Appellate courts to hear from Moxley grand jury witnesses

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) Appellate courts in Florida and Connecticut will hear arguments in the next few weeks on whether two key witnesses can be compelled to testify before a grand jury investigating the unsolved 1975 slaying of a Greenwich teen-ager.

Rushton Skakel Sr., the brother-in-law of the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, is fighting an order from a Florida judge who ruled that Skakel must testify before a Bridgeport grand jury investigating the killing of 15-year-old Martha Moxley.

Skakel's sons, Michael and Thomas, have been identified by authorities as suspects in Moxley's killing. Both Michael, who was 15 at the time of the killing, and Thomas, then 17, have denied any involvement in the girl's death.

Moxley was bludgeoned to death with a golf club on Oct. 30, 1975, on her family's Greenwich estate. The 6-iron was later matched to a set of clubs owned by the Skakel family.

Lawyers for Rushton Skakel, 74, of Hobe Sound, Fla., have claimed that he is mentally unfit and should not be forced to travel to Connecticut to testify before the grand jury.

But in court papers, Connecticut prosecutors have claimed that Skakel ''had discussed his concerns about members of his family's possible involvement with this murder'' with a former Greenwich neighbor.

Rushton Skakel's appeal will be heard June 9 by the 4th District Court of Appeal in Florida.

Another witness fighting an order to testify before the grand jury is Joseph Ricci, owner of the Elan school, a rehabilitation center in Poland Spring, Maine, attended by Michael Skakel from 1978-1980.

Prosecutors claim Ricci overheard or knew about potentially incriminating statements Michael Skakel made about the Moxley murder while he was attending Elan.

Ricci has denied knowing about any alleged admissions made by Skakel and claims that anything said at the school is protected by confidentiality rules governing mental health facilities.

Skakel's lawyers are appealing Ricci's order to testify and are also asking the state Appellate Court to decide whether the one-man grand jury should be allowed to consider testify of former patients and counselors at the school.

The Appellate Court in Hartford is scheduled to hear the case May 27.

Investigators have made contact with a third witness they have sought for months. Jim Terrien, a cousin of the Skakels, was among a group of youths with the Skakel brothers and Moxley the night she was killed. In interviews with Greenwich police after the murder, Terrien said Michael Skakel was at his house at the time police originally believed Moxley was killed.

But both brothers changed their stories about their movements that night during interviews with private investigators in 1992.

Richard Meehan Jr., a Bridgeport lawyer representing Terrien, said he has told Bridgeport State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict that Terrien is sticking to what he told Greenwich police more than 20 years ago.

''He has nothing more to add other than what he said in his several interviews with Greenwich police,'' Meehan said.

Meehan said Connecticut authorities have not attempted to subpoena Terrien. He is now living in the Bahamas, beyond the reach of the state's subpoena powers.

Martha's mother, Dorthy Moxley, has become increasingly frustrated with the numerous appeals and delays during the grand jury investigation, which began last June when Superior Court Judge George Thim was appointed as a one-man grand juror.

''I am prepared for whatever way it turns out, but I also feel that someone is going to come forward with something new that is going to give us new hope all over again,'' she said Monday.

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