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National Perspective | UPDATE

Judge Rules Skakel Will Stand Trial as an Adult


BOSTON — A 25-year-old murder case moved closer to resolution Wednesday when a Connecticut judge ruled that prime suspect Michael Skakel will be tried as an adult.

Skakel, now 40, was 15 when Martha Moxley--also 15--was slain in the gated community of Belle Haven in Greenwich, Conn.

The 6-iron golf club used in the murder matched a set found in the Skakel home, just across the street from the Moxley residence.

Skakel is a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy.

Skakel was indicted in January 2000 after a lengthy inquiry by a one-man grand jury. The grand jury's decision relied heavily on testimony from several of Skakel's former classmates at a Maine school for troubled youth. At a subsequent hearing in June, the classmates repeated their testimony that Skakel confessed to the killing.

Under the law in effect in 1975, when Moxley was beaten to death, Skakel could have been tried as a juvenile. Connecticut juvenile facilities cannot accept anyone over age 18, so Skakel could have gone free regardless of the outcome of a juvenile trial.

In her ruling, Judge Maureen Dennis said: "The facilities of the adult criminal division of the Superior Court afford and provide a more effective setting for the disposition of this case."

Mickey Sherman, Skakel's lawyer, was on vacation Wednesday when the decision came down. He was unavailable for comment.

Skakel pleaded innocent to the murder at an arraignment last March.

Moxley was killed the night of Oct. 30, after she left a Halloween party. Her body was found the next day under a tree on her family's property.

In the initial investigation, Skakel was never questioned. Family members told police he'd been at a cousin's house until 11 p.m., then returned home and went to bed.

For many years, Greenwich authorities suspected Skakel's older brother Thomas, who was 17 at the time of the murder. Charges were never brought against Thomas Skakel.

Suspicion shifted toward the younger Skakel brother in part because of research by former Los Angeles police Det. Mark Furhman, who wrote a book on the Moxley murder.

One of the original Greenwich Police Department investigators of the Moxley murder, Frank Garr, told the Connecticut Law Journal not long ago, "It always bothered me that never enough work was done in investigating Michael."

Dorothy Moxley, mother of the slain girl, could not be reached Wednesday at her home in New Jersey. But earlier this year, she told an interviewer on CNN that if Skakel were tried as an adult, "I'm going to be happy."

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