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A murdered teen. A quiet Connecticut town. A suspect related to the most famous dynasty in American history. It sounds like the description of a teen soap opera, but it’s actually the description of one of the most perplexing and infamous murder cases in recent American history: the death of Martha Moxley.
In 1975, 15-year-old Moxley was found dead in her Greenwich, Connecticut backyard. No suspects would be charged for decades, until her neighbor Michael Skakel, also 15 at the time of the murder and the nephew of Robert F. Kennedy, was convicted of the crime — before eventually having his conviction overturned.
Moxley’s dairy from the time shows that Skakel did have some sort of relationship with the teen.
During Michael Skakel’s 2002 trial for Moxley’s murder, prosecutors had the slain teenager’s diary entries read aloud to the jury. In several of the excerpts, Moxley wrote about her friends, her neighbor Michael, and his older brother, Thomas “Tommy” Skakel, 17.
While Michael’s defense team claimed the diary passages had no connection to the case and would only prejudice the jury against their client, prosecutors argued the entries revealed a motive for Moxley’s murder.
"The victim's relationship with the [Skakel] brothers, her annoyance with Michael, and ambivalence toward Tom's advances, are relevant to motive… " prosecutor Susann Gill wrote in court papers. "The state's evidence will show that the defendant has made admissions indicating his romantic interest in the victim, and has also stated that she rejected him the night she was killed ... [That] triggered the murder.”
A judge ultimately ruled the diary entries were admissible evidence, but he did note Moxley’s writings were hearsay.
The excerpts, many of which were written in the months before her murder, reveal how Moxley felt about her neighbors and their desire for her attention.
In a passage from September 12, 1975, Moxley reflects on an evening she spent with friends and the Skakels: “Dear Diary, Today was nothing extra special at school. Peter was being his usual self ... Me, Jackie, Michael, Tom, Hope, Maureen & Andra went driving in Tom's car. I drove a little then & I was practically sitting on Tom's lap 'cause I was only steering. He kept putting his hand on my knee ... I drove some more & Margie & I kept yelling out the sunroof & then we went to Friendly's & Michael treated me & he got me a double but I only wanted a single so I threw the top scoop out the window. The I was driving again & Tom put his arm around me. He kept doing stuff like that. Jesus if Peter ever found out I would be dead! I think Jackie really likes Michael & I think maybe he likes her (maybe because he was drunk, but I don't know).”
On September 15, 1975, Moxley recalled hanging out in an RV on the Skakel property with Jackie and Michael. She wrote that Michael told her he “doesn’t like Jackie but he leads her on so much I can’t believe it!”
A few days later, Moxley journaled about a confrontation she had with Michael about her interactions with Tommy:
“Michael was so totally out of it that he was being a real asshole in his actions & words. He kept telling me that I was leading Tom on when I don't like him (except as a friend). I said, well how about you and Jackie? You keep telling me that you don't like her & you're all over her. He doesn't understand that he can be nice to her without hanging all over her. Michael jumps to conclusions. I can't be friends w/ Tom, just because I talk to him, it doesn't mean I like him. I really have to stop going over there."
A little more than a month after this entry, Moxley was bludgeoned and stabbed to death with a golf club, which was traced back to a set owned by the Skakel family. According to the Hartford Courant, the assailant attacked Moxley so violently the club’s metal shaft snapped. It was then driven through her neck. Moxley’s pants and underwear had been pulled down around her ankles, but there was no sign of sexual assault, reported The New York Times.
Police theorized Moxley had been hit in the head from behind as she walked up the driveway to her home on the evening of on October 30, 1975. Her body was then dragged to her backyard and left below a pine tree, where she was found the following day, reported the Hartford Courant.
In 2002, Michael Skakel was found guilty of murdering Martha Moxley and sentenced to 20 years in prison. His conviction was vacated by the Connecticut Supreme Court in 2018 after a series of appeals. Skakel maintains his innocence, and the state has yet to announce if it will retry Skakel for Martha’s murder.
To learn more about the infamous Greenwich slaying, watch “Murder and Justice: The Case of Martha Moxley,” a three-part event series airing Saturdays at 7/6c on Oxygen.
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