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Records Show No Forensic Evidence Against Skakel
Court documents in the Michael Skakel murder case, unsealed for the first time Monday, are most noteworthy for what they don't contain: any forensic evidence tying Skakel to the killing of Martha Moxley 25 years ago.
The 13-page affidavit that was the basis for Skakel's arrest 14 months ago relies heavily on the same Elan School students who testified against their former classmate, Skakel, last June during juvenile court hearings on whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute.Superior Court Judge Maureen Dennis ruled there is.
The affidavit reveals for the first time that Greenwich detectives were contacted as early as 1980 by an Elan student, who told them Skakel admitted to her that he may have killed Moxley during an alcohol-induced "blackout.'' Despite this, the case remained unsolved and largely stagnant until newly appointed Fairfield State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict undertook a grand jury investigation in 1998.
The testimony by the former students in June ranged from Skakel allegedly saying that he was drunk the night Moxley died and that he may have killed her during a "blackout,'' to his outright admission to the crime. One student said Skakel asserted he would get away with it because he's related to the Kennedy family. Skakel's aunt, Ethel Kennedy, was married to former U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.
What is missing from the case - as sources close to it have said for more than a year, and the affidavit confirms - are fingerprints, footprints or blood evidence which, through advanced DNA technology, could link Skakel inextricably to the crime scene.
Prosecutors are relying not only on witnesses whose memories are 20-plus years old, but on witnesses who were sent to Elan for problems of their own, including substance abuse.
Skakel's lawyer, Mickey Sherman, had his own succinct reading of what the evidence and affidavit amount to. "Remember that Peggy Lee song: `Is That All There Is?'"
The file's release "solves a lot of the mysteries,'' Sherman said. "There's no DNA. There's no physical evidence. All you have is the same landscape you saw during those reasonable cause hearings, which I, personally, wasn't impressed with.''
"This is clearly a very tough case for the prosecution,'' New Haven defense attorney Hugh Keefe said Monday. "Without forensic evidence of any type, you're relying on pretty lame circumstantial evidence and pretty lame memories. Without DNA evidence, Keefe said, "it's clearly a long shot for prosecutors to get a conviction in this kind of case.''
But the affidavit also highlights inconsistencies between the alibi Skakel gave police in the weeks after the October 1975 killing and what he later purportedly told friends about his actions that evening. Skakel, now 40, and Moxley both were 15 and neighbors in the gated community of Belle Haven in Greenwich when she was killed.
Skakel told police he was with Moxley and her friends until about 9:30 p.m. Oct. 30, 1975, then left several of his brothers to drive a cousin, James Terrien, home. He told police his brother, Thomas, and Martha were standing in the Skakel driveway when the others drove away. Skakel said he returned home abut 10:30 p.m., went to bed, and did not leave the house.
But according to the affidavit, Skakel later told an unnamed friend he was restless after returning home, and went out to look in the windows of women who lived in the neighborhood, hoping to see one naked. Skakel allegedly told a friend that when that mission failed, he climbed the tree outside Moxley's bedroom window for about 30 seconds, then climbed down.
Yet another acquaintance told police that Skakel later told him the same tale about climbing the tree to masturbate, but said he could see Martha inside the room.
The affidavit graphically portrays the brutality of the crime.
Dr. Elliot Gross, then chief medical examiner for the state, determined that the shattered, 6-iron golf club found at the scene was the murder weapon. Gross reported that Moxley was beaten on all sides of her head, and that she suffered multiple fractures of the skull and lacerations of the brain. She was also stabbed at least four times with the broken metal shaft of the club. One stab wound pierced her neck, forcing hair from one side of her head through her neck, to where the strands protruded from the other side. Her jeans and underpants had been pulled down. Her body had been dragged approximately 80 feet, and was found under a large tree about 60 feet from the side of her home.
The grip portion of the golf club remains missing. Greenwich detectives were able to link the remaining pieces of the club to a set owned by Skakel's mother, Ruth, who had died two years earlier.
The affidavit also details for the first time an episode that occurred sometime around 1976, in which an unnamed Skakel employee told police he witnessed a loud argument between Rushton Skakel and his then teenage son, Michael. The elder Skakel then ordered the employee to drive Michael to New York. When the employee entered the car, he saw that Michael Skakel was holding a knife, and asked him why he was so upset.
"Shut up and drive, or I'll stab you,'' Skakel reportedly replied.
Minutes later, Skakel told the employee that he [Skakel] "had done something very bad and that he needed to get out of the country, and that he needed to kill himself,'' the affidavit states. Skakel then reportedly jumped out of the vehicle.
The employee said he contacted Rushton Skakel, who instructed him to try to intercept Michael at his psychologist's office. The employee located Michael Skakel, drove him to his psychologist's office and waited nearly an hour. Then a staff member informed him Michael had fled. Staff members located Michael, persuaded him to return to the office, and the employee and Michael began the drive home.
While traveling over the Triborough Bridge, however, Michael jumped from the car and began to climb the bridge, the employee told police. The employee got him back into the car, only to have Michael again leave the vehicle and begin climbing the bridge. The affidavit does not indicate what, if anything, Skakel said during these episodes.
A probable cause hearing is scheduled to begin April 18 in Stamford Superior Court.