Mental Health Facility Owner Mum In Unsolved Murder Case
by DENISE LAVOIE
This story ran in the Courant September 23, 1998
STAMFORD - A series of legal stalls kept the owner of a Maine school for troubled teens from telling a grand jury Tuesday what he may know about the unsolved 1975 murder of a Greenwich girl. Prosecutors believe Joseph Ricci, the owner of the Elan School in Poland, Maine, overheard Michael Skakel, a nephew of Robert Kennedy, admit involvement in the murder of 15-year-old Martha Moxley. A lawyer for Skakel, a prime suspect in the murder, claims any conversations Skakel had at the school, which provides psychiatric treatment, are protected by confidentiality rules governing mental health facilities.
Attorney Michael Sherman has asked prosecutors to allow him to argue the privilege issue before the courts decide whether Ricci can be forced to testify before a one-man grand jury. "We are asserting the privilege enjoyed by anyone who is treated by a therapist," Sherman said. "Anything that Michael Skakel said, uttered or wrote while at that institution is subject to the claim of privilege."
Prosecutors had subpoenaed Ricci to appear before the grand jury Tuesday. Michael Skakel and his brother, Thomas, both nephews of U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy, have long been identified by authorities as suspects in Moxley's murder. Their father, Rushton Skakel, is the brother of Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's widow. At the time of the murder, the Skakel family lived near the Moxleys in Belle Haven, an exclusive gated community in Greenwich.
Both Michael, then 15, and Thomas, then 17, were among a group of friends who were with Martha the night she was beaten to death with a golf club, Oct. 30, 1975. The golf club used to kill her was later matched to a set owned by the Skakel family.
No one has ever been charged in the killing. Both Michael and Thomas Skakel have repeatedly maintained their innocence. In court papers, prosecutor Jonathan Benedict said he "has been informed by several former residents of Elan that Joseph Ricci was present and overheard Michael Skakel make admissions to the murder of Martha Moxley." Michael Skakel, who now lives in Cohasset, Mass., attended the Elan School from 1978 to 1980. Ricci, however, said in court last week that he never heard Skakel admit to the killing. He also cited confidentiality rules he said prohibit him from discussing the cases of people who stayed at Elan, which was licensed as a mental health facility.
Bridgeport Superior Court Judge George Thim began hearing evidence in July in the long-stalled case. Interest in the case was revived this spring after two books were published, including one by former Los Angeles Police Detective Mark Fuhrman.