A retiree spends nine years relentlessly seeking to prove that his son-in-law, a former Green Beret Army doctor, murdered his pregnant wife and two children.




Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 2 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »
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Series cast summary:
 Freddy Kassab (2 episodes, 1984)
 Mildred Kassab (2 episodes, 1984)
 Bernie Segal (2 episodes, 1984)
 Capt. Jeffrey MacDonald, MD (2 episodes, 1984)
 Victor Worheide (2 episodes, 1984)
 James Blackburn (2 episodes, 1984)
 Brian Murtagh (2 episodes, 1984)
 Paul Strombaugh (2 episodes, 1984)
 Colette MacDonald (2 episodes, 1984)
 William Ivory (2 episodes, 1984)
 Franz Grebner (2 episodes, 1984)
 Judge Dupree (2 episodes, 1984)
Alexandra Johnson ...
 Helena Stoeckley (2 episodes, 1984)
 Mrs. Perry MacDonald (2 episodes, 1984)
Frank Dent ...
 Joe McGinniss (2 episodes, 1984)
 Col Pruett (2 episodes, 1984)
Andy Wood ...
 Robert Shaw (2 episodes, 1984)
 Peter Kearns (2 episodes, 1984)
 William Posey (2 episodes, 1984)
Rex Ryon ...
 Jay MacDonald (2 episodes, 1984)
J.P. Bumstead ...
 Col. Rock (2 episodes, 1984)
Brandy Gold ...
 Kimberly age 5 (2 episodes, 1984)
Dylan Galer ...
 Kristen (2 episodes, 1984)
 Dennis Eisman (2 episodes, 1984)
 Joy (2 episodes, 1984)
 Randi (2 episodes, 1984)
Laurence Haddon ...
 Gen. Flanagan (2 episodes, 1984)
 Provost Marshal (2 episodes, 1984)
 Pathologist (2 episodes, 1984)
Fred Morsell ...
 Agent (2 episodes, 1984)
Roy London ...
 Dr. Thornton (2 episodes, 1984)
Ken Hill ...
 Neighbor (2 episodes, 1984)
 Capt. Somers (2 episodes, 1984)
 Kimberly age 3 (2 episodes, 1984)
 St. Mary's Sister (2 episodes, 1984)
Scotch Byerley ...
 Lab Tech (2 episodes, 1984)
Kathy Christopher ...
 Hippie Girl (2 episodes, 1984)
 MP Sergeant (2 episodes, 1984)
Hortensia Colorado ...
 Nurse (2 episodes, 1984)
 1st Witness (2 episodes, 1984)
David Dangler ...
 MP Lieutenant (2 episodes, 1984)
Matthew Faison ...
 Dr. Bronstein (2 episodes, 1984)
Norman Alexander Gibbs ...
 News Reporter (2 episodes, 1984)
Howard Goodwin ...
 Party Announcer (2 episodes, 1984)
 CID Captain (2 episodes, 1984)
Norman Lee Harris ...
 CID Man (2 episodes, 1984)
Billy James ...
 TV Interviewer (2 episodes, 1984)
 U.S. Marshal (2 episodes, 1984)
 Reporter (2 episodes, 1984)
 MP Captain (2 episodes, 1984)
Tracee Lyles ...
 Nurse (2 episodes, 1984)
 Green Beret (2 episodes, 1984)
 Nurse (2 episodes, 1984)
Fred Ponzlov ...
 Reporter (2 episodes, 1984)
Fred Retes ...
 Photographer (2 episodes, 1984)
John Rose ...
 FBI Man (2 episodes, 1984)
Paul Ryan ...
 Talk Show Host (2 episodes, 1984)
 MP in Jeep (2 episodes, 1984)
Grayce Spence ...
 Court Clerk (2 episodes, 1984)
Tom Tarpey ...
 Psychiatrist (2 episodes, 1984)
 Lt. Harrison (2 episodes, 1984)
Arnold F. Turner ...
 Lab Technician (2 episodes, 1984)
Beth Ringwald ...
 Babysitter (2 episodes, 1984)
 Sgt. McPherson (2 episodes, 1984)
Bill Vint ...
 Dr. Sadoff (2 episodes, 1984)
 Secretary (2 episodes, 1984)
Peter Vogt ...
 Jury Foreman (2 episodes, 1984)


In 1970, military doctor Jeffrey McDonald reports a hideous and confusing story: A gang of hippies akin to the Manson Family broke into his North Carolina home and slaughtered his wife and two daughters, while somehow only wounding him slightly as he tried to fight them off. As McDonald continues to proclaim his innocence, his skeptical father-in-law Freddy Kassab and investigative journalist Joe McGinniss probe his story to uncover the truth. Written by Jwelch5742

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


TV-14 | See all certifications »




Release Date:

1984 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Död i dimma dold  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Gary Cole would go on to play another military man convicted of murder in An Officer and a Murderer (2012), based on the crimes of Russell Williams. Williams was a Colonel in the Canadian Air Force, who was convicted of two counts of murder and various other crimes in 2010. See more »


Freddy Kassab: [to Pruett and Kearns] Impossible. Jeff made two phone calls two minutes apart. In those two minutes he claims to have looked out the back door, then went to the bathroom to check his wounds, washed his hands, checked Colette to see if there was any signs of life, gave her mouth to mouth resuscitation, then checked the kids Kimmy and Kristy, then staggered into the kitchen again to wash his hands and make the second phone call. Impossible. Absolutely impossible! Nobody could perform all those ...
See more »


Referenced in Rewind This! (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

Reasonably Doubtful?
26 April 2002 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

If you read Joe McGinnes' book, you'd find it difficult to accuse the author of trying to sell more copies of it by twisting facts around. McGinnis was hired in the first place by MacDonald to tell his side of the story and only gradually did the writer change his mind about MacDonald's innocence. Of course McGinnis wanted his book to sell, so he could become rich and famous, just as MacDonald wanted his story told so he could become rich and famous too. Everyone wants to be rich and famous. But some people want it a LOT more than others and, according to McGinnes, this was Jeff MacDonald's biggest problem.

The book ends with a description of a "narcissistic personality" drawn from the work of Christopher Lasch. There's some reason to believe that MacDonald belonged in that category. One of his last writings to McGinnes detailed a number of his greatest regrets about his life. Chief among them was not having actually gotten a degree from Princeton. (He transferred to Northwestern's medical school after his third year.) That's a pretty dumb thing to put down as a great regret unless you're something of a narcissist.

Of course being a narcissist doesn't make you a murderer. In this case, it was the physical evidence that made the difference. It's true, as earlier comments have mentioned, that the army made a botch of the crime scene. They tramped all over, setting disturbed items upright, even swiping MacDonald's wallet. But some of the comments have been misleading, because McGinnis's book describes all this, and the film does too. Of course, having the army foul up a crime scene doesn't make you innocent either. In the end, McGinnis found MacDonald's story unbelievable because, in addition to the physical evidence, there was the simple fact that MacDonald "hadn't been hurt badly enough."

The murderers in his tale (one of them a girl in a floppy hat) beat the other three members of his family to death and stab them. And here is MacDonald, a trained green beret, who gets tangled up in his pajamas while his wife is screaming in the background and who then passes out, sustaining a few scratches and a neat nick that ends in a small pneumothorax, which sounds terrible but which a doctor would recognize as not in itself life threatening.

And this quartet of murderers in MacDonald's description is pretty interesting in itself. The sort of group that everyone at the time carried around in an easily accessible part of his or her memory, because everyone had been so shocked at the Manson family shortly before. But they are a square guy's cliché of what senseless murderers would look like. I was working on a research project into LSD use at the time of the murders and interviewed dozens of acid heads and dopers from all walks of life. (They included the entire fencing team at an Ivy League university.) They didn't have much in common except that when tripping they were one hundred per cent nonviolent. As one reporter put it, "When people are on acid they can't even organize a trip to the men's room." And nobody would dream of saying something like, "Acid is groovy," while trying to slice somebody up. Any acid head knew that things were a lot more complicated than that. (Nobody involved in the case seems to have had any idea of what the effects of recreational drugs were like. One young woman suspected of being the girl in the floppy hat, can't provide an alibi for herself because she "was out on marijuana" for four hours.) The "pigs" written in blood was a direct ripoff of the Manson family murders, whoever put it up there.

The film follows the book pretty closely, painting a picture of Jeff MacDonald that is distinctly unflattering. Smart but shallow, he got out of the army pronto and lived in a Marina del Rey condo with blonde airheads seriatim. I'd like to see him put away if only out of envy. But was he guilty? Well, there was hardly a rush to judgment. It took years to convict him, long after the immediate sensation of the case died down. What leaves me with some lingering doubts, however, is the lack of any apparent motive. There was evidently no history of spousal abuse, nor of previous violent acts on MacDonald's part, nor of any nucleus in family dynamics for a murderous outburst. There is a sizable hole in the film where motive should be. The book and the film, despite some revisionist statements I've read, convince me that MacDonald probably did it. His alibi is almost impossible to swallow. Still -- I wouldn't have wanted to be on the jury.

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