The Halloween Murder of Martha Moxley ~ 1975

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Officially her murder was estimated to have occurred on 10/30/1975, this seems to be a fitting tale this year.

Here’s the background for all of you young lovers who are going to be out celebrating tonight.

October 30, 1975, Martha and several friends went out to engage in “Hacker’s Night”, where the neighborhood kids would pull minor pranks like toilet-papering houses and throwing eggshells at passing cars in anticipation of Halloween. Eventually Martha and her friends ended up at the Skakel home, where Thomas, Michael and their other four siblings had been left unsupervised.

It’s well known that Michael was attracted to Martha but…she preferred his older brother Thomas, and by the end of the night Thomas and Martha were getting rather close if you will. Leaving  Michael with most of the others who decided to leave the Skakel home for another party at a cousin’s house. As Martha’s friends were leaving, the last they saw of her was she and Thomas kissing and falling behind a fence in the backyard.

Martha didn’t return home when she should have so her mother called the police and an exhaustive search was performed around the neighborhood, the one place they neglected to look was the grounds of the Moxley home itself. The very next day, Martha’s  body was found underneath a tree in her family’s backyard. Her pants and underwear were pulled down, but she had not been sexually assaulted. Pieces of a broken six-iron golf club were found near the body. An autopsy indicated she had been both bludgeoned and stabbed with the club, which was traced back to the Skakel home.

No one could figure out who killed Martha and and the case eventually went cold.

A man by the name of William Kennedy Smith was tried and acquitted for rape in 1991, a rumor surfaced that he had been present at the Skakel house on the night of Martha’s murder, along with the rumor an insinuation that he might have been involved. It’s not clear who started the rumor and it was eventually proved to be unfounded, which resulted in a new investigation of the then cold case. 

Then Sutton Associates, a private detective agency hired by Rushton Skakel  – Michael and Thomas’s father in 1991, conducted its own investigation of the killing. The Sutton Report, later leaked to the media, revealed that both Thomas and Michael Skakel altered their stories about their activities the night Martha was killed. So odd huh?

Greenwich Police detectives Steve Carroll and Frank Garr, as well as police reporter Leonard Levitt, had become convinced that Michael Skakel was the killer and rightfully so. The problem was that they had no proof of it so the case stayed cold until the late 90’s.

Mark Fuhrman, the notorious O.J. Simpson investigator, published a book that examined the evidence and concluded Michael had been the one to kill Martha.

Before that, in 1993 author Dominick Dunne, father of murdered actress Dominique Dunne, published A Season in Purgatory, a fictional story closely resembling the Moxley case then,  Mark Fuhrman in 1998 published the book Murder in Greenwich named Michael Skakel as the murderer and pointed out numerous mistakes the police had made in investigating the case.

I just have to stop for a moment, Mark Fuhrman did an awesome job looking at this case and I commend him. However, I myself would not say police made mistakes during the investigation. These are words spoken from a person who is looking back and he is looking back in time with the tools and knowledge of how one would approach a case today. 

In June 1998, a rare invoked one-man grand jury was convened to review the evidence of the case. After an 18-month investigation, it was decided there was enough evidence to charge Michael Skakel with murder.

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Michael’s trial began on May 7, 2002 in Norwalk, Connecticut. He was represented by attorney Michael Sherman. Michael’s alibi was that during the time of the murder, he was at his cousin’s house. During the trial, the jury heard part of a taped book proposal, which included Michael Skakel speaking about masturbating in a tree on the night of the murder, possibly the same tree under which Martha’s body was found the next morning.  

Michael was found guilty of murdering Martha Moxley on June 7, 2002, and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. In a creative way the prosecution used Michael’s own words against him because although in the book proposal, he did not admit that he committed the murder, prosecutors took words from the book proposal and overlaid them on graphic images of Martha’s dead body in a computerized, multimedia presentation shown to jurors during closing arguments. In the audiotape, Michael said that he was afraid he might have been seen the previous night “jerking off”, and he panicked.

The prosecution did a rather fine job wouldn’t you agree?

Have a Safe and Happy Halloween My Ghouls and Goblins.

Cristal M Clark