Michael Skakel (September 19th, 1960 - ) is an American man who murdered 15-year old Martha Moxley on October 30th, 1975. He is the nephew-by-marriage of Robert F. Kennedy, and has managed to use his family connections to evade being fully prosecuted (despite spending 8 years in prison after being convicted in 2005.)
Skakel is the middle of seven children, born to Rushton Walter Skakel (1923–2003) and Anne Reynolds (1932–1973). Rushton's sister Ethel is the widow of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Skakel's grandfather George was the founder of Great Lakes Carbon Corporation, a coal company that was one of the largest and wealthiest privately held corporations in the United States.
The family lived in the affluent neighborhood of Belle Haven in Greenwich, Connecticut. After his mother's death from brain cancer in 1973, Skakel began abusing alcohol. He was a poor student and reportedly flunked out of a dozen schools. He also struggled for years with dyslexia, which went undiagnosed until he was 26. His cousin Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. later wrote that Skakel was a "small sensitive child — the runt of the litter with a harsh and occasionally violent alcoholic father who both ignored and abused him." According to neighbors and family friends, the Skakel children were given unlimited amounts of money and were largely unsupervised.
In 1978, Skakel was arrested for drunk driving in New York. To avoid criminal charges, Skakel's family sent him to the Élan School in Poland, Maine, where he received treatment for alcoholism. He ran away from the school twice before leaving after two years. Skakel later attended Curry College and earned a bachelor's degree. During the 1980s, he attended several rehab facilities before finally becoming sober in his twenties. He also pursued a career as a professional athlete; Skakel competed on the international speed skiing circuit and tried out for the speed skiing demonstration team that appeared at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville. In 1991, he married professional golfer Margot Sheridan, with whom he has one child. Sheridan filed for divorce shortly after Skakel was arrested for Moxley's murder in January 2000. Their divorce was finalized in 2001.
The murder of Martha Moxley
On the evening of October 30th, 1975, Martha Moxley left with friends to participate in "Mischief Night", in which neighborhood youths would ring bells and pull pranks such as toilet-papering houses. According to friends, Moxley began flirting with, and eventually kissed, Thomas Skakel, Michael's brother. Moxley was last seen "falling together behind the fence" with Thomas Skakel, near the pool in the Skakel backyard, at around 9:30 p.m.
The next day, Moxley's body was found beneath a tree in her family's backyard. Her pants and underwear were pulled down, but she had not been sexually assaulted. Pieces of a broken six-iron golf club were found near the body. An autopsy indicated that she had been both bludgeoned and stabbed with the club, which was traced back to the Skakel home.
Thomas Skakel was the last person seen with Moxley on the night of the murder, and he had a weak alibi. He became the prime suspect, but his father forbade access to his school and mental health records. Kenneth Littleton, who had started working as a live-in tutor for the Skakel family only hours before the murder, also became a prime suspect. However, no one was charged, and the case languished for decades.
Over the years, both Thomas and Michael Skakel significantly changed their alibis for the night of Moxley's murder. Michael claimed that he had been window-peeping and masturbating in a tree beside the Moxley property from 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Two former students from Élan School, a treatment center for troubled youths, testified they heard Michael confess to killing Moxley with a golf club. Gregory Coleman testified that Michael was given special privileges, saying Michael bragged, "I'm going to get away with murder. I'm a Kennedy."
In June 1998, a rarely invoked one-man grand jury was convened to review the evidence of the case. After an 18-month investigation, it was decided there was enough evidence to charge Michael Skakel with murder. On January 9th, 2000, an arrest warrant was issued for an unnamed juvenile for Moxley's murder. Skakel surrendered to authorities later that day. He was released shortly thereafter on $500,000 bail. On March 14th, Skakel was arraigned for murder in a juvenile court as he was 15 years old at the time of Moxley's murder. On January 31st, 2001, a judge ruled that Skakel would be tried as an adult.
Skakel's trial began on May 7th, 2002, in Norwalk, Connecticut. He was represented by attorney Michael Sherman. Skakel's alibi was that at the time of the murder he was at his cousin's house. During the trial, the jury heard part of a taped book proposal, which included Michael Skakel speaking about masturbating in a tree on the night of the murder—possibly the same tree under which Moxley's body was found the next morning. In the book proposal, Skakel did not admit to committing the murder. Prosecutors took words from the book proposal and overlaid them on graphic images of Moxley's dead body in a computerized, multimedia presentation shown to jurors during closing arguments. In the audiotape, Skakel said that he was afraid he might have been seen the previous night "jerking off", and he panicked. Though the jury heard the whole tape, during the closing arguments the prosecutor did not play the portion of the audiotape in which Skakel had said "jerking off", giving the impression that he was confessing to the murder.
On June 7th, 2002, Skakel was found guilty of murdering Moxley, and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. He was assigned to the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown, Connecticut.
Elizabeth Arnold, a former classmate of Skakel's who testified at his trial claimed that Skakel believed that "his brother stole his girlfriend" and that he killed Moxley in a jealous rage. Arnold testified that Skakel had referred to Moxley as his girlfriend and complained that his brother had had sex with her. He had become convinced that Moxley liked him, but became infuriated when she "chose" his brother over him and decided to kill her for it.