15-year-old Martha Moxley lived in Greenwich, Connecticut. On October 30th, 1975, the kids in the Belle Haven neighborhood celebrated Mischief Night. Martha was last seen hanging out at the Skakel residence and she was murdered in her own yard. Her body was discovered the next day and she had been hit with a golf club many times. The case is unsolved, but a lot of the evidence keeps pointing back to the same people.
Becky Nielsen is with Edina Realty and is part of the Realtors with Energy Team (763) 244-6264
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A ton of my research came from the book: The Mysterious Murder of Martha Moxley by Joe Bruno and I also watched Murder and Justice: The Case of Martha Moxley on Oxygen, it's a 3 part series.
15-year-old Martha Moxley was a straight A student form Greenwich (Grenich) Connecticut. She was described as an All-American girl who was a flirt. She loved attention from boys, but she wasn't promiscuous. She was pretty, popular, confident, and self-assured. She was voted the girl with the best personality in her junior high school class. Martha took ballet lessons, played piano, and enjoyed skiing and tennis. She also lettered in field hockey and basketball. On October 30th, 1975, she was brutally murdered and it took 25 years to convict someone, but the case isn't solved? Martha was last seen at the Skakel (Skay-kel) family home across the street from her house in Belle Haven. She was hanging out with teenage brothers, Tommy and Michael Skakel. Their father, Rushton Skakel, was the heir to a family fortune from the coal industry. Their father's sister was Ethel Skakel, who was the wife of Robert F. Kennedy (brother of the assassinated president, John F Kennedy). In Belle Haven, the night before Halloween is referred to as mischief or hell night. It's a night where children and teenagers are involved in pranks, vandalism, and other activities. The pranksters would ring door bells and toilet paper houses. Belle Haven was a neighborhood with its own yacht club, private security, and it was a very tight knit group of people.
On October 30th, Martha's mother began calling people to see if they had seen her daughter and it was believed that she went to see her boyfriend, Jeffrey Grey that night. Everyone assumed Martha was just participating in mischief night, no big deal. Once the sun came up, the whole town was looking for Martha. The neighbor, 15-year-old Sheila McGuire joined the search to find Martha and went to all the local make out spots in town. She wandered through a deserted patch of grass and trees that was located on the northwest side of the Moxley property. She was at the top of a slope and spotted something at the bottom that looked like a blue mattress with a pink sleeping bag on top.
As Sheila headed down the slope, the image in front of her began turning into something else completely as her eyes adjusted. She found her friend, Martha lying on her stomach. Her feet were pointed towards the slope and her head was pointed toward her house. She was wearing navy blue corduroy jeans and they were down at her ankles. She was naked from the waist down and she was wearing a navy jacket. Martha was covered in blood, pine needles, and debris. She had been scratched all down her hips and thighs and blood was in her hair. Tears were streaming down Shelia's face as she processed everything and she took off running towards Martha's house. She was screaming that she found Martha and she believed she had been raped or attacked by dogs and needed help.
A ceremony was held for Martha on November 4th and the eulogy was written by her classmates. They said they had all thought about death before and Martha told her friends that she would want everyone to be happy at her funeral and remember all the good times they had. The students wrote, “Martha was a happy girl who made friends easily and brightened the lives of everyone she met. Martha Moxley loved life. Every day was something special. She made more friends in only a short time in Greenwich than most people made in a lifetime. She was always the first to come around, and she was fun to be around. It was an education to be with her. The Moxley family was the perfect foursome. They enjoyed tennis, skiing and dinner together. Martha loved her family, as well as her $100 cat and her collection of frogs.”
It appears that Martha was heading home for the night because her body was discovered in her own yard. Based on evidence from the crime scene, it's believed that she was hit in the head when she was on her driveway. She was hit with a golf club so hard, that the club shattered into 4 pieces. The head of the club has slanted grooves and the imprint of that design was on her chin. Police surveyed the scene and found two pools of blood and the path lead them directly to Martha's body. They found three pieces of the Toney Penna 6-iron golf club which was the murder weapon. A retired detective, Steve Carroll would admit years later that the investigation was very disorganized in the beginning. The first theory that police came to was that the murder was committed by an outsider of the community, such as a hitchhiker who just slipped through the Belle Harbor security. When they couldn't find any evidence to fit that theory, they concluded that it probably was someone local.
Belle Haven was a pretty safe, upscale, rich, community. They had 63,000 people, there wasn't a lot of crime, and there certainly hadn't been any recent murders. Detectives were trying to piece together Martha's last hours and here's what they came up with. Martha Moxley, Helen Ix, and Geoffrey Byrne arrived at the Skakel residence around 8:30 PM on Mischief Night. Martha and Michael Skakel got in the front seat of his father's car, Helen and Geoffrey were in the back. They were just sitting in the vehicle listening to music and Tommy Skakel came out of the house, drunk, and hopped into the front seat with Martha. Tommy and Michael are brothers and they didn't get along at all. Martha had a crush on Tommy, but Michael had a crush on Martha. Tommy began running his hands down Martha's inner thighs and she gigged and told him to stop. He did pull his hand back, but began flirting with Martha in front of his brother.
Around 9:15PM, more siblings came out of the Skakel house and announced that they were all going to watch Monty Python at Jimmy's house and they asked if any of them wanted to go with. Michael said he wanted to go and asked if Martha wanted to go with, but she declined the invitation. Perhaps this was because she had a crush on Tommy and he said he wasn't going? The car full of teens drove off, Helen and Geoffrey left the home on foot and this just left Tommy and Martha. All stories after this point have changed many times over the years. Helen and Geoffrey say that the last time they saw Martha was with Tommy. The two of them were flirting as they were leaving the Skakel home. Tommy Skakel says that he last saw Martha around 9:30 PM as she was walking back to her house which was about 200 yards away. Martha had been on her property when she was hit in the head with a golf club several times. The killer hit her an additional 10-15 times after she was unconscious and that's when the golf club shattered into four pieces. Then, the killer grabbed a piece of the broken club and plunged it into Martha's neck. According to the autopsy, Martha didn't die from the severe beating, she died from the shaft of the club being shoved into her.
I mentioned earlier that police found two pools of blood. There was so much blood at the initial point of attack that it looked like the killer left, then came back to the scene about 30 minutes later and dragged her body under the pine tree which was about 70 feet away. Then, they pulled Martha's jeans and underwear down to her knees. An exam showed that Martha had not been sexually assaulted. Neighbors say dogs were hysterically barking around 9:30 to 9:45 PM, but this was expected on Mischief Night. Some of the neighbors were so disturbed by this, they actually did go outside their homes to investigate, but didn't see anything. The Skakel's live in maid heard the dogs barking and sent the live-in tutor. They circled the Skakel home, saw nothing and went back inside, but noted that their German Shepard wasn't barking. Some people believe this points to the killer being someone from the Skakel home because the dog barks at people that it's not familiar with, but it also sounds like the dog wasn't barking when the tutor went to check things out and this was his first day on the job.
Also during the timeframe of 9:30 to 9:45 PM Dorthy Moxley the mother. was painting the trim around the windows of her second-floor room. The wind picked up, so she shut the windows, but was still able to hear loud voices. She believed she heard a male teen and the voice sounded threatening. She went to the bathroom and opened the window to see if she could hear better, but she wasn't able to pick up on anything. At 11 she watched the news and about 20 to 30 minutes later, her son, John came in exhausted from a night of mischief. Dorthy mentioned that Martha wasn't home yet and she had been grounded the week prior for staying out too late. She was allowed to go out for Mischief Night, but she had been warned to be home early that night. John knew it wasn't like his sister to break a promise, so he hopped in his car to go find her. John cruised around town for 30 minutes, but returned home to let his mother know that he couldn't find her. Dorthy was very worried and spent all night calling every teen in town and she called the Skakel residence several times and kept having them wake Tommy up to question him.
At 3:38 AM, Dorthy called the Greenwich Police Department to report that Martha was missing. At 10AM, she marched over to the Skakel residence because she knew that's where Martha told her she would be. Michael Skakel answered the door and Dorthy said he looked disheveled. He was messy, barefoot, and looked like he slept in his clothes. He said he didn't know where Martha was, but she wasn't in their house.
The golf club used as the murder weapon was a rare gold club. It was a ladies' Toney Penna 6-iron and police needed to find out who owned a woman's set of these. They didn't have a search warrant, but they stopped by the Skakel residence first. Tommy answered the door and said he watched Martha heading to her house around 9:30 PM and he had to stay home that night to write a book report about Abraham Lincoln for school the next day and he told the police the name of his teacher at school. When detectives went to the school to question the teacher, she looked very confused and said that she was an anthropology teacher, they don't discuss Abraham Lincoln. As detectives left the home, they noticed a single golf club was propped against a storage bin. It was a Toney Penna 5-iron. Etched into the area below the grip was the name Anne Skakel. The part of the club where the name was etched, is the exact piece missing from the scene of the crime. Is it possible that the killer took that piece with them since it had a family member's name etched into it? Either way, no search warrant, no golf club.
Dorthy did find out that Martha had a diary and she found an entry where her daughter said that she had to be careful because she didn't trust one of the Skakel boys, but she didn't say which one. Less than six weeks before her murder she wrote about how Michael was such an asshole in his actions and words and he kept telling her that she was leading Tom on. She mentioned that she should really stop going over there. The Skakel family was known around town for being quite rowdy and they came from generations of alcoholics. The kids weren't very disciplined and things only got worse after their mother died. Their father didn't know how to handle things, so he numbed his paid with alcohol and prescription drugs. He relied on tutors or maids to look after the children and he traveled frequently.
The first real suspect according to the police was 26 year old Edward Hammond who lived next door to the Moxleys. He said he had been watching The French Connection on TV on the night of the murder. His mother agreed to let police search the home and they didn't find anything incriminating. Police brought Edward in for questioning and they confiscated his clothes because they said his beige pants had a blood colored stain on the upper left leg, his blue shirt had unknown stains, and his red sweater had unknown stains on the chest. The stains on the shirts were food stains and the stain on the pants were Edward's own blood. He agreed to a polygraph test and that was deemed inconclusive due to a medication he was on. He took the test again a week later and passed. The focus shifted away from Edward and now the police were looking at Tommy Skakel, the last known person to see Martha alive and Ken Littleton, the Skakel's live-in tutor.
The live-in tutor, Ken Littleton was on his first day of work in the Skakel home and that was the day of the murder. Ken was staying in the master bedroom on the second floor of the house and the police noticed that the bedroom had a terrace facing Walsh Lane and this would give you a clear view of the Moxley house. On the night of the murder, Ken Littleton had taken the Skakel boys to the Belle Haven Club for dinner and they all drank even though they were underage. When they got back to the house, several friends were waiting for them and Ken went inside to finish unpacking. He agrees that at 9:30 the housekeeper asked him to go outside and see why the neighborhood dogs were all barking, but he found nothing. Around 10 PM, Tommy Skakel joined him in the room and they watched The French Connection on TV together. Tommy's story matched Ken's and Tommy passed a polygraph test as well.
On November 2nd, Rushton Skakel Sr (the father of the bunch) returned home from a trip and he gave permission for his home to be searched. Police took the Tony Penna club they previously saw in the home. They also found a pair of jeans and blue sneakers with possible blood stains in a trash bag outside the garage. The jeans had a laundry stamp in the right pocket and Rushton, the father, believed the jeans belonged to his son, Michal Skakel. The stains ended up being boat paint, but a long blond hair similar to Martha's was found on the jeans. Martha's mother and brother agreed to polygraph tests and they both passed.
After 6 weeks, the police had gotten no where in this case, so they went back to Martha's friends Helen Ix and Geoffrey Byrne. They said that at about 9:30 PM, they had seen Tommy and Martha behind the Skakel home and they described it as sexual horseplay. Maybe Tommy wanted to take things further and Martha didn't? Detectives wanted samples of Tommy's hair and he agreed to this. His father also gave police permission to access all of Tommy's medical, psychological, and school records. A former attorney worked on the school board and he was pretty chummy with the Kennedy family. When he got the request to release records, he called the detectives himself and said that's not happening and he also called Tommy's father and explained that it's not in their best interest to just release records. The family hired an attorney at this point and sent a letter to the police to withdraw authorization for records. That same night, Tommy's father, Rushton Skakel had a heart attack that was deemed stress related.
After several months, it was clear that the police didn't have any strong leads evidence in this case and the Moxley family demanded more. The Detroit Homicide Squad was brought in to look at things and determined that the murderer lived in the neighborhood, was acquainted with the victim, and is a troubled young man with an explosive temper. Detectives went to Tommy Skakel's school to interview his close friends, but they ran into a problem. Tommy didn't have any close friends. He seemed to only be friends with his relatives. A few days later, detectives did get some interesting information. The Skakel's former gardener/chauffeur had just retired and said he knew something. He said the family wasn't trying to protect Tommy, they were protecting his brother, Michael.
According to this gardener, the family had been treating Michael different ever since the night of the murder. He said that they were all being extra nice to him. Everyone that was employed in the Skakel home before the murder, remained employed, even when they weren't necessarily needed any longer. In April of 1976, Ken Littleton, the tutor was fired for reasons that don't make sense. The Kennedy's kept saying they didn't want to be involved or associated with this case, but Robert Kennedy Jr wrote an article stating that Ken Littleton was fired because he got drunk and crashed his car into a tree and abandoned it and explained that this brought the police to the door, so the family had to let him go. There is no record of a police report. Afterwards, claims came out that Ken Littleton had porn magazines in his room and would often go out to the Skakel's gazebo naked. Ken denies all of these claims and was very confused about why he was fired, but some people believe it was a set up. It made him look guilty and took attention away from the Skakel family. In July of 1976, Ken Littleton was arrested for grand larceny in Nantucket Island. He was accused of stealing on four separate occasions. It was $4k worth of items from three stores and a boat. He plead guilty and said he was drunk on all four occasions. The spotlight was back on him and police gave him 3 polygraph tests and say he was not truthful in answering key questions.
Police say that Ken Littleton denied any involvement in Martha Moxley's murder, but the polygraph test indicated that he lied when he said he didn't kill Martha Moxley, when he said he didn't hit her with a golf club, and when he said he didn't know who killed Martha.
On June 24th, 1977, the New York Times tried to shake things up and printed an article titles, 'Who Killed Martha Moxley? A Town Wonders' The article is pretty long, but I'll give you some of the key information. The article stated that the police have traced the golf club or murder weapon to a collection belonging to the Skakels. They also named the suspects as Thomas Skakel and the tutor, Ken Littleton. It was reported that Thomas Skakel was the nephew of Ethel Skakel Kennedy and this was a tidbit that the Kennedy's tried to keep quiet throughout the years. In the Greenwich Time, Ken's mother, Maria Littleton said that the Moxley murder really changed her son. He was raised as a good Christian boy, and now he was a brooding shell of a man who was unable to hold jobs, tried to take his own life, and abused alcohol and drugs. She said he became paranoid and believed the Skakels and Kennedys were trying to pin everything on him. Ken's ex-wife, Mary Baker, said that he was a heavy drinker that kept having mental breakdowns and he threatened to kill her one time. She says that she never actually believed he would hurt her and she also didn't think he was involved in the murder, it just really destroyed him. John Moxley, Martha's brother, actually went to see Ken at one point. He wanted to question him about the murder and in the documentary on Oxygen, he said that he did not feel that Ken was the murderer. John felt that he just got tragically mixed up in this whole nightmare and truly believes Michael Skakel is the murderer.
Ken Littleton wasn't the only one who was a mess after Martha's murder. In March of 1978, Michael Skakel, who was now 17, was driving around drunk with a friend. Police signaled for him to stop, but Michael decided to speed up and a high speed chase ensued. The chase ended when Michael smashed the car into a telephone pole. His friend, Debbie broke her leg, and Michael didn't have any injuries. He was arrested and charged with speeding, unlicensed driving, failure to comply with an officer's orders, and drunk driving. Michael plead guilty and they kept this whole thing hush hush. His father drove Michael directly to the airport while he was still in handcuffs, and two men drug him off and put him on a plane and sent him to a rehabilitation center called Elan School.
The school had very controversial practices for behavior modification. They believed that public humiliation was a therapeutic tool. Students were physically restrained, deprived of sleep, and malnourished. There was a resident of the school named Phil Williams who died in 1982 after participating in Elan's ring which is where students are forced to fight each other.
In the police reports, there was something very interesting hidden in the interviews. On the night of the murder, we know that Martha's friend, Helen Ix was sitting in the back of the car. She saw Tommy and Martha outside of the vehicle making out and referred to the interaction as sexual horseplay. After she was questioned more, Helen mentioned that she saw Martha push Tommy, then he pushed her back and fell or got on top of her. Later in the report, Helen said that Tommy had received a severe head injury at the age of four. She said he fell out of the back seat of the family car. This caused him to become violent very suddenly and would pretty much lose consciousness and his episodes of rage could last between 15-20 minutes or up to 2 to 3 hours. His father was always able to physically control him when this happened, but as we know, his father wasn't always home and would leave on trips. It appears that this information put Tommy at the top of the suspect list, but the request for a search warrant had been denied by the state attorney. Perhaps the rumors of a cover up were true? The Greenwich police were told to tread lightly when it came to investigating the Skakels. Tommy had agreed very early on to take a polygraph test and was told that he passed. If a polygraph is given too early in a case, before police know the details, they aren't able to ask the proper questions. This means that Tommy shouldn't have been cleared because his test was taken too soon.
Everyone that was at the Skakel house on the night of the murder agreed that they saw Michael Skakel leave to go to his cousin Jimmy's house around 9:15 PM and the ride is 15 to 20 minutes. It's believed that Martha was murdered around 10 PM, so he couldn't have returned in time to do it. It sounds like John Kennedy Jr. believed that Tommy Skakel was the one involved in the murder. He told a friend that the Kennedys were allegedly involved in paying hush money to some officials to protect Tommy. There's also another clue that points to a possible cover up. In the police reports, the date that they found the golf club in the Skakel residence changed. Stephan Baran, the chief of police said that the clubs might not be a useful clue if they find the owner, it may not lead them to the killer. The chief of police also told the NY Times that they were still looking for the Toney Penna irons three days after they had already located them at the Skakels. Tommy's father was able to come to an agreement that was worthless to the investigation. Martha's father and Tommy's father both hired doctors to examine Tommy Skakel. The two doctors were allowed to share results with each other, but they couldn't share results with the police, lawyers, or Martha's father. So, it's useless, but it ended the police investigating Tommy.
When the tutor, Ken Littleton was questioned in 1976, he told the police that he didn't know Martha Moxley, never met her, and he didn't believe Tommy was involved. He thought it was Michael and he told them that he was actually scared of him. Ken explained that he went golfing with Michael and few other people at a country club. Michael walked ahead of the group and when they all caught up, they saw that he had crushed the head of a chipmunk and put a tee through it like a crucifix. There was someone inside the Skakel home that puts Michael at the scene of the crime, not Tommy. Andrea was inside the house drinking tea with Julie Skakel. At around 9:30 PM, she heard two female voices and recognized them as Martha and her friend Helen Ix. When the car pulled away from the house to head to Jimmy's that night, Michael was not in the back seat of the car. This was the first person to place Michael at the house that night. We talked about how Michael was sent to that sketchy Elan school right after Martha's murder. Well, someone who was there with him said that Michael confessed to the murder when he was drunk one night. Michael apparently mentioned that his lawyer recommended that he hide at Elan to avoid being charged with murder.
In 1994, crime writer, Leonard Levitt received a call from an anonymous male. The caller said they had information about the case that would be worth the wait. The caller contacted Levitt again in 1995 and explained that there had been an analysis done by two former FBI colleagues who had run the bureau's Behavioral Science lab in Washington. They had studied hundreds of serial killers including sociopaths. They had retired from the FBI and formed their own consulting company known as the Academy Group of Manassas, Virginia. The Academy looked into the Martha Moxley case and noted that there was a lack of defense wounds on her arms and hands and no one heard screams that night. The Academy believes that Martha knew her attacker and that pretty much rules the tutor, Ken Littleton out because his first day working at the Skakels was that day. The report says they believe the killer acted out of rage after Martha rejected their sexual advances. She was attacked in her driveway and this shows that the murderer knew their victim, knew when she would be coming home, and knew her habits and how she walked up her driveway and across the lawn to her front door. They believed that the evidence all pointed in a very clear direction.
The Mysterious Murder of Martha Moxley by Joe Bruno
Murder and Justice: The Case of Martha Moxley