It was traumatic enough for Greenwich when a sweet teenage girl was murdered in 1975. Then there were rumblings that a relative of the Kennedy family might be involved.
Now, 22 years later, the unsolved golf-club beating of 15-year-old Martha Moxley has taken an even more unlikely twist--one that involves, of all people, Mark Fuhrman. That Mark Fuhrman.
The former Los Angeles police detective whose racist remarks tainted the prosecution case against O.J. Simpson is writing a book about the Moxley case. And he promises that “Murder in Greenwich,” due out in May, will name the killer.
Fuhrman’s interest has focused a fresh round of media attention on the murder, giving Moxley’s family new hope that the murderer will be brought to justice.
“He really has stirred things up, and if he can focus attention on the case, we’re grateful to him,” said the victim’s mother, Dorthy Moxley.
Connecticut authorities scoff at Fuhrman’s claim that he has cracked the case. “I really don’t think he would expect us to buy his book,” said retired Bridgeport State’s Atty. Donald Browne, who continues to work on the case as a special prosecutor.
Authorities in this posh town do not relish having Fuhrman stick his nose into a case they have worked on for 22 years. And the things he has been saying have done nothing to change their attitude.
Connecticut authorities started making mistakes the day of the murder “and they’ve never stopped,” Fuhrman said.
But the authorities haven’t given up. The Moxley family said they have been told that DNA testing, unavailable 22 years ago, is being done on evidence from Martha’s clothing. Results are expected this month.
On Oct. 30, 1975, Martha Moxley joined several friends for some pre-Halloween mischief. They sprayed shaving cream and littered the neighborhood with toilet paper before stopping at the home of Thomas and Michael Skakel, nephews of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Their father, Rushton Skakel, is the brother of Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy’s widow.
The Moxleys and Skakels lived in Belle Haven, a gated community in Greenwich, an affluent town where former President George Bush grew up.
Sometime between 9:30 and 10 p.m., Martha left the Skakel house. Home was only 150 yards away. She never made it. Her body was found the next day under a tree in her backyard. Her jeans and underwear had been pulled down, but there was no evidence of sexual assault.
She had been beaten so hard with a 6-iron that the shaft had shattered. A jagged piece of it was used to stab her through the neck.
Police learned the club had belonged to Anne Skakel, who had died of cancer two years earlier. Her son, Thomas, then 17, was the last person seen with Martha. According to Martha’s diary, she had fended off several past attempts by Skakel to “get to first and second base,” said Dorthy Moxley.
Greenwich police did a cursory search of the house with Rushton Skakel’s permission, but they never obtained a warrant for a thorough search. That led to accusations of special treatment for the well-connected family.
The Skakels stopped cooperating with police in early 1976 and have since refused to be interviewed. Emanuel Margolis, the family’s attorney, said Thomas Skakel, now 39 and living in Stockbridge, Mass., has always insisted he had nothing to do with the murder. The lawyer said Fuhrman and HarperCollins Publishers Inc. are stirring up interest in the case because “they want to sell a lot of books.”
This is not the first time there has been a burst of interest in the case. In 1991, a rumor floated that William Kennedy Smith--then facing a rape charge on which he was acquitted in Palm Beach, Fla.--knew something about the murder. It proved untrue, but it prompted Connecticut officials to reexamine witnesses and evidence.
The case returned to national attention in 1993 when “A Season in Purgatory,” Dominick Dunne’s best-selling novel based on the murder, was published. Dunne, who later wrote extensively about the O.J. Simpson trial, encouraged Fuhrman to investigate the case.
Greenwich authorities did not welcome this. “I have no reason to talk to Mark Fuhrman,” snapped one investigator who refused Fuhrman’s request for an interview. “God bless him!” scoffed another when told Fuhrman planned to crack the case.
Authorities told Fuhrman they wouldn’t cooperate because they did not want to jeopardize their ongoing investigation. What they are actually doing, Fuhrman said, is hiding old mistakes.
“If you know there was a mistake and you leave it that way because you won’t allow yourself to say or admit that you made a mistake, then that’s a catastrophic mistake,” he said.
Fuhrman claims he has new evidence about the murder and official blundering.
For one thing, Dr. Michael Baden, a well-known pathologist who reviewed Martha Moxley’s autopsy at Fuhrman’s request, said color autopsy photographs appear to be missing from the file. Investigators say they are not sure there ever were such photographs.
For another thing, Fuhrman claims, two Greenwich police officers have told him they saw the golf club’s handle at the murder scene. Officially, Greenwich police say the handle was never found.
Retired police Det. Stephen Carroll, one of the few cooperating with Fuhrman, said he never saw the handle. He agreed that investigators made mistakes but insisted that the Skakels did not get special treatment. Mistakes happened, Carroll said, because of inexperience. The department had not handled a murder in 30 years.
“I think it was bungled from the first moment,” Dunne said. “It was a small community then. This was an amazingly rich family.”
Police had other suspects besides Skakel. They questioned a young neighbor of the Moxleys and a 24-year-old tutor living with the Skakels. They also considered transients off Interstate 95.
“We have a circumstantial-evidence case, with no witnesses,” said Browne, the special prosecutor. “Unfortunately, we have circumstances that point in several different directions.”
Perhaps the DNA tests will point investigators in a certain direction, he said, but he didn’t sound convinced that an arrest would come any time soon.
Martha’s mother, however, is hoping the investigation will finally find the right direction.
“That’s my life these days,” she said. “The hope that someday we’ll know who did this.”