- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 8, 2002

NORWALK, Conn. (AP) Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel told several people that he had killed his teen-age neighbor on Mischief Night, the night before Halloween, in 1975, a prosecutor told the jury in opening arguments of the long-awaited trial yesterday.
"Some people can't keep a secret; as it turns out, he's been talking about his night of mischief since at least the spring of 1978," prosecutor Jonathan Benedict said. He said the evidence will include both explicit and partial admissions.
"Some of these partial admissions may seem inconsistent and ambiguous," but taken together they would show Mr. Skakel committed the crime, he said.
Mr. Skakel, 41, is accused of beating Martha Moxley to death with a golf club in Greenwich when both were 15.
The defense warned the jury not to become caught up in the emotions of the case and said the physical evidence against Mr. Skakel was "zilch."
"You'll see they have a lot of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle," defense attorney Michael Sherman said. "But the problem is, the jigsaw pieces don't fit."
The case went unsolved for years, giving rise to suspicions that wealth, privilege and the Kennedy connection somehow had protected Mr. Skakel. But the slaying regained attention after several books were written about it.
The prosecutor told the jury that it would hear evidence that the Skakel family made a "concerted effort" to hide Mr. Skakel's guilt from police. Mr. Skakel is the nephew of Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy.
The passage of time has done much to cloud the high-profile case. Two key witnesses have died, and investigators have grown old and retired. There are no eyewitnesses to the killing, and forensic evidence is limited.
Mr. Skakel, who grew from a pudgy teen with drug problems into a divorced father and recovering alcoholic, did not comment as he entered court yesterday. None of his Kennedy relatives showed up for the first day of testimony.
The case took a long and twisting path to reach the courtroom, with Mr. Skakel arrested two years ago after an investigation by a judge acting as a one-man grand jury. Mr. Skakel's attorneys had argued that he should be tried as a juvenile, which could have meant no punishment at all if he was convicted, since he would be too old to be sent to a juvenile prison.
The case was transferred instead to adult court. If convicted, Mr. Skakel could receive life in prison.
Martha's body was discovered beneath a tree on the family's Greenwich property. The girl had been beaten with a golf club that investigators said matched a set in the Skakel household.
Dorthy Moxley, the victim's mother, was the first witness called yesterday. She described her frantic efforts to find her daughter. Mrs. Moxley said she went to the Skakel house on Halloween morning looking for Martha, and Mr. Skakel opened the door. She said he appeared "hung over."
"After Martha died, I was like a zombie," she said. "I just barely functioned."
Prosecutors listed more than 40 potential witnesses, including some who claimed that Mr. Skakel confessed to the crime when they attended a substance-abuse facility with him in Maine in the late 1970s. Mr. Skakel's defense list has about two dozen witnesses, including several from the same facility.
Kenneth Littleton, who started his job as a live-in tutor for the Skakel family the day of the slaying, was expected to take the stand later in the week. Mr. Skakel's attorneys claim Mr. Littleton has confessed to the crime, but the judge has not yet ruled whether the statements can be used.


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