Investigator set sights on Skakel
from the beginning
By Leonard Levitt - Special to Greenwich Time
For the past decade, Frank Garr has been the connecting thread in solving the murder of Martha Moxley.
Since the investigation was reopened in 1991, Garr has single-mindedly pursued evidence against Michael Skakel in the hunt for the person who killed Moxley on Oct. 30, 1975, in Greenwich.
"I had a feeling about Michael for a long time," Garr said in a telephone interview yesterday. "Even prior to the re-investigation, when I had nothing to do with the case, I always wondered, 'Why isn't anyone looking at this kid too?' He, more than anyone else, was a contemporary of hers." Skakel and Moxley were both 15 at the time of her death.
Garr, a former Greenwich police detective, joined the case in 1991 and later became the state's lead investigator.
"In 1991 when I had the whole case, as we were starting to put feelers out, I was getting information that pertained to Michael more than the popular suspects. There wasn't a lot of information about him. And the information that was coming in É was mostly about Michael."
Though Garr was looking at Skakel, fellow investigator Jack Solomon and then-State's Attorney Donald Browne were focused on Kenneth Littleton, a tutor who moved into the Skakel home the night of the murder.
"It was frustrating at the beginning," Garr said. "We agreed there was investigative work to do on Littleton, work that had to be done as a first step."
Nine months after the murder, Littleton was arrested for burglary in Nantucket. He then moved to Canada and began traveling aimlessly, compiling arrests for drunkenness, trespassing and shoplifting. He also attempted suicide and has been confined at a mental institution in Belmont, Mass.
"But there came a point," Garr said, "when I was satisfied that the questions on Littleton had been sufficiently answered, that our work on Littleton was completed. I was always skeptical of him as a suspect because, quite simply, he had no motive.
"And I knew we had to focus elsewhere. Although my colleagues didn't agree, I started to focus on Michael. As I looked through this investigation, what bothered me the most was the lack of information about him."
Then, in fall 1995, four articles appeared in Greenwich Time, The (Stamford) Advocate and Newsday. The articles described how Michael Skakel and his older brother, Thomas Skakel, the prime suspect in the initial investigation, admitted they lied to Greenwich police about their whereabouts the night of the murder.
In 1975, Michael Skakel told police he had returned from the home of his cousin, Jimmy Terrien, and went directly to bed at 11 p.m. But he now told police he had gone out at about midnight, climbed a tree outside Moxley's window, threw stones to awaken her, masturbated in the tree, then passed by what turned out to be the murder scene where he said he heard voices but saw nothing. He was so frightened, he said, he ran home and climbed into his bedroom through a window because the house was locked.
Garr says the newspaper accounts "only confirmed my suspicions about Michael and my belief that I was headed in the right direction."
Early in 1995, Garr urged the producers of the television program "Unsolved Mysteries" to feature the Moxley murder. He reasoned that in 1975, teenagers who might have seen or heard something about the murder wouldn't tell police. Twenty years later, many of them had children of their own.
But finding them was another story. Over the years, the peers of Martha Moxley had moved. A national television show such as "Unsolved Mysteries" was a tool to reach them, but producers turned him down.
Garr tried again - this time with the newspaper accounts in hand.
This time the producers agreed. In February 1996, they broadcast a segment titled "Murder in Connecticut."
On the eve of the show, Garr flew out to the television studio in California to field telephone calls on the chance that someone might call in with new evidence. But it wasn't one person; it was several. And it wasn't Thomas Skakel or Littleton they were calling about.
They were calling about Michael Skakel.
A number of the callers had attended the Elan drug rehabilitation center in Poland Springs, Maine, where Skakel had been sent after he was involved in a drunken-driving accident. Two said Skakel confessed to murdering Moxley. A third said Skakel had revealed he or his brother had killed Moxley, but Skakel couldn't remember because he had blacked out.
Garr spent the next few months traveling to interview the callers and following trails.
By the end of 1996, Garr felt enough evidence existed to indict Skakel for Moxley's murder. As a kind of court of last resort in long-unsolved cases, this takes the form of the state's attorney calling a one-man grand jury to weigh the evidence.
But Browne hesitated and the case seemed dead.
Then, in 1998, the book, "Greentown," an impressionistic account of Greenwich and the Moxley murder, was published. Author Tim Dumas offered hazy rumors about Browne's failure to deliver an indictment.
After supervising the Moxley case for nearly a quarter of a century, Browne cited the book to claim a conflict of interest - and announced his retirement.
The next month, Garr presented his evidence to Browne's successor, Jonathan Benedict. Benedict immediately summoned the one-man grand jury.
Last January, Michael Skakel was indicted for Martha Moxley's murder. In June, Judge Maureen Dennis ruled probable cause existed that Skakel murdered Moxley. Yesterday, she ruled he should be tried as an adult.
"I was confident that when all was said and done it would be (in adult court) because that is where this case should be tried," Garr said yesterday. "That is where it belongs."