August 17, 1979
Scans of original transcript
Webmaster note: Directly after the testimony of Helena Stoeckley on August 17, 1979, six witnesses testified on voir dire, in the absence of the jury and alternates, per the bench discussions shown at the end of Stoeckley's testimony. Robert Brisentine was the fourth of these witnesses to testify.MR. SMITH: Robert A. Brisentine. Your Honor, while Mr. Brisentine is coming in, let me state for the court that his name is Robert A. Brisentine, Jr., and he lives on Cheseney Lane in Bowie, Maryland.
(Whereupon, ROBERT A. BRISENTINE, JR. 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 2:29 p.m.
BY MR. SMITH:
Q Mr. Brisentine, have you ever interviewed Helena Stoeckley?
A I have, sir.
Q Do you recall about when that was?
Q When was it.
A On the 23rd and 24th of April, 1971, sir.
Q Where were you when you interviewed her?
A In Nashville, Tennessee, sir.
Q Did you retain any notes from that interview?
A I did, sir.
Q Do those notes refresh your recollection as to statements she made to you?
A Yes, sir, they would.
Q Do you have any of the notes with you on the witness stand?
A Yes, sir.
Q Would it help you to refer to those notes --
A (Interposing) It would, sir.
Q -- in stating to the court what she said to you?
A It would, sir.
Q If you will use those notes to refresh your recollection, state to the court what Helena Stoeckley told you, if anything, relating to any murders that took place in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in February of 1970?
A Helena Stoeckley -- I interviewed her on the 23rd for a period of four hours and 20 minutes, sir; and on the 24th of April -- 23rd of April for four hours and 20 minutes, and the 24th of April for six hours and six minutes.
She stated on the 23rd, during that particular interview, that due to a mental block -- and that is the terms Ms. Stoeckley used -- she does not remember her activities or whereabouts between 00 -- well, that's 12:30 a.m., to 4:00 o'clock a.m. on the 17th of February; that during a period of three to four months subsequent to the homicides in the MacDonald residence, she was convinced that she participated in the murder of Mrs. MacDonald and her two children; that she presently is of the opinion that she personally did not actively participate in these homicides, but may have been physically present at the time of the murders; that prior to the homicide she had heard that the hippie element was angry with Captain MacDonald as he would not treat them by prescribing methadone for their addiction to drugs.
Ms. Stoeckley later retracted this statement and said that she only thinks she heard of Captain MacDonald before the murders; that she had never been to Captain MacDonald's residence prior to the homicide; that prior to the homicide she had visited Castle Drive, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for the purpose of delivering illicit drugs to an officer she knows only as Bob; that approximately 24 -- 12:00 p.m. -- 12:00 o'clock p.m., 16th of February 1970, she and a man named Greg Mitchell consumed LSD and mescaline; that she was using all types of drugs -- opiates, heroin, marijuana, depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogenics prior to and immediately following the homicides.
That during April, 1970, she was admitted to the University of North Carolina hospital for hepatitis and drug addiction; that as a result of excessive drug use during the time of the homicides, she was not always oriented as regards time, dates, and surroundings; that since the deaths of Mrs. MacDonald and her children, she, Helena Stoeckley, has suffered nightmares whenever she sleeps, and that due to these frightening dreams she is afraid to sleep, causing insomnia.
That her original dreams portrayed the word "pig" in blood on the headboard of Mrs. MacDonald's bed.
Ms. Stoeckley described her dream by printing the word "pig" horizontally on the left side of a drawn picture of a bed headboard. She asserted that in her dreams the word "pig" is always on the left side of the headboard.
That during the past three or four months her dream places her on the couch in Captain MacDonald's living room and that Captain MacDonald is pointing at her with one hand while holding an ice pick that is dripping blood with the other hand.
That during February, 1970, she possessed and occasionally wore a pair of white boots, a floppy hat, white hat, and a blonde wig. That following the homicide, she discarded the boots, wig, and hat. That about the same time as the homicide, she stole some floral wreaths from the florist in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and displayed them in the front of her residence.
That one of the wreaths had the word "Mother" written on its ribbon while one or more of the other wreaths had the word "Sister" written on them. That immediately following the homicide, she wore black clothing and the day of the funeral of Mrs. MacDonald and her children, she -- Ms. Stoeckley -- meditated and wore black clothing.
That she desired to attend the MacDonald funerals but did not attend as none of her friends would accompany her. That she went into hiding to evade police arrest subsequent to the homicides and considered fleeing from Fayetteville, North Carolina. That she knew the identity of the persons who killed Mrs. MacDonald and her children. That if the Army would give her immunity from prosecution, she would furnish the identity of those offenders who committed the murder and explain the circumstances surrounding the homicides.
Q That concludes the gist of the statement she made to you; is that correct, Mr. Brisentine?
A On the 23rd; yes, sir. That's not the 24th.
Q All right, now, did she make a statement to you on the 24th?
A She did.
Q What did she say?
A On the 24th Ms. Stoeckley related she had been incorrect in her statements and had, and I quote, "talked too much," and that she only suspected some people of committing the homicides. At this time, Ms. Stoeckley stated that she suspected Don Harris, a Caucasian male, who told her after the homicide that he must leave Fayetteville, North Carolina, as he could not find an alibi for the time of the murders; Bruce Fowler, the owner of a blue Mustang automobile in which she, Ms. Stockley, was a passenger or a driver on the night of the homicides; Janet Fowler, wife of Bruce Fowler and who was employed as a go-go dancer in Fayetteville, North Carolina, at the time of the homicides.
I should digress here, sir. I later learned this lady's name was Janice Fowler -- not Janet Fowler.
Q All right.
A Joe Kelley, a Negro soldier who was assigned to a medical holding detachment at Womack Army Hospital, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, at the time of the homicides; and a Negro male she knew only as "Eddie" who introduced her -- Ms. Stockley -- to heroin.
At one time during the interview on 24 April, Ms. Stoeckley asserted that she had been lying when she admitted knowing who committed the homicides and stated that Captain MacDonald had killed his family. Further, that her rationale was based on the fact that four hippies could not have entered Captain MacDonald's home without being observed by neighbors or causing dogs to bark.
Ms. Stoeckley further explained that it had been drizzling rain during the night but that it did not start to rain hard until after the homicides. On inquiry from me, Ms. Stoeckley explained, "I've already said too much." Later, during the interview, Ms. Stoeckley again repeated her previous statement about saying she suspected hippie-type individuals of the crime.
Q Does that conclude her statements to you?
A Basically. That is all the notes that I took during the statement.
MR. SMITH: You may examine.
C R O S S - E X A M I N A T I O N 2:35 p.m.
BY MR. MURTAGH:
Q Mr. Brisentine, were you ever in the Army?
A Yes, sir.
Q How long, please?
A I was on military active duty for 22 years, sir.
Q During the course of your active duty in the military and subsequent to that time, have you observed many people under the influence of narcotics?
A Yes, sir.
Q Would it be accurate to say that you would recognize an addict or a junkie when you saw one?
A I would say in a lot of instances, if not in most instances, if an individual is on drugs at the time, I probably would recognize it as being some type of intoxicant.
Q Would you describe your observations, sir, if any, of Ms. Stoeckley on the 23rd of April and the 24th of April?
A On the 23rd of April, sir, Ms. Stoeckley, in my opinion, was under the influence of narcotics.
Q And on the 24th of April, which is, I believe you testified, the time at which she retracted her previous statement?
A Yes, sir. Well, Ms. Stoeckley would retract, and then she would again say, yes; that she was there. "No, I was not there." "I am involved." "I am not involved." Basically, though, generally speaking, on the 23rd she contended that she was involved in these homicides. On the 24th she did change originally, but then later said she did know something about it.
Q Would it be accurate to say that the overall situation would be that she was all over the lot, whether she was involved or not involved?
A She certainly changed her statements during the two days; yes, sir.
Q Did she ramble at any time?
A On the 23rd, she rambled some; on the 24th, she was in much better mental condition.
Q Did she seem, at any time, out of touch with reality?
A She was very nervous, somewhat depressed occasionally, on the 23rd. And she made statements that would indicate that she may not be completely oriented at that time on the 23rd.
Q Let me ask you, have you ever been at the crime scene?
A Yes, sir.
Q Was that prior to interviewing Ms. Stoeckley?
A Yes; that was a year prior, in April of '70, I believe, sir.
Q Okay; would it be accurate to say that you were generally familiar with this investigation?
A I was generally familiar with the crime scene, and I had a general familiarization of the investigation. I did not know all aspects of the investigation.
Q Okay; and I believe you testified that she described the letters as "pig" on the headboard; is that correct?
A She drew it on the headboard. Well, she drew it on a photograph of the headboard.
Q Had you seen that headboard previously?
A No, sir; I had not seen the headboard. I had seen a photograph of the headboard.
Q Let me ask you, do you know which way the letters "pig" go on the headboard?
MR. SEGAL: Your Honor, I don't think this goes to the question of voir dire. It is really general cross.
THE COURT: I rather think it does. I will OVERRULE this, if it is an objection.
MR. SEGAL: All right, sir.
BY MR. MURTAGH:
Q On the actual headboard, which I believe you saw a photograph of, which way?
A Horizontal, if I recall, sir -- I mean, vertical.
Q Which way did Ms. Stoeckley do it?
Q Do you know whether the fact that the letters "pig" were written in blood on the headboard had ever appeared in any of the Fayetteville papers?
A I can't tell you, sir, what was in the Fayetteville paper.
Q Would you agree, if I were to suggest to you that it was published in the paper?
MR. SMITH: OBJECTION. How could he possibly know?
THE COURT: OVERRULED. I don't think the question is going to prove anything, but this is voir dire. There is no jury here.
MR. SMITH: The basis of my objection is the previous answer made it impossible for him to know.
BY MR. MURTAGH:
Q Now, in her statement in which she said she had a dream or nightmare about being in the living room, who was holding the ice pick?
A Captain MacDonald.
Q Captain MacDonald was holding it? Okay; was she able to describe the house to you in any way -- the interior of the house?
A No; that was part of -- that was the reason I was trying to get some information, to find out what she knew about the interior of the house. That is why I asked these questions.
Q Did she tell you anything that wasn't common knowledge, if you know, sir?
A She did not tell me anything that I didn't know, sir.
Q Did she tell you anything which indicated insider's knowledge of the crime scene?
A No, other than she knew about the blood on the bed. I can't recall anything else that she told me.
Q All right, now, she named some individuals; did she not?
A Yes, sir.
Q Did you conduct an investigation or are you aware of the results of the investigation, if any, of those individuals?
A Yes, sir. I am aware of the interviews and some portions of investigation of the other individuals, and I personally interviewed some of them.
Q If you know, sir, other than Helena Stoeckley's statement, is there anything that ties those people to the commission of this crime, whether they were fingerprinted or anything like that?
A I would have to answer those about each one, sir. I cannot answer that in one. As to the names that Ms. Stoeckley --
MR. SEGAL: (Interposing) Excuse me, Your Honor. The question before it is our right to intruduce what Ms. Stoeckley said about herself. The fact that we are now going off on some collateral pursuit about what the Government did or did not do in regard to following it up doees not seem to me to go to the admissibility of our problem. We have got two more witnesses.
THE COURT: I think it does. You are going to want me to hold that this woman made a reasonable statement, and I think to show whether or not what she said was so or not so tends to throw some light on that. I will OVERRULE your OBJECTION.
MR. SEGAL: I would like to be heard if I could for a moment because -- let me -- I don't mean to presume upon the Court, but I think we are misallocating the issue at this point. The first point is it admissible against her? The fact that the Government might want to attack her statement does not deny the Defendant the right to introduce it in the first instance. I only ask Your Honor to consider one aspect of this thing. If it was the United States prosecuting someone for murder and it had these kinds of statements and so-called admissions by that Defendant, would the Court for a moment hesitate to let the Government introduce it?
I find it difficult not only that this Court but that any Court would hesitate to let the Government put it in. The fact that someone is crying and weeping when they are talking about a murder that is horrendous does not make it inadmissible. The fact that later on, they say, "I would like to pull it back and withdraw it" can't affect admissibility. It goes to weight, I think. That is the issue. It just seems to me that we have established already beyond any reasonable argument the right to put this forward. The Government has shown through none of these witnesses that she was insane, incompetent. We have confessions all the time from people who say, "Gee, I was drinking when they took the confession," or "Gee, I had taken drugs." That goes only to the issue of voluntariness of the statement.
In this instance, there is no such problem in this case. It never goes to the admissibility. It seems to me that the pursuit here that we are now engaged in as to whether or not the Government checking out some people that she named and not always the very first person but the persons she changed to cannot affect the initial question which is: can we offer it at all?
I draw the Court to my first point. If the prosecutors wanted this to try someone on a murder, has circumstantial evidence, sometimes she says, "Yes, I was there. Sometime I had the clothing and I threw it away." Other times, "I didn't actually do it." I cannot conceive of any Court that would deny the prosecution.
I have been in many cases where I wished the Court would do that, and I have never yet seen one that would. I point out to Your Honor the fact that a statement is contradicted by the person later on does not make it inadmissible. It again goes to weight. I would point out also to the Court her statements about throwing the clothes away were never contradicted. That is consciousness of guilt in the first instance. Why are we now going into this issue which has nothing to do with admissibility? I mean, I think that perhaps at the time of the hearing, if the Court rules that this witness may testify, that it is probably cross-examination on that issue; although, I doubt most of it is admissible, but it would go to the weight of those statements.
I cannot understand how on voir dire we must have this issue battered out. There are still two more witnesses that we have to offer and there is another corroboration. For that reason, I would ask Your Honor to cut off the particular line of questions.
THE COURT: Do you want to respond to that?
MR. MURTAGH: Your Honor, I would only say that it goes to the trustworthiness of the statement, which, under Rule 804(5), is one of the things that the Court should take into --
MR. SEGAL: (Interposing) We are not offering it under that rule. The Government misunderstands.
MR. MURTAGH: I don't know what rule he is offering it under.
THE COURT: He is offering it under 804(b)(3).
MR. MURTAGH: Your Honor, I think that if these statements fall into anything, they fall into the "other exceptions" category of Rule 804, and I think trustworthiness does go to the issue of admissibility, and I think that what they are trying to do is bring out bits and pieces of Ms. Stoeckley's various statements and they don't want the whole thing to come out.
MR. SEGAL: It is called circumstantial evidence, Your Honor. We want everything that she said to come out. The fact that she both admits and denies, in my judgment and in my experience, has never precluded a confession or admission from being put into evidence.
Many a Defendant has said, you know, only to the police officer being taken to the station, "Yeah, I was involved." He gets to the station and they get a formal statement, "Oh, no, I will not admit that on paper." The Defendant screams, "You cannot let that thing in. I mean, I said that I didn't do it." The Court says what -- "It's for the jury to decide which statements are admissible."
Why is the Defendant being told now that when he has done the job that should have been done by somebody else, he can't offer the evidence?
THE COURT: The objection is OVERRULED.
THE WITNESS: Don Harris -- I can't answer as relates to him as to what the investigative effort was pursued. Bruce Fowler -- from what I could determine during my part of the investigation was not involved.
Janice Fowler -- I couldn't determine during any part of my investigation that she was involved. Joe Kelley -- I do not know about, or the individual that Ms. Stoeckley identified as "Eddie" I do not know about.
BY MR. MURTAGH:
Q Mr. Brisentine, would it be accurate to say that all of Helena's statements that she made to you at various times pertained to her state of mind or her beliefs?
A I'm sorry, sir. I didn't hear your last part.
Q In other words, would it be accurate to say that all of Helena's statements -- the "I did it; I didn't do it" -- wouldn't this pertain to her state of mind or her belief?
MR. SEGAL: That's OBJECTED to. It goes to statements of fact that she has testified.
THE COURT: OVERRULED. Do you understand the question?
THE WITNESS: Yes, I understand the question.
THE COURT: Answer it, please.
THE WITNESS: It could be a state of mind, of course.
MR. MURTAGH: No further questions.
MR. SMITH: I wuold like to ask one additional one, if I may.
THE COURT: All right.
R E D I R E C T E X A M I N A T I O N 2:47 p.m.
BY MR. SMITH:
Q As a matter of fact, Mr. Brisentine, you were very impressed with the sincerity of Helena Stoeckley with you; weren't you?
A I was impressed with the fact that she made such admissions; yes.
Q And based on everything that you could observe about it, you had to figure that she was making those statements to you with some conviction; didn't you?
A That's true, sir.
MR. SMITH: All right. No further questions.
THE COURT: That is that she honestly believed that these things were true.
THE WITNESS: I would have to say, Your Honor, that she honestly believed in her mind that what she was telling me was true.
MR. MURTAGH: One question.
R E C R O S S - E X A M I N A T I O N 2:48 p.m.
BY MR. MURTAGH:
Q Would that be all of it? I mean, "I did it; I didn't do it."
A No; I would have to say, based on my investigation, that when she said she was physically present that she thought in her mind that she was.
Q Do you know for a fact whether she was present?
A No, sir.
MR. SMITH: OBJECTION.
THE COURT: I believe there was an objection. SUSTAINED. Call your next witness. And incidentally, of the five that you said you were going to call, he makes the fourth one in my count.
MR. SEGAL: There are two more. There are six, then.
THE COURT: Okay, in this league, five means six.
THE WITNESS: I am excused, Your Honor?
THE COURT: As far as I am concerned, you are.