On the evening of October 30, 1975, 15-year-old Martha Moxley was on her way home from a Halloween party at the home of her classmates Tommy and Michael Skakel in the exclusive Belle Haven neighborhood in Greenwich, Connecticut.
She was found viciously bludgeoned to death on a nearby lawn, and the mystery of who killed Martha Moxley would haunt the city for decades. Michael Skakel, also 15 at the time, was convicted in 2002 of murdering Moxley and sentenced to 20 years to life. In 2013, he was granted a new trial by a Connecticut judge and released on $1.2 million bail. In December 2016, the murder conviction was reinstated.
The Skakels had serious money and connections: Rushton Skakel is a nephew of Ethel Skakel Kennedy, the widow of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
Martha’s final hours
According to friends, Moxley began flirting with and eventually kissed Thomas Skakel, Michael’s brother. Moxley was last seen going behind a fence with Thomas Skakel near the pool in the Skakel backyard at around 9:30 P.M.
The next day, Moxley’s body was found underneath a tree in her family’s backyard. Her trousers and underwear were pulled down, but she had not been sexually assaulted. Pieces of a broken six-iron golf club were found near the body. An autopsy indicated she had been both bludgeoned and stabbed with the club, which was traced back to the Skakel home.
Due to his weak alibi, Thomas Skakel became the prime suspect, but his father forbade access to his school and mental health records. Kenneth Littleton, who had started working as a live-in tutor for the Skakel family only hours before the murder, also became a prime suspect. However, no one was charged, and the case languished for decades. In the meantime, several books were published about the murder, including Timothy Dumas’s A Wealth of Evil; A Season In Purgatory by Dominick Dunne; and Murder in Greenwich by Mark Fuhrman.
Over the years, both Thomas and Michael Skakel changed their stories. Michael had originally claimed that he was watching a Monty Python movie with a cousin, but later told detectives that he had climbed a tree outside Martha’s bedroom window and masturbated. Chillingly, the tree he described turned out to not be located outside her bedroom window, but was rather the tree under which her body was discovered.
At the time of Michael’s sentencing in 2002, many people, including Mark Fuhrman, said that they believed that other members of the Skakel family had assisted in covering up for Michael and should faces charges.
The Sutton report
The Skakel family hired a private investigation firm, The Sutton Agency, to conduct its own investigation. The Sutton report, which Rushton Skakel had ordered destroyed, was later leaked to the media — and reportedly concluded that Tommy was the most likely killer.
Two patients at a treatment center testified that they heard Michael Skakel confess to killing Moxley with a golf club. Gregory Coleman testified that Skakel was given special privileges, saying Skakel bragged, “I’m going to get away with murder. I’m a Kennedy.”
Michael Skakel’s Trial
During Michael’s 2002 trial, the jury heard part of a taped book proposal, which included Michael Skakel speaking about masturbating in a tree on the night of the murder — possibly the same tree under which Moxley’s body was found the next morning.
On June 7, 2002, Michael Skakel was found guilty of murdering Martha Moxley, and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.
Michael Skakel’s Trial: Part II and Aftermath
On October 23, 2013, Skakel was granted a new trial by a Connecticut judge, Judge Thomas A. Bishop, who ruled that his attorney failed to adequately represent him when he was convicted in 2002.
Skakel was released in 2013, and must be monitored with a GPS device, cannot have contact with Moxley’s family, must periodically check in over the phone if required, and is not allowed to leave the state of Connecticut unless granted permission.
After Skakel’s murder conviction was reinstated, his attorney’s filed a motion to reconsider the ruling of the Connecticut Supreme Court “to ensure a full and fair determination.” Meanwhile, Skakel is still a free man.
In July 2016, Robert Kennedy released a book entitled Framed: Why Michael Skakel Spent Over a Decade in Prison for a Murder He Didn’t Commit. In the book, Kennedy made the case that two young black men, friends of the cousin of Kobe Bryant, who had been visiting New York City killed Moxley. Prosecutors say that Kennedy’s claims were thoroughly vetted and found to be “baseless” before Skakel’s first trial.
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Main photo: Martha Moxley [Wikimedia Commons]