STAMFORD, Conn. – Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel must stand trial for the 1975 murder of a 15-year-old teenage girl, a judge ruled Friday.
Superior Court Judge John F. Kavanewsky Jr. said evidence presented Wednesday and Thursday shows a reasonable person could suspect that Skakel, now 40, beat Greenwich, Conn., teenager Martha Moxley to death with a golf club when they were both 15.
These facts, when they are examined not alone but together, provide probable cause [to believe] that the crime of murder was committed and the defendant committed it," Kavanewsky said.
Dorthy Moxley, the victim's mother, said she was overwhelmed by the decision, calling it "truly like a miracle. We've advanced one more step."
It was a thwarted opportunity for Skakel, who has asserted his innocence, to prevent his murder trial in an adult court.
The judge's ruling came even though a key witness against Skakel admitted that he had used heroin before telling a previous one-judge grand jury that Skakel had confessed to the murder.
The witness, Gregory Coleman, had testified that Skakel confessed while they were both students at the Elan School, an addiction treatment center in Poland Spring, Maine.
Coleman, who has stood by his testimony, said Skakel told him: "I'm gonna get away with murder. I'm a Kennedy."
On Thursday, another former classmate, John Higgins, 38, testified that Skakel confessed the murder to him as well while at Elan. Skakel told him of the killing during a tearful confession on the front porch of a dormitory while the two served as night guards, Higgins said.
Kavanewsky said his ruling was influenced by the allegations that Skakel had a romantic interest in Moxley, that a golf club of a similar make to the murder weapon was found in the Skakels' home and by the testimony of Skakel's former schoolmates. Kavanewsky noted that testimony about Skakel's alleged admissions was similar in detail.
The judge did not set a trial date. Both sides have until May 21 to file legal motions.
Skakel is the son of Rushton Skakel, the brother of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel.
Martha Moxley was killed Oct. 30, 1975. She had visited the Skakel home along with several other teenagers after a night of pre-Halloween pranks with shaving cream and toilet paper. She left, apparently to go home, but never made it. Her body was found the next afternoon under low-hanging fir trees on her family's property.
Skakel and his older brother Thomas, then 17, were considered possible suspects, along with others, including a tutor who had moved into the Skakel house the day of the killing. The Skakel family stopped cooperating with police in 1976.