Martha Elizabeth Moxley was born on August 16, 1960 to parents John and Dorothy Moxley. Martha was their youngest child and only daughter, preceded in birth by her older brother, John, who was eight-teen at the time of her death. They lived in Greenwhich, Connecticut, in the prestigous Belle Haven area. Martha attended Western Junior High School and quickly became quite popular in the nine months she attended as the “new girl.” It was made easier by the fact that Martha was upbeat and friendly, while being athletic and talented in the arts. While Martha was generally a good daughter, she still did the occasional things a teenager does to misbehave – drink beer, miss curfew, but spent much of her free time in the summer at the country club the family was part of, swimming in the pool and playing tennis.
The weekend prior to Halloween 1975, Martha had stayed out late with her boyfriend and was grounded. One week later, on the evening of October 30th 1975, Martha was allowed out with her friends despite her grounding as it was a school holiday and the night before Halloween, when the local teenagers would be participating in the “Mischief Night.”
That evening, Martha spent Mischief Night spraying shaving cream on mailboxes and TPing houses before she went to hang out with her neighbors; Michael Skakel, 15, and Thomas “Tommy” Skakel, aged 17 outside of the boys home. Tommy told detectives that Martha left to go home around 10:00pm tht evening and that was the last anyone saw of her until the next morning when her stabbed and bludgeoned body was found in her own backyard with pieces of a broken, six iron golf club that belonged to the Skakel family beside her.
Due to the evidence found at the scene and the fact that he was the last person to see her alive, Thomas Skakel became a prime suspect in Martha’s murder. Making matters more difficult, Thomas’ father is Rushton Skakel, the brother of Ethel Kennedy. When detectives attempted to question seventeen year old Thomas, his father forbade the interview from happening and forbade access to his school and mental health records. The Skakel boys’ mother had died of cancer in 1973 and their father was a raging alcoholic who emotionally, mentally, and physically abused the boys while also encouraging them to abuse each other.
Kenneth Littleton, a live in tutor for the Skakel’s, was also questioned in relation to Martha’s murder. He had started working for the Skakel’s only hours before the murder happened and later became a second prime suspect in her slaying, however neither man was charged and for decades the case went cold.
During the years after the Moxley murder both Thomas and Michael significantly changed their alibi’s for the night of the murder. Michael claimed to be window-peeping in a tree beside the Moxley property between 11:30 and 12:00. Two former students from a treatment centre Michael Skakel attended testified they heard Michael confess to killing Martha with a golf club. Another student testified that he heard Michael say, “I’m going to get away with murder. I’m a Kennedy.”
By 1991, Martha’s murder had been declared a cold case. At this point, she had been dead for sixteen years – longer than she had been alive. Her family has been relentless in their pursuit of justice for their daughter and sister. For Dorothy and John Jr, it became even more important after John Sr died suddenly of a heart attack in 1988. Interestingly, it would be the rape trial of another man that would re-open the Moxley investigation.
In 1991, William Kennedy Smith was arrested and tried for rape. During the trial, a rumour surfaced that Smith had attended the Skakel residence on the night of Martha’s death with the clear insuination that he could be involved. When he was ruled out as a suspect and aquitted of his rape charge, it led investigators to ultimatley re-open the investigation.
In 1991, The Sutton Associates, a private investigation company, were hired by Rushton Skakel to conduct their own investigation on the murder. Their report was later leaked to the media and revealed that both Thomas and Michael altered their stories from the night of the murder.
In June of 1998, a rare one man jury was invoked to review the evidence of the case. After an eighteen month investigation, it was determined there was enough evidence to charge the younger Skakel with murder. On January 9th, 2000, an arrest warrant was issued for an “unnamed juvenile” in relation to Moxley’s murder. Later that day, Michael Skakel turned himself in and was released shortly after on a 500,000$ bail.
A judge determined that despite the fact that Michael Skakel was fifteen years old at the time of Martha’s murder they would try him as an adult. The trial began on May 7th, 2002 in Norwalk, Connecticut, and was represented by Michael Sherman. His alibi was that during the time of the murder he was at his counsins house, however the jury heard part of a taped book proposal that included Skakel speaking about masturbating under a tree – possibly the same tree Moxley would later be found under. It was during this same tape that Skakel explained he was afraid he had been seen “jerking off” in the tree and had panicked. The way Skakel worded the sentence made it seem as though he was confessing to the murder.
On June 7th, 2002, the jury found Michael Skakel guilty of murdering Martha Moxley and he was sentenced to twenty years in prison. In January 2003, Robert F Kennedy Jr wrote a book called Framed claiming that Michael Skakel was framed for the murder of Martha Moxley. He says that Skakel’s conviction comes from an inflamed media, and that there is more evidence that Kenneth Littleton had killed Moxley.
Michael Skakel still proclaims his innocence in regards to Martha’s murder. In November 2003, he attempted to appeal his conviction to the Connecticut Supreme Court, aruging that it was a mistrial as it should have been tried in Juvenile court instead of Superior Court. In January 2006, they rejected his claims and confirmed his conviction. In July 2006, Skakel tried to appeal his conviction once again was was again denied in November 2006.
In 2007, Skakel hired two new attorney’s; Hope Seeley and Hubert Santos. They filed for the Superior Court to hear the case again based on the fact that there was new evidence that could possibly point to an alternate suspect. The claim involved the cousin of Kobe Bryant, Gitano Bryant, who was a former classmate of Skakel at a private Brunswick school in Greenwhich. In a video-taped interview with Gitano in August 2003 a private investigator hired by Michael Skakel says that Gitano claims on the night of Moxley’s murder one of his friends wanted to rape her. Gitano says he did not come forward with this information at any time at the advice of his mother, who warned that as a black man he would be framed for the unsolved murder. A two week hearing then followed allowing the presentation of heresay evidence, and Skakel’s attorney’s filed for a re-trial. Prosecutors said that Bryant may have made up the story to sell a play about the case.
On October 25, 2007, the Superior Court judge denied the request for a re-trail, sayng that the Bryant evidence was heresay and that there was no evidence of prosecturial mistrial in the original trial. Skakel’s lawyers appealed the decision once again and were once again denied. After he was denied again, Skakel tried to get a re-trial on the basis that his original lawyer, Michael Sherman, was incompetant and that he was more interested in collecting fees than defending Skakel. Sherman testified to his own actions while still maintaining his belief that Michael Skakel was innocent in the Moxley murder.
In 2012, Skakel applied for a sentence reduction and was denied. His first parole hearing was in October 2012; he was denied parole and still denied ever committing the killing.
In 2013, Skakel was granted a new trial by Connecticut judge Thomas A Bishop who ruled that Michael Sherman failed to adequetely represent Mr. Skakel when he was convicted in 2002. This took the remaining Moxley family members by surprise and they hoped that the prosecution would appeal the decision.
On November 21st, 2013, Michael Skakel was released on a 1.2 million dollar bond. He was to wear a GPS tracking device at all times and not have any contact with the Moxley family. In December of 2016 Skakel’s conviction was reinstated, however in 2018 when prosecuters requested the Supreme Court revoke Skakel’s bail and place him back in prison to serve the remainder of his sentence they vacated his conviction and requested a new trial. The court ruled that Sherman had failed to contact an alibi witness that Skakel provided and as such he was not given a fair trial.
On October 30th, 2020, a judge informed the court that Michael Skakel would not be retried, exactly forty-five years to the day that Martha was murdered. It was decided to go against the trial due to the passage of time since the crime had occured and deaths of prosecution witnesses has left the state unable to proceed. They also declared that due to the issues with Sherman as Skakel’s lawyer there was reasonable doubt the younger Skakel brother had committed the murder. The witness Sherman was requested to interview and did not testified to Skakel’s new lawyer, Mr. Santos, that had Sherman called him during the trail he would have testified that Skakel was at his cousins home during the window in which investigators determined Moxley died. (However, I am of the belief this witness is lying; how can MSkakel be in the Greenwhich country with a cousin shortly before Martha’s murder if both Skakel brothers admit to seeing her that night, and that she apparently left to go home around 10:00pm that night)
It should be noted that in a fit of rage and anger over being questioned about the murder, Thomas Skakel, Michael’s brother, admitted that he had a sexual encounter with Moxley shortly before she died and close to where she was found. Thomas was initially the police’s prime suspect.
Depsite the fact that both Michael and Thomas Skakel are free, Dorothy and John Moxley feel as though prosecutors have done everything they can in regards to the investigation. Dorothy is convinced that Michael is the man who murdered her daughter and is satisified that he has spent so many years in prison depsite the fact he walks free now. Martha’s murder is technically classified as unsolved, however investigators and the family both know that the answer to Martha’s death is in the Skakel home, weather that be with one of the Skakel brothers or the live-in tutor, Kenneth Littleton.
There have been various books written on the Moxley murder; the fact that the suspect is related to the Kennedy’s attracted national attention to the case. The case was featured on unsolved mysteries (season eight), and was portrayed in Season 1 Episode 1 of the American TV show “Cold Case.”