A 15-year-old girl is murdered in a gated community in Connecticut.

Martha Moxley

Martha’s body was found in her own backyard

CASE DETAILS

Police gave several polygraph tests

The night of October 30, 1975, began innocently in the upscale community of Greenwich, Connecticut.  15-year-old Martha Moxley and several friends went out for an evening of teenage pranks.  Early the next afternoon, Martha’s body was discovered in her own backyard.  It appeared she had been bludgeoned to death. Her jeans and underwear were pulled down around her knees.  But according to Jack Solomon, Easton, Connecticut’s Chief of Police, there was no evidence of sexual assault:

“Martha was struck with a golf club. She received several blows to the head. The head of the club was found 50 feet from the portion of her driveway where we believe she was accosted. It’s believed that the portion of the shaft of the golf club that was used was later used as a weapon to stab her with.”

Initially, everyone assumed that Martha’s murderer had to have been someone from outside the area.  However, the broken golf club found at the scene led investigators to a prominent local family.  The club turned out to be part of a set belonging to the Skakel family.  The Skakel’s lived across the street from the Moxleys.  15-year-old Michael Skakel told police he had been with Martha that night.  17-year-old Thomas Skakel was with her as well.  Michael told police that at 9:30, he went with his two oldest brothers, John and Rush Jr., to give their cousin a ride home.  Meanwhile, Thomas claimed he went home at 9:30 to do a report on Abraham Lincoln.  The police estimated that Martha had been murdered between 9:45 and 10 PM.  But if Michael was in the car and Thomas was in his room, what happened to Martha Moxley on her short walk home?

Skakel was convicted after 25 years

Investigators found yet another suspect in the Skakel household.  24-year-old Kenneth Littleton had just been hired as a live-in tutor for the Skakel children. He told police he heard noises outside the house sometime between 9:30 and 10:00 PM.  Before he went outside, Littleton said he checked on the seven Skakel children. According to Detective Solomon, Littleton claimed that the four oldest boys, including Michael and Thomas, were not at home:

“Well, his story was that he heard some noises coming from the bushes on the property, leaves rustling, but he claimed he did not see anything at the time he was out.”

Littleton also said he didn’t see Thomas until 10:25, when Thomas joined him in front of the TV.  The other Skakel boys came home within half an hour.  Over the next several months, detectives interviewed more than 200 people and gave several polygraph exams.  According to police, Thomas Skakel was given two polygraph tests.  The first was inconclusive, but Thomas passed the second.  Then after months of cooperating with authorities, the Skakels, on the advice of their attorney, refused to answer any more questions.  Donald Browne was State’s Attorney of Fairfield County at the time of Martha’s murder:

“No one has an obligation to cooperate with police.  But in most instances, individuals who have some knowledge that may lead to the identification of an individual who has committed a violent crime, are more than pleased to contribute that information to the police. So it’s most unusual when an individual possessing information decides that he does not want to give that information to investigators.”

Eventually, attention shifted to Kenneth Littleton, who’d been dismissed by the Skakels after six months.  According to police, he was given a polygraph regarding the Moxley murder and failed.  Still, authorities felt there wasn’t enough evidence to make an arrest. The case became inactive.  But sixteen years later, the rape trial of William Kennedy Smith brought the Moxley case back to life.  The connection between the Skakel and Kennedy families served as the catalyst.  Within weeks, Detective Solomon and the Greenwich police reopened their investigation:

“The opinion of most of the investigators, who are trained police officers, is that whoever was responsible for this crime probably was in the Skakel home at some time that evening.”

In 1991, the police brought in the well-known forensic pathologist Dr. Henry Lee.  Dr. Lee was able to utilize technology that was unavailable in 1975.  Among the items examined by Dr. Lee were clothes found discarded in the Skakel’s garbage shortly after the murder:

“We found some hairs and fibers. Some of the hair microscopically similar to hers. Other hair dissimilar to her.”

Dr. Lee determined that the hair belonged to a male Caucasian.  The problem was, he didn’t have a hair sample from any of the possible suspects and was unable to make a match.  However, after studying the crime scene photographs, Dr. Lee was able to provide a possible motive for Martha’s murder:

“The blood smear on her body indicates somebody tried to use force.  It suggests… a sexually motivated homicide.”

Leonard Levitt, an investigative reporter for the Long Island-based Newsday, covered the Moxley case starting in 1982:

“There were no defense wounds, which indicates that she knew her attacker. Merely the fact that she was hit repeatedly with a golf club indicates some kind of rage, which personalizes this thing, which indicates that there was such anger that the two had to have known each other, that it was a crime of passion.”

Time and again, the trail led back to the Skakel family.  Then in November of 1995, a full 20 years after the murder of Martha Moxley, Leonard Levitt reported in Newsday that Thomas and Michael Skakel had made startling admissions to the detectives:

“Both Thomas and Michael told the investigators that they had lied to the police about their accounts the night of the murder. Thomas said to them that after 9:30, he went inside his house, and then he went back out and spent another 20 minutes with Martha. He claims now that he and Martha engaged in a sexual act and then he left her at about ten to 10:00. If you go back now and you look at the story that he told, it just doesn’t add up.”

Update:

Tips from Unsolved Mysteries viewers provided new information implicating Michael Skakel in the murder of Martha Moxley. Four years after Martha was killed, Michael had been sent to a school in Maine for troubled teens called the Élan School.  Over the course of his stay at Elan, several of Michael’s classmates heard him confess to the killing.  Based on this new information, 42-year-old Michael Skakel was charged with murder. Prosecutors argued that the motive was sibling rivalry over Martha’s affections.  27 years after the crime, Michael Skakel was convicted and sentenced to 20 years to life. The Skakel family is appealing that conviction.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season eight with Robert Stack and in season one with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

 

16 Comments

  1. Matt

    Who was the police officer who stayed that night protecting the murder scene ?

    Reply

  2. Anonymous

    FINALLY, JUSTICE IS METED OUT TO THE UPPER CLASS CLOWNS.

    Reply

    • Jeanie

      Not total justice since he is out of jail.

      Reply

      • MattC

        It’s important to keep in mind that Michael was 15 when he murdered Martha (obviously I believe he’s guilty). Had the Skakel’s openly admitted it back then, he’d likely have been charged as a juvenile and be done with his time.

        However, since they all fought it for so long, changing stories, etc., Michael’s now experiencing the full ride. I have no doubt he’ll return to prison soon.

        Reply

  3. Jamie

    Michael Skakel killed Martha. There is no doubt in my mind. I lived a mile away from her and used to cut through her back yard to get to my best friends house. The Greenwich police botched the investigation. My boyfriend and I drove by Walsh Lane on Halloween (the day Martha’s body was found). We were smoking pot in the car and were stopped by the police. He warned us that there had been a murder in the neighborhood and that we shouldn’t be smoking pot so blatantly. Then he let us go. WTF? I think back on this and wonder why they didn’t bring us in for questioning.

    I don’t ever remember anyone thinking that Tommy Skakel was the one who killed her. I just remember Michael’s name coming up all the time. I knew Martha because we both took the same bus to school. We weren’t friends. I knew of Michael but didn’t know him personally. I had a friend from private school who ended up going to Elan at the same time that Michael was there. She said that he was “disturbed”.

    The whole Belle Haven scene was ridiculous. It was a wealthy community where the kids could do anything and get away with it. If you got into trouble, your parents could pay your way out of it. You didn’t even need to be a relative of the Kennedy’s.

    Reply

  4. Johnny

    Michael Skakel cannot escape justice. Advancements in DNA technology and crime scene techniques have been amazing since 1975. Throw in : 1.Opportunity-Moxley was at the Skakel’s house for the pre-Halloween party 1975 as well as some other neighborhood friends. Skakel definitely would be one of the last people to see Martha alive. 2.Motive-There could be several motives here. Sibling rivalry. Tommy the older brother had a better relationship with Martha. Jealousy no doubt seeing your brother with Martha. Also, an angry & sexual component to this Martha’s crime with her pants pulled down. Skakel was Martha’s age 15.
    It’s over 40 years ago now but theorizing this crime….My guess Michael was attracted to the beautiful Martha. He probably had seen his older brother Tommy fooling around with her. Maybe some flirting and some kissing. Some touching. He found the golf club and waited. Michael was filled with a mix of anger, jealousy, and sexual energy. Poor Martha probably was blitzed and attacked. She survived the first blow or two and staggered to a place by the trees where she was finished off. It’s a shame Martha had to die in this fashion. Only a few hundred feet and Martha would have been safely home.
    Hopefully, Martha Moxley’s family will finally see justice for Martha and case solved.

    Reply

    • MattC

      Martha was dragged under the tree. There was a long blood trail clearly showing she was dragged. I concur Michael is the murderer. The Sutton Report was clear that John Skakel could not put Michael in the car or at the Terrien house when under hypnosis, and Andrea Shakespeare was convinced Michael didn’t go. Michael killed Martha much earlier than thought, 10pm-ish. When Michael placed himself at the scene(s), that was it.

      Reply

  5. Home girl

    Michael is guilty. I truly believe that because the evidence supports it and the court made the right decision.

    Reply

  6. John

    His conviction has since been overturned. Skakel is awaiting a retrial and is currently free.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/16/nyregion/robert-kennedy-jr-in-book-says-michael-skakel-is-innocent-of-75-murder.html?_r=0

    Reply

  7. Roseann

    This situation just seems creepier & creepier. There was a whole slew of people there who could have committed the murder from Martha’s bro to a couple of guys from The City to the weird gardener to the Skakel’s tutor to a couple of the Skakels etc. Also, it’s very possible the person or people who did it don’t know for sure they did it, because they were too screwed-up via alcohol &/or drugs. What ashame. I think plenty of people knew things & didn’t come forward. I think justice probably has not been done. I think it would take a really different bent to find-out what actually happened. But I think it’s possible.

    Reply

  8. Keri

  9. Johnny

    I’m happy that there is justice for Martha Moxley and her family. A beautiful young life extinguished too soon. Reading Mark Fuhrman’s book on the Moxley case some years back…He was right about the evidence and where it led. Jealousy and definite crime of passion. The hair and DNA evidence really helped which caused stories to be changed. Michael Skakel could not avoid justice. Thanks to the people at the Elan School for stepping up and relaying info about Michael’s confession years ago. Justice for Martha!

    Reply

  10. Justice!

    Yes! The killer is where he should be, finally! The case was so badly handled when Martha was discovered it is shameful.

    Reply