Moxley grand jury enters
the home stretch

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) - A grand jury investigation into the 1975 unsolved murder of Greenwich teen-ager Martha Moxley appears to be winding down.

Prosecutors have applied for a six-month extension for the grand jury as they wait for appellate court rulings on whether two key witnesses can be forced to testify.

Moxley was 15 when she was found bludgeoned to death with a golf club on her family's Greenwich estate.

Two nephews of U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy - Michael and Thomas Skakel - have been identified as suspects. Both have repeatedly denied any involvement in her murder.

Michael, then 15, and Thomas, 17, were both among a group of teen-agers with Moxley the night she was killed, Oct. 30, 1975. The 6-iron used to kill her came from a set owned by the Skakel family.

Superior Court Judge George Thim was appointed as a one-man grand jury last June to investigate the long-stalled case. Since then, he has heard testimony from more than 50 witnesses.

Prosecutors are hoping to present two more witnesses - Rushton Skakel Sr., the suspects' father, and Joseph Ricci, owner of a school attended by Michael Skakel after the murder.

The elder Skakel, who is the brother of Ethel Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy's widow, has appealed a lower court decision ordering him to travel from his home in Hobe Sound, Fla., to Connecticut to testify before the grand jury in Bridgeport. It is uncertain when the appellate court will rule.

Prosecutors claim in court papers that during a conversation with a former Greenwich neighbor, the elder Skakel "had discussed his concerns about members of his family's possible involvement with this murder."

His lawyers claim the 74-year-old is mentally incompetent and should not be forced to testify.

Meanwhile, lawyers for Michael Skakel have appealed a lower court ruling ordering Ricci to testify.

Ricci is the owner of Elan school, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Poland Spring, Maine, where Michael Skakel stayed from 1978 to 1980. Prosecutors claim Ricci overheard or knew about potentially incriminating statements Michael Skakel made about the Moxley murder.

Ricci, however, has denied knowing about any alleged admissions made by Skakel.

Last month, Michael Skakel's lawyers argued before the Connecticut Appellate Court that anything Skakel said at the Elan school is protected by confidentiality rules governing mental health facilities. It is uncertain when the court will rule.

Michael Sherman, one of Michael Skakel's lawyers, said even if Ricci and the elder Skakel are forced to testify, he does not believe the grand juror has any "smoking gun" implicating Skakel as the killer.

"I still have yet to see anything that amounts to probable cause for an arrest in this case," Sherman said Monday.

"They seem to have questioned everyone within a 400-mile radius of the crime. I can't imagine any other stone they plan to turn over."

Prosecutors and investigators declined to comment, citing secrecy rules governing the grand jury process.

AP-ES-06-14-99 1647EDT

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