RALEIGH, N.C. -- The hair of a former Army doctor convicted in the slayings of his wife and two daughters was found in his dead wife's hand, according to long-awaited results of DNA testing made public yesterday.
But testing of another hair, under the fingernail of Jeffrey MacDonald's youngest daughter, showed that it came from an unidentified person, a find that MacDonald's supporters say bolsters his case.
MacDonald asked for the DNA testing in 1997, saying it would help prove that a band of crazed hippies killed his family in 1970, while he was stationed at Fort Bragg. But federal prosecutors said in a statement yesterday that the testing found no DNA from the man or the woman MacDonald named as suspects.
For years after the slayings of Colette MacDonald, 26, and her daughters Kimberley, 6, and Kristen, 2, Jeffrey MacDonald was free because the Army said it didn't have enough evidence to prosecute him. A federal jury in Raleigh convicted him in 1979 after the US Justice Department reopened the case.
The trial led to a best-selling book, ''Fatal Vision," and a television miniseries of the same name.
In January, a federal appeals court gave new life to MacDonald's case, ruling that his lawyers could introduce evidence that a prosecutor threatened a witness. The ruling could result in a new trial, one of MacDonald's attorneys, Hart Miles, has said.
MacDonald's lead lawyer, Tim Junkin, said the unidentified hair found under Kristen MacDonald's fingernail helps his case because he has said there were at least two other unidentified assailants in his home during the attack.
Junkin called the unidentified hair ''a powerful piece of evidence that there were intruders in the house that night."
''This is the time we've waited for so many years," said Kathryn MacDonald of Columbia, Md., who married the imprisoned Jeffrey MacDonald in 2002. ''This is just one more layer of evidence that shows that there were assailants in the house."
Prosecutors, however, appeared to consider the find unimportant. ''As expected, there remains hairs with DNA sequences that do not match any of the victims, Jeffrey MacDonald, or any now-deceased 'hippies,' " said a statement yesterday from US Attorney Frank Whitney. ''However, any residence such as the MacDonald apartment would be expected to contain hairs from persons other than the four people who lived there."
MacDonald is serving three consecutive life sentences at the Federal Correctional Institution near Cumberland, Md.
The defense had asked to introduce new evidence after a former deputy US marshal came forward to say he heard defense witness Helena Stoeckley tell a prosecutor she was in the MacDonald home on the night of the slayings.
MacDonald has identified Stoeckley as one of the intruders. None of the DNA samples tested belonged to her, according to Whitney's office.
Jimmy B. Britt, part of the security detail during MacDonald's 1979 trial, said the prosecutor threatened to indict Stoeckley for murder if she told her story on the witness stand. She later testified she could not remember where she was the night of the slayings.