Grand juror to probe '75 Conn. murder
With public's fascination growing, new facts emerge in Moxley case
By Judith Gaines, Globe Staff, 06/18/98
In a highly unusual legal move in Connecticut, a one-man grand jury has been appointed to investigate the unsolved 1975 slaying of 15-year-old Martha Moxley, state officials announced yesterday.
Connecticut's chief court administrator, Aaron Ment, confirmed the appointment of Superior Court Justice George Thim, a veteran state judge, as the grand juror, said Karen Berris, manager of communications for the Connecticut Judicial Branch.
Legal analysts say it is the first time since 1993 that a grand jury has been called in Connecticut - an indication, perhaps, of the political sensitivities surrounding the case.
Moxley, who was beaten and stabbed with shafts from a golf club, was found dead in her own yard in Belle Haven, a posh section of Greenwich, Conn., on Oct. 31, 1975. The golf club was traced to the home of Rushton Skakel, the brother of Ethel Kennedy, who lived near the Moxleys.
During the ensuing investigation, Thomas and Michael Skakel, two of Skakel's teenage sons, were identified as possible suspects, but no one has been charged with a crime. Investigators say they were hampered by the apparent lack of witnesses and substantial physical evidence.
Inspector Frank Garr, who has led the investigation, would not discuss specific discoveries that may have triggered the call for a grand jury. But he said, ''We've talked to hundreds of people, gathered information that was previously unknown, found some facts and circumstances that were not known. So we reached a point where having a grand jury was an option.''
Garr insisted the publication of three books dealing with the Moxley killing did not affect the decision to hold a grand jury. The books include a fictionalized account, ''A Season in Purgatory,'' by Dominick Dunne; and more recently, two nonfiction accounts, ''Greentown,'' by Timothy Dumas, and ''Murder in Greenwich,'' by Mark Fuhrman.
''The books added interest from the public and the media. But they had no impact on the investigation,'' Garr said.
In Massachusetts, a grand jury must be called for any felony conviction. But in Connecticut, grand juries have not been required since 1983. There, criminal complaints typically proceed through use of ''an information,'' a document that notifies a defendant of charges and is signed by a prosecutor after an arrest warrant has been issued.
Berris said that only seven grand juries have been called in Connecticut since 1985. The last one involved alleged corruption in the Hartford Police Department.
''Grand juries in Connecticut are only used for political purposes,'' said Norman Pattis, a partner in the law firm of William, Polan & Pattis, in New Haven. He said that having a grand jury provides insulation for a prosecutor in a politically sensitive case, because the decision to indict is made by a panel of anonymous citizens.
''It's a way of denying accountability,'' Pattis said. ''If you're going to strike high, at a popular target, strike anonymously.''
The grisly killing appalled the residents of Belle Haven, who regarded their baronial neighborhood as exclusive and secure. Singer Diana Ross, humorist Victor Borge, filmmaker Joseph E. Levine, and many corporate executives live there. Donald Trump gave Marla Maples her engagement ring there. Residents of its approximately 40 mansions support a 10-man squad of private police to provide round-the-clock protection.
And when some children of the elite, including Martha Moxley, partied at the Skakel home on the evening of Oct. 30, 1975, ''we thought it was about as safe as playing in the kitchen,'' a member of the group told The Boston Globe in 1991.
Moxley was last seen engaging in ''horseplay'' with Thomas Skakel at about 9:30 p.m., investigators say.
Investigators say their inquiries also focused on Kenneth W. Littleton Jr. of Belmont, a former live-in tutor for the Skakel children.
Sometime after 9:30 p.m., police say, Moxley met her attacker outside her home. Her mother remembers hearing a commotion, but was not alarmed at the time.
Shortly after noon the next day, a girlfriend found Moxley's body on the family estate, hidden by the low-hanging limbs of a pine tree. A coroner described the cause of death as ''multiple lacerations of the scalp with fractures of the skull and contusions and lacerations of the brain.'' Moxley's jeans and underpants had been removed, but investigators say they found no proof of sexual assault.
The Associated Press provided information for this report.
This story ran on page B01 of the Boston Globe on 06/18/98.