Unsolved slay probe haunts Kennedy clan
by Maggie Mulvihill

10/30/98

GREENWICH, Conn. -- October's brisk winds whisper of shadows and of ghosts.

And though mystery has surrounded the brutal slaying of a teenage Connecticut girl for 23 years, the case is haunting authorities today more than ever.

The search for 15-year-old Martha Moxley's killer has moved straight into the stately homes of one of the nation's most prominent families -- the Kennedys.

Connecticut authorities are turning up the heat on two men who have long been suspects in the murder: Thomas and Michael Skakel, nephews of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

"I know the answers to Martha's murder lie somewhere in that house," said 66-year-old Dorthy Moxley, referring to the Skakel mansion in Greenwich, Conn., where her teenage daughter was last seen about 9:30 on the night of Oct. 30, 1975.

Though both Thomas, now 40, and Michael, now 39, have staunchly maintained their innocence for more than two decades, startling new developments in the case -- particularly revelations they may have lied to police in 1975 -- have only raised more questions.

A special one-man grand jury in Bridgeport, Conn., has been littering the East Coast with subpoenas for the past five months, seeking secret testimony from the Skakels' father, Rushton Skakel Sr., who has refused to cooperate, as well as patients treated at a drug treatment center in Maine 20 years ago who allegedly heard Michael Skakel confess to his involvement in the slaying.

A hearing scheduled for today in Bridgeport has been temporarily postponed as private investigators hired by the Skakel family in 1991 battle subpoenas issued by Connecticut authorities. The private investigators claimed in their report that the brothers had initially lied to police about their whereabouts the night of the murder.

Another nephew of Ethel Kennedy, Jim Terrien, who vouched for Michael Skakel's alibi in 1975, is now believed to be hiding in the Bahamas, sources said.

Earlier this month, Joseph Ricci, an ex-morphine addict who ran the Elan School, denied he ever overheard Michael Skakel confess to the murder during therapy, but said in an Oct. 19 court hearing that Skakel was treated at Elan exclusively by a psychiatrist who was a close Kennedy family friend. That doctor has since died.

And in August, former Skakel live-in tutor Kenneth Littleton, once a suspect himself in the case according to his attorney and police, was given immunity in exchange for his testimony, sources say.

The eerie twists and turns of the Moxley case only compound the haze of confusion surrounding it since Halloween 1975 -- when Martha's corpse -- battered by a golf club, pieces of which were found at the scene -- was discovered under a looming pine tree on her family's property.

The staid, seaside enclave of Greenwich had not had a murder in 21 years, and the local police force was not prepared for such a complex investigation, said retired Greenwich detective Steve Carroll. Indeed, criticism quickly grew that the immense wealth of the Skakel family and their ties to the Kennedy clan were hampering the probe.

A search warrant for the Skakel house was never obtained; Michael was never interviewed, and the Skakel family camper, which some suspect was used to hide evidence in the slaying, was driven away by Skakel relatives within hours of the discovery of Martha's body.

"This was the work of a maniac," said Carroll, one of the first officers on the scene. The killer was so frenzied, the steel golf club split into three pieces during the attack.

Michael Skakel had had a crush on Martha for months, according to Carroll. But hours before she was killed, his older brother, Tommy, then 17, tried to grope her in front of Michael, and Michael left the house at about 9:15 p.m. to purportedly drive his cousin, Terrien, home, the retired detective said.

Tommy Skakel claimed he left Martha at about 9:30 p.m., as she headed to her own home about 150 yards away, and never saw her again.

Though initially cooperative with police, the Skakel family quickly closed ranks and have shrouded themselves with a legion of high-powered lawyers.

"If they didn't do anything wrong, why won't they help? What did Martha ever do to them?" asked Dorthy Moxley. "She was a beautiful young girl who got along with everybody. She was like the sun coming up in the morning."

Michael, who reportedly angered his Kennedy kin last year by discussing with authorities the late Michael Kennedy's sexual affair with a teenage babysitter, has moved to Florida with his wife, and is awaiting the birth of his first child.

Tommy lives quietly in Stockbridge, Mass., with his wife and three children. Both men declined comment.

Lawyers as well as a Skakel family member ackowledged that both brothers in 1975 suffered emotional and behavioral problems, and have conquered drug and alcohol addictions developed when they were just teens.

Michael Sherman, a prominent Stamford, Conn., attorney retained by Michael Skakel, said investigators -- fueled by the media furor over the case -- are baying for Skakel blood while ignoring the real suspect -- Ken Littleton.

"It's a witch hunt," he said. "I think it was out of sheer desperation they gave (Littleton) immunity." Emmanuel Margolis, who has represented Tommy Skakel since 1975, is fighting a subpoena that called for him to appear before the grand jury today.

But Dorthy Moxley said: "There is going to be justice for Martha. I'm just not going to quit until I can't do anything else."