Tags: Skakel | Witness | Was | Drugs

Skakel Witness Was on Drugs

Wednesday, 18 April 2001 12:00 AM

Gregory Coleman, however, did not back down on his claim that Skakel made the confession while both were being treated for substance abuse at a rehabilitation center in Maine several years after Moxley was bludgeoned to death.

Coleman's admission that he had taken drugs just before his grand jury testimony last year came under cross-examination during the first day of a probable cause hearing to determine if Connecticut state prosecutors have sufficient evidence to put Skakel on trial for slaying Moxley. The Superior Court hearing was to resume Thursday.

Skakel, 40, and Moxley were both 15 when the girl's body was found Oct. 31, 1975, on the lawn of her parents' home in an exclusive section of Greenwich, Conn.

Attacking the credibility of the prosecution witness, Michael Sherman, the defense attorney, got Coleman to admit he was high on crack and heroin when he testified before a one-judge grand jury that Skakel told him: "I am going to get away with murder. I am a Kennedy."

Coleman also said he took the drugs at a hotel before he testified.

Skakel is a nephew to Ethel Skakel Kennedy, the widow of former Sen. Robert Kennedy, and the son of wealthy industrialist Rushton Skakel.

After a similar hearing last year in juvenile court, a judge found there was probable cause. However, because another judge in January ruled Skakel should be tried as an adult instead of as a juvenile, the new probable cause hearing was required.

Dorothy Moxley, Martha's mother, attended Wednesday's hearing. Skakel made no comment to reporters.

State Attorney Jonathan Benedict said the prosecution's case would be the same as presented in juvenile court, and there would be "no surprises" during this second hearing. His first witnesses Wednesday described the discovery of Moxley's body.

Former police chief Thomas Keegan, the state's second witness, said the girl was face down and obviously dead when he arrived at the scene. He said a golf club believed used to bludgeon Moxley was traced to the nearby Skakel home.

Skakel is charged with beating Moxley to death with a golf club and stabbing her with its broken shaft.

Outside the courthouse, Keegan told the gathered media that there was a missing piece of evidence, a piece of the golf club including the handle and grip.

Sherman, however, has said there was no evidence to link his client with the slaying.

Skakel broke down and cried at the previous three-day hearing where witnesses testified he had admitted two decades ago to killing Moxley. Sherman later claimed his client cried because the witnesses were lying about him.

Many of those same witnesses from Elan School, a substance-abuse treatment center in Maine, were expected to be called at the new hearing.

Coleman and fellow student John Higgins claimed Skakel told them he had killed the girl.

The founder of the school, Joseph Ricci, who died in January, and two other Elan students have said they heard no such confessions from Skakel, who underwent alcohol rehabilitation at the school from 1978 to 1980.

There were no arrests in the case for 24 years. It was only after O.J. Simpson trial witness Mark Fuhrman, a former Los Angeles police detective, named Michael Skakel as the likely killer in his 1998 book, "Murder in Greenwich," that authorities sought to arrest Skakel.

Fuhrman wrote that during his investigation he had obtained and provided to prosecutors a copy of a book proposal Michael Skakel had presented to several publishers. The working title was "Dead Man Talking: A Kennedy Cousin Comes Clean.''

Fuhrman said that in the proposal Skakel discusses wearing a sign around his neck at Elan School that read: "I am an arrogant rich brat. Confront me on why I killed my friend Martha.''

Fuhrman speculated it took police a quarter of a century to make an arrest because the exclusive Belle Haven section of Greenwich "wants to sweep all their dirty little secrets under the rug."

Before Wednesday's hearing began, Sherman again said there was "no credible evidence to tie" his client to the crime, other than "a couple of people saying he might have done it." Sherman said he would again attack their credibility.

Sherman told WBZ radio in Boston that he lost an "important witness" when Ricci died. He said Ricci said many times that Skakel never confessed to him, and "we have many witnesses who'll say that."

Skakel originally told police that he and some other teens had left Moxley to drive to his cousin's home on the night of Oct. 30, 1975, and that he had then gone home to bed.

Later, however, Skakel reportedly placed himself at the murder scene. He reportedly told private investigators hired by his family in 1992 that before going to bed, he walked on the Moxley property, climbed a tree outside of Moxley's bedroom and threw stones at her window to attract her attention, without success.

Her body was found the next morning.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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Gregory Coleman, however, did not back down on his claim that Skakel made the confession while both were being treated for substance abuse at a rehabilitation center in Maine several years after Moxley was bludgeoned to death. Coleman's admission that he had taken drugs...
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2001-00-18
Wednesday, 18 April 2001 12:00 AM
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