"Skakel Roommate Recalls Life in Rehab Center;
Harry Kranick Expects to Summoned by
Grand Jury for Third Time"
By J.A. Johnson Jr., Greenwich Time

Harry Kranick apparently has things to say that are of great interest to the grand jury investigating the 1975 murder of Greenwich teenager Martha Moxley.

Now a 38-year-old Illinois cosmetics accessories manufacturer, Kranick says he spent about a year as murder suspect Michael Skakel's roommate at a substance abuse rehabilitation center in Maine where, prosecutors allege, Skakel made incriminating statements about the murder of his then-15-year-old neighbor.

Kranick, who has appeared twice before the grand jury since it was convened in June, has been warned by prosecutors not to publicly discuss his testimony. In an interview with Greenwich Time last week, Kranick would not divulge what he has told the grand jury, but he did discuss how he had been in a unique position to hear things that could be of interest in the Moxley investigation. That is probably why, Kranick said, he was notified by prosecutors that he will be called on to testify for a third time. "I was pretty close to Michael, and we followed our relationship for years after we got out of the (recovery) program," Kranick said.

Skakel's lawyer, Michael Sherman, said yesterday it would be inappropriate for his client to respond to Kranick's remarks, "even if it is through me. Michael's response will come at an appropriate time." Sherman, who was vacationing yesterday in Aspen, Colo., said he had several problems with Kranick's comments. "To my knowledge, Michael never bared his soul to this young man. Most obviously, if he has been a witness twice before the grand jury and expects there to be a third time, one has to question the propriety of him allowing himself to be interviewed. Grand jury witnesses have no business being interviewed by the press. I think it casts a bit of a cloud over his motives here." About Kranick's claimed relationship with his client, the attorney said, "To my knowledge they were both patients at Elan at the same time, and I am not going beyond that."

Prosecutors said they could neither confirm or deny that Kranick had appeared before the grand jury, which operates in secrecy, or that he will be asked to testify in the future. But those same prosecutors already have called on Kranick as a witness in open court, soliciting testimony concerning his stay with Skakel at Elan School in Poland Spring, Maine. Prior to Kranick's court appearance, prosecutors stated in court documents that they had been informed by several former Elan School residents that Skakel made "admissions as to the murder of Martha Moxley" during his stay at the rehab center from 1978 to 1980. According to police, Michael Skakel and his brother, Thomas, then 15 and 17 years old, respectively, were both with Moxley prior to her murder the evening of Oct. 30, 1975. Police said the murder weapon was a 6-iron from a set of golf clubs owned by the brothers' late mother, Ann Skakel. The Skakel brothers remain the only identified suspects in the murder, and lawyers for both have maintained their clients are innocent.

What brought Kranick into an open courtroom was the refusal in September by Elan School owner Joseph Ricci to answer grand jury questions about Skakel's alleged admissions regarding the murder on the grounds that anything said by his facility's residents was confidential and protected by doctor-patient privilege. A public hearing on Ricci's claim was conducted when State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict, who is assisting the grand jury, made an application to the court to have Ricci's testimony compelled by a judge.

During a subsequent hearing lasting seven days, Kranick and several other former Elan School residents and staff members were called by Benedict to prove no privilege existed because therapy at the rehab center was overseen by recovered substance abusers and not provided under the direct supervision of a psychiatrist or other licensed physician.

One such witness, former resident Chuck Seigan, testified Nov. 4 that he was present at a 1978 "general meeting" of Elan School residents that had been convened by Ricci to chastise Skakel for having escaped from the facility and that a murder was discussed during that meeting. Kranick testified the following day that he also had been at that meeting, but prosecutors did not question him about the meeting's content as it is widely assumed they have in the sealed grand jury room.

Superior Court Judge Edward Stodolink ruled Dec. 10 that the Elan School testimony was not privileged and could be considered as evidence by the grand jury. He also ordered Ricci to answer the grand jury's questions. Attorneys representing Skakel, the rehab center and its owner have appealed the judge's rulings.

Owner of Highland Park, Ill.-based Great Lakes Bag and Vinyl since 1989, Kranick said after entering Elan School for emotional and drug abuse problems, he became friends with Skakel while sharing a double bunk bed in a private room with him for about a year. Kranick, son of a Burlington Industries vice president, said he and Skakel hit it off upon learning they shared a lot in common.

Skakel's grandfather, George Skakel, founded Great Lakes Carbon Corp. in 1919 with Rushton Fordyce and Walter Gramm. Kranick said a good friend of his while growing up in Winnetka, Ill., was Walter Gramm's grandson, Chris Gramm. "Our upbringing was very similar," Kranick said. "Winnetka is like a safe haven, very similar to Belle Haven," the exclusive Greenwich neighborhood where Skakel grew up.

Kranick said he and Skakel also had experienced the loss of a parent prior to entering the Maine rehab center. "I suffered an emotional breakdown after my father died of cancer," Kranick said, which led to heavy drug use and subsequent admissions to treatment programs, including Elan School. "A big issue with Mike was his mom dying, and it was a recurring theme in many of the meetings and groups at Elan. There were a number of times he broke down."

Skakel was 13 when his mother died of cancer in 1973. According to police reports and court documents, Skakel was admitted to Elan School for emotional and alcohol abuse problems after a drunken driving incident in Windham, N.Y., in which he tried running down a police officer before crashing his car. Kranick's 18-month stint at Elan School lasted from 1977 to 1979, and he said after Skakel's arrival in March 1978, their friendship was cemented by their similar experiences. "It was a difficult time for both of us, but more so for Michael," Kranick said. "I knew how to work the program, and he didn't. I think he looked at it more as a joke."

Elan School's therapy relied heavily on peer pressure techniques, and it offered residents a variety of different group meetings, according to court testimony. It also conducted encounter sessions with family members to help them better understand residents' problems. Kranick said Skakel asked him to sit in on one such encounter, which included Ricci; Skakel's father, Rushton Skakel Sr.; and attorney Thomas Sheridan. "At Elan, I probably sat in on more groups with Michael than anyone because we were close," Kranick said. "In this particular meeting, his dad didn't say very much, was very stone-faced, sitting next to the attorney, across from me and Michael."

In addition to Ricci, Skakel Sr. and Sheridan have been summoned by the grand jury. And like Ricci, all are fighting their subpoenas. Prosecutors allege in court documents that not only did Ricci confront Skakel with his admissions to the Moxley murder, he did so during a meeting attended by Rushton Skakel Sr. Kranick said he was unable to discuss whether he had been at that meeting. Soon after Skakel left Elan School in 1980, Kranick said, Skakel contacted Kranick to tell him of his plans to write a book exposing abusive treatment he claimed took place at the rehab center, where residents who broke the rules were paddled, thrown into a boxing ring and subjected to other forms of demeaning punishment. "That's one of the reasons Michael contacted me after Elan, saying he wanted to expose the brutality of the program," Kranick said.

During the hearing on the privilege claim, Harry Overend, Elan School's residential director from 1976 to 1980, said paddling was used as a means of applying peer pressure to rein in unacceptable behavior and that parental permission was required before residents could don boxing gloves. "It was done to set an example of (forbidden) behavior and to curb aggression by the residents," Overend testified on Dec. 1.

Skakel and Kranick's friendship continued for several years after leaving Elan School, and Kranick said they got together whenever he went to New York. "Mike, above and beyond what might be going on, was a great guy," Kranick said. "When we'd meet up with friends in Manhattan, we would often go to the University Club and he'd pay for everything. He was a fun guy to be around."

The friendship ended in 1986, Kranick said, because of a falling out over a personal matter. "We went our own ways after that," he said.