By J.A. Johnson Jr., Staff Writer
Greenwich Time, Aug. 8, 1998
Although prosecutors would not identify the priest who gave testimony on Wednesday, the Rev. Mark Connolly of Stamford yesterday confirmed it was he who entered the sealed grand jury room on the third floor of the Fairfield County Courthouse.
When contacted by telephone, however, Connolly declined to talk about his grand jury appearance or discuss any aspect of the Moxley case.
Connolly, who used to celebrate televised Masses in the New York area andremains a priest at St. Michael's in Greenwich, reportedly had been a close friend and advisor to the family of Rushton Skakel Sr., whose sons, Thomas and Michael, are suspects in the Moxley murder.
The Skakel family lived across the street from the Moxleys in the Belle Haven section of Greenwich, and the murder weapon was identified as a 6-iron from a set of golf clubs owned by the Skakels. Both brothers, then 15 and 17 years old, were both with the 15-year-old victim the evening of Oct. 30, 1975, when she was slain.
According to two recently-published books about the Moxley case, Connolly was a Skakel family friend who, after meeting with police in 1975, advised the family to allow Thomas to submit to psychiatric tests, the results of which have never been released.
The priest is referred to several times in "Murder in Greenwich: Who Killed Martha Moxley" by former Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman, and "Greentown: Murder and Mystery in Greenwich, America's Wealthiest Community" by Timothy Dumas, a Greenwich native and former managing editor of Greenwich News.
In an interview yesterday, Dumas said it would appear the grand jury, after hearing testimony from police officers who were involved with the case, is now focusing on witnesses with knowledge of what went on in the Skakel household after the murder. "The grand jury is talking to people who were actually there and in a position to hear something," he said. "So it appears they are going for firsthand information, or as close to it as they can get."
Dumas said in researching his book through police reports and interviews, he learned that Connolly, who at the time preached on Channel 13's "The Sunday Mass," was a close friend of Rushton Skakel Sr. who "tried to get Tommy Skakel to undergo a bunch of psychiatric tests." Against the urgings of a criminal defense lawyer working for the Skakel family, "Father Connolly was all for getting these tests done, and told the police he would do what he could to help it along."
Dumas said Connolly was also present at the elder Skakel's room at Greenwich Hospital, where Skakel was recovering after having collapsed Jan. 26, 1976, soon after appearing at Greenwich police headquarters to deliver a letter rescinding permission for the release of son Thomas' school and medical records. Skakel Sr. delivered the letter after having received "bad news," Dumas said, adding it was never learned what that news was.
According to the author, Connolly had a falling out with Skakel Sr. after he advised in favor of the psychological testing. "On April 7, 1976, the detectives call Connolly, and he says he's been shut out by the Skakels, and he hadn't heard from them in over a month," Dumas said. "So something happened there, and I can only wonder whether Father Connolly was pressing for a resolution" of any Skakel involvement in the Moxley murder.
Dumas added, "Whether Connolly testified about hearing any Skakel confessions, i couldn't even begin to address."