‘Fatal vision’ and more

The Jeffrey MacDonald case has inspired, books, movies, TV shows and podcasts.

Cover of the “Fatal Vision” mini-series. [File/The Fayetteville Observer]

The Jeffrey MacDonald case brought media and popular culture attention like few other crimes. Perhaps only the Manson murders — which happened the year before — inspired more books, movies and television shows.

Here’s a look at some of what the 1970 murders and their aftermath inspired:

“The Dick Cavett Show”: In December 1970, only months after the murders, MacDonald appeared on the popular talk show. MacDonald’s appearance — in which he focused on the alleged incompetence of Army investigators — apparently disturbed MacDonald’s father-in-law Freddie Kassab so much that for the first time he began to doubt MacDonald’s story.

Author Joe McGinniss is shown in New York in 1993. McGinniss tracked his personal journey from sympathizer to scourge of convicted killer Jeffrey MacDonald in the blockbuster “Fatal Vision.” [AP photo/Richard Drew]

“Fatal Vision”: In 1983, Joe McGinniss published his account of the murders of Colette MacDonald and her two young daughters Kimberly and Kristen. According to some accounts, McGinniss went into the project believing MacDonald was innocent. But over the course of his research, he came to the opposite conclusion.

The book inspired a 1984 TV movie starring Gary Cole as Jeffrey MacDonald, Karl Malden as Freddie Kassab and Andy Griffith as federal prosecutor Victor Worheide.

Fort Bragg murders: Photos of the Jeffrey MacDonald case

“Fatal Justice”: In 1995, Jerry Allen Potter and Fred Bost published this book, subtitled “Reinvestigating the MacDonald Murders.” The authors found fault with McGinniss’ earlier book.

Book by Errol Morris about the Jeffrey MacDonald case, “A Wilderness of Error.”

“A Wilderness of Error”: Errol Morris published a book that reexamined the MacDonald case in 2012. Morris argued that there were mistakes made by prosecutors and questioned author McGinniss’ professional relationship with MacDonald. An FX documentary based on the book is reportedly in the works.

“Larry King Live”: In 2003, MacDonald was interviewed by King from a federal prison in Maryland, giving his account of the murders.

“Final Vision”: The 2017 retelling of the MacDonald murders aired on the ID channel in 2017. The show, based on an e-book McGinniss published in 2012, starred Scott Foley as MacDonald and Dave Annable as McGinniss.

Magazine articles: The grisly crime inspired countless magazine articles, including a lengthy one in Vanity Fair in 2007.

Podcasts: The murders have recently been the subject of several podcasts, including True Crime Couple, Criminology and Generation Why.

Staff writer Rodger Mullen can be reached at or 910-486-3561.

JEFFREY MACDONALD: 50 years later

Coverage of the MacDonald murder case