The Influence of the Film, “Natural Born Killers”

     In the movie, “Natural Born Killers,” Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis)–fall in love, engage in a bloody killing spree in public places like convenience stores and restaurants, and gain fame as a result. The fil…

     In the movie, "Natural Born Killers," Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis)--fall in love, engage in a bloody killing spree in public places like convenience stores and restaurants, and gain fame as a result. The film garnered international attention because of its excessively graphic and violent content. Director Oliver Stone stated in a New York Times article on April 14, 1996, "The most pacifistic people in the world said they came out of this movie and wanted to kill somebody."

     To date, the most deadly school shooting in America by a teen was influenced by "Natural Born Killers." Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed thirteen people and wounded twenty-four others on April 20, 1999, in Littleton, Colorado. The two disturbed teens were fascinated with Nazi beliefs, weapons, and pipe bombs, and were heavily involved in violent video games such as "Doom" and mussic like KMFDM. They watched "Natural Born Killers" more than fifty times and even named their killing spree in the film's honor--"the holy April morning of NBK" [Natural Born Killers].

Phil Chalmers, Inside the Mind of a Teen Killer, 2009 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

The JonBenet Ramsey Case And The History Of The Internet Subculture

     …It’s been said that JonBenet Ramsey’s murder, like that of Nicole Brown Simpson’s, was made for the supermarket tabloids. Both cases had the right mix of glitz and sordidness, shocking details and rabid public curiosity to bring out the worst strains of Enquirer-style journalism. But the Ramsey case, with its endless clues and possible suspects, its queasy connections to the worlds of child beauty pageants and the sexual objectification of little girls, was also made for the Internet–and became the impetus for an entire subculture of online sleuths, speculators and voyeurs.

     O. J. Simpson’s 1995 murder trial came a little too early in the cyber-revolution to get much online traction; most people followed the case on television. But by the time the JonBenet case began making headlines outside of Colorado in early 1997, a nation primed with AOL accounts and dial-up service was ready and eager to weigh in–anonymously, of course…

     The JonBenet virtual community got its start in the Boulder Daily Camera’s online News Forum, which featured back-and-forth posts from readers curious about the case and a live chat room. The rising traffic from the Ramsey-obsessed fans soon led to the launch of websites providing opportunities for more detailed discussions about the case.

     One of the most popular news sites, Mrs. Brady’s URLs, became a much imitated template, offering links to breaking news and emerging discussion forums. A spectrum of sites catered to various shades of opinion, from those convinced that an Intruder Did It (IDIs) to those who thought the parents were good for it–referred to disparagingly by IDIs as BORGS, a Star Trek reference that also served as an acronym for “Bent On Ramsey Guilt.” There were also sites for fans of lead detective Steve Thomas, detractors of District Attorney Alex Hunter, and more.

     The surging online phenomenon produced some impressive archives of Ramsey-related documents, recordings and photos; the still active JonBenet archive at A Candy Rose remains one of the most useful and extensive….

Alan Prendergast, “JonBenet Ramsey and the Rise of an Internet Subculture,” blogs.westword.com, December 2014 

     …It's been said that JonBenet Ramsey's murder, like that of Nicole Brown Simpson's, was made for the supermarket tabloids. Both cases had the right mix of glitz and sordidness, shocking details and rabid public curiosity to bring out the worst strains of Enquirer-style journalism. But the Ramsey case, with its endless clues and possible suspects, its queasy connections to the worlds of child beauty pageants and the sexual objectification of little girls, was also made for the Internet--and became the impetus for an entire subculture of online sleuths, speculators and voyeurs.

     O. J. Simpson's 1995 murder trial came a little too early in the cyber-revolution to get much online traction; most people followed the case on television. But by the time the JonBenet case began making headlines outside of Colorado in early 1997, a nation primed with AOL accounts and dial-up service was ready and eager to weigh in--anonymously, of course…

     The JonBenet virtual community got its start in the Boulder Daily Camera's online News Forum, which featured back-and-forth posts from readers curious about the case and a live chat room. The rising traffic from the Ramsey-obsessed fans soon led to the launch of websites providing opportunities for more detailed discussions about the case.

     One of the most popular news sites, Mrs. Brady's URLs, became a much imitated template, offering links to breaking news and emerging discussion forums. A spectrum of sites catered to various shades of opinion, from those convinced that an Intruder Did It (IDIs) to those who thought the parents were good for it--referred to disparagingly by IDIs as BORGS, a Star Trek reference that also served as an acronym for "Bent On Ramsey Guilt." There were also sites for fans of lead detective Steve Thomas, detractors of District Attorney Alex Hunter, and more.

     The surging online phenomenon produced some impressive archives of Ramsey-related documents, recordings and photos; the still active JonBenet archive at A Candy Rose remains one of the most useful and extensive….

Alan Prendergast, "JonBenet Ramsey and the Rise of an Internet Subculture," blogs.westword.com, December 2014 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

The Unsolved Murder of Martha Moxley

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by John W. Taylor

Greenwich, Connecticut exudes wealth and privilege. Much of the affluent town is filled with old money and respected surnames that have carried down through generations. Within Greenwich lies the gated community of Belle Haven with its massive homes, located on spacious acreage. The properties […]

by John W. Taylor

Greenwich, Connecticut exudes wealth and privilege. Much of the affluent town is filled with old money and respected surnames that have carried down through generations. Within Greenwich lies the gated community of Belle Haven with its massive homes, located on spacious acreage. The properties commonly possess swimming pools, tennis courts, and secondary houses for attendants. Having copious amounts of money in Belle Haven is the norm, not the exception, and “the help” are the only persons in the area lacking wealth.

In 1975, the Moxleys lived at 38 Walsh Lane in Belle Haven. John Moxley was a partner in the large New York accounting firm, Touche, Ross & Company. John lived with his wife, Dorothy, and their two children, John, age 16, and Martha, age 15. Martha was a high school sophomore and a cheerleader at Greenwich High School. She had long, beautiful blonde hair, an infectious smile, and was voted “best personality” at school.

The Skakels lived across the street from the Moxleys. The patriarch of the family, Rushton Skakel, was brother to Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy. Rushton was chairman of the board of the Great Lakes Carbon Corporation. After Ruston’s wife, Anne, died of cancer in 1973, he was tasked, along with the hired help, with raising their seven children. Tommy and Michael, who were 16 and 15 in 1975, respectively, were the oldest children. The Skakel clan also included: John, Julie, Rush, David, and Stephen. Similar to the Kennedys, the Skakels experienced more than their share of tragedies. Along with losing his wife, both of Rushton’s parents were killed in a plane crash. His brother George died in a separate plane crash and his brother’s wife choked to death on a piece of meat at a dinner party. When Tommy Skakel was only four-years-old, he was thrown from a car. He sustained severe head injuries but survived.

Rushton Skakel employed twenty-three-year-old Ken Littleton as a tutor and care-taker for his children. Ken taught science and coached at the prestigious Brunswick School. Ken arrived for his first day of work at the Skakel residence on October 30, 1975. That evening, Ken Littleton took several of the Skakel children, including Tommy and Michael, along with two friends, to dinner at the Belle Haven Country Club at 7:00 p.m. Though only teenagers, both Tommy and Michael drank heavily while at the country club. A little bit later, Martha Moxley and three friends went to the Skakel home, waiting for everyone to arrive back at home from dinner. It was the night before Halloween, and many of the neighborhood kids roamed the area engaging in mischievous but fairly innocent pranks. Shortly after 9:00 p.m., the kids began to head inside or home for the evening. However, at 9:30 p.m., Tommy and Martha remained outside together on the front lawn of the Skakel property.

Around midnight, Martha’s mother, Dorothy, became concerned when her daughter failed to come home. Dorothy and her son John began looking for Martha in the neighborhood. They stopped at the Skakel residence, at least twice, trying to locate Martha. At 3:48 a.m. on the morning of October 31, 1975, Dorothy called the Greenwich Police Department to report her Martha missing.

The search for Martha continued through the early morning hours. At around 12:30 p.m., family friend Sheila Maguire discovered Martha’s body. Sheila found her lying under a pine tree on her family’s estate, less than 200 yards from the front door. She had been bludgeoned to death with a golf club. Martha was found face down with her jeans and underwear pulled down to her ankles. The authorities believed that she may have been sexually assaulted but not raped. Further, no semen was found on or near her. Martha’s badly beaten 5’5,” 120 lbs. body was discovered about midway between her house and the Skakel home.

In 1975, Greenwich, Connecticut had only 63,000 residents, and there were only three murders in the previous 25 years. The low crime rate appealed to locals and prospective residents alike, but it meant that law enforcement lacked experience regarding the intricacies of homicide investigations. After finding Martha’s body, police did a cursory search of the Skakel home, but they failed to obtain a search warrant. Police may have misplaced key evidence. Several witnesses identified an individual walking several blocks away from the murder, but police did not immediately follow-up on the lead. The autopsy allegedly failed to contain basic pictures memorializing the injuries.

Martha was beaten with a Toney Penna 6-iron. During the initial investigation, police determined the murder weapon belonged to a golf set from the Skakel home. The blows to Martha’s head were so violent and forceful that the steel golf club broke into four pieces during the attack. Investigators recovered three of the four pieces. The grip portion of the club was missing, which had the “Skakel” name on it. The strikes to Martha’s head eviscerated her scalp. Experts estimated the perpetrator bludgeoned her somewhere between nine and fourteen times. Further, post mortem, the perpetrator drove a piece of the golf club’s shaft into her neck. It was a barbaric scene.

Based on the crime scene blood, forensic expert Dr. Henry Lee stated that Martha was likely attacked initially on the driveway, but she was killed on a nearby patch of grass. During the fatal attack, he opined that a portion of the golf club shaft flew over 100 feet when it broke. According to Dr. Lee, the killer dragged Martha approximately 80 feet to a tree, stopped, rolled the body over, and changed from pulling the upper body to pulling her from her feet.

Though police entertained the idea of a transient entering the neighborhood and killing Martha Moxley, they quickly dismissed the theory. Belle Haven was a gated community with its own security force. Outsiders immediately stood out. The police casted a wide net, interviewing several hundred people associated with Martha’s murder. However, with the discovery of the murder weapon being tied to the Skakel household, investigators turned their focus toward those individuals present at the Skakel residence during the likely time of the murder (somewhere between 9:30 p.m. and approximately 10:30 p.m.)

Police zeroed in on three individuals: Tommy Skakel, Michael Skakel, and Ken Littleton. Though Michael dated Martha previously, investigators dismissed him because he had an apparent air-tight alibi. He was at his cousin’s house from 9:30 p.m. till 11:00 p.m. on the night of the murder. Ken and Tommy were both in and around the Skakel home during the estimated time of the murder. Tommy was the last known person to have seen Martha Moxley alive. During his initial interview with police, Tommy told them that he talked with Martha outside his home until around 9:30 p.m. His sister, Julie, corroborated this information as she saw them together at this time as well.

Ken Littleton was new to Belle Haven. He appeared to investigators as nervous, agitated, and unstable. Investigators who interviewed him described him as a “haunted man.” He also failed two polygraph examinations. However, he denied any involvement in Martha’s murder, and the police did not have any evidence tying him to the crime. Regardless, he remained a person of interest.

Investigators initially interviewed Tommy Skakel for five hours on the night of October 31, 1975. They were unable to gather any articulable incriminating information against him. Tommy passed two polygraph examinations. Regardless, police continued to suspect him in Martha’s murder. Though police had suspicions about Tommy’s involvement, they did not have any hard evidence. Rushton Skakel, Tommy’s father, soon cut-off police’s access to Tommy and prevented them from getting his medical and school records.

Ken Littleton was an outsider without the power and wealth of the Skakels. No one wanted to believe a Belle Haven resident could commit murder; therefore, Ken represented a convenient alternative suspect. Unfortunately for investigators, no one was talking. There were no confessions, and this was long before DNA testing. As a result, the police made no arrests nor was a grand jury convened. The case went cold.

After Martha’s murder, Ken Littleton experienced substance abuse problems and depression. In 1976, he was arrested for breaking and entering and larceny. Later, Ken was arrested for assault, disorderly conduct, and driving while intoxicated. Police were left wondering if Ken Littleton’s erratic behavior was indicative of guilt related to murder, a reaction to being suspected of murder, or as a result of what he knew.

In 1991, Rushton Skakel hired a group of New York private investigators from the firm, Sutton Associates. His objective was for the investigators to dig into all areas of Martha Moxley’s murder in order to exonerate his son, Tommy, who the police believed was the perpetrator. Ultimately, Rushton’s honorable intentions led to further complications for his family.

Sutton Associates vetted all the investigators assigned to the case and required them to sign non-disclosure agreements (“NDA’s”). Investigators assembled their findings in a document that became known as “The Sutton Report.” Rushton Skakel allegedly paid somewhere in the realm of $750,000 for the comprehensive investigation and associated reports. The findings remained secret for years.

The Sutton investigators parsed through every piece of evidentiary minutia from the original investigation. The investigators generated suspect profiles, scrutinized previous interviews, and re-interviewed many of the witnesses and potential suspects in the case. The investigators accumulated a mass amount of information and derived conclusions based on their assessments. Though the report stayed secret for years, eventually, the contents of the report leaked.

Since the Greenwich Police placed Tommy Skakel in their crosshairs, the Sutton investigators initially focused on him. During an interview with Sutton investigators, Tommy admitted that he was with Martha for about 20 minutes beyond the 9:30 p.m. time he originally told police. According to Tommy, on the night of Martha’s murder, he and Martha engaged in a sexual encounter in the Skakel’s backyard. He last saw Martha walking across the backyard after their sexual tryst. This new information placed Tommy with Martha until 9:50 p.m. The Sutton investigators considered this a huge break-through in the case. Why would Tommy openly divulge incriminating information about himself almost 20 years later, if it were not true? During the initial police interrogation, Tommy withheld this information from them. Yet, under no pressure, Tommy just gave up the additional information to the Sutton investigators. Why? The private investigators now knew that Tommy initially lied to the police, and he successfully beat two lie-detector tests.

Though Ken Littleton initially failed two law enforcement lie-detector tests, the Sutton investigators attributed it more to Ken’s nervousness and overall instability than deceitfulness. Plus, they knew Tommy beat the lie-detector test twice; therefore, a false positive on Littleton was not outside the realm of possibility. Ken Littleton arrived for his first day of work at the Skakel residence on October 30, 1975, the day of Martha’s murder. He did not have a relationship, nor had he ever met Martha Moxley prior to this day. The killing appeared personal and filled with rage. The Sutton investigators also believed the killer was quite familiar with the area, and Ken was not. Though they did not view him as completely innocent, the investigators found it unlikely that Ken was the perpetrator. Further, investigators felt like Ken’s time was accounted for throughout the evening, thus he did not have the opportunity to kill Martha.

Greenwich investigators initially removed Michael Skakel from suspicion because he had an alibi. Jim Terrien, Michael’s cousin, told investigators back in 1975 that he, along with Rush, John, and Michael, left the Skakel residence at 9:30 p.m. on the night of Martha’s murder. The group left in the Skakel’s Lincoln and did not return to the Skakel residence until around 11:00 p.m.

Michael previously dated Martha. On the night of her murder, Martha overtly flirted with Michael’s older brother, Tommy, in front of him and other friends and siblings. According to the Sutton investigation, Tommy and Michael fought often, and at times, about Martha.

Almost everyone interviewed acknowledged that Martha was a flirt, though her flirtatious manner was considered more attributable to her confidence than as a form of sexual invitation. Regardless, Michael told investigators that he did not consider her flirtatious. Investigators found it interesting that Michael refused to acknowledge Martha’s flirtatious manner when it was considered common knowledge among the group of friends. Michael also downplayed his sexual interest in Martha.

Michael told the Sutton investigators that he could not remember when he found out Martha was killed. The investigators found this highly suspicious, since learning of a close friend and former girlfriend being murdered would be a memorable event.

According to Rushton Skakel, Julie, Michael’s sister, was terrified of Michael. Ken Littleton told Sutton investigators that he witnessed Michael kill small animals. He was disgusted by Michael’s behavior. In 1977, therapists administered a psychological exam on Michael Skakel. He was identified as: depressed, possibly psychotic, with borderline features, such as an inability to attach meaningfully with others and exhibited impulse control issues.

With the above known, investigators re-visited Michael’s alibi. Andrea Shakespeare, a friend of the Skakel’s, hung out at the Skakel home on the night of October 30, 1975. According to Andrea, Michael did not go to Jim Terrien’s. Michael’s brother Rush also could not remember Michael going with him to Terrien’s house. Michael’s other brother, John, also failed to remember Michael being in the car when they left for the Terrien’s. Even under hypnosis, John was unable to remember Michael’s presence in the Skakel’s Lincoln that night. As a result, investigators concluded Michael stayed at home. Now, Michael’s whereabouts between 9:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. were completely unaccounted for during the crucial timeframe.

Julie Skakel drove Andrea Shakespeare home shortly after the group left for Jim Terrien’s house. Julie returned home around 9:50 p.m. She claimed that she saw someone traipsing around the bushes outside the Skakel home in dark clothes and a hood. Julie thought she saw a male, carrying something in his left hand. Because it was the night before Halloween, kids commonly roamed the neighborhood engaging in mischief. As a result, Julie was not alarmed by the apparent prowler

Tommy was likely still with Martha at this time. After Julie went inside, she saw Ken Littleton in the kitchen. As a result, the Sutton investigators determined that Michael Skakel was the only unaccounted for male at this time. They believed Michael was crawling around in the bushes shortly before 10:00 p.m. According to the investigators’ theory, Michael spied on Tommy and Martha while they made out.

According to Littleton, Tommy joined him in the master bedroom at 10:03 p.m. to watch “The French Connection.” This precise time was determined based on Ken’s estimation that Tommy came into the bedroom about 20 minutes before the “chase scene,” which began at 10:23 p.m. Tommy left the master bedroom at the end of the “chase scene,” which was at 10: 32 p.m. According to Tommy, he went to the kitchen to get food. However, no one knew Michael’s location during this entire time.

According to Jim Terrien, the Skakels left his house around 11:00 p.m. At 11:30 p.m., John Skakel told investigators that he heard someone leave his house. Julie Skakel also thought someone may have left the house around this time. In a startling revelation, Michael Skakel told the Sutton investigators that he left the house at 11:40 p.m. He allegedly watched a neighbor woman disrobe through her window and then climbed a tree alongside Martha’s house. He yelled her name twice, and then he masturbated in the tree while outside her window. On his way back home, Michael claimed he felt someone’s presence in the area where Martha’s body was later discovered. When he returned to his house, he climbed in his second-floor bedroom window because all the doors were locked. According to Michael’s story, he was gone for 30 to 45 minutes. When Rush Skakel arrived home at 11:45 p.m., Tommy was in bed. He made no mention of Michael.

Investigators wondered why Michael Skakel changed his story. The investigators speculated that Michael was aware of family members who saw or heard someone leave the house around 11:30 p.m. He may have thought they knew it was him; and therefore, he needed to create a story to explain why he left the house and what he did. Investigators found it note-worthy that he supposedly “sensed” someone in the area where Martha was found. This new information placed Michael close to the crime scene at a time when Martha was likely already dead.

Sutton investigators theorized that both Michael and Tommy changed their stories as a means of damage control. Investigators believed the Skakel brothers thought the investigation had netted new evidence, and they needed to concede some information regarding their activities on the night of Martha’s murder.

According to the Sutton investigators’ assessment, the murder weapon signaled impulsiveness. With Martha having endured 14-15 blows to her head, they considered her murder “overkill.” These traits, along with many others they used to develop a profile of the killer, most closely aligned with Michael. With Michael’s alibi removed, his whereabouts during the likely time of Martha’s murder were completely unknown. Investigators postulated that Michael killed Martha in a fit of rage after seeing her with Tommy. After killing her, Michael sneaked back out of the house around 11:30 p.m. to move her body and possibly engage in activities designed to conceal his involvement, such as hiding the grip portion of the murder weapon. Sutton investigators believed that possibly Tommy and/or Ken Littleton either assisted with or were aware of Michael moving Martha’s body.

Within a few years, two new witnesses from the Elan School for troubled boys in Poland Spring, Maine, came forward. John Higgins, a former classmate of Michael’s at Elan, provided information on statements made by Michael. Higgins claimed that Michael indirectly admitted to murdering Martha Moxley. Michael told him that he took a golf club out of a bag and ran through the woods. Michael could not remember if he killed her or not. Offsetting Higgins statements, he later admitted the monetary reward enhanced his interest in telling this story.

Though he was serving time in prison for criminal trespassing, another former Elan classmate of Michael’s, Gregory Coleman, indicated that Michael Skakel told him: “I am going to get away with murder. I am a Kennedy.” According to Coleman, Michael also told him he drove a golf club into Martha’s head after she denied his advances.

Several years into the Sutton investigation, there were individuals working on the case who never signed NDA’s. In 1998, one of the individuals, allegedly not covered by an NDA, provided the full report to writer Dominick Dunne. Dominick in turn gave the report to former L.A.P.D. detective Mark Fuhrman. Later, the report was leaked into the public domain. Fuhrman looked into the case, but he was treated as an outsider by those in Greenwich. Notwithstanding the stone-walling he received in Connecticut, Fuhrman wrote a book about Martha Moxley’s death called, “Murder in Greenwich.” Similar to “The Sutton Report,” Fuhrman identified Michael Skakel as Martha’s killer.

In the late 1990s, a one-person grand jury convened in Greenwich. On January 19, 2000, police arrested Michael Skakel for the murder of Martha Moxley. He was later released on a $500,000 bond. Michael did not go to trial until 2002. On June 7 of that year, after a three-week long trial, the jury convicted Michael Skakel of murder. According to jurors, they convicted him based on his incriminating statements combined with his erratic behavior. Michael was sentenced to 20 years-to-life in prison.

In 2003, Michael Skakel’s lawyers began the appeals process. They challenged his conviction on several legal grounds, including a claim of prejudice when the prosecution referred to him as a “spoiled brat” in front of the jury. In 2006, the appeals court rejected the legal arguments, and Connecticut’s Supreme Court upheld his conviction. In 2007, Skakel’s attorneys requested a new trial based on statements made by one of Michael Skakel’s former classmates, Gitano Bryant. He claimed someone other than Michael killed Martha Moxley. The court rejected this assertion as well. Michael’s lawyers kept trying. They submitted motions claiming Martha was murdered by anyone and everyone, except Michael Skakel. At one point, his lawyers even argued that Tommy Skakel, Michael’s own brother, was the likely culprit.

Prior to Michael Skakel’s indictment, a mother of one of the girls present at the Skakel home on October 30, 1975, called Martha’s mom, Dorothy Moxley. She told Dorothy to stop pursuing Martha’s case. She went on to say that it would only result in harm to the Skakels, and no good would come of it. Also, prior to the indictment, a woman from Greenwich approached writer Dominick Dunne in a Vermont bookstore. Her first husband lived near the Skakels. She told Dunne that she knew where the grip part of the golf club was located. She continued by stating that a lot of people in Greenwich know where it is. The woman then refused to tell Dunne the location of the golf grip and left the bookstore shortly thereafter. Apparently, Greenwich has many secrets, and some individuals will go to great lengths to ensure they are kept.

Michael Skakel, accused in the 1975 slaying of neighbor Martha Moxley, walks with attorneys Hubert Santos and Jessica Santos outside Stamford Superior Court in Stamford, Conn. Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, after being released following a hearing. Skakel, the 53-year-old nephew of Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, who has served 11 years of a 20 years to life sentence, will remain free awaiting a new trial. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

In 2013, a judge ordered a new trial for Michael Skakel due to ineffective legal representation. His trial lawyer failed to call a key alibi witness. Later that same year, Skakel posted a $1.2 million bail and was released. In 2016, the Connecticut Supreme Court reinstated the murder conviction, finding that Michael Skakel’s legal counsel was competent. The following year, after the composition of the high court changed due to retirements, Michael Skakel’s attorneys requested the state supreme court to review its own decision. On May 4, 2018, Connecticut’s Supreme Court reversed itself in a 4-3 ruling, vacating Skakel’s murder conviction, based on ineffective legal representation.

When Martha’s mother, Dorothy Moxley, was asked about the recent ruling, she stated, “We got him arrested and convicted and put in jail. It isn’t my job now. It’s enough.” The State has not decided whether or not they will re-try Michael Skakel for murder.

Works Cited

The Associated Press, “Neighbor Talks to Grand Jury On ’75 Murder in Greenwich,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/1998/08/13/nyregion/neighbor-talks-to-grand-jury-on-75-murder-in-greenwich.html?ref=michaelskakel, August 13, 1998.

Crittle, Simon, “The Skakel Trial: Day 2,” Time, http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,236427,00.html, May 9, 2002.

Dunne, Dominick, “Trail of Guilt,” Vanity Fair, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2000/10/dominick-dunne-martha-moxley-murder-greenwich, October, 2000.

Farber, M.A., “Who Killed Martha Moxley? A Town Wonders,” The New York Times, http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/20131024skakel/Whokilledmartha62477.pdf, June 24, 1977.

Herszenhorn, David, “2 Witnesses Say Skakel Confessed to 1975 Killing,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2000/06/21/nyregion/2-witnesses-say-skakel-confessed-to-1975-killing.html, June 21, 2000.

Lavoie, Denise, “Fuhrman Claims He’s Solved ’75 Slaying,” Los Angeles Times, http://articles.latimes.com/1998/feb/15/local/me-19311, February 15, 1998.

Rojas, Rick, and Kristin Hussey, “Connecticut Court Reverses Murder Conviction of Michael Skakel,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/04/nyregion/michael-skakel-conviction-reversed.html?rref=collection%2Fbyline%2Frick-rojas&action=click&contentCollection=undefined&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection, May 4, 2018.

Rojas, Rick, and Kristin Hussey, “Four Decades After Martha Moxley’s Murder, Her Mother Says ‘It’s Enough,’” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/05/nyregion/martha-moxley-murder-case.html, May 5, 2018.

Vincent, Isabel, “I tutored a Kennedy relative – and wound up accused of murder,” The New York Post, https://nypost.com/2017/09/17/i-tutored-a-kennedy-relative-and-wound-up-accused-of-murder/, September 17, 2017.

“How the Skakel-Moxley Murder Case Unfolded Over Four Decades,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/04/nyregion/michael-skakel-martha-moxley.html, May 4, 2018.

“Michael Skakel Fast Facts,” CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2013/05/27/us/michael-skakel-fast-facts/index.html, May 4, 2018.

“The Sutton Report,” http://thesuttonreport.com/The%20Sutton%20Report/campysuttontoc.html, accessed June, 2018.

 

Click below to view John W. Taylor’s previous intriguing posts:

How Jeffrey MacDonald’s Words Betrayed Him

Do Helena Stoeckley’s Ramblings Convey Reasonable Doubt for Jeffrey MacDonald?

Jason Young: Stone Cold Killer or Victim of Unfortunate Coincidences?

Murderer, Manipulator, or Do-Gooder? The Many Sides of James Rupard

“Making a Murderer” Sparks Public Outrage (as well it should)

The Deep Sleeper – Darlie Routier’s Plight for Innocence

Drew Peterson – A Legend in His Own Mind

Not How It Was Supposed To Go: Joanna Madonna and the Murder of Jose Perez

The Many Trials of Tim Hennis

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Darker Side of Aaron Hernandez

johntJohn W. Taylor writes in the true crime genre at www.truecrimewriting.com. He has written short pieces and articles on the death of Marilyn Monroe, JFK, and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others.  John wrote and published Umbrella of Suspicion: Investigating the Death of JonBénet Ramsey and Isolated Incident: Investigating the Death of Nancy Cooper in 2012 and 2014, respectively. 

John is the host of the true crime podcast “Twisted,” which can be found at www.twistedpodcast.com. It is available through iTunes, Stitcher, and Libysn. He currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina.

 

The Unsolved Murder of Martha Moxley

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by John W. Taylor

Greenwich, Connecticut exudes wealth and privilege. Much of the affluent town is filled with old money and respected surnames that have carried down through generations. Within Greenwich lies the gated community of Belle Haven with its massive homes, located on spacious acreage. The properties […]

by John W. Taylor

Greenwich, Connecticut exudes wealth and privilege. Much of the affluent town is filled with old money and respected surnames that have carried down through generations. Within Greenwich lies the gated community of Belle Haven with its massive homes, located on spacious acreage. The properties commonly possess swimming pools, tennis courts, and secondary houses for attendants. Having copious amounts of money in Belle Haven is the norm, not the exception, and “the help” are the only persons in the area lacking wealth.

In 1975, the Moxleys lived at 38 Walsh Lane in Belle Haven. John Moxley was a partner in the large New York accounting firm, Touche, Ross & Company. John lived with his wife, Dorothy, and their two children, John, age 16, and Martha, age 15. Martha was a high school sophomore and a cheerleader at Greenwich High School. She had long, beautiful blonde hair, an infectious smile, and was voted “best personality” at school.

The Skakels lived across the street from the Moxleys. The patriarch of the family, Rushton Skakel, was brother to Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy. Rushton was chairman of the board of the Great Lakes Carbon Corporation. After Ruston’s wife, Anne, died of cancer in 1973, he was tasked, along with the hired help, with raising their seven children. Tommy and Michael, who were 16 and 15 in 1975, respectively, were the oldest children. The Skakel clan also included: John, Julie, Rush, David, and Stephen. Similar to the Kennedys, the Skakels experienced more than their share of tragedies. Along with losing his wife, both of Rushton’s parents were killed in a plane crash. His brother George died in a separate plane crash and his brother’s wife choked to death on a piece of meat at a dinner party. When Tommy Skakel was only four-years-old, he was thrown from a car. He sustained severe head injuries but survived.

Rushton Skakel employed twenty-three-year-old Ken Littleton as a tutor and care-taker for his children. Ken taught science and coached at the prestigious Brunswick School. Ken arrived for his first day of work at the Skakel residence on October 30, 1975. That evening, Ken Littleton took several of the Skakel children, including Tommy and Michael, along with two friends, to dinner at the Belle Haven Country Club at 7:00 p.m. Though only teenagers, both Tommy and Michael drank heavily while at the country club. A little bit later, Martha Moxley and three friends went to the Skakel home, waiting for everyone to arrive back at home from dinner. It was the night before Halloween, and many of the neighborhood kids roamed the area engaging in mischievous but fairly innocent pranks. Shortly after 9:00 p.m., the kids began to head inside or home for the evening. However, at 9:30 p.m., Tommy and Martha remained outside together on the front lawn of the Skakel property.

Around midnight, Martha’s mother, Dorothy, became concerned when her daughter failed to come home. Dorothy and her son John began looking for Martha in the neighborhood. They stopped at the Skakel residence, at least twice, trying to locate Martha. At 3:48 a.m. on the morning of October 31, 1975, Dorothy called the Greenwich Police Department to report her Martha missing.

The search for Martha continued through the early morning hours. At around 12:30 p.m., family friend Sheila Maguire discovered Martha’s body. Sheila found her lying under a pine tree on her family’s estate, less than 200 yards from the front door. She had been bludgeoned to death with a golf club. Martha was found face down with her jeans and underwear pulled down to her ankles. The authorities believed that she may have been sexually assaulted but not raped. Further, no semen was found on or near her. Martha’s badly beaten 5’5,” 120 lbs. body was discovered about midway between her house and the Skakel home.

In 1975, Greenwich, Connecticut had only 63,000 residents, and there were only three murders in the previous 25 years. The low crime rate appealed to locals and prospective residents alike, but it meant that law enforcement lacked experience regarding the intricacies of homicide investigations. After finding Martha’s body, police did a cursory search of the Skakel home, but they failed to obtain a search warrant. Police may have misplaced key evidence. Several witnesses identified an individual walking several blocks away from the murder, but police did not immediately follow-up on the lead. The autopsy allegedly failed to contain basic pictures memorializing the injuries.

Martha was beaten with a Toney Penna 6-iron. During the initial investigation, police determined the murder weapon belonged to a golf set from the Skakel home. The blows to Martha’s head were so violent and forceful that the steel golf club broke into four pieces during the attack. Investigators recovered three of the four pieces. The grip portion of the club was missing, which had the “Skakel” name on it. The strikes to Martha’s head eviscerated her scalp. Experts estimated the perpetrator bludgeoned her somewhere between nine and fourteen times. Further, post mortem, the perpetrator drove a piece of the golf club’s shaft into her neck. It was a barbaric scene.

Based on the crime scene blood, forensic expert Dr. Henry Lee stated that Martha was likely attacked initially on the driveway, but she was killed on a nearby patch of grass. During the fatal attack, he opined that a portion of the golf club shaft flew over 100 feet when it broke. According to Dr. Lee, the killer dragged Martha approximately 80 feet to a tree, stopped, rolled the body over, and changed from pulling the upper body to pulling her from her feet.

Though police entertained the idea of a transient entering the neighborhood and killing Martha Moxley, they quickly dismissed the theory. Belle Haven was a gated community with its own security force. Outsiders immediately stood out. The police casted a wide net, interviewing several hundred people associated with Martha’s murder. However, with the discovery of the murder weapon being tied to the Skakel household, investigators turned their focus toward those individuals present at the Skakel residence during the likely time of the murder (somewhere between 9:30 p.m. and approximately 10:30 p.m.)

Police zeroed in on three individuals: Tommy Skakel, Michael Skakel, and Ken Littleton. Though Michael dated Martha previously, investigators dismissed him because he had an apparent air-tight alibi. He was at his cousin’s house from 9:30 p.m. till 11:00 p.m. on the night of the murder. Ken and Tommy were both in and around the Skakel home during the estimated time of the murder. Tommy was the last known person to have seen Martha Moxley alive. During his initial interview with police, Tommy told them that he talked with Martha outside his home until around 9:30 p.m. His sister, Julie, corroborated this information as she saw them together at this time as well.

Ken Littleton was new to Belle Haven. He appeared to investigators as nervous, agitated, and unstable. Investigators who interviewed him described him as a “haunted man.” He also failed two polygraph examinations. However, he denied any involvement in Martha’s murder, and the police did not have any evidence tying him to the crime. Regardless, he remained a person of interest.

Investigators initially interviewed Tommy Skakel for five hours on the night of October 31, 1975. They were unable to gather any articulable incriminating information against him. Tommy passed two polygraph examinations. Regardless, police continued to suspect him in Martha’s murder. Though police had suspicions about Tommy’s involvement, they did not have any hard evidence. Rushton Skakel, Tommy’s father, soon cut-off police’s access to Tommy and prevented them from getting his medical and school records.

Ken Littleton was an outsider without the power and wealth of the Skakels. No one wanted to believe a Belle Haven resident could commit murder; therefore, Ken represented a convenient alternative suspect. Unfortunately for investigators, no one was talking. There were no confessions, and this was long before DNA testing. As a result, the police made no arrests nor was a grand jury convened. The case went cold.

After Martha’s murder, Ken Littleton experienced substance abuse problems and depression. In 1976, he was arrested for breaking and entering and larceny. Later, Ken was arrested for assault, disorderly conduct, and driving while intoxicated. Police were left wondering if Ken Littleton’s erratic behavior was indicative of guilt related to murder, a reaction to being suspected of murder, or as a result of what he knew.

In 1991, Rushton Skakel hired a group of New York private investigators from the firm, Sutton Associates. His objective was for the investigators to dig into all areas of Martha Moxley’s murder in order to exonerate his son, Tommy, who the police believed was the perpetrator. Ultimately, Rushton’s honorable intentions led to further complications for his family.

Sutton Associates vetted all the investigators assigned to the case and required them to sign non-disclosure agreements (“NDA’s”). Investigators assembled their findings in a document that became known as “The Sutton Report.” Rushton Skakel allegedly paid somewhere in the realm of $750,000 for the comprehensive investigation and associated reports. The findings remained secret for years.

The Sutton investigators parsed through every piece of evidentiary minutia from the original investigation. The investigators generated suspect profiles, scrutinized previous interviews, and re-interviewed many of the witnesses and potential suspects in the case. The investigators accumulated a mass amount of information and derived conclusions based on their assessments. Though the report stayed secret for years, eventually, the contents of the report leaked.

Since the Greenwich Police placed Tommy Skakel in their crosshairs, the Sutton investigators initially focused on him. During an interview with Sutton investigators, Tommy admitted that he was with Martha for about 20 minutes beyond the 9:30 p.m. time he originally told police. According to Tommy, on the night of Martha’s murder, he and Martha engaged in a sexual encounter in the Skakel’s backyard. He last saw Martha walking across the backyard after their sexual tryst. This new information placed Tommy with Martha until 9:50 p.m. The Sutton investigators considered this a huge break-through in the case. Why would Tommy openly divulge incriminating information about himself almost 20 years later, if it were not true? During the initial police interrogation, Tommy withheld this information from them. Yet, under no pressure, Tommy just gave up the additional information to the Sutton investigators. Why? The private investigators now knew that Tommy initially lied to the police, and he successfully beat two lie-detector tests.

Though Ken Littleton initially failed two law enforcement lie-detector tests, the Sutton investigators attributed it more to Ken’s nervousness and overall instability than deceitfulness. Plus, they knew Tommy beat the lie-detector test twice; therefore, a false positive on Littleton was not outside the realm of possibility. Ken Littleton arrived for his first day of work at the Skakel residence on October 30, 1975, the day of Martha’s murder. He did not have a relationship, nor had he ever met Martha Moxley prior to this day. The killing appeared personal and filled with rage. The Sutton investigators also believed the killer was quite familiar with the area, and Ken was not. Though they did not view him as completely innocent, the investigators found it unlikely that Ken was the perpetrator. Further, investigators felt like Ken’s time was accounted for throughout the evening, thus he did not have the opportunity to kill Martha.

Greenwich investigators initially removed Michael Skakel from suspicion because he had an alibi. Jim Terrien, Michael’s cousin, told investigators back in 1975 that he, along with Rush, John, and Michael, left the Skakel residence at 9:30 p.m. on the night of Martha’s murder. The group left in the Skakel’s Lincoln and did not return to the Skakel residence until around 11:00 p.m.

Michael previously dated Martha. On the night of her murder, Martha overtly flirted with Michael’s older brother, Tommy, in front of him and other friends and siblings. According to the Sutton investigation, Tommy and Michael fought often, and at times, about Martha.

Almost everyone interviewed acknowledged that Martha was a flirt, though her flirtatious manner was considered more attributable to her confidence than as a form of sexual invitation. Regardless, Michael told investigators that he did not consider her flirtatious. Investigators found it interesting that Michael refused to acknowledge Martha’s flirtatious manner when it was considered common knowledge among the group of friends. Michael also downplayed his sexual interest in Martha.

Michael told the Sutton investigators that he could not remember when he found out Martha was killed. The investigators found this highly suspicious, since learning of a close friend and former girlfriend being murdered would be a memorable event.

According to Rushton Skakel, Julie, Michael’s sister, was terrified of Michael. Ken Littleton told Sutton investigators that he witnessed Michael kill small animals. He was disgusted by Michael’s behavior. In 1977, therapists administered a psychological exam on Michael Skakel. He was identified as: depressed, possibly psychotic, with borderline features, such as an inability to attach meaningfully with others and exhibited impulse control issues.

With the above known, investigators re-visited Michael’s alibi. Andrea Shakespeare, a friend of the Skakel’s, hung out at the Skakel home on the night of October 30, 1975. According to Andrea, Michael did not go to Jim Terrien’s. Michael’s brother Rush also could not remember Michael going with him to Terrien’s house. Michael’s other brother, John, also failed to remember Michael being in the car when they left for the Terrien’s. Even under hypnosis, John was unable to remember Michael’s presence in the Skakel’s Lincoln that night. As a result, investigators concluded Michael stayed at home. Now, Michael’s whereabouts between 9:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. were completely unaccounted for during the crucial timeframe.

Julie Skakel drove Andrea Shakespeare home shortly after the group left for Jim Terrien’s house. Julie returned home around 9:50 p.m. She claimed that she saw someone traipsing around the bushes outside the Skakel home in dark clothes and a hood. Julie thought she saw a male, carrying something in his left hand. Because it was the night before Halloween, kids commonly roamed the neighborhood engaging in mischief. As a result, Julie was not alarmed by the apparent prowler

Tommy was likely still with Martha at this time. After Julie went inside, she saw Ken Littleton in the kitchen. As a result, the Sutton investigators determined that Michael Skakel was the only unaccounted for male at this time. They believed Michael was crawling around in the bushes shortly before 10:00 p.m. According to the investigators’ theory, Michael spied on Tommy and Martha while they made out.

According to Littleton, Tommy joined him in the master bedroom at 10:03 p.m. to watch “The French Connection.” This precise time was determined based on Ken’s estimation that Tommy came into the bedroom about 20 minutes before the “chase scene,” which began at 10:23 p.m. Tommy left the master bedroom at the end of the “chase scene,” which was at 10: 32 p.m. According to Tommy, he went to the kitchen to get food. However, no one knew Michael’s location during this entire time.

According to Jim Terrien, the Skakels left his house around 11:00 p.m. At 11:30 p.m., John Skakel told investigators that he heard someone leave his house. Julie Skakel also thought someone may have left the house around this time. In a startling revelation, Michael Skakel told the Sutton investigators that he left the house at 11:40 p.m. He allegedly watched a neighbor woman disrobe through her window and then climbed a tree alongside Martha’s house. He yelled her name twice, and then he masturbated in the tree while outside her window. On his way back home, Michael claimed he felt someone’s presence in the area where Martha’s body was later discovered. When he returned to his house, he climbed in his second-floor bedroom window because all the doors were locked. According to Michael’s story, he was gone for 30 to 45 minutes. When Rush Skakel arrived home at 11:45 p.m., Tommy was in bed. He made no mention of Michael.

Investigators wondered why Michael Skakel changed his story. The investigators speculated that Michael was aware of family members who saw or heard someone leave the house around 11:30 p.m. He may have thought they knew it was him; and therefore, he needed to create a story to explain why he left the house and what he did. Investigators found it note-worthy that he supposedly “sensed” someone in the area where Martha was found. This new information placed Michael close to the crime scene at a time when Martha was likely already dead.

Sutton investigators theorized that both Michael and Tommy changed their stories as a means of damage control. Investigators believed the Skakel brothers thought the investigation had netted new evidence, and they needed to concede some information regarding their activities on the night of Martha’s murder.

According to the Sutton investigators’ assessment, the murder weapon signaled impulsiveness. With Martha having endured 14-15 blows to her head, they considered her murder “overkill.” These traits, along with many others they used to develop a profile of the killer, most closely aligned with Michael. With Michael’s alibi removed, his whereabouts during the likely time of Martha’s murder were completely unknown. Investigators postulated that Michael killed Martha in a fit of rage after seeing her with Tommy. After killing her, Michael sneaked back out of the house around 11:30 p.m. to move her body and possibly engage in activities designed to conceal his involvement, such as hiding the grip portion of the murder weapon. Sutton investigators believed that possibly Tommy and/or Ken Littleton either assisted with or were aware of Michael moving Martha’s body.

Within a few years, two new witnesses from the Elan School for troubled boys in Poland Spring, Maine, came forward. John Higgins, a former classmate of Michael’s at Elan, provided information on statements made by Michael. Higgins claimed that Michael indirectly admitted to murdering Martha Moxley. Michael told him that he took a golf club out of a bag and ran through the woods. Michael could not remember if he killed her or not. Offsetting Higgins statements, he later admitted the monetary reward enhanced his interest in telling this story.

Though he was serving time in prison for criminal trespassing, another former Elan classmate of Michael’s, Gregory Coleman, indicated that Michael Skakel told him: “I am going to get away with murder. I am a Kennedy.” According to Coleman, Michael also told him he drove a golf club into Martha’s head after she denied his advances.

Several years into the Sutton investigation, there were individuals working on the case who never signed NDA’s. In 1998, one of the individuals, allegedly not covered by an NDA, provided the full report to writer Dominick Dunne. Dominick in turn gave the report to former L.A.P.D. detective Mark Fuhrman. Later, the report was leaked into the public domain. Fuhrman looked into the case, but he was treated as an outsider by those in Greenwich. Notwithstanding the stone-walling he received in Connecticut, Fuhrman wrote a book about Martha Moxley’s death called, “Murder in Greenwich.” Similar to “The Sutton Report,” Fuhrman identified Michael Skakel as Martha’s killer.

In the late 1990s, a one-person grand jury convened in Greenwich. On January 19, 2000, police arrested Michael Skakel for the murder of Martha Moxley. He was later released on a $500,000 bond. Michael did not go to trial until 2002. On June 7 of that year, after a three-week long trial, the jury convicted Michael Skakel of murder. According to jurors, they convicted him based on his incriminating statements combined with his erratic behavior. Michael was sentenced to 20 years-to-life in prison.

In 2003, Michael Skakel’s lawyers began the appeals process. They challenged his conviction on several legal grounds, including a claim of prejudice when the prosecution referred to him as a “spoiled brat” in front of the jury. In 2006, the appeals court rejected the legal arguments, and Connecticut’s Supreme Court upheld his conviction. In 2007, Skakel’s attorneys requested a new trial based on statements made by one of Michael Skakel’s former classmates, Gitano Bryant. He claimed someone other than Michael killed Martha Moxley. The court rejected this assertion as well. Michael’s lawyers kept trying. They submitted motions claiming Martha was murdered by anyone and everyone, except Michael Skakel. At one point, his lawyers even argued that Tommy Skakel, Michael’s own brother, was the likely culprit.

Prior to Michael Skakel’s indictment, a mother of one of the girls present at the Skakel home on October 30, 1975, called Martha’s mom, Dorothy Moxley. She told Dorothy to stop pursuing Martha’s case. She went on to say that it would only result in harm to the Skakels, and no good would come of it. Also, prior to the indictment, a woman from Greenwich approached writer Dominick Dunne in a Vermont bookstore. Her first husband lived near the Skakels. She told Dunne that she knew where the grip part of the golf club was located. She continued by stating that a lot of people in Greenwich know where it is. The woman then refused to tell Dunne the location of the golf grip and left the bookstore shortly thereafter. Apparently, Greenwich has many secrets, and some individuals will go to great lengths to ensure they are kept.

Michael Skakel, accused in the 1975 slaying of neighbor Martha Moxley, walks with attorneys Hubert Santos and Jessica Santos outside Stamford Superior Court in Stamford, Conn. Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, after being released following a hearing. Skakel, the 53-year-old nephew of Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, who has served 11 years of a 20 years to life sentence, will remain free awaiting a new trial. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

In 2013, a judge ordered a new trial for Michael Skakel due to ineffective legal representation. His trial lawyer failed to call a key alibi witness. Later that same year, Skakel posted a $1.2 million bail and was released. In 2016, the Connecticut Supreme Court reinstated the murder conviction, finding that Michael Skakel’s legal counsel was competent. The following year, after the composition of the high court changed due to retirements, Michael Skakel’s attorneys requested the state supreme court to review its own decision. On May 4, 2018, Connecticut’s Supreme Court reversed itself in a 4-3 ruling, vacating Skakel’s murder conviction, based on ineffective legal representation.

When Martha’s mother, Dorothy Moxley, was asked about the recent ruling, she stated, “We got him arrested and convicted and put in jail. It isn’t my job now. It’s enough.” The State has not decided whether or not they will re-try Michael Skakel for murder.

Works Cited

The Associated Press, “Neighbor Talks to Grand Jury On ’75 Murder in Greenwich,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/1998/08/13/nyregion/neighbor-talks-to-grand-jury-on-75-murder-in-greenwich.html?ref=michaelskakel, August 13, 1998.

Crittle, Simon, “The Skakel Trial: Day 2,” Time, http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,236427,00.html, May 9, 2002.

Dunne, Dominick, “Trail of Guilt,” Vanity Fair, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2000/10/dominick-dunne-martha-moxley-murder-greenwich, October, 2000.

Farber, M.A., “Who Killed Martha Moxley? A Town Wonders,” The New York Times, http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/20131024skakel/Whokilledmartha62477.pdf, June 24, 1977.

Herszenhorn, David, “2 Witnesses Say Skakel Confessed to 1975 Killing,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2000/06/21/nyregion/2-witnesses-say-skakel-confessed-to-1975-killing.html, June 21, 2000.

Lavoie, Denise, “Fuhrman Claims He’s Solved ’75 Slaying,” Los Angeles Times, http://articles.latimes.com/1998/feb/15/local/me-19311, February 15, 1998.

Rojas, Rick, and Kristin Hussey, “Connecticut Court Reverses Murder Conviction of Michael Skakel,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/04/nyregion/michael-skakel-conviction-reversed.html?rref=collection%2Fbyline%2Frick-rojas&action=click&contentCollection=undefined&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection, May 4, 2018.

Rojas, Rick, and Kristin Hussey, “Four Decades After Martha Moxley’s Murder, Her Mother Says ‘It’s Enough,’” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/05/nyregion/martha-moxley-murder-case.html, May 5, 2018.

Vincent, Isabel, “I tutored a Kennedy relative – and wound up accused of murder,” The New York Post, https://nypost.com/2017/09/17/i-tutored-a-kennedy-relative-and-wound-up-accused-of-murder/, September 17, 2017.

“How the Skakel-Moxley Murder Case Unfolded Over Four Decades,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/04/nyregion/michael-skakel-martha-moxley.html, May 4, 2018.

“Michael Skakel Fast Facts,” CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2013/05/27/us/michael-skakel-fast-facts/index.html, May 4, 2018.

“The Sutton Report,” http://thesuttonreport.com/The%20Sutton%20Report/campysuttontoc.html, accessed June, 2018.

 

Click below to view John W. Taylor’s previous intriguing posts:

How Jeffrey MacDonald’s Words Betrayed Him

Do Helena Stoeckley’s Ramblings Convey Reasonable Doubt for Jeffrey MacDonald?

Jason Young: Stone Cold Killer or Victim of Unfortunate Coincidences?

Murderer, Manipulator, or Do-Gooder? The Many Sides of James Rupard

“Making a Murderer” Sparks Public Outrage (as well it should)

The Deep Sleeper – Darlie Routier’s Plight for Innocence

Drew Peterson – A Legend in His Own Mind

Not How It Was Supposed To Go: Joanna Madonna and the Murder of Jose Perez

The Many Trials of Tim Hennis

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Darker Side of Aaron Hernandez

johntJohn W. Taylor writes in the true crime genre at www.truecrimewriting.com. He has written short pieces and articles on the death of Marilyn Monroe, JFK, and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others.  John wrote and published Umbrella of Suspicion: Investigating the Death of JonBénet Ramsey and Isolated Incident: Investigating the Death of Nancy Cooper in 2012 and 2014, respectively. 

John is the host of the true crime podcast “Twisted,” which can be found at www.twistedpodcast.com. It is available through iTunes, Stitcher, and Libysn. He currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina.

 

from http://allthingscrimeblog.com

The Unsolved Murder of Martha Moxley

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by John W. Taylor

Greenwich, Connecticut exudes wealth and privilege. Much of the affluent town is filled with old money and respected surnames that have carried down through generations. Within Greenwich lies the gated community of Belle Haven with its massive homes, located on spacious acreage. The properties […]

by John W. Taylor

Greenwich, Connecticut exudes wealth and privilege. Much of the affluent town is filled with old money and respected surnames that have carried down through generations. Within Greenwich lies the gated community of Belle Haven with its massive homes, located on spacious acreage. The properties commonly possess swimming pools, tennis courts, and secondary houses for attendants. Having copious amounts of money in Belle Haven is the norm, not the exception, and “the help” are the only persons in the area lacking wealth.

In 1975, the Moxleys lived at 38 Walsh Lane in Belle Haven. John Moxley was a partner in the large New York accounting firm, Touche, Ross & Company. John lived with his wife, Dorothy, and their two children, John, age 16, and Martha, age 15. Martha was a high school sophomore and a cheerleader at Greenwich High School. She had long, beautiful blonde hair, an infectious smile, and was voted “best personality” at school.

The Skakels lived across the street from the Moxleys. The patriarch of the family, Rushton Skakel, was brother to Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy. Rushton was chairman of the board of the Great Lakes Carbon Corporation. After Ruston’s wife, Anne, died of cancer in 1973, he was tasked, along with the hired help, with raising their seven children. Tommy and Michael, who were 16 and 15 in 1975, respectively, were the oldest children. The Skakel clan also included: John, Julie, Rush, David, and Stephen. Similar to the Kennedys, the Skakels experienced more than their share of tragedies. Along with losing his wife, both of Rushton’s parents were killed in a plane crash. His brother George died in a separate plane crash and his brother’s wife choked to death on a piece of meat at a dinner party. When Tommy Skakel was only four-years-old, he was thrown from a car. He sustained severe head injuries but survived.

Rushton Skakel employed twenty-three-year-old Ken Littleton as a tutor and care-taker for his children. Ken taught science and coached at the prestigious Brunswick School. Ken arrived for his first day of work at the Skakel residence on October 30, 1975. That evening, Ken Littleton took several of the Skakel children, including Tommy and Michael, along with two friends, to dinner at the Belle Haven Country Club at 7:00 p.m. Though only teenagers, both Tommy and Michael drank heavily while at the country club. A little bit later, Martha Moxley and three friends went to the Skakel home, waiting for everyone to arrive back at home from dinner. It was the night before Halloween, and many of the neighborhood kids roamed the area engaging in mischievous but fairly innocent pranks. Shortly after 9:00 p.m., the kids began to head inside or home for the evening. However, at 9:30 p.m., Tommy and Martha remained outside together on the front lawn of the Skakel property.

Around midnight, Martha’s mother, Dorothy, became concerned when her daughter failed to come home. Dorothy and her son John began looking for Martha in the neighborhood. They stopped at the Skakel residence, at least twice, trying to locate Martha. At 3:48 a.m. on the morning of October 31, 1975, Dorothy called the Greenwich Police Department to report her Martha missing.

The search for Martha continued through the early morning hours. At around 12:30 p.m., family friend Sheila Maguire discovered Martha’s body. Sheila found her lying under a pine tree on her family’s estate, less than 200 yards from the front door. She had been bludgeoned to death with a golf club. Martha was found face down with her jeans and underwear pulled down to her ankles. The authorities believed that she may have been sexually assaulted but not raped. Further, no semen was found on or near her. Martha’s badly beaten 5’5,” 120 lbs. body was discovered about midway between her house and the Skakel home.

In 1975, Greenwich, Connecticut had only 63,000 residents, and there were only three murders in the previous 25 years. The low crime rate appealed to locals and prospective residents alike, but it meant that law enforcement lacked experience regarding the intricacies of homicide investigations. After finding Martha’s body, police did a cursory search of the Skakel home, but they failed to obtain a search warrant. Police may have misplaced key evidence. Several witnesses identified an individual walking several blocks away from the murder, but police did not immediately follow-up on the lead. The autopsy allegedly failed to contain basic pictures memorializing the injuries.

Martha was beaten with a Toney Penna 6-iron. During the initial investigation, police determined the murder weapon belonged to a golf set from the Skakel home. The blows to Martha’s head were so violent and forceful that the steel golf club broke into four pieces during the attack. Investigators recovered three of the four pieces. The grip portion of the club was missing, which had the “Skakel” name on it. The strikes to Martha’s head eviscerated her scalp. Experts estimated the perpetrator bludgeoned her somewhere between nine and fourteen times. Further, post mortem, the perpetrator drove a piece of the golf club’s shaft into her neck. It was a barbaric scene.

Based on the crime scene blood, forensic expert Dr. Henry Lee stated that Martha was likely attacked initially on the driveway, but she was killed on a nearby patch of grass. During the fatal attack, he opined that a portion of the golf club shaft flew over 100 feet when it broke. According to Dr. Lee, the killer dragged Martha approximately 80 feet to a tree, stopped, rolled the body over, and changed from pulling the upper body to pulling her from her feet.

Though police entertained the idea of a transient entering the neighborhood and killing Martha Moxley, they quickly dismissed the theory. Belle Haven was a gated community with its own security force. Outsiders immediately stood out. The police casted a wide net, interviewing several hundred people associated with Martha’s murder. However, with the discovery of the murder weapon being tied to the Skakel household, investigators turned their focus toward those individuals present at the Skakel residence during the likely time of the murder (somewhere between 9:30 p.m. and approximately 10:30 p.m.)

Police zeroed in on three individuals: Tommy Skakel, Michael Skakel, and Ken Littleton. Though Michael dated Martha previously, investigators dismissed him because he had an apparent air-tight alibi. He was at his cousin’s house from 9:30 p.m. till 11:00 p.m. on the night of the murder. Ken and Tommy were both in and around the Skakel home during the estimated time of the murder. Tommy was the last known person to have seen Martha Moxley alive. During his initial interview with police, Tommy told them that he talked with Martha outside his home until around 9:30 p.m. His sister, Julie, corroborated this information as she saw them together at this time as well.

Ken Littleton was new to Belle Haven. He appeared to investigators as nervous, agitated, and unstable. Investigators who interviewed him described him as a “haunted man.” He also failed two polygraph examinations. However, he denied any involvement in Martha’s murder, and the police did not have any evidence tying him to the crime. Regardless, he remained a person of interest.

Investigators initially interviewed Tommy Skakel for five hours on the night of October 31, 1975. They were unable to gather any articulable incriminating information against him. Tommy passed two polygraph examinations. Regardless, police continued to suspect him in Martha’s murder. Though police had suspicions about Tommy’s involvement, they did not have any hard evidence. Rushton Skakel, Tommy’s father, soon cut-off police’s access to Tommy and prevented them from getting his medical and school records.

Ken Littleton was an outsider without the power and wealth of the Skakels. No one wanted to believe a Belle Haven resident could commit murder; therefore, Ken represented a convenient alternative suspect. Unfortunately for investigators, no one was talking. There were no confessions, and this was long before DNA testing. As a result, the police made no arrests nor was a grand jury convened. The case went cold.

After Martha’s murder, Ken Littleton experienced substance abuse problems and depression. In 1976, he was arrested for breaking and entering and larceny. Later, Ken was arrested for assault, disorderly conduct, and driving while intoxicated. Police were left wondering if Ken Littleton’s erratic behavior was indicative of guilt related to murder, a reaction to being suspected of murder, or as a result of what he knew.

In 1991, Rushton Skakel hired a group of New York private investigators from the firm, Sutton Associates. His objective was for the investigators to dig into all areas of Martha Moxley’s murder in order to exonerate his son, Tommy, who the police believed was the perpetrator. Ultimately, Rushton’s honorable intentions led to further complications for his family.

Sutton Associates vetted all the investigators assigned to the case and required them to sign non-disclosure agreements (“NDA’s”). Investigators assembled their findings in a document that became known as “The Sutton Report.” Rushton Skakel allegedly paid somewhere in the realm of $750,000 for the comprehensive investigation and associated reports. The findings remained secret for years.

The Sutton investigators parsed through every piece of evidentiary minutia from the original investigation. The investigators generated suspect profiles, scrutinized previous interviews, and re-interviewed many of the witnesses and potential suspects in the case. The investigators accumulated a mass amount of information and derived conclusions based on their assessments. Though the report stayed secret for years, eventually, the contents of the report leaked.

Since the Greenwich Police placed Tommy Skakel in their crosshairs, the Sutton investigators initially focused on him. During an interview with Sutton investigators, Tommy admitted that he was with Martha for about 20 minutes beyond the 9:30 p.m. time he originally told police. According to Tommy, on the night of Martha’s murder, he and Martha engaged in a sexual encounter in the Skakel’s backyard. He last saw Martha walking across the backyard after their sexual tryst. This new information placed Tommy with Martha until 9:50 p.m. The Sutton investigators considered this a huge break-through in the case. Why would Tommy openly divulge incriminating information about himself almost 20 years later, if it were not true? During the initial police interrogation, Tommy withheld this information from them. Yet, under no pressure, Tommy just gave up the additional information to the Sutton investigators. Why? The private investigators now knew that Tommy initially lied to the police, and he successfully beat two lie-detector tests.

Though Ken Littleton initially failed two law enforcement lie-detector tests, the Sutton investigators attributed it more to Ken’s nervousness and overall instability than deceitfulness. Plus, they knew Tommy beat the lie-detector test twice; therefore, a false positive on Littleton was not outside the realm of possibility. Ken Littleton arrived for his first day of work at the Skakel residence on October 30, 1975, the day of Martha’s murder. He did not have a relationship, nor had he ever met Martha Moxley prior to this day. The killing appeared personal and filled with rage. The Sutton investigators also believed the killer was quite familiar with the area, and Ken was not. Though they did not view him as completely innocent, the investigators found it unlikely that Ken was the perpetrator. Further, investigators felt like Ken’s time was accounted for throughout the evening, thus he did not have the opportunity to kill Martha.

Greenwich investigators initially removed Michael Skakel from suspicion because he had an alibi. Jim Terrien, Michael’s cousin, told investigators back in 1975 that he, along with Rush, John, and Michael, left the Skakel residence at 9:30 p.m. on the night of Martha’s murder. The group left in the Skakel’s Lincoln and did not return to the Skakel residence until around 11:00 p.m.

Michael previously dated Martha. On the night of her murder, Martha overtly flirted with Michael’s older brother, Tommy, in front of him and other friends and siblings. According to the Sutton investigation, Tommy and Michael fought often, and at times, about Martha.

Almost everyone interviewed acknowledged that Martha was a flirt, though her flirtatious manner was considered more attributable to her confidence than as a form of sexual invitation. Regardless, Michael told investigators that he did not consider her flirtatious. Investigators found it interesting that Michael refused to acknowledge Martha’s flirtatious manner when it was considered common knowledge among the group of friends. Michael also downplayed his sexual interest in Martha.

Michael told the Sutton investigators that he could not remember when he found out Martha was killed. The investigators found this highly suspicious, since learning of a close friend and former girlfriend being murdered would be a memorable event.

According to Rushton Skakel, Julie, Michael’s sister, was terrified of Michael. Ken Littleton told Sutton investigators that he witnessed Michael kill small animals. He was disgusted by Michael’s behavior. In 1977, therapists administered a psychological exam on Michael Skakel. He was identified as: depressed, possibly psychotic, with borderline features, such as an inability to attach meaningfully with others and exhibited impulse control issues.

With the above known, investigators re-visited Michael’s alibi. Andrea Shakespeare, a friend of the Skakel’s, hung out at the Skakel home on the night of October 30, 1975. According to Andrea, Michael did not go to Jim Terrien’s. Michael’s brother Rush also could not remember Michael going with him to Terrien’s house. Michael’s other brother, John, also failed to remember Michael being in the car when they left for the Terrien’s. Even under hypnosis, John was unable to remember Michael’s presence in the Skakel’s Lincoln that night. As a result, investigators concluded Michael stayed at home. Now, Michael’s whereabouts between 9:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. were completely unaccounted for during the crucial timeframe.

Julie Skakel drove Andrea Shakespeare home shortly after the group left for Jim Terrien’s house. Julie returned home around 9:50 p.m. She claimed that she saw someone traipsing around the bushes outside the Skakel home in dark clothes and a hood. Julie thought she saw a male, carrying something in his left hand. Because it was the night before Halloween, kids commonly roamed the neighborhood engaging in mischief. As a result, Julie was not alarmed by the apparent prowler

Tommy was likely still with Martha at this time. After Julie went inside, she saw Ken Littleton in the kitchen. As a result, the Sutton investigators determined that Michael Skakel was the only unaccounted for male at this time. They believed Michael was crawling around in the bushes shortly before 10:00 p.m. According to the investigators’ theory, Michael spied on Tommy and Martha while they made out.

According to Littleton, Tommy joined him in the master bedroom at 10:03 p.m. to watch “The French Connection.” This precise time was determined based on Ken’s estimation that Tommy came into the bedroom about 20 minutes before the “chase scene,” which began at 10:23 p.m. Tommy left the master bedroom at the end of the “chase scene,” which was at 10: 32 p.m. According to Tommy, he went to the kitchen to get food. However, no one knew Michael’s location during this entire time.

According to Jim Terrien, the Skakels left his house around 11:00 p.m. At 11:30 p.m., John Skakel told investigators that he heard someone leave his house. Julie Skakel also thought someone may have left the house around this time. In a startling revelation, Michael Skakel told the Sutton investigators that he left the house at 11:40 p.m. He allegedly watched a neighbor woman disrobe through her window and then climbed a tree alongside Martha’s house. He yelled her name twice, and then he masturbated in the tree while outside her window. On his way back home, Michael claimed he felt someone’s presence in the area where Martha’s body was later discovered. When he returned to his house, he climbed in his second-floor bedroom window because all the doors were locked. According to Michael’s story, he was gone for 30 to 45 minutes. When Rush Skakel arrived home at 11:45 p.m., Tommy was in bed. He made no mention of Michael.

Investigators wondered why Michael Skakel changed his story. The investigators speculated that Michael was aware of family members who saw or heard someone leave the house around 11:30 p.m. He may have thought they knew it was him; and therefore, he needed to create a story to explain why he left the house and what he did. Investigators found it note-worthy that he supposedly “sensed” someone in the area where Martha was found. This new information placed Michael close to the crime scene at a time when Martha was likely already dead.

Sutton investigators theorized that both Michael and Tommy changed their stories as a means of damage control. Investigators believed the Skakel brothers thought the investigation had netted new evidence, and they needed to concede some information regarding their activities on the night of Martha’s murder.

According to the Sutton investigators’ assessment, the murder weapon signaled impulsiveness. With Martha having endured 14-15 blows to her head, they considered her murder “overkill.” These traits, along with many others they used to develop a profile of the killer, most closely aligned with Michael. With Michael’s alibi removed, his whereabouts during the likely time of Martha’s murder were completely unknown. Investigators postulated that Michael killed Martha in a fit of rage after seeing her with Tommy. After killing her, Michael sneaked back out of the house around 11:30 p.m. to move her body and possibly engage in activities designed to conceal his involvement, such as hiding the grip portion of the murder weapon. Sutton investigators believed that possibly Tommy and/or Ken Littleton either assisted with or were aware of Michael moving Martha’s body.

Within a few years, two new witnesses from the Elan School for troubled boys in Poland Spring, Maine, came forward. John Higgins, a former classmate of Michael’s at Elan, provided information on statements made by Michael. Higgins claimed that Michael indirectly admitted to murdering Martha Moxley. Michael told him that he took a golf club out of a bag and ran through the woods. Michael could not remember if he killed her or not. Offsetting Higgins statements, he later admitted the monetary reward enhanced his interest in telling this story.

Though he was serving time in prison for criminal trespassing, another former Elan classmate of Michael’s, Gregory Coleman, indicated that Michael Skakel told him: “I am going to get away with murder. I am a Kennedy.” According to Coleman, Michael also told him he drove a golf club into Martha’s head after she denied his advances.

Several years into the Sutton investigation, there were individuals working on the case who never signed NDA’s. In 1998, one of the individuals, allegedly not covered by an NDA, provided the full report to writer Dominick Dunne. Dominick in turn gave the report to former L.A.P.D. detective Mark Fuhrman. Later, the report was leaked into the public domain. Fuhrman looked into the case, but he was treated as an outsider by those in Greenwich. Notwithstanding the stone-walling he received in Connecticut, Fuhrman wrote a book about Martha Moxley’s death called, “Murder in Greenwich.” Similar to “The Sutton Report,” Fuhrman identified Michael Skakel as Martha’s killer.

In the late 1990s, a one-person grand jury convened in Greenwich. On January 19, 2000, police arrested Michael Skakel for the murder of Martha Moxley. He was later released on a $500,000 bond. Michael did not go to trial until 2002. On June 7 of that year, after a three-week long trial, the jury convicted Michael Skakel of murder. According to jurors, they convicted him based on his incriminating statements combined with his erratic behavior. Michael was sentenced to 20 years-to-life in prison.

In 2003, Michael Skakel’s lawyers began the appeals process. They challenged his conviction on several legal grounds, including a claim of prejudice when the prosecution referred to him as a “spoiled brat” in front of the jury. In 2006, the appeals court rejected the legal arguments, and Connecticut’s Supreme Court upheld his conviction. In 2007, Skakel’s attorneys requested a new trial based on statements made by one of Michael Skakel’s former classmates, Gitano Bryant. He claimed someone other than Michael killed Martha Moxley. The court rejected this assertion as well. Michael’s lawyers kept trying. They submitted motions claiming Martha was murdered by anyone and everyone, except Michael Skakel. At one point, his lawyers even argued that Tommy Skakel, Michael’s own brother, was the likely culprit.

Prior to Michael Skakel’s indictment, a mother of one of the girls present at the Skakel home on October 30, 1975, called Martha’s mom, Dorothy Moxley. She told Dorothy to stop pursuing Martha’s case. She went on to say that it would only result in harm to the Skakels, and no good would come of it. Also, prior to the indictment, a woman from Greenwich approached writer Dominick Dunne in a Vermont bookstore. Her first husband lived near the Skakels. She told Dunne that she knew where the grip part of the golf club was located. She continued by stating that a lot of people in Greenwich know where it is. The woman then refused to tell Dunne the location of the golf grip and left the bookstore shortly thereafter. Apparently, Greenwich has many secrets, and some individuals will go to great lengths to ensure they are kept.

Michael Skakel, accused in the 1975 slaying of neighbor Martha Moxley, walks with attorneys Hubert Santos and Jessica Santos outside Stamford Superior Court in Stamford, Conn. Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, after being released following a hearing. Skakel, the 53-year-old nephew of Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, who has served 11 years of a 20 years to life sentence, will remain free awaiting a new trial. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

In 2013, a judge ordered a new trial for Michael Skakel due to ineffective legal representation. His trial lawyer failed to call a key alibi witness. Later that same year, Skakel posted a $1.2 million bail and was released. In 2016, the Connecticut Supreme Court reinstated the murder conviction, finding that Michael Skakel’s legal counsel was competent. The following year, after the composition of the high court changed due to retirements, Michael Skakel’s attorneys requested the state supreme court to review its own decision. On May 4, 2018, Connecticut’s Supreme Court reversed itself in a 4-3 ruling, vacating Skakel’s murder conviction, based on ineffective legal representation.

When Martha’s mother, Dorothy Moxley, was asked about the recent ruling, she stated, “We got him arrested and convicted and put in jail. It isn’t my job now. It’s enough.” The State has not decided whether or not they will re-try Michael Skakel for murder.

Works Cited

The Associated Press, “Neighbor Talks to Grand Jury On ’75 Murder in Greenwich,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/1998/08/13/nyregion/neighbor-talks-to-grand-jury-on-75-murder-in-greenwich.html?ref=michaelskakel, August 13, 1998.

Crittle, Simon, “The Skakel Trial: Day 2,” Time, http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,236427,00.html, May 9, 2002.

Dunne, Dominick, “Trail of Guilt,” Vanity Fair, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2000/10/dominick-dunne-martha-moxley-murder-greenwich, October, 2000.

Farber, M.A., “Who Killed Martha Moxley? A Town Wonders,” The New York Times, http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/20131024skakel/Whokilledmartha62477.pdf, June 24, 1977.

Herszenhorn, David, “2 Witnesses Say Skakel Confessed to 1975 Killing,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2000/06/21/nyregion/2-witnesses-say-skakel-confessed-to-1975-killing.html, June 21, 2000.

Lavoie, Denise, “Fuhrman Claims He’s Solved ’75 Slaying,” Los Angeles Times, http://articles.latimes.com/1998/feb/15/local/me-19311, February 15, 1998.

Rojas, Rick, and Kristin Hussey, “Connecticut Court Reverses Murder Conviction of Michael Skakel,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/04/nyregion/michael-skakel-conviction-reversed.html?rref=collection%2Fbyline%2Frick-rojas&action=click&contentCollection=undefined&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection, May 4, 2018.

Rojas, Rick, and Kristin Hussey, “Four Decades After Martha Moxley’s Murder, Her Mother Says ‘It’s Enough,’” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/05/nyregion/martha-moxley-murder-case.html, May 5, 2018.

Vincent, Isabel, “I tutored a Kennedy relative – and wound up accused of murder,” The New York Post, https://nypost.com/2017/09/17/i-tutored-a-kennedy-relative-and-wound-up-accused-of-murder/, September 17, 2017.

“How the Skakel-Moxley Murder Case Unfolded Over Four Decades,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/04/nyregion/michael-skakel-martha-moxley.html, May 4, 2018.

“Michael Skakel Fast Facts,” CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2013/05/27/us/michael-skakel-fast-facts/index.html, May 4, 2018.

“The Sutton Report,” http://thesuttonreport.com/The%20Sutton%20Report/campysuttontoc.html, accessed June, 2018.

 

Click below to view John W. Taylor’s previous intriguing posts:

How Jeffrey MacDonald’s Words Betrayed Him

Do Helena Stoeckley’s Ramblings Convey Reasonable Doubt for Jeffrey MacDonald?

Jason Young: Stone Cold Killer or Victim of Unfortunate Coincidences?

Murderer, Manipulator, or Do-Gooder? The Many Sides of James Rupard

“Making a Murderer” Sparks Public Outrage (as well it should)

The Deep Sleeper – Darlie Routier’s Plight for Innocence

Drew Peterson – A Legend in His Own Mind

Not How It Was Supposed To Go: Joanna Madonna and the Murder of Jose Perez

The Many Trials of Tim Hennis

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Darker Side of Aaron Hernandez

johntJohn W. Taylor writes in the true crime genre at www.truecrimewriting.com. He has written short pieces and articles on the death of Marilyn Monroe, JFK, and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others.  John wrote and published Umbrella of Suspicion: Investigating the Death of JonBénet Ramsey and Isolated Incident: Investigating the Death of Nancy Cooper in 2012 and 2014, respectively. 

John is the host of the true crime podcast “Twisted,” which can be found at www.twistedpodcast.com. It is available through iTunes, Stitcher, and Libysn. He currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina.

 

from http://allthingscrimeblog.com

Jack Henry Abbott on Solitary Confinement

     My first acquaintance with punitive longterm solitary confinement had a more adverse and profound spiritual effect on me than anything else in my childhood. [Abbott was a victim of child abuse.]     I suffered from cl…

     My first acquaintance with punitive longterm solitary confinement had a more adverse and profound spiritual effect on me than anything else in my childhood. [Abbott was a victim of child abuse.]

     I suffered from claustrophobia for years when I first went to prison. I never knew any form of suffering more horrible in my life.

     The air in your cell vanishes. You are smothering. Your eyes bulge out; you clutch at your throat; you scream like a banshee. Your arms flail the air in your cell. You reel about the cell, falling.

     Then you suffer cramps. The walls press you from all directions with an invisible force. You struggle to push it back. The oxygen makes you giddy with anxiety. You become hollow and empty. There is a vacuum in the pit of your stomach. You retch.

     You are dying. Dying a hard death. One that lingers and toys with you.

     The faces of the guards, angry, are at the gate of your cell. The gate slides open. The guards attack you. On top of that, the guards come into your cell and beat you to the floor.

Jack Henry Abbott (1944-2002), In The Belly of The Beast, 1982

[In January 1981, Abbott, who had spent most of his life behind bars as a violent criminal, was released on parole from a prison in Utah. Novelist Norman Mailer and other bleeding-heart types who liked Abbott's book, were instrumental in his release. Six months after walking out of prison, Abbott stabbed a 22-year-old waiter to death outside a New York City restaurant. The murder occurred after an argument over Abbott's use of the restaurant's employee-only restroom. Norman Mailer, who had once stabbed his wife, not only liked Abbott because he could write, the novelist may had admired him for his violence. Parole boards, when considering who to release and who not to, should not listen to novelists.] 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Celebrating The Rise And Fall Of Celebrities Who Exist For Our Entertainment

     When ordinary people commit crimes, abuse drugs and alcohol, and kill themselves, it’s local news. When celebrities or former celebrities do this, it’s entertainment. O. J. Simpson’s popular culture legacy will not be football. Mari…

     When ordinary people commit crimes, abuse drugs and alcohol, and kill themselves, it's local news. When celebrities or former celebrities do this, it's entertainment. O. J. Simpson's popular culture legacy will not be football. Marilyn Monroe will not be remembered for her film career. Oscar Pistorius, the South African "Blade Runner", after being convicted of killing his celebrity girlfriend, become even more famous. His case entertained millions of people for more than a year.

     Celebrities are manufactured personas. These people have relinquished ownership of themselves to the pubic. In that sense they are not real people. They exist for our amusement. We celebrate their successes and triumphs, and revel in their misery. Ripe for exploitation, celebrities need fame like the rest of us need oxygen. When they don't get it, they whither away and die. Sometimes they take things into their own hands by committing suicide.

     Country and western singer Mindy McCready's prolonged substance abuse, law enforcement problems, and domestic turmoil provided celebrity journalists with a lot of material. The girl from Cleburne County, Arkansas made it big in Nashville with her 1996 debut double-platinum album, "Guys Do It All The Time." She spent the next 16 years trying to replicate that success. During this time, McCready struggled with drugs and alcohol as well as a volatile love life. She never regained the fame she had lost.

     In 2004, McCready pleaded guilty to filling out fraudulent prescription slips for the addictive painkiller OxyContin. A judge in Nashville sentenced her to three years of supervised probation. In May 2005, after her ex-boyfriend, Billy McKnight was charged with attempted murder for allegedly breaking into her Herber Springs home outside of Nashville, police arrested her for driving under the influence. A couple of months later, the singer was found unconscious from a drug overdose in the lobby of a Pinellas County, Florida hotel.

     In September 2005, McCready, pregnant with Billy McKnight's child, was hospitalized after attempting suicide by drug overdose. Police arrested her eighteen months later for misdemeanor battery that occurred during a fight with her mother. In September 2007, McCready spent a year in jail for violating her probation from the 2004 OxyContin sentence. A year later, she was back behind bars for falsifying her community service hours in connection with the 2007 case. The country and western singer attempted suicide again in 2008.

     In 2009, Mindy McCready was talked into becoming a cast member in VH1's reality TV series, "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew." (Dr. Drew is Dr. Drew Pinsky.) The series was ostensibly about giving viewers insight into the serious problem of substance addiction, and the importance of professional treatment. On the show's third season, McCready appeared with, among other "celebrity" cast members, Dennis Rodman, Tom Sizemore, MacKenzie Phillips, and Heidi Fleiss.

     Fans of this exploitation of fallen stars must have found the program reassuring. While their own lives were far from perfect, they were at least better off than McCready and the other human disasters  showcasing their flaws and failures. After former "Celebrity Rehab" cast members Mike Starr, Joey Kovar, Rodney King, and Jeff Conaway died young, VH1 canceled the series after five seasons. But the spirit of the show lives on in the non-celebrity version called "Rehab with Dr. Drew." The freak show has also spawned a pair of spinoffs, "Sober House," and "Sex Rehab", a series about people addicted to sex.

     After her stint on "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew," McCready's life continued to spin out of control. (Apparently the TV counselor didn't do her much good.) She had more arrests, drug overdoses, and attempted suicides. In January 2013, McCready's boyfriend, David Wilson, the father of her 9-month-old son, shot himself to death on the front porch of her Herber Springs, Tennessee home. On Sunday, February 17, 2013, McCready, on the same front porch, used a gun to take her own life.

     By dropping the curtain on her own show, McCready gave her audience a tragic ending to a sad story. It won't be long before the public forgets that she ever existed.    

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

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from http://allthingscrimeblog.com

Launching the First Movement Trial: Blog #5 of Our 10-Part Series

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© Lise Pearlman

Blog No. 4 ended with Bobby Seale and Huey Newton opening their first office in January 1967 with a sign in the window of a West Oakland storefront — Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. The small group soon began tailing Oakland police cars to record […]

© Lise Pearlman

Blog No. 4 ended with Bobby Seale and Huey Newton opening their first office in January 1967 with a sign in the window of a West Oakland storefront — Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. The small group soon began tailing Oakland police cars to record arrests in West Oakland with cameras and tape recorders – like the Community Alert Patrol in Watts had begun doing after the historic 1965 riots. The startling difference in Oakland was that the Panthers held loaded weapons while Newton boldly approached officers making arrests to ensure suspects were informed of their newly-established Miranda rights. 

Huey Newton, Oakland Post Collection MS169, African American Museum and Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library, Oakland, CA.

Huey Newton, Oakland Post Collection MS169, African American Museum and
Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library, Oakland, CA.

aabIn early 1967, Newton began conducting weekly educational meetings at the Panther office. Walk-ins were offered weapons training and a gun if they sat through political lectures. The Panthers soon adopted uniforms for themselves: black pants, a powder blue shirt, a black leather jacket (which many already owned), black shoes and socks and a black beret. The look was inspired by Che Guevara and the French Resistance. Radical playwright and poet Jean Genet proclaimed that the Panthers “attacked first by sight.” [Leigh Raiford, Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare: Photography and the African-American Freedom Struggle (Univ. of N. Carolina Press, 2011) ,149].

In February 1967, Newton and Seale attracted local press coverage by providing an armed escort for Malcolm X’s widow from the San Francisco airport to Ramparts magazine’s office. In April, came a more powerful catalyst for the Party’s growth. A sheriff’s deputy in North Richmond killed unarmed 22-year-old Denzil Dowell, drawing large crowds of angry residents to the streets.  North Richmond had a similar post-war history of overcrowding and joblessness as in Oakland. It was just as ready to explode against the police “shoot to kill” practices as San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District had been months earlier. The attending doctor in Richmond told the Dowell family the angle of the wounds indicated Denzil’s arms were raised when he was shot. Their charge of police misconduct fell on deaf ears.

The Panthers had just recruited Ramparts writer Eldridge Cleaver (left), an ex-felon then gaining fame for the best-seller Soul on Ice. He suggested they start a newsletter with the Richmond killing as the lead story. Cleaver had been released from prison in December 1966 through the efforts of San Francisco Guild aaadlawyer aaacBeverly Axelrod (right). The two had since gotten engaged. She helped craft two mimeographed pages for their first newsletter in her living room while Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’ blared on the phonograph. New recruit Emory Douglas took over production of later issues illustrated with his own original artwork. By mid-May, Douglas launched a far more professional-looking Black Panther newspaper, published biweekly in a print shop. Over the next year, it would become the Party’s major source of income and greatly expand its following.

Meanwhile, alarmed by the Panthers’ militarism, a local Assemblyman sponsored a bill in Sacramento to ban most people from public display of loaded guns within any city limits. He also aimed to prohibit unapproved instructors from teaching the use of firearms.  Newton proposed a brash response — for Seale to head an armed group of Panthers and Dowell family members in a caravan to the State Capitol to oppose the new bill and introduce the Panther Party and its 10-point program to the world. (The terms of Newton’s parole made it too risky for him to go along.) Following Newton’s instructions, on May 2, 1967, about thirty Panthers and friends  marched toward the Capitol with weapons pointed straight up or down at the ground.  Seale then stood on the Capitol steps to read the Party’s “Executive Mandate Number One,” which condemned the Vietnam War as racist and accused the government of a history of racist oppression at home. Frightened legislators quickly passed the “Panther bill” with strong support from both Gov. Reagan and the NRA. By June 1967 California would have in place the nation’s toughest gun restrictions.

aaaeAs risky as it was, Newton’s strategy got him the publicity he coveted — television breaking news and headlines like “Armed Men Invade Assembly,” “Armed Foray in Assembly Stirs Wrath” and “Armed Black Panthers Invade Capitol” [http://sacbee.com/news/local/history/article148667224.html] The London Times and other international papers covered it, too. Pioneering African-American KPIX-TV reporter Belva Davis (left) had arrived in Oakland as a young teen from the same Louisiana community as the Newtons. Among mainstream reporters, she had a unique response to the Panthers’ Sacramento debut. Belva convinced her bosses to describe what motivated the Panthers: a 10-point program that included demands for long-needed improvements to education, housing, and jobs for impoverished black communities.

That spring and summer the Panthers built political support by lobbying for traffic signals at dangerous intersections and acting as crossing guards. In August 1967, the Panthers were asked to provide private security for a Juneteenth Day freedom from slavery celebration in West Oakland’s largest park — instead of having it patrolled by city police. However, Seale and several other Panthers wound up serving short jail sentences for minor offenses related to their Sacramento excursion. By fall,  the few Party members still on the street could no longer maintain an office. J. Edgar Hoover already had informers among them, like infiltrators placed in SNCC, RAM and other radical groups. Yet, the FBI considered the Panthers a local gang that would quickly fade away. Then in late October came the shootout and Huey Newton’s arrest for murder. Everything suddenly changed.

aaafaaagAxelrod immediately recommended her Guild colleague Charles Garry (left) to represent Newton. Garry was renowned as a “streetfighter in the courtroom” who never lost a client to the death penalty. American Communist Party leader William Patterson (right) quickly promised to raise money for Newton’s defense, recognizing the potential the headline case had for embarrassing the United States internationally. Patterson had participated in the Sacco and Vanzetti and Scottsboro Boys appeals decades earlier. He saw the Newton case as a vehicle to once again shine a light on entrenched bias in the American justice system.  Newton also wanted to use the trial as a platform to accuse the deceased officer of being a racist bully and to present himself as an unarmed victim of an abusive arrest.  It would help the Panthers promote Point 7 of their 10-point program demanding an end “to the police murder and killing of black people.”

Garry knew from the outset that any chance for Newton’s acquittal would require two high-powered strategies:  a top-quality traditional defense; and a full-throated public relations effort aimed at the potential jury pool. The timing was excellent for gaining Leftist political support. Legendary guerrilla leader Che Guevara was captured and executed just a few weeks before Newton’s arrest.  White radicals in Berkeley were already preparing to protest the upcoming trial of the Oakland Seven for orchestrating the October 1967 induction center blockade. Anti-war activists were quick to embrace Newton as America’s Che Guevara, and the Panthers as a new ally in seeking to end the war in Vietnam.

© San Francisco Examine 1967; source S.F. Media Co.

© San Francisco Examine 1967; source S.F. Media Co.

Garry seized on a newspaper photo of Newton the day of the shooting, arched in pain from his stomach wound with his hands tightly handcuffed to a hospital gurney just prior to life-saving surgery. Garry asked his associate Fay Stender to quickly draft a complaint charging Kaiser Hospital with medical malpractice. Meanwhile, the defense team obtained the uncropped original photo including the officer the photographer had startled. With help from the Peace and Freedom Party and white radicals calling themselves “Honkies for Huey,” the Panthers distributed the photo locally on the front page of a pamphlet with the caption: “Can a black man get a fair trial?”

The November 1967 issue of The Black Panther newspaper featured a half-page headline “HUEY MUST BE SET FREE!” Meanwhile, Eldridge Cleaver ended his engagement to Beverly Axelrod and proposed to SNCC organizer Kathleen Neal. Eldridge had met Kathleen earlier that year while on a speaking trip back East. He Kathleenurged Kathleen to come to Oakland from Atlanta to help make Huey Newton the symbol of every black man railroaded by the system. Kathleen (pictured right) believed demonstrations outside the Oakland courthouse would draw national press coverage as civil rights activists had obtained in the South. Yet, Southern police had beaten and arrested picketers merely for charges of obstructing public streets, disturbing the peace and violating local parade ordinances. Here, the Panthers faced the toxic atmosphere surrounding a trial for the death of a cop.  Kathleen’s attitude was as fierce as Eldridge’s: “We had a sense we are going to change the world or we are going to die trying.” With a truck loaned to them by The Peace and Freedom Party, Newton’s close friend David Hilliard drove Kathleen around Berkeley and Oakland flatlands using a loudspeaker to ask “Can a black man get a fair trial anywhere in America? . . . Come see about Huey.” The Panthers and “Honkies for Huey” began drawing crowds of protesters whenever Newton was brought to court – the first time a trial took place with the fairness of the justice system itself simultaneously on trial in the streets.

Next week: Blog No 6. :  If He Dies, the Sky’s the Limit

 

Click below to read Lise Pearlman’s previous Blog posts:

“American Justice on Trial: People v. Newton” – the untold story by Lise Pearlman

Why Revisit the Newton Death Penalty Story Today? — Blog #2 in Our 10-Part Series

OAKLAND: THE MAKINGS OF A RACIAL TINDERBOX: Blog #3 of our 10-Part Series

THE ROOTS OF THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY FOR SELF-DEFENSE: BLOG #4 OF OUR 10-PART SERIES

 

www.lisepearlman.com           www.Facebook.com/LPAuthorandSpeaker/Producer, American Justice on Trial www.americanjusticeontrial.com

 

Click on the links below to select books by Lise Pearlman:

With Justice for Some: Politically Charged Criminal Trials in the Early 20th Century That Helped Shape Today’s America

The Sky’s the Limit People V. Newton, the Real Trial of the 20th Century?

American Justice On Trial: People v. Newton

CALL ME PHAEDRA: The Life and Times of Movement Lawyer Fay Stender

Call me PhaedraLise Pearlman’s latest book just won the American Bookfest 2018 International Book Award for biographies and was named a finalist for both U.S. History and Multicultural Nonfiction!   See review in Counterpunch by Jonah Raskin

 

from http://allthingscrimeblog.com

Murder Mania: American Women Are Dying for True Crime TV

Investigation Discovery, launched 10 years ago, has monopolized the market on the true crime genre, becoming one of the most popular channels on cable TV. Over the last several years, ID has consistently been the most-watched cable network among women aged 25 to 54.

Kevin Fallon of the Daily Beats examines America’s mania for true crime TV shows. Since launching in 2008, Investigation Discovery has monopolized the market on the true crime genre, becoming one of the most popular channels on cable TV. HBO scored with The Jinx, and Netflix’s Making a Murderer was huge. But no other channel has made it its 24/7 mission to devote its entire lineup to crime and justice. With shows like Fear Thy Neighbor, Murder Chose Me, and The Killer Beside Me, the network is tapping into some morbid fascination in viewers—and not necessarily the viewers you might think. Over the last several years, Investigation Discovery has consistently been the most-watched cable network among women aged 25 to 54. Not Lifetime, not the Hallmark Channel, not HGTV. The network that exclusively airs true crime content. The murder network.

With cable viewership on the decline, it’s the only cable network launched in the last 10 years to rank in the top 20 in year-end ratings. Last year, it climbed to 12th place. According to the Los Angeles Times, Lady Gaga, Serena Williams and Nicki Minaj are fans. It is also the network with the longest length of viewer tune-in, meaning that people watch this stuff all day long without changing the channel. And with the network producing upwards of 650 hours of true-crime content each year, it’s a reliable destination. As the network becomes more popular, it’s starting to attract top talent in the documentary and journalism spheres.

from https://thecrimereport.org