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Ruling Due in Case Against Kennedy Nephew

Trial: Michael Skakel will learn whether he'll be tried as an adult in the case of a girl bludgeoned to death when he was 15.

June 19, 2000|From Associated Press

STAMFORD, Conn. — Nearly 25 years after 15-year-old Martha Moxley was bludgeoned to death with a golf club, the Kennedy cousin accused in her death will face a judge this week for a crucial decision.

Michael Skakel, 39, a nephew of Ethel and the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, lived across the street from the Moxleys in a gated community in Greenwich, Conn., when Martha was killed Oct. 30, 1975.

A grand jury consisting of a single judge ruled in January that there was enough evidence to arrest Skakel.

Because Skakel was only 15 at the time of the killing, his case has so far been handled in juvenile court. But this week, in a hearing set to begin Tuesday in Stamford Superior Court, prosecutors will argue that it should be transferred to adult court for trial.

Under law in effect at the time of the killing, Skakel could face a maximum of only four years if he were convicted as a juvenile. If he were convicted as an adult, he could get 25 years to life.

Martha's mother, Dorthy, plans to be in court for the hearing, along with her son John, who was 17 when his sister was killed.

"However long it takes, I'll be there," she said. "I'm determined. I've dug my heels in. It's taken 25 years, so I can wait a little longer."

The hearing is expected to last up to five days.

Bridgeport, Conn., State's Atty. Jonathan Benedict would not say whether testimony will come from former students at a substance abuse treatment center attended by Skakel from 1978 to 1980.

In court papers filed in 1998, Benedict said he had been told by several former students that Skakel made "admissions as to the murder of Martha Moxley" while he attended the Elan school in Poland Spring, Maine.

Skakel's attorney, Michael Sherman, dismisses those statements.

"I do not believe he's ever confessed to anyone--in the Elan program or anyplace else," Sherman said. "He made no confession because he didn't do it."

Martha's body was found under a tree on her family's estate. She had been at the Skakel house the night before with a group of friends, including Michael Skakel and his older brother, Thomas Skakel, then 17.

The 6-iron used to kill her was later matched to a set of golf clubs owned by the Skakel family.

Authorities suspected Thomas Skakel for years, but they switched their attention to Michael after he changed his story about his movements the night of the killing.

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