Florida town shuns scandal
By Ryan Jockers - Greenwich Time

HOBE SOUND, Fla. - Michael Skakel briefly left this South Florida town on Wednesday to be charged in the 1975 killing of Martha Moxley. But while his arrest was front-page news on local and state newspapers, many people here were unaware of the tempest surrounding the 39-year-old resident.

Many people interviewed in town yesterday did not know about the Moxley murder, let alone that the person arrested nearly 25 years after the crime had left this unincorporated part of Martin County, Fla. to do so. This is a quiet community, most said, and they would like it kept that way.

"If you desire a place where you can relax and enjoy the benefits of nature, peace and tranquility, then this could be the place to be," said Richard Krentz, 73, a resident and retired hospital superviso. It was as if he was reading from a travel brochure about the slow-moving town of 15,000 residents located 45 minutes north of Palm Beach.

Indeed, the town's tranquility was violated briefly on Wednesday morning, when reporters and news trucks assembled at Loblolly Bay, the exclusive condominium complex where Skakel lives, hoping to catch county sheriffs serve his arrest warrant. But that did not happen. Skakel, who is Ethel Kennedy's nephew, already had boarded a private plane en route to Greenwich, where he surrendered to the charge of murder, posted a $500,000 bond and left police headquarters to return home. His lawyer, Michael Sherman, has said Skakel is innocent of the crime.

Yesterday, there were no remnants of a media circus here. Few reporters were outside the security booths in front of Loblolly Bay, and most people driving along the stretch of road leading to this development wanted nothing to do with the media.

"I'm not interested," said one man in a Jaguar after being hailed by a reporter.

Some residents said any attention the town would receive as a result would, like most things, soon go away.

"People always want to know about the dirty laundry," said Marilyn Armstrong, 48, a florist who recently moved to Hobe Sound with her husband, Ed, a jet mechanic. "It will die down and people will forget it."

Hobe Sound has few main roads, and the most populated among them have strip malls where old-timers take cigarette breaks from bagging groceries. That's called the mainland. Just west of that are cow pastures and orange fields.

But nearer to the water, on the other side of the train tracks, the roads are lined with gated communities - winter havens for some of the wealthiest families in the nation. That's where Skakel lives, in a condominium in Loblolly Bay, the same exclusive complex in which his father, Rushton Skakel Sr., resides.

"It's kind of two separate areas," said Ryan Fairbrother, 22, a library assistant at the new Hobe Sound branch of the Martin County Library, which opened in 1999.

Besides being a place where Northerners find solace in the sun, Hobe Sound is also a college town of sorts. Hobe Sound Bible College, founded in 1860 and situated among gated developments with names like Quail Ridge and Osprey Cove, has about 150 students. Amber Harrison, 21, of Kooskia, Idaho, is one of them. After being told of the crime Skakel is charged with, and a rough time line of the case, Harrison, studying to become an elementary education teacher, said, "That sort of makes me wonder about our justice system."

Another student at the college, which is not far from Loblolly Bay, said she was not aware of the Moxley case nor its connections to the campus' surroundings. Cora Thornton, 20, of Indiana, Pa., studying to become a missionary, was much more interested in photographing the full moon rise over the Atlantic from a bench at Hobe Sound Martin County Beach Park. The park is on Jupiter Island, which is separated from the mainland by the deep-channeled Intracoastal Waterway and considered the wealthiest community in the vicinity, apart from Hobe Sound.

"The island is very affluent and very high-class," Thornton said. "They live their money, and Hobe Sound is more of an everyday town."