"For the Moxleys, 1998 Was a Year of Hope and Optimism"
By Joe Johnson Jr., Greenwich Time
(originally printed Jan. 2, 1998)
Events in 1998 reaffirmed Dorthy Moxley's faith in miracles.
After more than two decades of relative inaction in the investigation of
daughter Martha's brutal murder, a grand jury was convened in June in an attempt
to finally determine who ended the 15-year-old Greenwich girl's life the evening
of Oct. 30, 1975
"I believe in miracles and angels, and I have no idea why I'm being blessed with
both. I thank the good Lord every day," Moxley said last month.
"More than anything else, 1998 has been a year of terrific optimism for us,"
echoed the woman's only surviving immediate family member, 40-year-old son John
Moxley. "We are making more progress than ever before, and we are grateful for
all the help we have received and the people who have come forward and
contributed to that progress."
Since Superior Court Judge George M. Thim was appointed as a one-man grand jury
to investigate the homicide, the Bridgeport-based secret probe has heard
testimony from close to 50 witnesses and, some believe, Thim may soon be poised
to recommend an arrest or arrest. With the subpoena power that police and
prosecutors lacked, Thim - with the assistance of State's Attorney Jonathan
Benedict and Executive Assistant State's Attorney Domenick Galluzzo - has been
able to question some of the witnesses who authorities had for years denounced
for allegedly hindering their investigation.
Foremost among those are the Skakels, a prominent former Belle Haven family who
lived across the street from the Moxleys in 1975. Murder suspects Michael Skakel
and brother Thomas, then 15 and 17 years old, respectively, were among those who
were with the victim the night of the slaying, and police identified the murder
weapon as a 6-iron from a set of golf clubs owned by the Skakels.
After initially cooperating with police, the Skakels hired defense attorneys who
shut off all access to family members for additional questioning.
The suspects' father is Rushton Skakel, Ethel Kennedy's brother and heir to the
Great Lakes Carbon Corp. fortune.
For nearly the entire span of the investigation, police only identified as
suspects Thomas Skakel and Kenneth Littleton, who at the time was a 23-year-old
teacher at the private Brunswick School in Greenwich and had been hired as a
live-in tutor for the Skakel brothers.
The Moxleys, along with others, link the timing of the grand jury to the
publication this spring of two nonfiction books about Martha's case: "Murder in
Greenwich: Who Killed Martha Moxley?" by former Los Angeles police detective
Mark Fuhrman, and "Greentown: Murder and Mystery in Greenwich, America's
Wealthiest Community," by Timothy Dumas, a Greenwich native and former managing
editor of Greenwich News, a defunct local weekly newspaper.
As a result of Dumas' book, which included speculation by unnamed journalists
that investigation of the Moxley case had been impeded by bribery, Donald Browne
- who headed the investigation since nearly the beginning and remained on the
case as special prosecutor upon retiring as state's attorney in October 1997 -
abruptly removed himself from the case in April. Browne said he stepped down to
eliminate any possible "conflict of interest" perceptions, explaining that which
ever way he would proceed with the case in the future would be tarnished by the
The following month, Benedict - Browne's successor - applied for the rarely-used
state investigative grand jury, and the application was approved by a three-
judge panel in June.
And although Greenwich Time had reported as early as 1995 that investigators had
identified Michael Skakel as a third murder suspect, Fuhrman's book, published
in May, names the younger Skakel brother as Moxley's probable killer.
"Do you realize that this past year is when Mark's and Tim's books came out and
all of a sudden the focus shifted from Tommy to Michael, who seemed the most
logical person all along?" Dorthy Moxley asked.
The order of witness appearances before the grand jury would appear to indicate
the probe has closely followed the timeline of events in the Moxley case. The
first day of testimony, July 10, saw grand jury appearances by the victim's
mother, who reported her daughter missing early the morning of Oct. 31, 1975, as
retired Patrolman Daniel Hickman, one of the first Greenwich officers to arrive
at the crime scene after Martha's body was found by a neighborhood friend. Among
the last to have testified were former residents and staff members of Elan
School, a Maine substance abuse rehabilitation center where prosecutors allege
Michael Skakel made incriminating statements about the murder. Authorities
apparently were led to those witnesses by a 1996 tip to the "Unsolved Mysteries"
television show by a man who claimed to have been at the rehab center with
Skakel in the late 1970s.
In between, there have been appearances by some Skakel family members -
including the suspects' sister, two of their four brothers and two cousins - as
well as intimates, such as close family friend and Greenwich neighbor Mildred
"Cissy" Ix, a former intimate and advisor, the Rev. Mark Connolly, and Michael
Skakel's boyhood best friend, Andy Pugh.
Among the most significant developments in the investigation in 1998 was the
elimination of Littleton as a suspect, through the granting of immunity for his
grand jury testimony, and a judge's ruling in early December that testimony
concerning Michael Skakel's 1978-80 stay at Elan School can be considered as
evidence by the grand jury.
Not all Moxley-related court action has been confined to the sealed grand jury
room on the third floor of the Fairfield County Courthouse in downtown
Bridgeport. Resistance by some subpoenaed witnesses has led to open-court
skirmishes in Connecticut and three other states.
One such contest involved the alleged incriminating Elan School statements. In
court documents, Connecticut prosecutors state that former residents of the
rehab center have told them that After Michael Skakel arrived there - following
his involvement in a 1978 drunken driving incident in Windham, N.Y., which he
tried running down a police officer before crashing his car - he "made
admissions as to the murder of Martha Moxley" when confronted by Elan School
owner Joseph Ricci. Ricci was subpoenaed by the grand jury, but in September he
refused to answer its questions on the basis of his claim that anything said at
his Poland Spring facility was protected by the doctor-patient privilege.
State Superior Court Judge Edward Stodolink ruled Dec. 10 that the testimony was
admissible as grand jury evidence and ordered Ricci to testify. Since then,
attorneys representing Michael Skakel, Elan School and Ricci have appealed the
Also subpoenaed in September was Rushton Skakel Sr., who in 1993 sold his home
in Greenwich and now maintains a permanent residence in the gated community of
Hobe Sound, Fla. After receiving the subpoena, Skakel Sr. told the Palm Beach
Post that he would not appear in Bridgeport as ordered because he had been on a
hunting trip when Moxley was murdered and therefore had nothing to offer the
grand jury investigation. The following month, however, Connecticut authorities
filed an affidavit with Martin County Circuit Court of Florida, claiming Skakel
Sr. was a material witness because he had been at the Elan School meeting when
his son allegedly made the incriminating admissions. The elder Skakel's lawyer
sought to quash the subpoena by claiming failing mental health had rendered his
client an incompetent witness.
But in early November, a Martin County judge deemed Skakel Sr. competent and
ordered him to appear before the Connecticut grand jury on Dec. 11. A stay on
the order has since been issued pending an appeal.
Another court fight is under way in New York, where attorneys are seeking to
quash subpoenas for two private detectives who, while working for the Skakels in
the early 1990s in preparation for a possible criminal defense, conducted
interviews of the Skakel brothers in which the suspects significantly changed
the alibis they gave police in 1975.
When the probe concludes, Thim will present his findings in a report that will
recommend whether any arrests should be made. Benedict can then use the report
to support an application for an arrest warrant.
From open court testimony and the witnesses who have been brought before the
grand jury, it seems apparent that the prime target of the probe is Michael
Skakel - a point that has been conceded by the suspect's lawyer, Stamford
defense attorney Michael Sherman. However, Sherman said last week, "I don't
think they are going to arrest my client, based on the evidence I've been privy
to. And if they do arrest him, I can't conceive of a conviction."
Dorthy Moxley, who now lives in Chatham Township, N.J., believes there will be
an arrest in 1999, but at the same time does not see a resolution of her
daughter's case on the immediate horizon.
"I really wish the guilty person would do the honorable thing and turn himself
in, and save his family a lot of grief, save John and I a lot of grief, and save
the state of Connecticut a lot of money," Moxley said. "But what probably will
happen is there will be an arrest, and then there will be a lengthy court
procedure. I hope the trial will be short and we can finally find justice."