Michael Skakel should have had it all - wealth, security, friends in high places, but something went terribly wrong. Being a nephew to the Kennedy clan failed to protect him from himself and problems for Michael started early. In an autobiography proposal that he was trying to sell to a publisher, Skakel described his rage, his learning disability, alcoholism and sibling jealousy. Twenty-seven years later, a jury decided that his personal demons led
him to bludgeon 15-year-old Martha Moxley to death with a golf club.
Michael Skakel was born on October 19, 1960 to Rushton and Anne Skakel. He was the middle son of six siblings and grew up in a large home in the gated wealthy community of Belle Haven in Greenwich, Conn. Rushton Skakel Sr., the brother of Ethel Skakel Kennedy, who was married to the late Robert F. Kennedy, was chairman of the Great Lakes Carbon Corp. The Skakels were part of America's elite, enjoying an exclusive place in society, wealth, and a home in one of the richest towns in the U.S.
In 1973 Anne Skakel died from cancer. Michael was 12 years old and devastated at the loss of his mother. Anne was a central part of his life and Michael blamed himself for her death, pointing at his poor attention to his prayers as the reason. The balance that Anne had kept inside the Skakel household was gone and a kind of sibling chaos took over. Rushton Skakel spent much of his time at work, leaving the kids on their own or with hired tutors or live-in sitters.
Michael's Miserable School Years:
Michael was a terrible student, suffering from undiagnosed dyslexia. His father was constantly lecturing him on improving his study skills. He flunked out of numerous private schools and by the age of 13 he was a self described, "full-blown daily-drinking alcoholic."
As a kid, Michael had earned the reputation as being violent and quick to lose his temper. He also was known for torturing and killing birds and squirrels then displaying them in an almost ritualistic way. His quick temper and spoiled nature effected his relationship with the neighborhood kids and often parents would disapprove of their children associating with the volatile Skatel boys.
Tommy, Michael's older brother, was more popular and had a way with the neighborhood girls. According to Mark Furhman's book, Murder in Greenwich there was a strong rivalry between the two brothers, with Tommy often coming out on the top. This was especially difficult for Michael to accept when he found himself attracted to the same girls as his brother.
The Murder of Martha Moxley:
In October 1975, Tommy and Michael became suspects in the murder of 15-year-old Martha Moxley, a friend and neighbor of the boys. It was "mischief night" the night before Halloween, and Martha Moxley and friends were out spraying shaving cream and ringing doorbells before stopping over at the Skakels. Martha left the Skakels for home between 9:30 and 11:00 p.m. but never made it.
The Golf Club:
The following day her bludgeoned body was found under a tree in her yard. Her jeans were pulled down, but no evidence of a sexual assault was found. The weapon, an expensive Toney Penna golf club, was found with a shattered shaft, with a jagged piece of it lodged in Martha's neck. Investigators traced the club to a set belonging the boys deceased mother, Anne Skakel.
This discovery put the prime focus on the Skakel household. After interviewing Martha's friends, including the Skakels, the police ruled out Michael Skakel as a suspect because he was at a friend's house during the time Martha was murdered. Tommy Skakel and a newly hired tutor, Ken Littleton,who was living at the Skakel home, remained on the top of the suspect list, but no arrests were made in the case.
The Drinking Problem:
Michael's daily drinking escalated and in 1978 he was arrested in New York for driving while intoxicated. In an agreement with the state to drop the charges, Michael was sent off to
Elan School in Poland Spring, Maine where he was treated for alcoholism.
Primal Screaming: The Elan School had a series of group therapy and private sessions where students were encouraged to participate in "primal screaming" and come clean about incidents in their lives which caused them guilt and sorrow. It was during this time at Elan that Michael supposedly admitted to his father and members of the Elan staff that he was involved in Martha Moxley's murder, (a point now denied by his attorney).
Sobriety: After Michael left Elan, he continued to battle his alcoholism, entering different rehabilitation centers. In his early 20s he began living a sober life. He was diagnosed with dyslexia and entered Curry College in Massachusetts which focused on students with learning disabilities. After his graduation he married golf pro, Margot Sheridan and spent much of his time preparing and competing in speed skiing events.
William Kennedy Smith: In 1991, the Moxley investigation was reopened after rumors circulated during the trial of William Kennedy Smith, that William was at the Skakel home on the night Moxley was murdered. The press was also interested in the case and many of the original principals were interviewed. Although the rumor of Smith's presence in the home proved to false, the public eye was once again focusing in on the Skakel boys, Tommy and Michael.