Article By Peter Moore 1/19/2000
After more than 24 years of dead-end investigations, endless media exposure and little headway until now, perhaps Martha Moxley's spirit is smiling down on Earth this week.
At a Wednesday morning press conference at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn hotel, attorney Michael Sherman said his client, Kennedy relative Michael Skakel, had left his Florida home and was heading north to Connecticut to face charges that he murdered the Greenwich teen when he was 15 years old.
A one-man Bridgeport grand jury which recessed in April returned it's findings, dated Jan. 12, which supported probable cause that "a murder has been committed and a particular individual has committed it," according to a source in State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict's office.
Following grand juror Judge George Thim's ruling, prosecutors applied for an arrest warrant which was signed by a Superior Court judge who remains anonymous.
"As I speak, steps are being taken to effect that arrest," Benedict said.
That "particular individual" was not officially named in the "press conference," which in actuality only consisted of Benedict making a statement approximately two minutes in length. However Benedict said that the individual charged was less than 16 years old, but older than 14 at the time of the murder. This leaves only one possible suspect - Michael Skakel. The other suspect, Michael's older brother Thomas, was 17 at the time.
Frustrated journalists, upset with the briefness and generality of the press conference, promptly chased Benedict out of the hotel following his statement and across the street to the Fairfield County Courthouse, site of Judge Thim's grand jury. Copies were provided of a similar press statement and Greenwich Post obtained a copy of the investigatory grand jury report from Frank Garr, a former Greenwich police detective, now an investigator in Benedict's office. Garr was police dispatcher the night Martha Moxley was killed.
Due to his age on Oct. 30, 1975, the day Martha Moxley was killed, Michael Skakel will first face charges in closed-door juvenile court proceedings, where a judge will make another determination of probable cause, virtually identical to the determination reached by Thim. Should probable cause be found, Michael Skakel could then be tried as an adult, according to the State's Attorney source, who said that such a decision was up to prosecutorial discretion. Yet another adult court probable cause hearing, held this time in an open courtroom would then be required. Only then could Michael Skakel be tried as an adult for Moxley's murder.
It remains unclear where Michael Skakel will be held upon his arrest. Though he is originally being treated as a juvenile offender, a State's Attorney source quipped, "Obviously we're not going to put him in with the kids."
The body of Martha Motley was found the day after she was slain, Oct. 31, 1975, under a tree on her family's Belle Haven property. The murder weapon was determined to be a six-iron golf club and traced to the Skakel household.
The case remained at a standstill for years until 1991, when the William Kennedy Smith rape case, though unrelated, brought the Kennedy family back into the public eye. The Moxley family offered subsequent rewards, which at one point stood at $100,000, for information which would solve the case. Two books were written about the case and another fiction novel, "A Season in Purgatory" was based on the case and subsequently made into a television movie.
In mid-1998, Benedict assumed the case from its former prosecutor Donald Browne. The new prosecutor immediately applied for and received a grand jury for the case. Judge Thim's confidential proceedings remained in session for eighteen months and finished its investigation last month
Sherman said that an attempt was made by officers from the Martin County, Fla. Sheriff's Department to arrest Michael Skakel at his home Wednesday morning. However the nephew of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy had already left for Connecticut. "He left as we learned of a high likelihood of a warrant," Sherman said.
"He's anxious and very concerned and looking forward to resolving this," the attorney continued. Sherman also said that Skakel was confident he would be exonerated in the end.
The "smoking gun" of prosecutorial evidence is assumed to be the grand jury testimony of former students at the Elan School, a former mental-health treatment facility (now private boarding school) in Poland Spring, Maine. Michael Skakel was sent to Elan in 1978, following an incident in Windham, N.Y. where he almost ran over a police officer while allegedly driving drunk. An unclear number of former Elan residents claim that Skakel confessed to the murder while at Elan. Former O.J. Simpson-case detective Mark Fuhrman, who investigated the murder in 1997 and wrote a subsequent book, also claims that sources have told him Michael was made to wear a sign which read: "Ask me why I killed my friend Martha."
But Sherman said that he believed the testimony of Elan residents to carry little weight.
"Show me the money," Sherman said. "Show me the contentions."
Though she could not be reached after the news conference, Dorthy Moxley, Martha's mother, who now lives in Chatham, N.J., told the Connecticut Post prior to the Bridgeport announcement that she was remaining positive.
"I am hopeful," she said. "I have prayed for this for so long."