Ethel Kennedy's brother ordered to testify in 1975 murder

Martha Moxley  
November 10, 1998
Web posted at: 8:19 p.m. EST (0119 GMT)

STAMFORD, Connecticut (AP) -- A Florida judge on Tuesday ordered the elderly brother of Ethel Kennedy to testify before a Connecticut grand jury investigating a 1975 slaying in which his two sons are suspects.

Rushton Skakel, 74, of Hobe Sound, Florida, was ordered to testify about what he knows about the slaying of Martha Moxley, a 15-year-old Greenwich girl who was bludgeoned to death with a golf club.

Skakel is the father of Michael and Thomas Skakel, suspects in the girl's death. Early in the investigation, the club used to kill Martha was matched to a set owned by the Skakel family, who lived near the Moxleys.

Both Michael, then 15, and Thomas, then 17, have denied any involvement in the slaying.

The case stalled for years but was revived this spring by the appointment of a grand jury consisting of a single judge.

Rushton Skakel had refused to testify. At a hearing last month in Florida, Skakel's attorney argued that the testimony would be worthless because Skakel is incompetent and has memory loss.

Michael and Thomas Skakel  

Witnesses portrayed Skakel as a man prone to outrageous and unsavory behavior, including a propensity to drive into mailboxes and steal food from strangers' plates at restaurants.

But in his ruling, Martin County Circuit Judge John Fennelly disputed whether Skakel is clearly incompetent.

And he said court documents submitted by prosecutors say that Skakel has made a statement "indicating his knowledge of the perpetrator."

No date has been set for Skakel's testimony.

A lawyer for Michael Skakel said the elder Skakel has nothing to add to the grand jury investigation.

"I think it's unfortunate to have to drag this man 2,000 miles to repeat what he obviously said 20 years ago, that he was out of town when the crime occurred and there's nothing he can add to the fact-finding process," Michael Sherman said.

"If Mr. Skakel knew who the perpetrator was, he would have made that known to the proper authorities 13 seconds after he learned about it."

Copyright 1998