Moxley's friends, family recall fun, popular teen
By John Christoffersen - Greenwich Time
Martha Moxley was an instant hit when she arrived from California at Western Junior High School in Greenwich in the mid-1970s.
"Martha was just immediately practically the most popular girl in school," said Christy Kalan, who quickly became a close friend. "She was so full of life and fun everybody just gravitated to her."
That life would be snuffed out when 15-year-old Martha was savagely beaten with a golf club in 1975 near her home in the exclusive Belle Haven section of Greenwich.
After almost a quarter-century of investigations, books and intrigue, authorities have charged Michael Skakel, 39, a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, with her murder. Skakel's attorney said his client is innocent and will not entertain any offers for a plea bargain.
While Martha's killer remained a mystery, her close friends at the time had to wrestle with another question: Why Martha?
"She was just so popular and just so nice," said Tom Alessi of Stamford, a classmate and friend who started a Web site in memory of Martha, who would be the same age as Skakel if she were alive today. "We could not understand why anyone would do such a thing."
The patriarch of the Moxley family had been transferred in 1974 to head the New York office of Touche Ross, an accounting and management consulting firm. The family was used to much smaller schools in California and a less preppy style of dress, but had little trouble adjusting.
"She was exotic to us, being a blonde from California," said Alison Moore, another school friend who now is a doctor in Los Angeles.
Martha would invite friends over to her house, which had 15 bathrooms and a beautiful sunken garden, Moore said.
Martha only attended Western Junior High School in Greenwich as a ninth-grader, but she was voted most popular, friends said. Martha was upbeat, fun and positive, Kalan said.
"She smiled all the time and made people feel really good and have fun," said Kalan, who now lives in New York City. "Martha was full of life."
While teenage friendships often come and go, Martha was consistent and loyal, friends said.
"Every single day in the ninth grade there was a little note in my locker from her," Kalan recalled.
The notes would include drawings and ranged from comments about failing a Spanish test to boys of interest, Kalan said.
"Martha was a good friend. She was really steady," Kalan said.
Kalan and Martha participated in the yearbook club, played tennis and slept over each other's houses. It was raining during one sleep-over when they suddenly decided to go out and collect worms.
"I don't know why we were collecting worms," Kalan said, somewhat embarrassed by the memory. "Martha was always up for something."
The teens also were known to pool hop, spend all night making collages and sneak a beer when Martha's older brother, John, was around with friends. Martha liked to flirt, but in a normal teenage way, Kalan said.
Martha also had a reputation for practical jokes, although 24 years later friends had trouble remembering specifics.
"She was a little bit of a prankster," Kalan said. "She liked to make people laugh."
Martha loved to ski, according to Mei Versailles, another close friend who still lives in Greenwich.
"She was just so fun-loving," Versailles said. "She just had this dynamic personality. All the different cliques, it seemed she fit in with everybody."
Martha's mother, Dorthy, described her daughter as well-adjusted and happy. It's that memory that sustains her.
"Martha had 15 very happy years," her mother said.
Martha's gray and black-striped cat, named Tiger, was a constant companion.
"That cat slept in her room," said her brother, John Moxley, a commercial real estate broker who lives in New Jersey. "When she came home, that cat went with her."
John didn't hesitate when asked what he wanted the public to remember most about his sister.
"She had everything to live for: smart, intelligent, good-looking," John said. "That's one of the cruel things about that. I wonder what Martha would have done."
While Martha did not have a specific aspiration in mind given her age, John said he could imagine her doing anything, from being an investment banker to a veterinarian or a housewife. Martha was known to get A's in most classes.
"She was not inhibited in any way, academically or mentally," John said.
He and Martha fought at times like typical siblings, John said. At other times, Martha would say she was glad they were friends, a comment John did not appreciate until later.
"She wasn't afraid to say she liked somebody," John said. "She was always very much in control."
Kalan agreed, describing Martha as less susceptible to peer pressure than other teens.
"Martha pretty much knew what she was doing," Kalan said. "I don't think she was a pushover by any stretch. She had a sense of herself."
John, two years older than his sister, had a car, so his circle of friends was outside the neighborhood where they lived.
"She was more grounded in the neighborhood," John said. "We traveled in absolutely different circles."
For that reason, John said he did not know much about Skakel or his older brother Thomas, an earlier suspect in the case. John noted his family lived in Greenwich for less than two years and the Skakels went to private school while he and his sister attended public school.
"I didn't know those guys from a hole in the wall," John said.
Kalan said she does not believe Martha knew the Skakel brothers very long. Martha mentioned the brothers a few times in letters she wrote to Kalan while she was away at summer camp, suggesting that Thomas Skakel was interested in her but the feeling was not shared, Kalan said.
When she learned about Martha's killing, Kalan ran from her house crying. After her father calmed her down, they drove to the Moxley house, Kalan said.
In those days, there were no counselors around to help the teens with their grief, Versailles said.
"It was devastating," Versailles said. "We were 15."
Martha's killing had wider implications, Alessi said.
"After she was murdered, people started locking their doors," he recalled. "The innocence of the '50s and '60s had gone away."
Her murder left a profound impact on her brother.
"It affects every fiber of your being," John said.
John praised authorities for remaining committed to his sister's case, but criticized them for not focusing earlier on Michael Skakel.
"It's frustrating this didn't happen 25 years ago," John said.
John knows the trial will be unpleasant, but is hopeful that his family's long struggle for justice will end in triumph.
"I think in the end we're going to get a conviction," John said. "I feel strongly we have a real good chance of getting a conviction."