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

IN GREENWICH, Connecticut, it has long been bad form to mention the name Moxley. This is swell-town, USA, a seashore idyll of country clubs and mansions favoured by the well-heeled and the famous. But Moxley is a like a family secret that refuses to stay hidden and is casting its shadow once more.

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.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee