NORWALK, Conn.—The rumor had intrigued author Dominick Dunne: William Kennedy Smith was at the home of Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel the night Martha Moxley was murdered.
Dunne - who was covering Smith's trial on a rape charge in 1991, which resulted in an innocent verdict - said he rushed to Greenwich to check on the report. It turned out to be false.
"But I thought: What ever happened to that case?" Dunne said.
That curiosity would set in motion a chain of events that would result in three books and a television miniseries. The publicity helped keep attention on the murder and to bring forward witnesses.
Skakel, 41, was convicted Friday of beating Moxley to death with a golf club in October 1975, when they were 15-year-old neighbors in a wealthy gated community in Greenwich. He is a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, the widow of former U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy.
"Certainly all three helped the cause," said John Moxley, the victim's brother. "We're appreciative of all of them."
Dunne, a small but feisty man, was a fixture at Skakel's trial. He said he got dirty looks from some of Skakel's relatives. But Skakel's attorney, Michael Sherman, was careful to build a friendly relationship with the man whose work helped land Skakel in court.
After investigating the rumor, Dunne said he decided to seek an interview with Dorthy Moxley, the victim's mother.
"I took a liking to Mrs. Moxley from the first day I met her," Dunne said. "She was crippled with grief and had no hope."
His sympathy was natural. Like Moxley, Dunne's daughter, Dominique, was murdered. Moxley was killed Oct. 30, 1975; Dominique was killed Oct. 30, 1982.
Dunne wanted to know why the Moxleys had left Greenwich, a wealthy suburb of New York City.
"She said she couldn't look at the Skakel home any more," Dunne said. "She knew that inside that home someone knew who had done it."
Dunne decided in 1993 to write a book, "A Season in Purgatory," a fictionalized account based on the Moxley murder.
On Friday, Dunne attributed the verdict to the tenacity of Dorthy Moxley and to prosecutor Jonathan Benedict.
"This is a woman who has fought, fought, fought for 27 years to keep this case alive. I just think she's great woman," he said.
Benedict, said Dunne, connected disparate parts of the case into a smooth and flowing timeline.
Dunne's book helped lead to two more, one by Mark Fuhrman, the former Los Angeles police detective, and another by Timothy Dumas, a Greenwich native and journalist.
Dunne said he suggested the idea to Fuhrman and provided him with a copy of a crucial report by a private investigative firm hired by the Skakel family.
Fuhrman, who writes about high-profile murders, said his interest in the Moxley case was piqued by Dunne's book. Fuhrman's book was the only one to allege Skakel committed the murder.