Grand jury wraps up work in Moxley case

AP Story - 8 Dec 1999

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) - The investigation into the murder of Greenwich teen-ager Martha Moxley has dragged on for 24 years, with authorities compiling a list of suspects that included two nephews of the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

It's only within the last 18 months, as a one-man grand jury has probed the case, that Moxley's family has felt any real hope that an arrest will be made.

With the grand juror's final term ending this week, Moxley's mother says she is optimistic.

"We have a good feeling about this," said Dorthy Moxley. "I'm really hopeful there will be an arrest."

The last time Mrs. Moxley saw her daughter alive was Oct. 30, 1975. The excited, 15-year-old girl was headed out the door with two of her friends and some shaving cream, toilet paper and soap for a night of teen-age mischief on the night before Halloween.

The next day, Martha's bludgeoned body was found on the Moxley's estate, under the low-hanging branches of a fir tree. She had been beaten to death with a 6-iron.

Police quickly assembled a list of suspects, but no one was ever charged.

In June 1998, frustrated by a lack of progress, Bridgeport State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict requested the appointment of an investigative grand jury, which in Connecticut consists of a single judge.

The grand jury is rarely used in Connecticut. From 1985 through 1997, there were only seven grand jury investigations in the state.

Bridgeport Superior Court Judge George Thim was appointed on June 10, 1998. Since then, Thim has heard testimony from more than 40 witnesses, some of them friends who were with Moxley the night she was killed.

Thim also heard testimony from former students at a residential school and substance abuse treatment center attended from 1978 to 1980 by Michael Skakel, one of two prime suspects identified by authorities.

In court papers, prosecutors said they had been informed by several former residents of the Elan school in Poland Spring, Maine, that Skakel admitted some involvement in Moxley's killing.

Michael Skakel, who was 15 when Moxley was killed, and his brother, Thomas, then 17, are the sons of Rushton Skakel, the brother of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel.

Both Michael and Thomas have repeatedly denied any involvement in Moxley's murder.

The Skakels lived across the street from the Moxleys in Belle Haven, an exclusive enclave within the wealthy town of Greenwich. Martha was with both boys and other teen-agers at the Skakel house the night she was killed. The golf club used to kill her matched a set owned by the Skakel family.

Michael Skakel's lawyer, Michael Sherman, said he is confident that the grand juror will not recommend the arrest of Skakel or anyone else.

"From the moment of the tragedy to today, Michael has consistently denied any responsibility whatsoever or knowledge relating to the death of Martha Moxley," Sherman said Tuesday.

Kenneth Littleton, a tutor for the Skakel children who had moved in the day of the murder, was eliminated as a suspect and granted immunity last year after he testified before the grand jury.

By law, Thim had a maximum of three, six-month terms to complete his investigation. His final term ends on Friday. After that, he has 60 days to say whether he believes there is enough evidence to arrest someone.

Prosecutors are not bound by his decision. Even if Thim finds probable cause for an arrest, prosecutors could decide there is not enough evidence for them to win a guilty verdict.

"Probable cause is a threshold decision, at best," Benedict said Monday. "We don't, as a rule, decide to prosecute merely on a finding of probable cause because we're fully aware we have a much stronger burden of proof."

AP-ES-12-08-99 0133EST