Reporter pens book on Moxley murder
By Lindsey Faber - Greenwich Time
The investigation of Martha Moxley's murder has provoked a battle of the egos among a handful of players who take credit for the conviction of Michael Skakel for her 1975 murder.
At different points, and most notably over the past five years, authors Dominick Dunne, Timothy Dumas and Mark Fuhrman, along with Newsday reporter Len Levitt, have received credit for their work on the case.
But in a book to be released next summer, Levitt will hand credit to a person he sees as an often overlooked player: State Inspector Frank Garr, the case's lead investigator.
In his book, "Conviction," Levitt, who covered the case for the longest time, said he also will share his personal story and describe his own role in bringing forth a conviction.
With three books already published on the Moxley murder, and thousands of articles and broadcast pieces tucked into the archives, Levitt, 61, of Stamford, maintains that his will be the true story of two men, a reporter and an investigator, who doggedly pursued clues and fought parallel uphill battles as they forged a friendship.
The book likely will have three separate parts: Levitt's story, Garr's story and the convergence of their lives.
Neither Levitt nor the publisher would disclose the financial terms of the deal. Levitt called the fee "modest" and said Garr, 57, of Greenwich, would not receive a portion of it.
Levitt's story began in the early 1980s, when he worked on a story for Greenwich Time and The (Stamford) Advocate based on more than 100 interviews and 400 pages of police documents turned over on the order of the state's Freedom of Information Commission.
The two newspapers held the story for years, finally publishing it in 1991. At that time, police announced they would reinvestigate the long-dormant Moxley investigation.
In 1995, Levitt reported in Newsday some findings of a private investigative firm hired by the Skakels, called the Sutton Associates, which determined that Michael Skakel and his brother Thomas had changed their alibis.
Then Dunne, who had already published a novel based on the case, received a complete stolen copy of the report, which he gave to Fuhrman, thinking Fuhrman was a public figure who could draw attention to the case, Dunne said.
Dunne said he also gave the report to Garr, and Garr did not call him again. He did not give a copy to Levitt.
"There is always resentment among these people and who had the information and when," Dunne said. "I absolutely knew I was right in giving this to Fuhrman. Like it or not, he's fearless and creates a stir."
Fuhrman later wrote a book in which he named Michael Skakel as Moxley's killer. Fuhrman could not be reached for comment.
Garr, meanwhile, said the Sutton findings were a big deal. He had recently left the Greenwich Police Department to investigate the case full time for the state, and -- with the findings in the Sutton report, along with other nuggets he had developed in the earlier part of the 1990s -- Garr began to seriously consider that Michael Skakel may have been Moxley's murderer.
Garr's bosses remained focused on other subjects, such as Thomas Skakel and former Skakel family tutor Kenneth Littleton.
"What makes the personal side so important to me is that I had so much trouble with my own bosses in getting my story in the paper, and Garr had the same difficulty with his bosses in trying to get them to focus on Michael Skakel," Levitt said. "We both had similar problems with our superiors in getting this thing to fruition. I always felt the two of us were the ones really responsible for this thing."
Levitt said he went to several publishers after Skakel's arrest in 2000 but found none interested in yet another journalistic account of the story.
Finally, after the conviction, he changed his slant, he said, realizing the best story to tell was his personal story.
"I think my story is truly unique here, and there will be facts coming to light that have never seen the light of day," Levitt said. "I don't think the public is aware of the real role Garr played in this thing. We've all heard about Dominick and Fuhrman, and not to disparage their roles in any way, but I think you'll see in this book something different."
Levitt emphasized he had already reported the contents of the Sutton Report in Newsday in 1995, before Dunne or Fuhrman handled it. Dunne disputed Levitt's claim and said the reporter's 1995 story was not comprehensive because he did not have a full copy of the report.
Today, Garr meets with Levitt regularly as Levitt begins to work on the book. Garr said he feels more comfortable participating in the project now that the trial is over. Skakel was convicted June 7. He was later sentenced to 20 years to life.
"Len is a friend of mine, but I made it clear to him that nothing, not one word, would come from me until the case was over and done with," Garr said.
While some journalists questioned whether they had become too close, both said they maintained a healthy distance.
"I never told Len one thing I wouldn't have told another reporter," Garr said. "And when he would ask something that I couldn't talk about, I'd tell him that."
Added Levitt: "It's been frustrating at times. Frank can be a prickly guy, and he was always holding stuff back from me. In fact, he started talking about Michael in the early 1990s and I didn't even believe him."
State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict, the case's lead prosecutor, said he has no problem with the book.
"I don't see any ethical issues here," Benedict said. "The case is over, most of it is public record, and Lenny can write whatever he wants. We don't plan on reopening this case anyway."
Skakel's lawyers have already filed their appeals. Levitt, meanwhile, said he believes even more in the responsibility of a journalist.
"The Moxley family was absolutely lost and had nowhere to turn, so the media was where the pressure could be applied," Levitt said. "That's why I'll never forgive the old management at [the newspaper] for what they did, for being cowardly and not running my initial piece when it should have run. If I hadn't publicly insulted them and forced them to run it, I'm not sure it would have ever run. And I think now that that story really was a deciding factor."
Joseph Pisani, the current editor of Greenwich Time and The Advocate, who was managing editor of Greenwich Time when Levitt wrote his story, responded that editors in the 1980s had concerns with naming suspects in the newspaper who had not been charged in the crime.
Levitt built the story around three suspects and focused on Thomas Skakel, Pisani pointed out.
"Michael was not mentioned as a suspect in the original story, and that legitimizes those earlier concerns," Pisani said.
Said Levitt, "If you look at that story, the story was not who did this crime; it was why the crime was not solved, how the Greenwich police conducted its investigation and was the Greenwich Police Department corrupt. It never set out to say who did this thing. It may have pointed to Tommy because the police were pointing to him then."
Pisani said, however, "Levitt's original story had the police chief saying, 'I know who did it but I can't prove it.' He obviously didn't know who did it. The story doesn't stand the test of time."
The book is set to hit stands next summer. ReganBooks will publish it.