Sources say Moxley evidence is missing
By J.A. Johnson Jr. - Greenwich Time
Information Greenwich Time has obtained through sources knowledgeable of the Martha Moxley murder investigation suggests that physical evidence in the case is missing.
The State's Attorney's Office will not comment on the possibility of missing evidence, and Greenwich police deny any knowledge that clothing that belonged to murder suspect Michael Skakel cannot be found. But sources say that a pair of red-stained dungarees and sneakers that authorities had tested for blood and DNA evidence are missing.
The clothing items were among evidence from the 1975 Greenwich homicide case that was examined by State Police and the FBI shortly after the murder, and were retested two years ago by U.S. Department of Defense forensic experts, sources said.
The prosecutor in the Moxley case, State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict, could not be reached for comment yesterday or last week. Benedict's lead investigator, state Inspector Frank Garr, would neither confirm nor deny that Moxley-related evidence was missing.
"I'm not going to discuss evidence in this case," Garr said yesterday.
Skakel's defense attorney, Michael Sherman, said he had been hearing "rumors" of missing Moxley case evidence for the past two years, but added, "I don't want to comment on that."
The Stamford attorney said, "No good will come out of me dissing anyone here. It's not appropriate and I'm not going down that road."
The evidence that is supposedly missing may not figure in any prosecution that results from Skakel's Jan. 19 arrest. Publicly released police records indicate that when examined at the State Police forensic laboratory in 1975, the red stains on the pants and sneakers were determined not to be blood.
"What was red turned out to be zinc oxide boat bottom paint," retired Greenwich Detective Stephen Carroll, one of the original Moxley case investigators, recalled in an interview Friday.
Moxley was murdered the evening of Oct. 30, 1975. Police identified the murder weapon as a 6-iron from a set of golf clubs owned by Michael Skakel's family, who at the time lived across the street from the victim in Greenwich's private Belle Haven section.
The clothing was found during a canvass of local garbage haulers immediately after Moxley's body was found under a tree on her family's Walsh Lane property the day after the murder. Greenwich detectives had asked garbage haulers who worked the Belle Haven area to check their trucks for the golf club shaft and clothing that appeared to have blood on it.
According to Greenwich police reports, one of the carting services called police on Nov. 5, 1975, to report finding a pair of white Tretorn sneakers and a pair of Wrangler jeans, which were later identified as having been owned by Michael Skakel. The clothing items were stained with what appeared to be blood. They were sent to the State Police crime lab in Bethany, which determined the stains were not blood. Analysis by the FBI had the same results.
On Nov. 9, 1975, a Greenwich police report states, "Mr. Skakel contacted (police) and reported that the pair of Tretorn sneakers and Wrangler dungarees had been the property of his son, Michael Skakel. Mr. Skakel related that Michael had obtained the dungarees while in camp during the summer months in the state of New Hampshire. Michael had apparently swapped clothes with a second boy in the camp. É Mr. Skakel related that Michael had given permission to the maid to throw out the sneakers and dungarees because of their condition."
Many believe the Moxley case has gone unsolved for so long because of a paucity of evidence. Among the only other publicly known pieces of physical evidence are three pieces of the broken murder weapon - a Toney Penna 6-iron - and the clothing Moxley was wearing when slain.
The evidence had been in storage at the Greenwich Police Department for most of the investigation, but was transferred to the State's Attorney's Office prior to the convening of a grand jury in 1998, according to Greenwich Police Chief Peter Robbins.
Robbins yesterday said he had no knowledge of any missing Moxley case evidence.
According to sources, the missing clothing items were among evidence that was personally transported by Garr in the fall of 1997 to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C., which had developed a new kind of DNA testing in which minute amounts of genetic material can be identified years after the subject's death. The technique has been used by the military to identify the remains of soldiers killed or missing in action.
Both the evidence and the testing results were returned to investigators, according to officials, who were unable to say whether the State's Attorney's Office in Bridgeport or the Greenwich Police Department took receipt of them. The results of the new DNA testing have not been made public, although retired state Inspector John Solomon, who had been Garr's partner in the Moxley case, has said the results "were not what we hoped they would be."
Even if the missing evidence is not used at trial, some say Skakel's defense could exploit the fact that the clothing cannot be found to create reasonable doubt.
"If you plan on representing as a cornerstone of your defense that this was an inept investigation," Bridgeport defense attorney Eugene Riccio said, "that evidence was lost - even inadvertently - is something you would certainly want to show the jury."
Sherman said he had no plans to discredit the investigation as a foundation for his defense of Skakel. He said his focus will likely be on challenging incriminating statements prosecutors allege his client made while attending a private drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.