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.
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Recap of part 1: Martha Moxley lived in an area that everyone believed was safe. It was an upscale neighborhood that had their own private security. On October 30th, 1975, Martha went out with some friends to celebrate Mischief Night with some of her friends, but she never made it home and was murdered in her own yard that night. We know that Martha was last seen at the Skakel residence and she even wrote about the Skakel boys in her diary, but stories and alibis have been changed multiple times over the years. Ken Littleton, the live in tutor, was on his first day of work in the Skakel home on the night of the murder and he became a prime suspect because he didn't have a great alibi and his behavior was a bit erratic. Both the tutor and the Skakel family gardener, believed that Michael Skakel was to blame, but the police didn't get to investigate him too much because his family sent him away to a disciplinary school. This left his brother Tommy to deal with everything at home and he was a suspect as well. In the last episode, we ended things by discussing The Academy. They are a group of former FBI colleagues who formed their own consulting company. Michael and Tommy's father, Rushton Skakel, hired The Academy and paid about $1M to have them look at the case. He wasn't necessarily trying to find the truth. Things were heating up with the case again and he wanted to see how bad things were looking for his sons.
The Academy noted that Martha Moxley lacked defensive wounds and they believed she knew her attacker. The killer acted out of rage and it's possible that Martha refused their sexual advances. She was attacked in her driveway then the killer drug her body to a location under a tree after they beat her with a golf club. Now we are caught up and will start off by talking more about this report that Rushton Skakel paid for.
The Academy believed that Martha was walking home about 9:50 PM because her curfew was between 9:30 and 10 PM. The attacker punched her once or twice in the face as she was approaching her driveway. She was most likely unconscious when she was struck in the head 15 times with a golf club and this was definitely overkill. The swings were very powerful and showed very personal rage, again, showing that the killer knew the victim. The attack took place at three separate places. First, Martha was attacked on the driveway, then her front lawn, and her body was moved under a tree. It appears that she was left under the tree for awhile, then the killer went back to the scene to make sure she was dead. The Academy believes that the murderer has an explosive temper, a history of fighting, strong sibling rivalry tendencies, behavioral problems at school and at home, and was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The murderer is believed to be between 14 and 18 years of age, resided within walking distance of the victim's home, and shared the same scoioeconomic status as the victim. When you look at the description, it really could fit with Tommy or Michael Skakel.
The caller said that Tommy Skakel was interviewed and his story changed after they explained they were doing DNA testing to determine if the killer left DNA at the scene of the crime. When Martha was murdered in 1975, DNA testing wasn't available. When Tommy was questioned initially, he said that he last saw Martha around 9:30 PM on the night of her murder. In one of the reports, he also stated that he actually did go to his cousin Jimmy's house at 9:30 PM and was home by 11 and went straight to bed. Years later, when he was told how DNA could help solve the case, his story was different. He saw Martha at 9:30 PM, then went back outside about 20 minutes later and they were kissing and cuddling. So, the last time he saw her was around 10 PM. The police say that Martha's death could have happened anywhere from 9:30 PM to 5:30 AM.
20 years after the murder, police went to interview Tommy's brother, Michael again. They gave him the same DNA information and explained how it could help solve the case. Now, remember, Michael always said he was at his cousin Jimmy's house, but now his story was a bit different. When he got home, he headed to Martha's house, went to her window and called her name. When she didn't respond, he masturbated in a tree. He said when he climbed down the tree, he could feel someone's presence, so he threw something and ran. When Michael got home, all of the doors were locked, so he climbed through a window and went to bed. The police say that Martha's death could have happened anywhere from 9:30 PM to 5:30 AM.
For a long time, Michael's alibi was airtight because he and his friends always maintained that he got in the car and went to his cousin, Jimmy's house on the night of the murder, but what if that wasn't true? Michael's brother, John was questioned under hypnosis and he was never able to place Michael in the car or at Jimmy's house that night. He was able to recall that someone else was with them, but he never said it was his brother, Michael. We also heard previously that his sister, Julie had a friend over and she believed Michael was in the house that night. If Michael never went to his cousin's house, he may have witnessed Tommy and Martha making out. Whatever they were doing was described as embarrassing by others and it was the main reason some of the people left that night, it made people uncomfortable and they clearly weren't hiding. What if Michael saw the interaction, followed Martha home to kill her, and Tommy helped him hide her body? Could they both be involved? The report cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and Rushton Skakel paid it with the intention of clearing Tommy and Michael's names once and for all, but it did the opposite. It named both of them as suspects either individually or working together. After reading the report, the team was fired. They also couldn't find a newspaper to run the story and it seemed like everyone had been paid off to keep quiet. Leonard Levitt, the writer, kept pursing things and finally found an editor of New York Newsday who would run the story and it blew up.
Martha Moxley's name was back in the media and people wanted to know who was responsible for her murder. Unsolved Mysteries decided to air her story and they opened a tip line. The phone was ringing off the hook with tips, but they weren't implicating Ken Littleton or Tommy Skakel, the calls were all about Michael Skakel. Several of the callers were from the Elan School he had been sent to. One of the callers, Phil Lawrence, said he attended group therapy sessions at Elan with Michael. During once session, Michael started crying and said he killed Martha Moxley. Lawrence said that for some reason, Michael always had these private meetings with the owner of Elan and this wasn't something that typically happened. Most people had one meeting, max with the owner, but he knew that all the meetings were recorded. Perhaps, there are taped confessions from Michael? A former Elan resident, Diane Holman, said that one night, she had been sitting in the Elan dining hall with Michael. She asked him why he was there and he said he had been involved in a hometown murder. He said he walked Martha home, they made out under a tree and he thinks he did it, but he's not sure.
Elan school was known for their public humiliation and an Elan resident, Anna Goodman, said that Michael had been forced to wear a sign that said, Ask me why I killed my friend, Martha Moxley. Another resident, Chuck Seigan recalled that Michael often talked about how his father locked him in a closet and would put cigarettes out on his arms and legs. He said Michael was an angry kid and had escaped from Elan when he turned 18, but a few weeks later, he came back. When someone escapes, everyone has a meeting where they try to humiliate you and the students are supposed to take their anger out on you. Michael was placed in front of the students and they all screamed at him. Then the moderator told everyone that he was there because he was a murderer that didn't know if he actually murdered or not. People screamed at him asking if he did it and he kept saying he didn't know. Chuck said that after he watched Unsolved Mysteries and saw Martha's mother pleading for answers, he knew he had to call. He actually wouldn't have said anything, but just recently, a resident from Elan named John Higgins had called him and said Michael had confessed to him at the school. Chuck figured there's no way someone would make up this kind of story.
John Higgins was contacted and said that Michael did confess to him. He said Michael initially told him he didn't know if he murdered Martha or not, but said he remembered being in a garage, holding a golf club, being in tall pine trees, and walking back to the house. Michael was sent to Elan because he's so unpredictable, the family had to get rid of him. His brother, Tommy is a calm and collected person, he could deal with whatever was happening in the family, Michael couldn't and many residents said he cried a lot. Michael told people he believed his father sent him to Elan because he believed he was the murderer and tried to protect him. John Higgins said that he talked to Michael about the murder on another occasion and he told him that he was the one that killed Martha. This information was all handed over to the state's attorney, Donald Browne, since he had jurisdiction to reopen Martha's case, but he did nothing with this and provided no explanation. I will mention that Chuch Siegan talked to other residents of Elan who reminded him that John Higgins used to lie a lot to get people in trouble and he no longer believes his story and thinks he made it up to stir the pot.
One of the names that I read about in the book over and over was Cissy Ix. Her daughter, Helen had been with Martha at the Skakel's on the night of the murder. Cissy was very close with the Skakels and probably felt a sense of loyalty, so she maintained for many years that she knew the boys were involved. Years later, as the case was heating up again, she let some information slip. She said that Rushton Skakel caught his son Michael wearing women's clothing in his room one time. This obviously shouldn't matter, but it was a big deal to him and he confided in his friend about it. Cissy also said that Michael told his father he was drinking on the night of the murder and blacked out, but he could have murdered Martha. The Skakel family priest also had information to share. He said that just days before Martha was murdered, Tommy and Michael had put a ladder against her house to peep in her window. The priest was terrified that if Michael found out he told, he would destroy the church because he had such a bad temper. The priest said he actually went to visit Michael with his father when he was sent to Elan and they spoke to his counselor who said that Michael told him he was covered in blood on the night of the murder, but later denied the entire conversation.
On January 19th, 2000, Connecticut State Prosecutor Johnathan Benedict called a press conference to announce that they had enough evidence to indict Michael Skakel for the murder of Martha Moxley. Since Michael was only 15 at the time of the murder, he would be charged as a minor. Michael was now 39 years old and was living with his father in Florida. He voluntarily surrendered to the Greenwich police and posted the $500k bond within an hour and was released from custody. The preliminary hearing was set for February 6th 2000 and there was already a giant problem. The maximum penalty for a 15 year old in Connecticut was incarceration until the age of 21, so they needed the judge to try Michael as an adult if they wanted him to do any time.
On June 21st, Andy, a childhood friend of Michael Skakel's testified that years after Martha's murder, Michael confided in him that he masturbated in a tree above her body and he said Michael had an infatuation with her. Several residents of the Elan School testified and many of them said that Michael would confess, then go back to saying he didn't know if he did it. On August 16th, 2000, Judge Maureen Dennis wrote a 13 page decision stating that there was reasonable cause to believe that Michael was the murderer. Judge Dennis believed that there was sufficient evidence to logically conclude that Michael got the Toney Penna golf club from his home, ran through the woods and murdered Martha. There was also mention that it's no coincidence that Michael made statements about masturbating in a tree on the Moxley property on the night she was murdered. Since there weren't any Children or Youth Services that could actually take Michael if he was convicted, this case was transferred to Superior Court so he could be tried as an adult.
Michael's trial began on May 4th, 2002. Jimmy, the Skakels cousin testified that he was positive Michael Skakel went with them to his house and they watched Monty Pysthon's Flying Circus. The show started at 10 PM and lasted a half hour, then everyone left. He remembered this perfectly, but then he couldn't recall who was with them at dinner when they went to the Country Club or how much they drank that night. Michael's brother, Rushton Jr. testified and gave the same story about going to Jimmy's to watch the movie and was certain that Michael was there, but he couldn't even remember going to the police station to give a statement. Everyone seemed to recall one key detail, Michael was with them that night, but everything else was fuzzy. Former students from Elan were called to the stand and they all told stories about Michael confessing while he was there. On the morning of June 7th, Michael was found guilty as charged.
Martha's mother, Dorthy said that she often tried to imagine what her daughter would have been like if she got to grow up, get a college degree, a career, and even have a family. She made the following statement, “ I have spent almost 27 years of hell and anguish trying to live what some would think of as a normal life, but stressed to the limit trying to find truth and justice. Michael Skakel sentenced us to life without Martha. I think he should be responsible for his actions, and so it is only fair that he serve a similar sentence.”
Michael Skakel said the following: I would love to be able to say I did this crime, so the Moxley family could have rest and peace. But I can't, Your Honor, because to do that would be a lie in front of my God, who I am going to be in front of for eternity. I have to live by his laws, and his laws tell me I cannot bear false witness against anybody or myself. Jesus Christ told people as he walked around the world that he loved them. Should he go to jail for that? I stand here today with my life in your hands, and the Good Lord tells me to tell you that in 2000 years this place hasn't changed a bit. But I am also in this court of law and whatever sentence you impose on me, I accept in God's name.”
Judge Kavanewsky sentenced Michael to 20 years to life in prison. After everything I've told you about the Skakel family, you better not believe this is the end. Just days after Michael was sentenced, the Skakel family fired his attorney, Mickey Sherman and blamed the entire thing on him. They said he was incompetent and in 1975 in Connecticut, there was a five year statute of limitations for murder, so the case shouldn't have ever made it to the courtroom. Both the Skakels and Kennedys made several statements and over the next 10 years, they attempted to appeal the decision. In 2013, Judge Bishop stated that there was just as much evidence that Tommy Skakel killed Martha. Since the attorney never argued that Tommy could have been involved instead of Michael, the trial wasn't fair, so he was released on bail. In 2016, the conviction was reinstated and prosecutors argued that his attorney was competent and did his job thoroughly. Two years later, this was reversed and he's now free. There could technically be a retrial, but they would most likely need new evidence for that.
Over the years, it's been argued that Michael couldn't be involved in the murder because he was really small and wouldn't have had the strength needed to shatter the club. Everyone has always stated that it broke into four pieces after being slammed into her head, but what if that's not true? It really does take a lot of force to break a club by hitting it against something, but it snaps easily if you hold it at an angle and step on it or break it over your knee. If it was broken this way, that points to the killer deliberately snapping the club to make it into a sharp weapon and maybe to also hide a specific piece. Martha's mother, Dorthy knows that she heard more than one voice outside her home on the night of the murder and says it was a small group. She heard two male voices and one was frenzied. She believes the frenzied voice was Michael and says someone else in his home was known for being very calm and collected.
The neighbor next to the Moxley residence was Sheila Maguire. On the night of the murder, she heard someone in her garage at 11PM, but the police never followed up on this lead or took any fingerprints.
If your head hasn't been spinning enough, there's another twist coming. I will say that Martha's family 100% discounts this information, but I'll still bring it up. This was talked about in the documentary and it's the main theory in the book the Kennedys wrote to prove that Michael Skakel was innocent. Tony Bryant, cousin to the basketball star, Kobe Bryant, was a former classmate of the Skakels. Tony claims that he was with two friends, Adolph Hasbrouck and Burt Tinsley on mischief night. He says that Adolph was absolutely obsessed with Martha, but she wasn't interested in him like that. On the night of the murder, Tony's two friends said they were going to see Martha and planned to attack her. They said they wanted to beat the shit out of her and go caveman on her. Apparently this was talked about numerous times. Tony said the three of them were walking around and he had a golf club in his hand while they walked. He ended up leaving his friends and heading home when the other two headed towards Martha's. The following Monday at school, his friends said they achieved the caveman and he took that to mean they killed Martha. This confession came into play in 2003 and Tony said he never told anyone because his mom said he would be the one that got in trouble if he put himself near the scene of the crime and said he was holding a golf club that night. The Kennedys say that there are plenty of witnesses stating they saw guys at the end of the meadow where they chipped golf balls which would prove that this story is true. I was not able to find anything with the statements except for in the Kennedys claims. They also state that two hairs were discovered on the police blanket that was used to cover Martha. One hair was apparently identified as having African American characteristics and the other was possibly Asian. This lines up with Tony's two friends.
I want to be clear that I couldn't find anything that stated there were hairs on the blanket. As far as I can see, there isn't any DNA evidence in this case and that's been the major problem the whole time. If there are hairs on the blanket, I would certainly hope they are tested with our advanced DNA testing. The police haven't questioned either of these new suspects, so it really doesn't seem like this case is being worked on any longer. As soon as the finger was pointed at them, they lawyered up and were advised to not say anything. The statute of limitations ran out for accessory to murder which means, an accomplice wouldn't be charged at this point. Many people said they waited so long to come forward with information because they were scared of the Kennedy connection and didn't want any trouble. A lot of evidence was missed and many people have died because this case is so old. The missing piece of the golf club may never be found, but it probably wouldn't matter anyways. The Skakels were well known for leaving their clubs all over their yard. They actually had a bin of clubs sitting on their back porch and everyone in the neighborhood knew they could just go grab some. If they had the top of the club, it would probably have DNA from a lot of people.
This case isn't solved and maybe it never will be. The residents of Belle Haven have maintained a cherry tree for Martha and are left with a plaque “Your smile will always bring happiness and love to all of your friends.”
The Mysterious Murder of Martha Moxley by Joe Bruno
Murder and Justice: The Case of Martha Moxley