Oxygen’s “Murder and Justice: The Cast of Martha Moxley” reexamines a case that went unsolved for 44 years. A case that was strangely linked to the Kennedy family.
Martha Moxley was murdered on Oct. 30, 1975, just one year after her family had moved to Greenwich, Connecticut. She was 15 years old and was found beneath a tree on her own lawn after someone had bludgeoned her with a golf club and then stabbed her in the neck with the handle. For 23 years, the case stalled, until her former neighbor, Michael Skakel, who was also 15 at the time of the murder, was arrested. Host Laura Coates opens up the case in the special, and describes the case as “a remarkably striking and terrifying experience.”
“As a mom, I cannot imagine what it has been like for the family,” Coates, a former prosecutor specializing in sex, drugs and elderly crimes, told TheWrap. “Will there ever be justice for Martha? I heard about this case over my lifetime but didn’t understand the case until many years later, and I thought this is a remarkably striking and terrifying experience in this very privileged, assimilated gated community.”
But there’s a twist. Skakel was Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s cousin and questions of wealth and privilege plagued the case. People questioned the burden of needing to prove the case, and many books were written that capitalized on Skakel’s connection to the Kennedys. In fact, Kennedy Jr. wrote an article titled “A Miscarriage of Justice,” which insisted that Skakel was innocent, and suggested that the live-in tutor, Kenneth Littleton, killed Moxley. In 2016, Kennedy Jr. also wrote a book titled “Why Michael Skakel Spent Over a Decade in Prison for a Murder He Didn’t Commit.”
“The Kennedy connection was both a gift and a curse in this case,” Coates said. “What about the other young missing daughters and sons, when the killer has no connection to America’s Camelot? If not for Kennedy, would there have been sustained interest?”
In 2002, without any physical evidence linking him to the crime, Skakel was found guilty and sentenced to 20-years-to-life, which was followed by many appeals. In 2013, however, a Connecticut Supreme Court judge ruled that Skakel’s original lawyer had not provided an adequate defense by failing to interview a key witness, and his conviction was reversed. The family is no closer to knowing who killed their beloved daughter 44 years ago.
Coates, however, wants to remind you that Skakel’s conviction was overturned because of a lack of a defense — not because he was proven innocent.
“This is a man who even decades later was indicted for this crime when his own brother was someone the police looked at, and there was a live-in tutor living at the Skakel household the day Martha was murdered,” Coates explained. “Yet, a jury in Connecticut heart Michael Skakel’s statements and that is what him convicted in the end.”
However, no physical evidence was left behind — so could a 15-year-old, possibly lovestruck teenager, really commit such a heinous, sudden crime while leaving no trace?
“How could he have pulled it off without a hitch?” Coates asked. “We methodically go through this, whether the weapon could have broken apart through this beating or whether it was intentionally broken off to take away the top handle that would’ve given us a fingerprint. Was he a lovestruck teenager who is lashing out at the girl who is rejecting him? Was it a crime of passion? That’s a question we are answering in the series.”
Later, when Skakel attended Elan School, a treatment center for troubled youths, he reportedly told two former students that he had killed Moxley with a golf club. They testified during the trial that he bragged, “I’m going to get away with murder. I’m a Kennedy.”
One of the reasons why the crime has gone unsolved for over 40 years, explained Coates, is that the community of Greenwich, seen as a Utopian place, was not equipped to handle a homicide. Also, back then, DNA evidence was not tested the way it is today.
“Martha’s murder was extraordinarily tragic, but it has been in many ways a guidepost on how to investigate a homicide down the line,” she said. “We’ve learned so much about how to investigate the crimes, how to collect evidence and most importantly, learning not to start from the elimination of suspects but a canvassing of all possibilities, so a community doesn’t have to be in limbo for so long.”
“Murder and Justice: The Case of Martha Moxley” is produced by MadWest Content with Josh Murphy, C. Russell Muth and Nicholas Greene serving as executive producers.
It premieres Saturday at 7 p.m. ET/PT, and will air the next two episodes the following Saturdays.