Skakel surrenders: Juvenile court
takes on Moxley murder case
By DANIEL TEPFER and MARIAN GAIL BROWN
Conn. Post - Staff writers
A nephew of Ethel and Robert Kennedy was arrested Wednesday in the slaying 24 years ago of a young Greenwich girl.
The arrest of Michael Skakel, 39, in the 1975 beating death of Martha Moxley, 15, ends one of the state's most lengthy, most intensive and most publicized investigations ever.
It was almost anticlimactic when Skakel squeezed through a throng of reporters and photographers Wednesday afternoon and surrendered at Greenwich police headquarters.
Returning to his childhood hometown from his current home in Florida, Skakel arrived at police headquarters at 2:58 p.m. in a blue Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by his lawyer, Michael Sherman.
It took 17 minutes to process Skakel's arrest. He was fingerprinted, photographed and charged with a single count of murder. He was then released after posting $500,000 bond through a bondsman. He also surrendered his passport.
"This is a wonderful day," Martha's mother, Dorthy Moxley, told the Daily Record of Morris County, N.J., while sitting at a dining room table beneath a large painting of her daughter. "I just hope that they find him guilty."
Because Skakel was 15 at the time of the crime, his case has been transferred to juvenile court in Stamford. A hearing is scheduled Feb. 8.
Earlier in the day, State's Attorney Jonathan C. Benedict announced before more than 100 media representatives from across the country and around the world at a press conference in the Bridgeport Holiday Inn that an arrest warrant had been obtained for a suspect in Moxley's killing.
While Benedict would not name the suspect, citing the confidentiality of state juvenile laws, Sherman confirmed his client was on his way to Connecticut from his home in Hobe Sound, Fla., and would surrender to police.
Benedict said the warrant was prepared based on the results of an 18-month investigation by a one-man grand jury, Superior Court Judge George N. Thim. Appointed to the investigation in June 1998, Thim heard the testimony of 53 witnesses in secret sessions held in Bridgeport Superior Court.
Looking into the lenses of more than two dozen television cameras, Sherman denied this is a "celebrity case."
"This is not a Kennedy trial, this is not an O.J. trial. This is the case of a young man charged with killing his neighbor," he said. "There will be no plea bargains here; he simply didn't do it."
Martha's brother, John Moxley, has said he believed police made mistakes in the investigation and showed deference to the Skakels because of the connection to the late U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy.
Over the years, Michael Skakel has worked on the political campaigns of Kennedy family members, including former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. He also worked for Joseph Kennedy's Citizens Energy Corp., a nonprofit company that delivers heating oil to poor people, Sherman said. Skakel returned to Florida Wednesday night.
Moxley's body was found lying under trees on the edge of her family's estate in the exclusive Belle Haven area of Greenwich on Oct. 31, 1975.
She had been severely beaten, the pieces of a broken golf club, believed to be the murder weapon, were found beside her body.
Police said the girl had been out the night before with several friends from the neighborhood, including Michael Skakel and his older brother, Thomas, then 17, the sons of Rushton Skakel Sr., the brother of Ethel Kennedy.
Michael Skakel initially denied he had been with Moxley that night. But, in 1995, he told private investigators hired by his own family that he was in the area at the time of the slaying. In addition, police were able to determine that the golf club used to kill Moxley came from the Skakel home.
Inspectors from the state's attorney's office and Greenwich police spent years investigating the case, traveling around the nation to interview possible witnesses. Henry C. Lee, the state commissioner of public safety, was called in to try and re-create the crime.
In the meantime, the crime spurred three books, including one by former Los Angeles detective Mark Fuhrman, and claims of a "Kennedy cover-up" by members of the Moxley family.
But the state, unable to force witnesses to provide evidence, was unable to put its case together.
Then in June 1998, Thim was appointed as an investigative grand jury with the power to subpoena witnesses.
Along with those witnesses ordered to appear before Thim were several people who said Michael Skakel made "admissions as to the murder of Martha Moxley" when he lived at a school and substance abuse treatment center from 1978 to 1980. Prosecutors said he made the admissions to fellow students at the Elan school in Poland Spring, Maine.
"I think it's an important day for us," said Greenwich Police Chief Peter Robbins. "I think it brings some degree of closure to the community and for the family."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
A long investigation
Key events in the investigation into the murder of Martha Moxley:
- OCT. 30, 1975: As a pre-Halloween prank, 15-year-old Martha Moxley and friends spray shaving cream and strew toilet paper about a neighborhood before stopping at the home of Thomas and Michael Skakel, nephews of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Their father, Rushton Skakel, is the brother of Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's widow.
- OCT. 31, 1975: Moxley is found dead under a tree in her back yard. The murder weapon, a 6-iron, is matched to a set of golf clubs owned by the Skakel family.
- 1976: The Skakel family ends cooperation with investigators looking into the killing.
- 1978-1980: Michael Skakel attends the Elan school, a substance abuse center for teen-agers in Poland Spring, Maine. Prosecutors say that during that time he admitted some involvement in Moxley's killing to other students there.
- 1991: Police reopen the murder investigation after rumors circulate that William Kennedy Smith was at the Skakel home the night Moxley was murdered. The rumors proved to be unfounded. A published report says private investigators hired by the Skakel family revealed that both brothers had changed their stories about the night of Moxley's killing, giving different accounts than they gave to police in 1975.
- 1993: Interest in the case is revived when Dominick Dunne's novel based on the slaying, "A Season in Purgatory," is published.
- MAY 1998: Former Los Angeles Police Detective Mark Fuhrman publishes a book, "Murder in Greenwich," in which he asserts that Michael Skakel killed Moxley in a jealous rage after seeing his older brother kiss her.
- JUNE 1998: Frustrated by a lack of progress in the investigation, Bridgeport State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict requests appointment of an investigative grand jury, which in Connecticut consists of a single judge.
Superior Court Judge George Thim is appointed later in June. Over the next 18 months, Thim hears testimony from more than 40 witnesses, some of them friends who were with Moxley the night she was killed.
- DEC. 10, 1999: Eighteen-month term of the grand jury ends; Thim's report due within 60 days.
- JAN. 19, 2000: Michael Skakel surrenders at Greenwich police headquarters to face the murder charge. Accompanied by his lawyer, Skakel left about a half-hour later after posting $500,000 bond.