By Daniel Vasquez, Globe Staff, 08/11/99
Like the Greenwich, Conn., murder case that brought him notoriety nearly a quarter-century ago, the stabbing of Kenneth Littleton last month in his Beacon Hill apartment remains mired in mystery.
At first, Boston police called the incident an apparent suicide attempt. But detectives are investigating the possibility of a crime committed against Littleton, once a prime suspect in the bludgeoning death of 15-year-old Martha Moxley.
The Moxley case, being reinvestigated by a grand jury after 24 years, has drawn national attention because two nephews of Ethel Kennedy - and cousins of Joseph P. Kennedy II, a former US representative, - are suspects. Littleton, who was the tutor to Ethel Kennedy's nephews, was also considered a suspect before being removed from the official list after being granted immunity to testify last year.
Now, in the wake of the stabbing incident in Boston, Littleton, 47, is the subject of a new spate of questions about his conduct July 21, when police arrived at his apartment and found a bleeding Littleton being carried out by paramedics.
''The investigation is to determine whether or not the wounds are self-inflicted by Mr. Littleton,'' said Sergeant Detective Margot Hill, Boston Police spokeswoman.
Littleton was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital with knife wounds to his chest and gashes on an arm. He has since been released, but has refused to talk to police without his attorney present, Hill said, which has not yet happened.
According to sources, at least one attempted police interview was canceled by Littleton.
''It's kind of hard to close the case if he's not talking,'' Hill said.
Although somewhat unusual in attempted suicide investigations, Boston detectives ordered a search later that afternoon of Littleton's second-floor Bowdoin Street apartment.
What investigators found, police sources say, raised many questions:
What was on the burned pages of a diary found in the apartment? Why did his girlfriend's story about what happened the night of the incident change? And why was the 10-inch kitchen knife allegedly used by Littleton wrapped in a paper towel?
Investigators carried away a kitchen knife with blood, a steel knife sharpener, a purple blood-stained shirt, a bloodied paper towel, and a pair of Drake's sneakers from the apartment, which Littleton has shared with his girlfriend, Anne E. Drake, for the past five years.
But it was the charred diary pages, which appeared to have been plucked from the binding and burned, according to the first Boston police officer on the scene, that brought a high-powered defense attorney, Mickey Sherman, to Boston.
Sherman represents one of Ethel Kennedy's nephews, Michael Skakel, who along with his brother, Thomas, remains a suspect in Moxley's violent murder.
''It's totally bizarre. I can't say whether it's a positive or negative development in respect to Michael Skakel. ... On the other hand, if it is merely a sad episode in the troubled life of Kenneth Littleton, our hearts go out to him. Chalk it up to one more bizarre twist in the case of Martha Moxley.''
Last week, Sherman confirmed he hired a private investigator to determine if Littleton's stabbing was in any way related to the unsolved murder. On Monday, Sherman said he still does not know what was on those burned pages but ''holds hope that something from the Littleton investigation may prove of some help to Michael.''
What Kenneth Littleton knows or does not know about the death of Moxley, a daughter of a wealthy Connecticut couple, has been the target of much speculation and innuendo. For two decades Littleton was a suspect, but the burden lifted from being granted immunity by prosecutors last year has hardly left him free of pressure.
According to a source who knows him well, Littleton has spent a large part of his life being obsessed by the Kennedys and Skakels, believing his life is endangered by the powerful and influential families.
The night before Littleton was rushed to the Boston hospital, he spent the evening watching the media coverage of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s fatal plane crash, the source said.
''Anytime the Martha Moxley case was brought up, or whenever the Kennedys end up on TV, poor Ken would become traumatized,'' the source said.
Max Beck, Littleton's attorney, said he could not discuss Littleton's history or his involvement in the Moxley investigation, but added: ''Ken Littleton had nothing whatsoever to do with the murder of Martha Moxley. Ken Littleton himself is a victim of the Martha Moxley case.''
The Martha Moxley case has generated a flood of news stories over the past year. On an award-winning Web site maintained by a childhood friend, Moxley can be seen the way her family and friends remember her - in vivid colors, smiling happily. In one shot, she poses for the camera in pigtails and her favorite sandals, next to her father and his red riding lawnmower. In another photo, the teenager sits between two school friends.
Martha Moxley moved with her family from California to the exclusive gated community of Belle Haven in Greenwich, about a year before she was found beaten to death with a golf club near a tree on her family's back lawn.
Moxley's family had moved next door to the Skakel family. Moxley soon became friends with Michael and Thomas Skakel, then aged 15 and 17, nephews by marriage of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Their father, Rushton Skakel, is the brother of Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's widow.
Littleton was hired as a live-in tutor for Michael and Thomas by the Skakel family on Oct. 30, 1975. That night, Moxley was murdered.
Moxley was seen with her two brothers that night, but she was last seen alive with Thomas Skakel, according to police.
For decades, Littleton and the Skakel brothers were considered suspects, but the investigation eventually stalled. All three have maintained their innocence.
Then, last fall, a Connecticut grand jury was convened on the case, and witnesses were subpoenaed.
In their quest for a suspect, state prosecutors granted immunity to Littleton, who had earlier invoked his right against self-incrimination. In exchange for his testimony, the Connecticut state attorney's office agreed not to prosecute Littleton for any crime connected to the Moxley murder, and removed him from the suspect list.
But since then, many key witnesses have been reluctant or unable to testify, including Rushton Skakel, father of Michael and Thomas. Two weeks ago, a Florida appellate court ordered Rushton Skakel, who is now 74 and said to be in failing health, to testify before the Connecticut grand jury, nearly a year after he was first summoned to appear.
While investigators say the case is progressing - some believe the grand jury will end by late fall - Littleton's life continues to be troubled.
About a month ago, according to authorities, Littleton checked himself into a mental health institution and was released five days before his stabbing.
It was the same week John F. Kennedy Jr., along with his wife Carolyn, and sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette, died in a plane crash off Martha's Vineyard.
After Littleton was taken to the hospital with stab wounds, Drake told police he had been behaving as though his life was in danger. She later told an Associated Press reporter that Kennedy's death led him to try to take his life because the handsome, popular magazine publisher was his favorite member of that family.
The night of the stabbing, Drake said, Littleton had watched coverage of the crash for hours.
Drake said she left him in front of the television and went to bed at about 10:30 p.m., but was awoken by a loud thump as Littleton fell to the floor in the hallway outside their bedroom door.
But in a later police report, Drake allegedly told police that she was sleeping with Littleton and awoke when he fell to the floor.
According to one investigator, the story change may be attributed to Drake's being distraught during her first police interview. She was also questioned by homicide detectives that morning.
''The fact they got a search warrant tells me something she said made detectives wonder,'' said a police source. ''Her stories were not consistent.''
Another investigator said it wasn't clear why the knife used in a purported suicide attempt would be wrapped in a paper towel.
When reached by telephone by The Globe, Drake said, ''I'm sorry, I can't talk about it.''
Hill said detectives hope to meet with Littleton this week and at least answer the basic question: Did he stab himself?
''A good detective will never just take the word of the only person at a scene,'' Hill said. ''Our detectives are being very thorough, that's why they continue to try to discuss the case with Mr. Littleton himself.''