Hallowe'en murder haunts Kennedys
The unsolved killing of a teenager 23 years ago threatens to add another stain to the family's reputation. David Usborne reports
Sunday 08 November 1998
It happened on Hallowe'en night 23 years ago. Fifteen-year-old Martha Moxley had left her home in Belle Haven, one of the best addresses in Greenwich, to play tricks with some friends. But she never returned. Her badly battered body was found under an old fir in the family garden the next day.
What befell Martha was never in doubt. She had been bludgeoned and stabbed with the shaft of a 6-iron golf club, sections of which remained on the scene. But, beyond that, there was nothing. Amid whispers of bungling if not actual evidence suppression, the police department failed to solve the murder. No trial has been held and no charges brought.
Spurred by two books about the case published this spring, one by Mark Fuhrman, the detective made notorious for his racism in the O J Simpson murder trial, state prosecutors have reopened the case, convening a grand jury in nearby Bridgeport. For weeks, the jury, consisting of a single judge, has been issuing serial subpoenas to compel anyone possibly tied to the murder to testify.
If and when charges are finally filed, the murder that Greenwich would rather forget is likely to burst, meteor-like, back into American consciousness. It is not just the high-society setting that will draw attention, or even the involvement of Mr Fuhrman. It is the identity - and the breeding - of the two individuals, who, according to press leaks, have surfaced as principal suspects.
They are Michael and Thomas Skakel, brothers who were among those who went out with Martha that night and who were identified even then as the last people to see her alive. Thomas and Michael, then 17 and 15 years old, lived across the road from the Moxleys, the sons of Rushton Skakel, a wealthy and respected industrialist. But something else distinguishes the family: they are part of the Kennedy clan.
Rushton Skakel, who is now 74 and lives in Florida, is the brother of Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert F Kennedy. Thomas and Michael, therefore, are the late senator's nephews, a link which reinforced gossip that the boys were investigated with kid gloves. "I think they got deferential or preferential treatment," John Moxley, Martha's brother, said. "The Kennedy thing probably played a part."
Suspicion fell on the Skakel boys from the start. The golf club was matched to one that had belonged to the family. At first, Thomas came in for the closest scrutiny. He told the police he had left Martha outside his own house at 9.30pm, and had gone to the home of a cousin. He took a lie detector test that was reportedly inconclusive.
But in his book, Murder in Greenwich, Mr Fuhrman points the finger instead at Michael. Accusing the town police of hopeless sleuthing, he says that a critical item of evidence, the grip of the club, was embedded in the skull of Martha when her body was found, but then was lost or mislaid by detectives.
Indeed, it is on Michael that the closed-door grand jury is now said to be concentrating. As a child, it has been reported, he took pleasure in decapitating small rodents - with a golf iron. Critically, he is said to have confessed to the murder during a therapy session at a drug treatment centre in the late 1980s. Former workers from the centre testified to the jury last week.
"There is a powerful case there," said Wendy Murphy, a former prosecutor and legal commentator. "The problem, though, will be figuring out which of the two brothers did it. Have you solved the case because you've narrowed it to two suspects? Probably not."
The brothers, both married and living in Massachusetts, have always professed their innocence. Michael assisted Senator Edward Kennedy in his 1994 re-election and worked for the late Michael Kennedy at his Citizen's Energy Corporation in Boston. Recently, Robert F Kennedy Jr, their cousin, came to their defence. "Those boys had nothing to do with the tragic murder of Martha Moxley. Their lives have been absolutely beleaguered by innuendo that has hounded them for 22 years."
The work of the grand jury threatens to add another stain to America's most famous - and famously troubled - political dynasty. But for Martha's mother, Dorthy, it promises relief. "It is like having an open wound and no hope to close it." That closure may, at last, be in sight.
- 1 Qataris pledge to expand Canary Wharf
- 2 #JeSuisEd: People share photos of themselves eating awkwardly in solidarity with Labour leader
- 3 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
- 4 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
- 5 Watch eerie drone footage of destroyed building in Stalingrad
#JeSuisEd: People share photos of themselves eating awkwardly in solidarity with Labour leader
Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
General election 2015: 'Nasty party' Ukip faces fresh questions over candidates on eve of vote
Who should I vote for in the general election? Take The Independent's interactive quiz to find out which party is the right choice for you
Ohio 'Shawshank Redemption' fugitive Frank Freshwater arrested after 56 years on the run
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
General Election 2015: Sturgeon claims Scots 'appalled' by Ed Miliband's refusal to work with SNP
£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...