Scandal, tragedy and untimely deaths have long plagued the Kennedy’s and the gruesome murder of a young teenager over four decades ago continues to implicate the dynastic family.
In 1975, 15-year-old Martha Moxley’s body was discovered laying underneath a tree in her family's Belle Haven backyard in Greenwich, Connecticut.
She had been bludgeoned and stabbed to death with a six-iron golf club, pieces of which were found near her body.
Her pants and underwear were pulled down, but she had not been sexually assaulted.
The club was traced back to the Skakel family home across the street, where Moxley was last seen alive.
Her death drew national headlines for not only being the first murder in Greenwich for 30 years but for who was allegedly responsible.
17-year-old Thomas Skakel, the nephew of Robert F. Kennedy, was the last person known to have been seen with Moxley the night of the murder but had a weak alibi and became the prime suspect.
However, no one was charged, and the case languished for decades.
Who is Michael Skakel?
Michael Skakel is the younger brother of the aforementioned Thomas and was 15 years old at the time of Moxley's death.
He was primarily raised by his father, Rushton Skakel, the brother of Ethel Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, after the 1973 death of his mother, Anne Skakel to brain cancer.
He was married to golf pro-Margot Sheridan but divorced in 2001 after being arrested for Moxley's murder in January 2000. The couple have one child together.
On June 7, 2002, Michael Skakel was found guilty of murdering Martha Moxley, although according to The New York Times, no physical evidence linked him to the crime, the jury was moved by Skakel’s various “incriminating statements and erratic behavior” following Martha’s killing.
Appearing in court to face the murder charge, he stunned the crowded courtroom when he walked over to Moxley’s mother seated in the front row, and told her, "Dorthy, I feel your pain, but you've got the wrong guy."
She did not respond.
Skakel spoke during his trial, where he proclaimed his innocence.
He was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison and it appeared the cold case had finally been put to rest, yet the mysterious murder story took another twist in 2013 when Skakel was granted a new trial by a Connecticut judge and released on $1.2 million bail.
However, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled 4–3 to reinstate Skakel's conviction on December 30, 2016.
But the Connecticut Supreme Court vacated the conviction on May 4, 2018, and ordered a new trial.
The Court ruled that Skakel's attorney, Michael Sherman, had "rendered ineffective assistance" when he failed to contact an alibi witness whose name he was provided by Skakel and that as a result, Skakel was deprived of a fair trial.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. defends first cousin Michael Skakel
In January 2003, attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Skakel's first cousin, wrote a controversial article in The Atlantic Monthly entitled "A Miscarriage of Justice," insisting that Skakel's indictment "was triggered by an inflamed media and that an innocent man is now in prison."
Kennedy's article presented the argument that there was more evidence suggesting that Kenneth Littleton, who had started working as a live-in tutor for the Skakel family only hours before the murder, killed Moxley.
Kennedy pointed out Littleton’s shifting alibis—including his taped admission, seventeen years after the crime that he’d been so drunk he’d blacked out the night of Moxley’s death.
In 1998 the Connecticut attorney general gave Littleton lifetime immunity in exchange for his testimony before the grand jury that indicted Michael Skakel.
Kennedy also calls investigative journalist Dominick Dunne the "driving force" behind Skakel's prosecution claiming he only wanted to write about high-profile crimes and famous people
In 2016, Kennedy released the book Framed: Why Michael Skakel Spent over a Decade in Prison for a Murder He Didn't Commit, the rights of which were optioned by FX Productions to develop a multi-part television series.
Martha Moxley case re-opened
When William Kennedy Smith, the son of former US Ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith, who is John F. Kennedy's sister, was tried (and acquitted) for rape in 1991, a rumor circulated that he had been present at the Skakel house on the night of the Moxley's murder.
The led to speculation that Kennedy Smith may have been involved yet this proved unfounded and Rushton Skakel hired a private detective agency to investigate the killing.
Those findings later leaked to the media in 1995, revealing that both Thomas and Michael Skakel altered their stories about their activities the night Moxley was killed.
The report included an interview with Michael, which revealed he had lied to police in 1975 about his actions on the night of Moxley's murder.
He admitted that after coming home from his cousin’s house, he had climbed a tree outside Martha’s window around midnight and masturbated in it.
In 1998 the book Murder in Greenwich by Mark Fuhrman revived interest in the case and a rarely invoked one-man grand jury was convened to review the evidence of the case.
After an 18-month investigation, it was decided there was enough evidence to charge Michael Skakel with murder.
At trial, former students from Élan School, which treats children with substance abuse problems, testified they heard Michael Skakel confess to killing Moxley with a golf club.
John Higgins said Skakel made a “progression of statements” about the night Martha was murdered, initially claiming he did not know if he had killed Martha, but ultimately saying, “I did it.”
Gregory Coleman testified that Skakel was given special privileges, saying Skakel bragged, "I'm going to get away with murder. I'm a Kennedy."
However, in a recent interview for Oxygen, one of those students, Chuck Seigan, believes that no credible confession could have come from Skakel during his time at the Élan and as time went on, Seigan says he also began questioning Higgins’ credibility.
State prosecutors in Stamford still have the power to call for a new trial against Skakel but no determination has been made by the State’s Attorney’s office.
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