On October 30, 1975, fifteen-year-old Martha Moxley headed home from Halloween Eve antics with her Greenwich, Connecticut, neighbors Tommy and Michael Skakel. She never made it. Her brutal murder with a golf club in her own backyard made national headlines. But for years no one was arrested, despite troubling clues pointing to the Skakels, a rich and powerful family related to the Kennedys. After the police department's first unsuccessful attempts to catch the killer, the case lay dormant, and the culprit remained free.
Enter Leonard Levitt. In 1982, the Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time newspapers asked investigative reporter Levitt to look into the murder and the undying rumors of a cover-up. Levitt soon uncovered groundbreaking information about how the police had bungled the investigation, and he learned that Tommy and Michael had lied about their activities on the night of the murder. But Levitt's articles about his findings and the haunting questions they raised almost never saw the light of day. For years, Levitt's superiors mysteriously refused to publish the stories. Convinced that the Moxley family deserved the peace and closure they had so long been denied, Levitt fought desperately to keep his discoveries alive. Finally, after Levitt's first article appeared, the case was reopened.
Enter Frank Garr. As the newly appointed investigator on the Moxley case, the seasoned Greenwich detective doggedly pursued unexplored leads and became increasingly convinced that for over a decade, his colleagues had been pursuing the wrong suspects. At first mistrustful of one another, as reporters and detectives often are, Levitt and Garr became friends, encouraging each other in their quest for the truth as the obstacles against them piled up.
In 2002, more than twenty-five years after Moxley's death, a shocked world watched as Michael Skakel was convicted of the murder, thanks largely to the evidence Garr alone had marshaled against him.
Now, for the first time, Leonard Levitt tells the amazing true story of Garr's fight to solve the case and of how their friendship with each other, and with Martha Moxley's mother, Dorthy, sustained them over the years. A riveting, suspenseful drama that unfolds like a mystery novel, this incredible memoir also reveals how a police officer and a reporter refused to give up, and how they helped justice to prevail, against all odds.
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About the Author
Leonard Levitt writes "One Police Plaza," a column for Newsday. He previously held the position of Investigations Editor at the New York Post, and his work has appeared in Time, Harper's, the New York Times Magazine, and Esquire. The recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Humanities grant, he also served in the Peace Corps in Africa. He lives in Stamford, Connecticut.
Read an Excerpt
Solving the Moxley Murder: A Reporter and a Detective's Twenty-Year Search for Justice
East Coast O.J.
I never thought Michael would be convicted.
I only hoped for Frank's sake the jury would deliberate longer than the few hours it had in the O. J. Simpson case. That way Frank wouldn't be embarrassed.
This was East Coast O.J., involving one of America's richest families with a bloodline to the Kennedys, and the case was all Frank's. He had found all the witnesses. Many hadn't wanted to testify. Frank Garr, they related, had pursued, cajoled, harassed, or threatened them.
Walking about the courtroom in his black pinstriped suit with his air of professional gravitas, Frank reminded me of an undertaker. His hair -- all white and formerly worn in a ponytail -- curled up the back of his neck. While working as a narcotics detective two decades before, he had taken an acting course in Manhattan. Like all actors, there was a touch of vanity to his appearance.
As Michael's trial begins, Frank is fifty-seven years old, a twenty-seven- year veteran of the Greenwich, Connecticut, police department. For the past seven years, he has been an inspector with the Fairfield County state's attorney's office. He has investigated the Moxley murder for eleven years and come to know it like no one else. He understands Michael better than Michael's own family and probably better than his numerous psychiatrists.
Frank also knows the Skakel family. Despite the image of forthrightness and generosity they present to the world, Frank says they have no morals or conscience. He calls them habitual liars and says their loyalty is only to each other.
Frank has no more regard for their friends, neighbors, and attorneys-- even their family priest. All of them, he says, knew about Michael but looked away.
"Genetic hedonism: the desire for immediate pleasure or instant gratification." That was the term for the Skakels coined by one of those psychiatrists, Dr. Stanley Lesse. He had been hired by Rushton Skakel Sr. the year after the murder when Rushton realized his son Tommy was a suspect.
But "genetic hedonism" falls short of describing them. Tom Sheridan, the Skakel family lawyer, would later offer his own term for them -- "histrionic sociopaths."
"Their interest is only self-interest," Sheridan says. "They lack empathy for anyone but themselves." And after the Skakels turned against him -- as they did to virtually everyone they used to protect them in the Moxley case -- Sheridan added, "And if you disagree with them, you are their enemy."
And here they all are, the Skakels and their supporters, filling the far right section of the courtroom in a calculated display of familial unity. They are a clannish crowd, unbowed and unrepentant. Both inside and outside the courtroom, they speak only to each other. They dress casually as only the rich can, in khaki pants, sports jackets, and loafers. The youngest brother Stephen wears alligator cowboy boots. They begin every morning with smiles and handshakes. Every afternoon they lunch together at the Ash Creek Saloon a few blocks away.
Rush Jr., the eldest of the seven children, has flown in from Bogota, Colombia. David, the second youngest, has come from Oregon. Their cousin, Bobby Kennedy Jr., appears unannounced late in the trial. He'd attended Michael's first court hearing in nearby Stamford two years before but has not been seen since.
Tommy -- Michael's older brother, boyhood rival, and tormentor -- also turns up, if only for a day. He is in his mid-forties now, balding and wearing glasses. Like Michael, he has admitted lying to the police about his whereabouts the night of the murder.
The family matriarch is Ann McCooey, Michael's aunt, Rushton's sister, known as Big Ann. A stout woman with bleached blonde hair, Big Ann sits in the same seat in the first row every day of the trial, next to her daughter, whose name is also Ann. During the trial, Michael is said to be staying with Big Ann, as his wife Margo -- Tom Sheridan's niece -- has begun divorce proceedings. The strain from his murder charge has been too much for them.
And there at the center is Michael. Now forty-one years old, portly and blowzy with thinning hair and a florid face, he does not or cannot close his shirt's top button beneath his tie. Each morning before testimony begins, he stands in the courtroom well, accepting his family's chucks of support, chatting with his lawyers and his bodyguard, a huge, bald black man. The bodyguard is not merely Michael's protector. He is his silencer. Michael can't keep his mouth shut.
Two years before at his first court appearance in Stamford, he had lurched from the defense table and made for Martha's mother Dorthy, seated in the first row of spectators. His voice loud enough to make the six o'clock news and even the next day's New York Times, he had blurted, "Dorthy, I feel your pain. But you've got the wrong guy."
She had turned to me in tears. Michael had sounded so aggressive, so arrogant. He'd presumed he could address her by her first name, as though they were equals. After twenty years, I still called her Mrs. Moxley.
During a break in that day's testimony, Frank caught my eye. "Did you notice Michael staring at me?" he asked. "Watch him when we go back. He tries to stare me down."
Better than anyone, Frank knows Michael can't control himself. He's blabbed about Martha's murder for years, releasing thoughts that weighed upon him, like steam escaping from a pressure cooker. Indeed, it was Michael's own words -- confided to friends, then to private investigators, and to the ghostwriter of his unpublished autobiography -- that led to his arrest.
I am one of nearly 100 reporters who have covered every day of Michael's month-long trial here in Norwalk. Unseen by the rest of them, a second drama is occurring.
I notice that Frank does not sit at the table with the prosecution team ...Conviction
Solving the Moxley Murder: A Reporter and a Detective's Twenty-Year Search for Justice. Copyright © by Leonard Levitt. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As a person who followed the case Len Levitt nailed the Skakel case closed. It's clear that Michael Skakel is the only and could be the only one responsible. Levitt explains it and goes behind the scenes to explain why it was Skakel. It's a good read and explains everyone's struggles along the way. Furhman's book is good, but Levitt's book closes the case. Well done.
I read this book in four days, it was truley an amazing piece of work. Once agian Len Levitt offers an insight that only he can. Frank Garr's input complimented the story with amazing detials that where previously unknown. I have prided myself in the past with thinking I had a full grasp on the case, but after reading the first four chapters of this book it was quickly apparent that I did not.Although the book does contian the general information of the case it does far more to enlighten the reader as to the aspects of the crime and the particapants of the story; there is much to be learned by this book. I felt that the review by the critics of Publisher Weekly was unfiar in saying 'perhaps the book's greatest deficiency is Levitt's failure to seriously confront and refute the logical arguments made by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.', this simply untrue, there are several refrences in the book that address the question of Mr. Kennedy's essay, Len Levitt simply does not waste time going into great detail on the explanation on the Kennedy/Skakel propaganda machine that asks more questions than it ever attempts to answer. I highly recommend this book to others, it does not disapoint. My hats off to Len and Frank for all their hard work over the years, their team work is the REAL reason this case was solved. Unlike others who jumped on the media bandwagon when it was time to bask in the limelight, this dynamic duo deserve's the true credit and recognition for solving the murder of Martha Moxley.