On tape, Skakel's own words recount
night of murder.
By James O'Keefe - Stamford Advocate
In a calm, conversational tone, convicted murderer Michael Skakel talks about masturbating in a tree outside Martha Moxley's house the night the 15-year-old Greenwich girl he called "hot" was slain in their Belle Haven neighborhood.
"This is crazy. If they catch me, they're going to think I'm nuts. And a moment of clarity came into my head, and I climbed down the tree," Skakel told writer Richard Hoffman in a tape-recorded conversation for a book the two were planning to write.
Moxley's bludgeoned body was found near her home the next afternoon.
"I remember thinking, 'Oh my God, if I tell anybody that I was out that night, they're gonna say I did it,' " Skakel said.
Skakel recounted his version of the events of Oct. 30, 1975, in a 25-minute tape introduced by the prosecution as evidence at his murder trial. The jury that convicted Skakel last week listened to the recording again during its deliberations.
"Putting himself at the scene of the crime was difficult for us to understand. . . . You wouldn't do that unless you had something to worry about," one of the jurors said yesterday.
Skakel did not take the stand during his trial. His tape-recorded talk with Hoffman was the only time the jury heard him speak.
The recording was made by Hoffman during a long weekend at the Skakel family home in Windham, N.Y., as raw material for a book about Skakel's life tentatively titled "Dead Man Talking: A Kennedy Cousin Comes Clean."
Skakel's defense attorney, Michael Sherman, filed a motion for a new trial yesterday. Part of his argument is the court erred when it allowed the tape to be admitted into evidence.
The tape "contained inadmissible hearsay as well as irrelevant and prejudicial evidence of the defendant's prior misconduct," Sherman wrote in the motion.
The court has not ruled on the motion.
The tape of Skakel begins with him talking excitedly about getting ready for Mischief Night -- the night before Halloween when youths pull pranks.
Skakel tells Hoffman about making slingshots called "funnelators" out of medical tubing and funnels to launch eggs and apples at unsuspecting victims.
"You could hit a parked car or anybody driving by from 200 yards away, and safely be able to run away without getting caught. I mean you could hit houses . . . hit other kids. I mean it was wartime," Skakel said, laughing.
Skakel also talks about neighbor Moxley -- calling her "hot" and "cute" -- and admits to spying on his friends' mothers.
A juror, who asked not to be identified, said Skakel's words on the tape poked holes in his own alibi.
Skakel and his defense team contend that he was miles from Belle Haven, watching "Monty Python's Flying Circus" at a cousin's house in northern Greenwich when Moxley was bludgeoned with a golf club from the Skakel home. Skakel said he left Belle Haven at about 8:15 p.m.
The alibi was contradicted by Andrea Shakespeare -- a friend of Skakel's older sister, Julie. Shakespeare testified she was certain Michael was at the Skakels' Belle Haven home when she left after 9:30 p.m.
But Skakel, in his talk with Hoffman, recounts a night of smoking marijuana at his cousin's house. He also said that his brother, Rushton Skakel Jr., was so drunk that their unlicensed brother, John, had to drive them home to Belle Haven.
The house was dark and his sister's bedroom door was closed when they got home, Skakel said.
"I remember Andrea had gone home," Skakel said.
A juror said this is significant because Skakel said he left Belle Haven while Shakespeare was still at their house, visiting with his sister.
Skakel went on to say that he couldn't sleep. He said he slipped out of the house and went to spy on a female neighbor, hoping to see her naked.
He changed his mind and headed to Moxley's house to seek a kiss from her. He said he climbed a tree outside her home, threw rocks at a window, called her name and fondled himself briefly.
Skakel said he started home a short time later without seeing Moxley, cutting across he family's driveway. He said he had a feeling there was someone else in the yard.
"When I started walking through something in me said, 'Don't go in the dark over there,' " Skakel said. "I remember yelling, 'Who's in there? Who's in there?' "
Moxley's body was found in this area the next day.
Skakel said he went home to bed and was awakened the next morning by Martha's mother, Dorthy Moxley, at the door, asking him whether he knew where her daughter was.
"I remember just having a feeling of panic . . . like my worry of what I went to bed with . . . I don't know . . . I just had a feeling of panic," he said.
Skakel said he hopped on his bike to go looking for Martha Moxley. When he returned, the area around her home was crawling with police. That's when he learned Moxley was dead, he said.
Police later interrogated his older brother, Thomas, who was believed to be the last person seen with Moxley, Skakel said.
"You know the police were at our house every day. You know they had like dinner with us, and I mean it was just (expletive) bizarre," Skakel said. "And it just kind of left me in shock ever since then, you know."
The juror said the panel took the statements Skakel made on the tape with a grain of salt.
"We didn't take it as testimony. We took it as someone who was trying to sell a book. He was telling a story, and we recognized that there may have been embellishments and puffery in his commentary," the juror said.
Skakel is jailed, awaiting sentencing. He faces 10 years to life in prison.
The Advocate has obtained an excerpt from a 1997 taped conversation between Michael Skakel and ghostwriter Richard Hoffman, who was collaborating with Skakel on a book proposal. The book, "Dead Man Talking: A Kennedy Cousin Comes Clean," which was to be Skakel's autobiography, was never published. Because Skakel did not testify during his trial, the tape was the only account jurors heard from him of his actions on the night Martha Moxley was murdered.
To hear the tape, log on to www.norwalkadvocate.com after 8 a.m. today.