A Son's Fear
Kennedy kin's new story in murder case
By Leonard Levitt
A nephew of Ethel Kennedy who has admitted lying to police about his
rendezvous with a teenage girl at precisely the time police believe she
was murdered 20 years ago, says he lied because he feared angering his
father, sources told Newsday.
But investigators to whom the nephew, Thomas Skakel, now 37, made
his claim believe Skakel is still not telling the truth about the
rendezvous. They theorize that Skakel, who now lives in Southbridge,
Mass., was trying to set up a defense for himself after being told that
new DNA evidence could possibly link him to Martha Moxley's murder.
Sources, who declined to be identified, told Newsday that Skakel,
then 17 and the nephew of Robert Kennedy's widow, Ethel, told private
investigators hired by his family that he and Martha, then 15, engaged
in a sexual encounter between 9:30 and 9:50 on Halloween eve at the edge
of his family's property in Greenwich, Conn.
Skakel said he and Martha
had lain on the ground - touching each other, leading to mutual
Skakel told the investigators he never divulged the 20-minute
encounter with Martha to Greenwich police because, he now says, he
feared that disclosing his sexual activity with Martha would have
angered his father, Rushton. Rushton Skakel is Ethel Kennedy's brother.
Martha was found the following afternoon at the edge of her family's
property a few hundred yards away, beaten to death with a golf club -
battered so hard the club split into three pieces. Her dungarees and
underpants were pulled down around her knees, although police said there
was no evidence of sexual assault.
Connecticut law enforcement authorities believe she was
killed between 9:50 and 10 p.m., based on the fact that two neighborhood
dogs began barking uncontrollably at that time. Skakel's revised
account, which was given in 1993, places him with Martha at precisely
the time police believe she was murdered; although as he has in the
past, he told the private investigators he had no knowledge of her
Skakel gave his new account in two separate interviews to Willis
Krebs, a retired New York City police lieutenant, and Richard McCarthy,
a retired FBI agent. The two were employees of Sutton Associates, a Long
Island-based investigative firm hired by the Skakel family four years
ago when Connecticut authorities reopened the case, which has been
dormant for about a decade. Neither Krebs nor McCarthy returned calls
Sources told Newsday the interviews were conducted in the Stamford,
Conn., office of Thomas' lawyer, Emmanuel Margolis with Margolis
present. Margolis said, "I deny the entire account."
Asked specifically whether Thomas had changed his story in
Margolis' presence and now admitted being with Martha between 9:30 and
9:50 p.m., Margolis said, "No comment."
Asked whether Thomas said he originally lied to police because he
feared angering his father about his so-called sexual activities with
Martha, Margolis said, "No comment."
In 1975, a few days after the murder, Skakel, who was questioned
for hours without an attorney at the Greenwich police headquarters,
maintained he last saw Martha at 9:30 p.m. A week later he passed a
lie-detector test, although copies of tape recordings of the tests
provided to Newsdayindicate he was never specifically asked the question
of what time he left Martha.
Skakel also told police the reason he left Martha at 9:30 p.m. was
to return home and write a school report on Abraham Lincoln. Greenwich
police subsequently interviewed his teachers at the Brunswick School,
the private school he attended, but could find no teacher who had
assigned such a report.
At 1 a.m., a few hours after police believe the murder occurred,
Martha's mother, Dorothy, began calling friends in the neighborhood when
Martha did not return home. Skakel, asleep at his home, was awakened by
his sister, Julie, and said he had last seen Martha at 9:30.
"Martha's body was not discovered until the following afternoon," a
source familiar with the investigation said. "If no one learned of her
death until the following day, why at 1 a.m. does he lie to Mrs. Moxley
about last seeing Martha at 9:30? Why doesn't he tell her that he last
saw her at 9:50?"
While sources familiar with the case say the investigators believe
Skakel's story that he returned outside to meet Martha again after 9:30,
they say the investigators are skeptical of his claims of having
asexual encounter with her. One source noted that a witness with Skakel
and Martha shortly before 9:30 had told the private investigators that
Martha had twice "verbally and forcibly" rejected Skakel's advances.
"And twenty minutes later, she's willing to lie down on the ground
in 40 degree weather and supposedly consent to what Thomas now claims?
It doesn't make sense."
Sources said it seemed more likely that Skakel changed his version
of events because he had been led to believe that new information -
possibly DNA evidence - had been developed that linked him to Martha's
The sources said Connecticut state medical examiner Henry Lee had
recently been brought into the case and that Lee and Connecticut law
enforcement officials had met with Margolis and another Skakel attorney,
Thomas Sheridan, saying the state was using new medical techniques in
its investigation like DNA.
"If Thomas thinks the DNA evidence links him to Martha," said the
source, "he has to create a scenario of closer contact that can explain
his being with her without having killed her."
Thomas is not the only member of the Skakel family - heirs to the
Great Lakes Carbon Co. of Chicago, once one of the largest privately
owned companies in the country - who now admits he lied to Greenwich
police about his whereabouts the night of the murder.
In interviews with the private investigators, Thomas' younger
brother, Michael, 15 at the time,has also admitted lying to police about
In 1975, he told Greenwich police he left Martha with
Thomas at about 9:15 and drove with two of his other brothers to his
cousin's house a few miles away, then returned home at 11 p.m. to sleep.
But in 1993, according to sources, Michael told the investigators
that at 11:30 p.m. he went to the Moxley house and, apparently believing
Martha was alive, threw stones at her window to awaken her. He then
passed what was later determined to be the murder site where he said he
heard noises but saw nothing.
If Martha was killed earlier that evening
as police believe, then his new admissions are of no consequence.
Michael Skakel could not be reached for comment. His lawyer, Thomas
Sheridan, did not return a telephone call.
Sources familiar with the case said that after Thomas' admissions,
the investigators, who had been hired by Sheridan, were then prevented
by Sheridan from conducting a third interview with Thomas. The sources
said that Sheridan then told the investigators that a written report
they were preparing analyzing the discrepancies in Thomas' statements
were no longer needed.
"The Skakel family has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to
clear the family name," said a source familiar with the investigation.
"But questions remain as to Thomas' and others' part in or knowledge of
this crime. Why is there no public disclosure of the investigators' four
years of work?"
(Copyright 1995, Newsday)