Hairdesser: Young Skakel said, 'I've killed before'
By John Springer - Court TV
NORWALK, Conn. — A Greenwich hairdresser testified Wednesday that he overheard Michael Skakel tell a girl when he was a teenager, "I've killed before," but never notified authorities until jury selection was under way in the Kennedy cousin's murder trial.
Prosecution witness Matthew Tucciarone picked out Skakel in an old photo as the bushy haired teenager who entered his shop with another boy and a girl in late 1975 or early 1975. At the time, Skakel's brother, Thomas Skakel, was the prime suspect in the Oct. 30, 1975, beating death of 15-year-old Martha Moxley.
Michael Skakel asked for a trim. While Tucciarone was getting ready, he said he overheard Skakel say, "I'm going to get a gun and I'm going to kill him."
The girl in the group replied, "You can't do that," Tucciarone testified. He said it was then that Michael Skakel allegedly said, "Why not? I did it before. I killed before."
The girl, whom Tucciarone assumed was a nanny or caregiver, ended the conversation by saying, "Shut up, Michael," according to testimony.
Judge John Kavanewsky Jr. cautioned jurors that the statement cannot be used as evidence that Skakel may have a propensity for violence but, if believed, it could be evidence that Skakel said he had once killed someone. Tucciarone said he had no way of knowing whom Skakel wanted to shoot or what prior killing he could have been talking about.
On cross-examination, Tucciarone said he mentioned the incident to a couple of customers who were lawyers and to his wife but did not tell authorities about it until April, when jury selection in Skakel's trial was well under way. A Stamford Superior Court marshal who had been going to Tucciarone's shop for 15 or 20 years advised Tucciarone that he should call prosecutors.
Sherman brought out the fact that Tucciarone figured out from reading newspapers as early as 1980 that the youth who allegedly made the statements in his chair four or five years earlier was Michael Skakel. Although it was not true, Tucciarone believed a published report then that Michael Skakel was living abroad.
Asked why if he was concerned that Skakel was living in another country and might kill someone there, Tucciarone said, "That's another country's problem, not ours." The remark brought sustained laughter from the gallery and even Kavanewsky's poker face showed his amusement.
The testimony of Tucciarone, the last witness Wednesday and the 21st since testimony began May 7, marks a new phase in the trial in which the prosecution is expected to call several witnesses who will testify that Skakel confessed. On Thursday, Lawrence Zicarelli, a former driver for the Skakel family, is expected to tell jurors that Skakel jumped out of a car in the mid-to-late-1970s and threatened to jump off the Triborough Bridge in New York because he had done "something bad."
The first of several former students of Maine's Elan School, a reform school for wayward young adults of means like Skakel in the 1970s, are expected to take the stand sometime Thursday. In the past, Elan witnesses have testified that Skakel became very emotional after enrolling in the school in 1978 and made incriminating statements about the Moxley murder, including, "I did it."
Prosecution witness Mildred "Cissy" Ix on Wednesday retracted her grand jury testimony in 1998 that Skakel's father, Rushton Skakel Sr., confided in her in 1981 that the defendant was questioning whether he could have been involved.
"He said Michael had come up to him and he said, 'You know. I had a lot to drink that night and I would like to see if I could have have had so much to drink that I would have forgotten something and I could have murdered Martha," Ix, who still lives in the neighborhood where the murder occurred, told the grand jury.
On the stand Wednesday, however, she said she was mistaken and that she had put words into Rushton Skakel's mouth that he never said. Ix explained that she was confused and rattled when she testified before the grand jury and meant only to say that Rushton Skakel seemed concerned that his son wanted to take a truth serum. "It really was my own thoughts. I know Rush never believed that Michael Skakel could do this," she said, "but he was surprised in the eighties that Michael came and wanted sodium pentothal."
Dorthy Moxley, the victim's mother, said outside the courtroom that she was once close to Ix and was not pleased that Ix tried to distance herself from the grand jury testimony. Moxley said that Ix visited her in New Jersey for lunch several years ago and basically said she believed Michael Skakel and his family had suffered enough.
Moxley said she did not know what to say to that.