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 orgasm.
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 death.
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 seeking comment.
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 death.
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 his whereabouts.
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)