February 16th, from work after he had played basketball with other members of his office. He stated that he had eaten supper, and then his wife, Colette, left to attend classes at North Carolina State University Extension at Fort Bragg. He stated that after his wife returned from school, they watched television, and shortly before the Johnny Carson Show came on at approximately 11:30 p.m., he stated that his wife had taken some medication so she was able to sleep better inasmuch as she was some three to four months pregnant.
    He stated that he and his wife were laying on the floor in the living room watching television when their youngest daughter, Kristen, started crying. Dr. MacDonald went to her room. The child said that she did not want to sleep alone. He told me at this time, or in the meantime, his wife had gone to the bed, and he believed that he went to the kitchen and got his daughter a bottle of chocolate milk and went back to her room and took both the daughter and the bottle to the master bedroom where he placed the child in the bed with his wife.
Q  What were you doing during this time that he was telling you this? Was this done in a narrative form?
A  This was done -- I asked Dr. MacDonald to give a logical sequence of events of what had happened from the time he arrived home that evening.
Q  I see. What did he say happened next as best he could recall?
A  The best he could recall, he stated that it was somewhere between 12:30 to 12:45 a.m. on the 17th of February, 1970. After he put his daughter in the bed with his wife, he returned to the living room and he again watched television. After the show was over somewhere around 1:00 a.m., he read about 50 pages of a novel and then went in and did the dishes in the kitchen. He stated that at approximately 2:00 to 2:30 a.m., he went to the master bedroom and noticed that his daughter had wet the side or had wet the bed on his side. He picked up the daughter and took her back to her room, and then he went in the living room where he prepared the sofa to sleep for the night. He stated to the best of his recollection that he believed the time was approximately 2:30 a.m. when he laid down.
Q  What did he say happened next, that he could recall?
A  He stated at the time, some time unknown -- he was unable to give me a time of morning -- he was awakened when he heard his wife screaming something to the effect, "Jeff, Jeff, help me. Why are they doing this to me?" He stated at about the same time he heard his oldest daughter, Kimberly, screaming, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy," over and over again. Dr. MacDonald stated he got up from the couch on his elbows. Apparently, he was lying flat. He got up, put his elbows on the couch, at which time he told me he saw people standing at the foot of the couch.
    There was one black male on the far side left, at his left side walking toward him. He observed two white males at the foot of his couch, and one of these white males moved to the side and he saw what he believed, or what appeared to be, a white female standing behind the two males holding what appeared to be to him a lighted candle in front of her.
Q  What did he say happened next?
A  He said that before he could even say anything to any of the people that the black male that was coming toward him had a club in his hand and raised it up over his head.
    Dr. MacDonald stated the black male raised his hands over his head, and that Dr. MacDonald put his own arms up to defend himself and was hit on the arm and across the forehead. He recalled, at that time, just before he was hit on the forehead that the Negro, or that he was hit on the head by the Negro male, he heard the white female chanting in what he said was a monotone voice: "Kill the pigs; acid and rain are groovy, man; acid is groovy." He said she repeated these over and over.
    Dr. MacDonald stated he was then hit on the forehead and he fell back onto the couch and the white female continued this monotone chanting.
Q  After that chanting had occurred, what did he say he did next?
A  He stated he began fighting with the black male and he recalls that one of the white males started to hit him in the side and he remembers grabbing the club in the black male's hands in order not to be hit again. As he did, he grabbed the club and pulled it toward him, at which time he observed the black male was wearing an Army fatigue jacket with sergeant E-6 stripes.
    He said that the hands of the Negro were wet, slippery, and while he was fighting this black male, he continued getting hit in the side and shortly thereafter, he felt a severe pain in his side and in his chest.
    He said that the Negro and white male continued fighting with him and he pushed him away from the couch toward the hallway, with both the black and the white male tearing at his pajama top. He said that the pain in his side became quite severe, and he fell to the floor in the hallway.
Q  After that, what did he say happened?
A  Dr. MacDonald stated that he recalls as he was falling to the floor in the hallway, he saw the female that he described had high-topped brown or dark fake leather boots, and he saw her white knees showing above the boots.
    He said that he noticed the knees and the boots were wet, but they were not bloody. Then he passed out in the hallway. He also recalled while he was fiohting with the black and white males in the hallway that the white male had what appeared to him to be a knife, or an ice pick, in his hands.
    Dr. MacDonald stated he observed the shining blade, but he could not say what type of instrument it was. He also told me subsequently that he did not know how long he was unconscious, but when he awoke, he was on the floor in the hallway with the pajama top torn, bloody, and twisted around his wrist.
    At this time, if I recall, he showed me how he had his hands up like this, and said they were twisted around his wrist (indicating).
Q  Okay, specifically right there, as best you can recall, demonstrate that again precisely where did he say the pajama top was?
A  He said they were tied around his wrist, twisted around his wrist.
Q  Would you describe -- well, that is okay -- go ahead. What did Dr. MacDonald state that he did next after that?
A  After he woke up, Dr. MacDonald said that he got up from the hallway floor and went into his daughter Kimberly's room and he saw blood all over the bed. He felt her pulse and her heartbeat and could find neither. He then went to the other daughter Kristen's room and also found no pulse or heartbeat.
Q  What did he say he did next?
A  Dr. MacDonald stated he then used the telephone in the bedroom and called the Fayetteville telephone operator, stating that he needed an MP at 544 Castle Drive. He said that the operator started asking him questions such as his social security number, the reason for the ambulance, et cetera. Then he said he laid the telephone down and returned to his daughter's room where, again, he checked both of them and was unable to find any signs of life.
    He stated he then went into the kitchen and again called the operator and repeated his previous comments about sending an ambulance to 544 Castle Drive. He stated he talked for about five minutes when he heard a male voice on the telephone and he heard other voices "Make it ASAP," which in Army terminology is "Make it as soon as possible."
    He then returned to his wife in the bedroom and pulled a small knife from her chest and threw it to the side and attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He stated that he could find no life in his wife's body and then he covered her with his pajama top and a towel.
    The next thing he remembered was being awakened by military policemen as he was laying over his wife's body.
Q  During this first interview with Dr. MacDonald, did he give you any descriptions at all of the people who he said were the assailants?
A  Yes, sir.
Q  Would you describe, sir, for the record, what those descriptions were?
A  Dr. MacDonald furnished the following descriptions of the four individuals he observed in his residence on the evening or morning of February 17: one was a black male approximately 18 to 24, approximately 5' 11", weight 170 pounds, build medium, complexion medium brown, hair was black and close cut to the head. He was wearing an Army fatigue jacket with sergeant E-6 stripes. The next was a white female, 16 to 25 of age, 5' 6"; she had long, light blond hair hanging down to the middle of her back.
    He said that she was wearing a large floppy hat, dark-colored, with high top brown or black fake leather boots, had on either a short skirt or shorts.
    The third man -- the third person -- he described as a white male, age 18 to 25, 5' 11", and wearing a sweatshirt with a gray or with a hood hanging down the back.
    The fourth individual was a white male, 18 to 25, 5' 8", and wearing a mustache.
Q  In his giving you these descriptions, did he say anything at all about the assailants wearing bedsheets or sheets of any kind?
A  Not to my recollection; no, sir.
Q  How long did this interview take, sir?
A  From approximately 2:25 p.m. until 4:10.
Q  During this interview, sir, what was Dr. MacDonald's emotional condition?
A  During part of the time, he became emotionally upset. He started crying especially when he was describing the scenes with the children and the wife. At one point during the interview, he requested a doctor which we went out and got the doctor that was on duty. He came in and settled Dr. MacDonald down. He did not, to the best of my recollection, give him any type of medication.
Q  You were in the room during this time?
A  Yes, sir.
Q  Now, after this particular interview, did you ever have an occasion to go back and see Dr. MacDonald again?
A  Yes, sir; I went back the next day.
Q  Who went with you the next day?
A  John Hodges, the same individual who was with me on the 17th. We went back on February 18th.
Q  Do you recall what time of day it was that you went back? Was it morning or afternoon, if you can recall?
A  I am fairly sure it was in the afternoon.
Q  When you went back the second day, did you have an occasion to see any of his doctors prior to going into the room, or did you just go in?
A  Well, we had to ask permission to go into the room first, yes.
Q  And permission was granted?
A  Yes. I don't recall talking to any doctor about his condition to the best of my recollection.
Q  Now, during this second interview, who was present besides yourself and Mr. Hodges and Dr. MacDonald in the room?
A  Just the three of us.
Q  On the second day, was Dr. MacDonald laying down, or was he sitting up as best you can recall?
A  To the best of my recollection, he was in the same position he was the day before.
Q  Did he appear to be alert and coherent?
A  More so than he was on the 17th; yes, sir.
Q  Did you ask him whether or not he agreed to be interviewed the second day?
A  Yes, sir; I did. I asked him or he told me that he was not under sedation and would try to be more coherent during the interview on this date than he was on the 17th. What I meant by "coherent" is -- getting back into sequence, I wanted to find out exactly what happened. The first day, Dr. MacDonald would jump from one thing to the other -- say from one room and then he would go to the telephone and then he would come back to finding the bodies. I was trying to get it in a logical sequence. He basically furnished the same information on the second day that he did on the previous interview on the 17th. The only exceptions that he recalled was that he and his wife had a drink of orange liqueur prior to her retiring for the evening. His wife went to bed prior to the end of the Johnny Carson Show and that his youngest daughter started crying after his wife had retired for the evening.
    He stated that he went to the daughter's room. She said that she didn't want to sleep alone, so he went to the kitchen and got her a bottle and carried her and the bottle back to the room where he put her in bed.
    He furnished the same information substantially that he finished watching the show, did the dishes, and then started to bed when he noticed that the child had wet his side of the bed. He carried her back to her own room and then he went to bed on the couch in the living room.
    He did state that he checked the windows in the house during the evening of the 17th prior to his return to be sure that the children's bedroom windows were not open too far as he did not want it to be too cold for the children. He told me that he did not believe that he checked either the front or the back door as his family very seldom -- he or his family ever used the back exit or back door to the house. He also recalled turning the light on in the hall bathroom as well as the light in the kitchen prior to his retiring, which he has done, he stated, many times in the past for his children's safety when they get up at night in the event they got out of bed.
    He also told me that he believed that after the fight with the black male and the white male and after being hit on the forehead and suffering the pain in the right side in the chest, that after he awakened, apparently, he looked into the hall bathroom to see how badly he was hurt and see if it was necessary to put any compress on his forehead to stop the bleeding. He stated that he also believed that he looked into the bathroom after he checked his wife and children. He made the first telephone call from the master bedroom and later went to the kitchen.
    Then, he said on the second interview, he said that he now recalls that he did not dial the operator on the second call, but he heard voices -- first the female and then the male voice. He also recalled that on the evening of February 17th, he said that he believed that he heard his wife and daughters screaming while he was being hit and fighting with the white and black male. He remembers when the struggle was started. He saw the four people standing over him in the living room, but he does not believe that he saw all four of these people together while he was fighting and struggling with the white and black male.
    He also recalled that the shorter white male with the ice pick or the knife in his hands and the one that he was fighting with was wearing what he thought were lightweight gloves -- stating they might have been surgical gloves. Captain MacDonald stated that he had several pairs of surgical gloves at his residence as his wife used them while washing hands or cleaning up to protect her hands.

MR. BLACKBURN:  Thank you, Mr. Caverly. We are not through. We are just stopping.

THE COURT:  Yes, we are. Mr. Caverly, you may not be acquainted with our Friday schedule, but this is where we came in for today. Members of the jury, in line with our Friday schedule, we will now take our weekend recess. We will reconvene Monday morning at 10:00 o'clock. I ask you again, please, not to talk about this case among yourselves or with others. Don't let anybody talk about it anywhere around you. Don't read, look at, or listen to anything about it. Keep open minds about it. I will let the jury retire now. Monday morning at 10:00 o'clock.

(Jury exits at 3:01 p.m.)

THE COURT:  All right, anything else?

(No response.)

THE COURT:  Take a recess until Monday morning at 10:00 o'clock.

(The proceeding was adjourned at 3:01 p.m., to reconvene at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, July 30, 1979.)