How the Skakel-Moxley Murder Case Unfolded Over Four Decades

[Read More: Greenwich Neighborhood Recalls Slaying of High School Girl in ’75]

JUNE 1977

Nearly two years after the teenager’s death, many Greenwich residents wonder why a broad police investigation has yielded no arrests. Martha was last seen alive on the lawn of a friend, Thomas Skakel, 17, Michael’s older brother. The brothers are nephews of Ethel Skakel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy. The police trace the golf club used in the killing to the collection of the Skakel family. Thomas and another young man are considered suspects, though both pass lie-detecter tests.

[Read More: Who Killed Martha Moxley? A Town Wonders]


For two years, Michael Skakel attends the Elan School in Poland Spring, Me., a private institution which, at the time, catered to children with mental health and substance abuse problems. According to numerous accounts, Mr. Skakel blurted out during a group therapy session that he had killed Ms. Moxley. But Joe Ricci, the school’s owner, denied that such a confession had occurred.


A book written by Mark Fuhrman, a former Los Angeles police detective known for his role in the O. J. Simpson case, singles out Mr. Skakel as the likely killer, reigniting interest two decades later.

Thomas Skakel, left, and Michael Skakel, in an undated photo.

Via Associated Press


The State of Connecticut appoints an investigator and a one-man grand jury in the Moxley case. Soon after, a possible break in the investigation surfaces when a former suspect, Kenneth Littleton, who lived next door to Martha Moxley, testifies before the grand jury in exchange for immunity. The focus now falls on Thomas and Michael Skakel, but both deny involvement in the killing. Then a close Skakel family friend and a neighbor of Martha’s, Mildred Ix, talks to the grand jury. Her daughter, Helen, then 15, had been with Martha, Thomas and Michael, then 15, the night of the killing.

[Read More: Investigator Is Named In Greenwich Murder; Testimony in 1975 Murder Raises Hope of a Solution; Neighbor Talks to Grand Jury On ‘75 Murder in Greenwich]


Mr. Ricci, the school director, refuses to testify during grand jury proceedings into the crime. Prosecutors contend that Mr. Ricci “overheard Michael Skakel make admissions to the murder of Martha Moxley,” according to court papers filed in Maine.

[Read More: Ex-Head of Suspect’s School Won’t Testify in ‘75 Murder Case]

Michael Skakel was escorted into the Greenwich Police headquarters on Jan. 19, 2000, to face charges.

Associated Press

JAN. 19, 2000

Nearly a quarter-century after Ms. Moxley was killed, the police charge Michael Skakel, now 39, with murder as a minor because he was 15 at the time of the October 1975 killing.

[Read More: 25 Years Later, Suspect Is Charged in Murder Case In Greenwich, Few Are Shocked]

MARCH 15, 2000

Amid a huge news media stakeout reminiscent of the Simpson trial, Mr. Skakel appears in court to face the charge that he murdered his neighbor. After the hearing concludes, he walks to the railing by the first row of spectators and stands face to face with Ms. Moxley’s mother, Dorthy. “I feel your pain,” he says, looking Mrs. Moxley in the eyes. “But you’ve got the wrong guy.”

[Read More: Slain Girl’s Mother Is Told ‘You’ve Got the Wrong Guy’]

JUNE 21, 2000

Two witnesses who were both former classmates of Mr. Skakel’s at the Elan School testify. One of them, John D. Higgins, describes a confused and tearful admission in which Mr. Skakel said he had only fragmented memories of the crime. The other witness, Gregory Coleman, says Mr. Skakel brazenly told him: “I am going to get away with murder. I am a Kennedy.”

[Read More: 2 Witnesses Say Skakel Confessed to 1975 Killing]

FEB. 1, 2001

A judge orders Mr. Skakel to be tried as an adult, noting that Connecticut’s juvenile system was not equipped to punish a 40-year-old defendant. Mr. Skakel was charged as a juvenile because he was 15 at the time of the killing. Conviction as an adult could carry a life sentence, while conviction by a juvenile court judge would mean little or no jail time.

[Read More: Judge Rules Skakel Must Face Trial as Adult in 1975 Murder of Greenwich Girl]

Michael Skakel entered the courthouse the day the verdict was delivered in 2002.

James Estrin/The New York Times

JUNE 8, 2002

During the three-and-a-half-week trial, the jury is offered no direct physical evidence linking Mr. Skakel to the crime but hears testimony about incriminating statements and erratic behavior he had made over the years. As the clerk polls each juror, the victim’s mother, Dorthy Moxley, and her son, John, clutch each other in their front-row seats, astonished smiles on their faces, tears in their eyes.

[Read More: Skakel Is Convicted 27 Years After Girl’s Murder]

Michael Skakel was taken from the courthouse after his sentencing hearing in 2002.

Beth A. Keiser/Associated Press

AUG. 30, 2002

After he tearfully insists that he was innocent, Mr. Skakel is sentenced to a prison term of 20 years to life. Just before the sentencing, he gives a rambling 10-minute statement full of biblical references, proclaiming his innocence and his faith in God. It was the first time he had spoken during his trial.

[Read More: Skakel Given 20 Years to Life for 1975 Murder]

NOV. 23, 2003

Mr. Skakel’s lawyers challenge the conviction on seven grounds, including whether the prosecution inflamed the jury by referring to the defendant as a “spoiled brat” and whether Mr. Skakel should have been tried as an juvenile since he was 15 at the time of the killing.

[Read More: Skakel’s Defense Team Appeals Conviction in 1975 Murder]

JAN. 13, 2006

An appeals court rejects a variety of arguments advanced by Mr. Skakel’s lawyers.

[Read More: Connecticut Court Upholds Murder Conviction of Skakel]

Michael Skakel testified during an appeal in April 2013.

Pool photo by Jason Rearick

OCT. 23, 2013

A Connecticut judge orders a new trial for Mr. Skakel, saying his original lawyer had not represented him effectively.

[Read More: Skakel Gets New Trial in ’75 Killing of Teenager in Connecticut]

NOV. 21, 2013

After spending more than a decade behind bars for the murder of Ms. Moxley, Mr. Skakel is ordered free on bail. Judge Gary White of Stamford Superior Court, speaking in a courtroom packed with family and friends of both Mr. Skakel and the victim, sets bail at $1.2 million.

[Read More: After 11 Years in Prison, Skakel Goes Free on Bail]

Michael Skakel arrived at the Connecticut Supreme Court in February 2016.

Jessica Hill/Associated Press


Hubert Santos, a lawyer for Mr. Skakel, tells a panel of six justices on the Supreme Court of Connecticut that he deserved a retrial. The lawyer says that Mr. Skakel’s older brother, Thomas Skakel, was the most likely perpetrator of one of the state’s most notorious crimes.

State prosecutors say that Michael Skakel did not deserve a new trial and that his conviction should be reinstated.

[Read More: Michael Skakel’s Lawyer Says Trial in Killing of Martha Moxley Wasn’t Fair]

JULY 2016

Mr. Skakel’s cousin Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a former prosecutor and environmental lawyer, releases a book titled “Framed: Why Michael Skakel Spent Over a Decade in Prison for a Murder He Didn’t Commit.”

The book explores what Mr. Kennedy said was a botched police investigation as well as prosecutorial misconduct, and plumbs alternate theories of who killed the girl. It claims to have definitively solved the murder, identifying two Bronx teenagers.

[Read More: Robert Kennedy Jr., in Book, Says Michael Skakel Is Innocent of ’75 Murder]

DEC. 30, 2016

The Connecticut Supreme Court reinstates Mr. Skakel’s murder conviction. The justices, reversing a lower-court decision that had led to his release from prison, find that Mr. Skakel’s legal representation at trial was competent.

[Read More: Michael Skakel’s Murder Conviction Has Been Reinstated]

MAY 4, 2018

The Connecticut Supreme Court, acting on a defense request to review its 2016 decision, reversed its itself and vacated the murder conviction. The justices rule, 4 to 3, that Mr. Skakel’s lawyer, Michael Sherman, should have presented evidence of an alibi. A retrial is possible.

[Read More: Connecticut Court Reverses Murder Conviction of Michael Skakel]

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