On June 7, 2002, 41-year-old Michael Skakel is sentenced to the 1975 killing of his former Greenwich, Connecticut, neighbor, 15-year-old Martha Moxley. Skakel, a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, the spouse of the late U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy, was later sentenced to 20 years to life in jail.
Moxley Was Killed
On October 30, 1975, Moxley was bludgeoned to death with a golf club outside her family’s house in Greenwich, one of America’s most prosperous communities. The golf club was later inferred to have come from a set belonging to the Skakel family, who lived across the street from the Moxley’s. Detectives initially concentrated on one of Michael Skakel’s older brothers, the last individual Moxley reportedly was glimpsed alive with, as well as the Skakels’ live-in tutor as probable suspects, but no arrests were made due to absence of information, and the case stalled.
In the early 1990s, Connecticut authorities relaunched the inquiry, and public attention in the case also was reignited by many new books, including Dominick Dunne’s “A Season in Purgatory” (1993), a fictionalized account of the crime, and former Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman’s “A Murder in Greenwich” (1998), in which he alleged that Michael Skakel murdered Moxley in a jealous fury because she was romantically interested in his older brother. In 2000, based in part on statements made by former classmates of Skakel’s who alleged he confessed to them in the 1970s to murdering Moxley, he was accused of her killing.
Skakel, who came from a family of seven kids, had a prosperous, honoured upbringing; nonetheless, his mum perished from cancer in 1973 and he had a disturbing relationship with his dad. In the late 1970s, Skakel, who started drinking heavily as a teen, was sent to the Elan School, a private boarding school in Poland, Maine, for disturbed youth. At Skakel’s 2002 trial, the prosecution presented testimony from various of his former Elan classmates who asserted that in the 1970s Skakel had admitted to murdering Moxley. One ex-classmate, a drug addict who perished soon before the 2002 trial began, alleged at a previous court hearing that Skakel told him, “I am going to get away with killing because I am a Kennedy.”
At trial, prosecutors, who had no eyewitnesses and no physical indication directly linking Skakel to the killing, played a 1997 recorded discussion between Skakel and the ghostwriter of an autobiography Skakel hoped to sell. Skakel said on video that on the night of the killing he climbed into a tree in the Moxleys’ yard, while drunk and high on marijuana, and masturbated as he attempted to look into Martha Moxley’s bedroom window. He told that when Moxley’s mum came to his home the next morning looking for her daughter, he felt panicked and wondered if someone had glimpsed him the night before. Although Skakel never confessed on the tape to murdering Moxley, prosecutors said his words put him at the spectacle of the crime and were a try to cover up the slaying.
After three days of deliberations, jurors found Skakel guilty of killing, and in August 2002, he was convicted to 20 years to life behind bars. Skakel’s cousin, Robert Kennedy Jr., an attorney, later worked to get Skakel a new trial; nonetheless, in 2010, the petition was rejected by the Connecticut Supreme Court.
In October 2013, in yet another twist to the case, a Connecticut judge decreed a new trial for Skakel, ruling that his first prosecution lawyer didn’t represent him effectively. The following month, Skakel was released from jail on a $1.2 million bond. In 2018, Skakel’s killing conviction was vacated by the Connecticut Supreme Court.