Witness reveals possible motive Former
classmate testifies Skakel was upset
brother 'stole his girlfriend'
By Lindsay Faber - Greenwich Time
NORWALK -- Michael Skakel told Elan School classmates he was upset that his brother had stolen his girlfriend, a former classmate testified yesterday, introducing the first possible motive into Skakel's trial for the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley.
The jury yesterday in state Superior Court also heard transcripts of the probable cause hearing from former Elan classmate Gregory Coleman, who said Skakel confessed to the murder and bragged that he would get away with it. Coleman died last year of a drug overdose.
Moxley, who was 15 when she died, was found beaten to death with a Skakel family golf club on Halloween. She and Skakel were friends from Belle Haven. Skakel attended Elan from 1978 to 1980.
Elizabeth Arnold, who attended the Poland Spring, Maine-based behavioral school, testified yesterday that Skakel almost cried as he explained to a small group of students during a therapy session that he was upset his brother "stole his girlfriend."
"He said they didn't really have sex but they were fooling around," said Arnold, now of Massachusetts. "He looked like he was on the verge of tears. He was very pained."
Deputy Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano asked Arnold what, if anything, Skakel told the small group about the murder of that same girl.
"He didn't know what happened that night," Arnold said. "He was very drunk and had some sort of a blackout. He didn't know if he had done it or if his brother had done it."
Investigators have always maintained both Michael Skakel, then 15, and his older brother Thomas, then 17, had a romantic interest in Moxley. They have said they believe Michael Skakel was furious when he saw Moxley flirting with Thomas Skakel. Thomas Skakel was an earlier suspect in the case.
On cross-examination by Skakel's attorney, Michael Sherman, Arnold acknowledged she remembered more about the group session after reading a book about the Moxley case by former Los Angeles Police Detective Mark Fuhrman. That was why she did not testify about the incident to the grand jury that investigated the case in 1998, she said. That investigation led to Skakel being charged in Moxley's slaying.
Arnold said the murder was a topic of discussion at a general meeting which took place a few days before the group therapy session. The general meeting was called because Skakel had run away from the school.
At that meeting, Arnold said, Skakel was placed into a makeshift boxing ring as other students took turns hitting him, a technique Elan used in an attempt to prompt honesty. This was common practice at Elan, Arnold and another former student and Elan staff member, Alice Dunn, testified.
"I know he was brutalized," Arnold testified.
Dunn, who was on staff as a facilitator at Elan when Skakel attended, said she recalled speaking with Skakel after the general meeting, where the program director, Joseph Ricci, flipped through an inch-thick file on Skakel in front of at least 150 people and told everyone he was involved in a murder in Greenwich. After the meeting Skakel was punished for running away from the school, forced to scrub the kitchen floor on his hands and knees.
Dunn said she had never heard about the murder previously.
"It was new information to me. I got along with Michael pretty well. I said, 'You'd never mentioned this to me.' He was very pensive and sad and appeared ashamed," Dunn said. "He led me to believe that he just really didn't know what happened. It was almost like he was replaying things in his mind and he was saying, 'I just don't remember if it was me.' "
Each time Skakel denied participating in the murder during the general meeting, he was placed into the boxing ring, Dunn said.
"It went on until he was physically wiped out and unable to defend himself," Dunn said. "He went from saying, 'I didn't do it' to 'I don't know.' "
Sherman tried to drive home the point that the only way for the punching to cease was for Skakel to admit participation in the crime.
Dunn also said students who did something bad had to wear a cardboard sign around their necks. Skakel was forced to wear a sign that read "Confront me on why I murdered Martha Moxley," she said, adding that Skakel would have to read the sign out loud before every meal for at least six weeks.
Coleman, whose prior testimony was read through role-playing by the lawyers, testified in the probable cause hearing last year that Skakel said, "I am going to get away with murder because I'm a Kennedy."
Coleman also said Skakel told him he had made advances on a girl and the girl spurned him.
"He said he drove her skull in with a golf club," Coleman said. "He indicated he had hit her so hard that the golf club had broken in half."
Sherman's cross-examination last year focused largely on Coleman's admission that he was a heroin addict and had used heroin prior to his grand jury testimony in 1998.
But Coleman insisted that he believed Skakel was at Elan to "save face from his family" and to hide from investigators.
Neither Arnold nor Dunn could flat-out say that Skakel confessed to the crime, leaving Coleman and John Higgins, who testified Thursday, the only confession witnesses in the state's case thus far. The state is expected to wrap up its case Tuesday afternoon. Sherman will then begin presenting his own witnesses.
Before court began yesterday, the victim's mother, Dorthy Moxley, made an impassioned plea for other former Elan students to come forward if they had ever heard Skakel confess.
"I know that there are other people out there in their early 40s or late 30s who know what happened," Moxley said.
Superior Court Judge John Kavanewsky Jr. also approved a defense request to recall Andrea Shakespeare Renna, an earlier state witness who poked a hole in Skakel's alibi that he was out of the neighborhood at the time authorities believe the murder occurred. The defense will argue that Renna said during earlier testimony that she was not sure of that fact.
Finally, the prosecution was denied permission yesterday to call a former Greenwich detective who executed a search warrant in 1997 at Elan and could only recover three small folders -- with no mention of the Moxley murder -- about Skakel. Prosecutors intended to argue, using prior witness testimony, that most students had files that were inches thick. They believe the evidence pointed to a cover-up and a mysterious disappearance of Skakel's full file.
Kavanewsky said the issue was too speculative.
The trial resumes Monday.