Thomas Skakel speaks out
By John Christoffersen - Greenwich Time

STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. - A stone's throw from where Norman Rockwell painted America at her most innocent, Thomas Skakel seeks refuge from a murder case that has haunted his wealthy family since 1975.

In his first extensive interview since his younger brother Michael Skakel was charged with the murder of 15-year-old Martha Moxley, who was beaten to death with a golf club on her family's estate in Greenwich, Thomas Skakel told The Associated Press of his life as the prime suspect in the murder for many years.

"I've lived with it more than half my life," Skakel told the AP on Wednesday. "It's been devastating over the years."

Almost from the beginning, Thomas Skakel - who was 17 at the time of Moxley's death - was considered the leading suspect. But it was his younger brother, Michael, who was charged after a one-judge grand jury re-examined the case in 1998-99.

A judge last week ruled there was sufficient evidence for the case against Michael Skakel to proceed to trial.

"I obviously feel relief I'm not public enemy No. 1," Thomas Skakel said.

Thomas Skakel, 42, was never charged - or explicitly exonerated. His lawyer, Emanuel Margolis, said last year he considered Thomas Skakel effectively exonerated when the grand jury's deadline passed without any recommended charges against him.

"They never apologized," said Skakel's wife, who would not give her name but is identified as Anne in a book about the case. "Being wrongly accused, no one ever comes back and says 'We're sorry.'

"He went through an awful lot of pain," she said, standing barefoot in the family's home. "It was a slow pain, over 25 years."

Frank Garr, who has long investigated the case for the state's attorney's office and earlier with Greenwich police, would not comment on Thomas Skakel. But investigators do not generally apologize when someone is no longer a suspect, he said.

"I don't think it's warranted," Garr said. "It may be unfortunate, but investigators are doing their job."

Garr added: "The only victim here is Martha Moxley."

Both Skakel brothers, nephews of the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, were among a group of teenagers with Moxley the night she was killed, Oct. 30, 1975.

Attention began to shift toward Michael Skakel in 1991 after he changed his story about his movements the night of the murder. Skakel gave the new statements to private investigators hired by his family in an effort to clear both brothers.

Moxley was beaten to death with a 6-iron that was matched to a set of golf clubs owned by the Skakels.

Thomas Skakel, citing the advice of his attorney, would not talk directly about the case. He initially declined to comment about his brother at all, but when pressed said he "absolutely" considered Michael innocent.

"I know certainly Michael didn't do it," Skakel said.

Skakel spoke in staccato when talking about Michael.

"Very supportive of him," Skakel said.

They have a typical brotherly relationship, Skakel said.

"We speak," Skakel said.

His wife was more expansive, saying she knows that her husband and Michael would not be capable of committing such a crime.

"They don't have it in them to be that horrible," she said.

The Skakels are the grandsons of George Skakel Sr., who built a fortune by turning coke into clean carbon for use in making aluminum.

But Skakel's home in Stockbridge is striking in its modesty. The small house is nestled between much larger homes and features an outdated kitchen with orange countertops and old cabinets.

Birds chirp in the side yard, where a swing set with a blue slide sits. Three empty glass milk bottles are on the ground.

Rockwell's former studio is down the road. Older Victorian homes grace the main thoroughfare of this town of 2,500.

The Skakel house is near the Merwin Tranquility House. Tranquility was one commodity Skakel longed for when he came to the Berkshires, more than 100 miles from where he grew up.

"I just wanted to get away from Greenwich," Skakel said.

Skakel would hear the whispers when he'd occasionally return. "There he is," Skakel recalled a woman saying on one visit. "He's the one."

"I felt pretty low," Skakel said.

Skakel, who wears thick-framed glasses, a blue ski vest and has a receding hairline, has three daughters who range in age from 3 to 10. The two older girls know "everything I know" about the murder, he said.

"We don't hide anything from them," Skakel said.

Elizabeth, 10, saw a television program on the case one day, Skakel said. "She said, 'Daddy I love you. I know you didn't do this."'

Skakel serves as a volunteer firefighter and works in the marketing department at a local ski resort. But his association with the case has hurt his ability to find a good job, Skakel said.

The Skakels, who have been married for 12 years, say the town's residents have accepted them without judgment. No resident wanted to be quoted by name, but those who spoke confirmed that the Skakels are just part of the town.

"He's obviously an involved community member," one woman said as she walked near the Skakel home.

John Moxley, Martha's brother, said Thursday he does not view Thomas Skakel as a victim.

Thomas Skakel lied to police after the murder and, like Michael, changed his story years later when his family hired private investigators, Moxley said.

"He brought the focus on himself," Moxley said. "In terms of a legacy, he has been 100 percent the architect of his own destiny."

Moxley said he remains convinced that Thomas Skakel knows more than he has ever indicated about his sister's murder.

"My deep suspicion is he was involved somehow in the cover-up," Moxley said.

Margolis, Thomas Skakel's lawyer, was out of town this week and not available for comment. But Michael Skakel's defense lawyer said there is no cover-up, "because Michael is completely innocent of any wrongdoing."

Defense attorney Michael Sherman said he is not sure if Thomas Skakel will testify in the trial. But it appears likely that his role as the early suspect will figure in some fashion.

"I expect to allow the investigators to describe how they didn't focus on Michael Skakel for 20-something years," Sherman said.

Thomas Skakel said he has gradually come to terms with the case.

"I'm tired of being angry," Skakel said. "Enough is enough."



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