September 8, 1989
Deposition of Col. Mario Ferrari by Dennis Eisman re: Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP)
Scans of original transcript
MARIO J. FERRARI, after having first been duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows:
BY MR. EISMAN:
Q Colonel Ferrari, can we have your full name and title for the record.
A Mario J. Ferrari. I am a colonel in the United States Army Reserve, retired. I am also a retired chief of police in Camden, New Jersey.
Q Could you briefly give us your background with regard to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and any tours of duty you had in the years '70 or '71?
A I had taken my annual training and whatever specialized training I would need at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, which is located in Washington D. C. since 1970. My first tour began on 15 March and ended, I believe, on the 5th of April of that same year. I have been going down there ever since, since I retired, which was in 1986.
Q What were your duties at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington?
A I was assigned to the Legal Medicine Section, Forensic Pathology Branch, Military Environmental Pathology Division. I made presentations, I worked on medical/legal cases that had been presented to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology for review and consultation and I attended all the Basic Forensic Pathology Courses held on a yearly basis, usually in the fall, and I also took one Advanced Forensic Pathology Course which was, I believe, in 1986.
Q Corresponding to your service in the Armed Forces Reserves, what were your duties with regard to law enforcement outside of the military?
A I was appointed as patrolman in the Camden, New Jersey Police Department in 1956 and I became chief of the department in 1981. During my career as a member of the Camden Police Department, I commanded the Detectives Bureau, Investigations Division and the Camden Police Academy were among my various assignments and duties during these times.
On my retirement, I was appointed as liason officer for the Camden County Sheriff, a job that required communication coordination with the police chief in Camden County.
Q When did you retire from the Army?
A I retired from the United States Army 1987, sir, completing 40 years of service.
Q What was your job or function at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology back in 1970 and '71?
A I was on contact active duty for training. I was given an assignment on various cases that came to the Institute and I provided some input as to the eventual resolvement. I also lectured to the fellows who were attending the Institute. I attended the seminars and I provided whatever other assistance that may have been required of me.
Q With regard to, in particular, your work at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, who did you work with? What were the names of the people who you worked with at the Armed Forces?
A During my tour of duty for training at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, I served under the director of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, commonly known as the AFIP, and this gentleman was Colonel Richard C. Froede. He was a doctor.
Also Captain Charles J. Stahl, he was a naval commander at the time. He became the commandant eventually and director of the Institute.
Also I served under Captain F. Robert Thompson, United States Navy, and Colonel Robert McMeekin, M-c-M-e-e-k-i-n, who also became the director of the Institute during my time there.
Q Were there other people also in addition to them who you worked with, other pathologists who you worked with?
A I was assigned to work with several other forensic pathologists on an individual basis. I sought their advice and provided my own input to the medical/legal cases that were under review or investigation.
Dr. Matthews was one, Dr. Hertzog, Dr. Charles Zimmerly -- excuse me, that was Dr. James Zimmerly and a myriad of other doctors that came through the Institute during my 20-something odd years of performing my training there.
Q In March of '70, did you have occasion to be involved in an investigation requested by the Criminal Investigation Division of the United States Army with regard to the MacDonald murder case?
A Yes. In March of '71.
Q Excuse me. I think that was '70.
A '70 or '71, sir.
MR. EISMAN: Off the record.
(Whereupon, a discussion was held off the record.)
MR. EISMAN: Back on the record.
BY MR. EISMAN:
Q Back on the record.
A In March of 1971 while on a tour of duty for training at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, a contingent of special agents from the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, came to the Institute of Pathology seeking assistance in the investigation of a multiple homicide that occurred at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. This was the MacDonald case.
The director of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Colonel Richard C. Froede, at the time accepted the case.
At this time Colonel Froede paired various members of the Institute to examine the mass of evidence, photos, records, statements or reports that had been brought by the CID special agents and to submit any findings, conclusions or recommendations.
I was assigned to work with Major Patrick Besant-Mathews, B-e-s-a-n-t - M-a-t-h-e-w-s. He was a doctor in the United States Army.
Q All right. Now, did you work primarily with Dr. Besant-Mathews on this case?
A I worked primarily with him, but the case was discussed casually and informally at various times with other individuals who were on the same assignment. My primary contact, my primary full tutor was Dr. Besant-Mathews.
Q Approximately how many other teams were also working on this investigation, if you can recall?
A I believe there were five teams totally at the time.
Q What is your recollection of the work that you did along with Dr. Besant-Mathews?
A As I pointed out, Dr. Besant-Mathews examined all of the evidence, reports and statements that were brought in by the CID special agents. I was present at all times with Dr. Besant-Mathews and maintaining a log of the records and took copious notes. In addition to that, I attended the oral presentation given by the CID special agents.
I recall having asked several questions relative to the overall investigation of the case. These remarks were also included in my final report as a result of my participation in the investigation.
Q Did you yourself prepare a report or was that report prepared by somebody else in this case?
A I provided a written report to Dr. Besant-Mathews. This report that I had submitted was, I believe, incorporated into the overall reports that were presented which was prepared and presented by Dr. Besant-Mathews.
Q Did you attend meetings in which the case was discussed and, if so, who was present and how many of these meetings took place?
A There were various meetings that took place between the various teams. As a cross-reference or cross-index there was, as I recall, a great deal of information that had been presented by the CID special agents from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I worked primarily with Dr. Besant-Mathews, but I do remember having asked Dr. Froede several pointed questions.
I remember having asked the CID agent did they ever subject the subject to a polygraph examination and this was met with a wall of silence when I posed the question. I was later informed if this had taken place, it would have been tantamount to an accusal of the subject, Dr. MacDonald.
Q Do you remember what type of evidence the CID brought with them to the AFIP?
A I don't recall any specifics to any degree of certainty except it was given to Dr. Froede. Whatever was presented was placed on a large conference table. Most of the items there were packaged or in boxes. They seemed to be in some degree of disorganization. There were sloppy markings, no recordings of a chain of custody, labeling was not the best, in my opinion, and legibility was very poor.
Q What is your recollection as to the meetings that were held and the results as to the opinion as to whether or not there was evidence that Dr. MacDonald had committed these murders?
A At all of these sessions that I had attended or was aware of, there appeared to be indications of non-conclusiveness. For a case of this magnitude there seemed to be inadequate or insufficient physical evidence. At different times, both Dr. Besant-Mathews and I remarked, is this all? There had to be more. We will need more in order to arrive at a positive conclusion.
At the exit meeting with all the members of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and the CID special agents prsent, Dr. Froede said that on the basis of the evidence, both physical and documentary that was presented for examination and evaluation, there was no conclusionary or positive evidence to indicate that the homicides were committed by Dr. MacDonald.
Q What was the feeling or belief of the CID agents when they brought the evidence to the AFIP? Did they give their own opinons prior to you examining the evidence?
A Repeat the question.
Q Did the CID agents, prior to your examining the evidence, indicate that they had come to some conclusion?
A Okay. My recollection, there were several members of the CID who gave an opening briefing to Dr. Froede and the members of the AFIP that were assigned to the MacDonald investigation, they did not seem to be certain or sure themselves. They claimed they came to the Institute as a last resort.
In other words, they were stymied at this level of investigation. They felt that the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology would provide some light, some direction in this overall investigation.
They did not seem to be more -- if you follow my train of thought, in an investigation, you follow a pattern and you have certain positives, some things that are recognizable. The CID agents did not present this. The questions that I asked were answered in a vague fashion and in an uncertain fashion.
Q The questions that you asked to the agents, is that what you mean, the agents, with regard to how they reached their conclusions?
A Yes. Being more or less motivated and excited by the prospect of this nationally recognizable incident, I did take it upon myself, with the occurance of Dr. Besant-Mathews, to ask questions on my own. We were all permitted to do this and I did not receive, in my estimation, sufficient information that would be valuable to us or assist us in reaching a conclusion.
Q Was there a final conclusionary meeting involving all these people?
A Your question?
Q Was there a final meeting at the AFIP involving the team of pathologists and the CID agents who came up on the case?
A Yes. There was. The one I referred to with Dr. Froede when he gave his remarks at the conclusion of the investigation in which he said, on the basis of the information that was provided to the Institute there was no definitive -- no way of proving or even alluding to the fact that Dr. MacDonald was involved in any kind of crime.
Q Did they indicate to you that this was the physical evidence, all the physical evidence upon which they were basing their case when they brought it to you all?
A That is one of the questions I asked: Is this all of the evidence? As I stated prior to your question, Dr. Besant-Mathews and I did ask, there must be more, there had to be more. It is inconceivable that this would be the total amount of evidence assembled or acquired at the crime scene. There had to be a more extensive and a more exhaustive investigation. This did not appear.
When I asked the question I was advised or informed by the CID special agents this is what they had and this is what they were going to bring to us to attempt to arrive at a conclusion.
Q And to your recollection, would there have been or were there some written reports made by the people involved in this, in these meetings and investigation by the people at the AFIP?
A As far as I can recall, each team leader, in my case Dr. Besant-Mathews, had prepared a fragmentary report on their findings and conclusions. At the very end, the exit interview, Dr. Froede, I believe, did prepare a report with his conclusions based on what we had submitted as a conglomerate, as a body.
Q Now, the records indicate that the Army returned to the AFIP a year later in 1971. You were not present during that period of time, were you?
Off the record.
(Whereupon, a discussion was held off the record.)
MR. EISMAN: Back on the record.
BY MR. EISMAN:
Q Colonel Ferrari, were you present at the AFIP in 1971?
A I was present in active duty for training at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology between the dates of 15 March of '71 to 2 April '71, inclusive.
Q During that tour of duty, did you perform any work with regard to this case?
A No. I don't remember, frankly, whether or not at that time I had any involvement. I believe they were still talking about it and there were comments made as to the ultimate outcome of the investigation.
Again, the entire investigation seemed to be very poorly planned, very poorly presented to the Institute. The Institute could only work with what it had.
Q From your experience as a police officer, did you believe that the investigation had been done in a professional manner for a case of this import?
A Based on my professional experience of 25 years plus in various capacities in civilian law enforcement, I would have to say that the nature of the investigation, the method in which the investigation was conducted, the procedures that were followed left quite a bit to be desired.
Q Were there any pieces of forensic evidence that you reviewed with Dr. Mathews that in any way showed or could be argued that it linked Dr. MacDonald to these killings?
A No. I don't remember -- oh, I am certain there was no such physical evidence that was presented to us for examination.
Q And in the final exit meeting where Dr. Froede spoke in summarizing the findings of the AFIP, was there any statement made that there was certain evidence which links Dr. MacDonald to these killings or which showed that he was involved in these killings?
A No. On the contrary, Dr. Froede, if anything, helped all of us to believe on the basis of what was presented, there was no way they could implicate or connect Dr. MacDonald with the homicides that occurred at Fort Bragg. In fact, Dr. Froede was or appeared to be assured on the basis of what he really had at his disposal to reach a conclusion.
He would not commit himself, but he did say this, on the basis of what he had, there were no way that the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology would return a report indicating that, any implication of Dr. MacDonald.
MR. EISMAN: I have no further questions at this time.
(Whereupon, the sworn statement concluded at 1:40 p.m.)
I hereby certify that the proceedings and evidence noted are contained fully and accurately in the notes taken by me on the deposition of the above matter, and that this is a correct transcript of the same.
JOSEPH CALAVETTA, R. P. R.
(The foregoing certification of this transcript does not apply to any reproduction of the same by any means, unless under the direct control and/or supervision of the certifying reporter.)
Webmaster note: The original stenographer's misspelling of Hurtzog was corrected to Hertzog in this transcript.