Forty-five years to the day of her murder, Connecticut state prosecutors decided on Friday not to retry Michael Skakel in the brutal slaying of Martha Moxley.
Moxley, 15, was last seen on October 30, 1975 after a night of partying with Michael and his older brother Tommy, as well as other teenagers in their gated community in Greenwich, Connecticut. On October 31, Moxley was found beaten and stabbed to death with a broken golf club laying near her body.
Despite the discovery that the golf club used to kill Moxley belonged to the Skakel family, the general police investigation yielded no leads or developments in the case. As a result, Moxley’s death remained an unsolved mystery for over two decades.
However, in 1998, several of Skakel’s former neighbors emerged as witnesses of the fateful 1975 night and implicated Michael as the perpetrator. Additionally, several of Skakel’s former boarding school classmates came forward with the assertion that Skakel had confessed to Moxley’s murder during a “group therapy session.”
Although Skakel’s alma mater catered to children with issues of mental health and substance abuse, the Elan School was infamous for its controversial disciplinary methods and eventually was shut down following child abuse allegations. Given the school’s reputation, it was never made clear whether or not Skakel’s confession actually took place.
Nevertheless, the dynamic set of witnesses that came out of the proverbial woodwork were enough to raise suspicions that Skakel was responsible for Moxley’s death. Skakel was charged with murder on January 19, 2000.
Based on the notion that he was 15 at the time of the killing, Skakel was initially set to be tried as a minor. Yet, on February 1, 2001, a judge ordered Skakel to be tried as an adult. Compared to the little or no jail time that would come out of juvenile conviction, the 40-year-old was slated to face a possible life sentence if convicted.
Skakel, 60, was convicted in 2002 and sentenced to a prison term of 20 years to life. On October 23, 2013, a Connecticut judge ordered a new trial on the basis that Skakel’s original lawyer had not represented him effectively. Although he only served half of his sentence, Skakel was released from prison on November 21, 2013 on a $1.2 million bail. One of Skakel’s lawyers pleaded for a retrial in Feburary 2016, but the Connecticut Supreme Court reinstated his murder conviction the following December.
On May 4, 2018, the Connecticut Supreme Court reviewed its 2016 decision and vacated the murder conviction once again. On October 30, 2020, State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo announced to the Stamford Superior Court that the state would no longer pursue charges against Skakel.
“Looking at the evidence, your honor, looking at the state of the case, it is my belief that the state cannot prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Colangelo told the court. He also added that there was no additional evidence to present in a new trial and that 17 of the 51 potential witnesses were now deceased.
Skakel’s attorney, Stephan Seeger, affirmed his client’s innocence. Speaking with CNN after the hearing, Seeger stated that, “it’s a relief that the state has concluded they could not prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt — they never could. He should have never been convicted in the first place.”
Outside of the court, Moxley’s brother told reporters that he still believed Skakel was responsible for his sister’s death. “His life will never be the same,” he said. “Mine will never be the same. I wouldn’t want to walk a mile in his shoes.”