How Skakel tutoring gig plunged me into murder nightmare
42 yrs. later, ex-suspect says Martha Moxley case is still haunting his life
AS soon as he saw the chipmunk, he knew Michael Skakel was the killer.
Kenneth Littleton, a 23year-old teacher who had been hired to tutor Michael and his six siblings at their sprawling Connecticut mansion, saw the dead chipmunk on the grounds of Belle Haven Country Club. The animal had been “mashed” with a golf club and “crucified” — nailed to a patch of grass with golf tees.
Littleton immediately confronted Michael, who at 15 was already a budding alcoholic with a mean streak and a dangerous sense of entitlement. “Did you do this, Michael?” “Who else could have done it, Kenny?” was Michael’s reply.
The incident stuck with Littleton because it took place just weeks after the vicious murder of Martha Moxley, the Skakel clan’s 15-year-old next-door neighbor.
“I knew he had committed the murder, in my heart,” Littleton said.
A day before Halloween in 1975, Moxley was bludgeoned to death with a golf club. The blows were so vicious that the club — a six iron that belonged to the Skakels — was shattered to pieces.
“He was a dangerous package,” Littleton, now 65, said of his former charge in the Investigation Discovery series “Guilty Rich,” which will air the former tutor’s first lengthy interview about the notorious case on Oct. 5.
Michael Skakel was convicted of Moxley’s murder, but only in 2002, nearly 30 years after her death. In the meantime, Littleton was fingered twice as a suspect, enduring unfounded accusations and dirty-tricks policing that he says made his life a living hell.
Littleton, a science teacher from a working-class background, was ill-equipped to take on a powerful East Coast family related to the Kennedys, and he blames that trauma for his descent into alcohol and mental illness.
Littleton, who now lives in a New England town he would not disclose to The Post, says he was a scapegoat for small-town cops who appeared too timid to take on the wealthy Skakels. He now considers himself the forgotten victim of one of the country’s most notorious murder cases.
“I trusted them,” Littleton said of the Connecticut police and the Skakel family. “Little did I know. Little did I know.”
ON Oct. 30, 1975, Littleton drove his red Mustang to Belle Haven, a leafy Greenwich enclave of well-tended lawns and rambling stone mansions to interview for the position of tutor to the spoiled Skakel brood.
With the Skakels’ wealth came severe dysfunction. The industrialist Rushton Skakel, who was Robert Kennedy Sr.’s brotherin-law, was a raging alcoholic and his eldest sons — 17-yearold Tommy and 15-year-old Michael — had severe disciplinary problems, which had grown
I trusted them. Little did I know. Little did I know.
— Kenneth Littleton (left) on the Skakels and the Connecticut police
I went from total nirvana to total disaster.
— Littleton on being named a suspect in the murder of Martha Moxley
worse in the two years since their mother, Anne Skakel, died of cancer at age 41 in 1973.
Following a short interview over afternoon cocktails, Rushton hired Littleton on the spot, offering him $400 a month and free room and board.
Littleton couldn’t believe his luck, and on his first night, he took all six of the Skakel children to the exclusive Belle Haven Country Club for what he described as a luxurious dinner.
“Lamb chops, steaks, hunting trips and golfing trips!” he said. “Everything was first class.”
The dinner with the Skakel children, including Michael, took place at 6 p.m. Police believe Moxley was murdered just after 9 that same night.
Following supper, Littleton said he settled into his room at the Skakel family home to watch the TV premiere of “The French Connection.” Tommy joined him for the movie’s famous chase scene, he said.
It wasn’t until the next morning, at the breakfast table, that Littleton first heard the name Martha Moxley, he said. The teen had gone missing the night before, and the Skakel family cook said the Moxleys were frantic and asking if anyone had any idea of her whereabouts.
The body of the popular Greenwich HS sophomore was found hours later in a clump of pine trees, less than 200 yards from her front door. Her pants were pulled down, but police said she had not been sexually assaulted. Pieces of a broken golf club, later traced to the Skakel home, were found near the body. The club had been used to bludgeon and stab her to death.
Although Michael and Tommy were briefly questioned by police shortly after the body’s discovery, both were quickly released. This despite Michael being the last person to have seen Martha alive and his shaky alibi that he was in a car with friends who were driving to a cousin’s home at the time of the murder.
To make sure police stayed away, Rushton barred them from accessing his son’s school and mental-health records.
IT wasn’t until the summer of 1976, nearly a year after the murder, that police hauled in Littleton for questioning. Littleton had been fired from his tutoring job after the eldest Skakel kids produced failing grades at school. Months later, he spent a drug- and alcohol-fueled weekend in Nantucket, where he was charged with stealing $4,000 worth of goods after breaking into a gift shop and a boat. News of his antics, which included throwing a cinder block through the shop window, caught the eye of Connecticut police detectives. Until then, they had failed to produce a suspect or motive for the killing.
“I went from total nirvana to total disaster,” Littleton told The Post through a friend who visited him at the assisted-living facility where he resides.
Because he was now a suspect in one of the state’s biggest unsolved cases, Littleton lost his new job at an elite school in New Canaan, and his life began to spiral further out of control. Although he says he tried cocaine only that one night in Nantucket, he began to drink with greater frequency. He stopped teaching altogether and had trouble holding down parttime jobs. He spent time at a psychiatric hospital and attempted suicide. And for years, he worried that the Kennedy family was out to get him.
As he was trying to put his life back together in the mid-1980s, the Greenwich Time newspaper assigned two reporters to investigate the way local police handled the case. Among their findings was that police waited six months to procure a warrant and never searched the Skakel home.
But investigative journalist Leonard Levitt would have to wait more than eight years for his story on the Moxley case to appear in print. And it was only after The Post published an interview with him on May 1, 1991, outlining how the story was suppressed that Greenwich Time published the article. Within weeks of its June 2 publication, authorities reopened the case. And again, they targeted Littleton.
This time, police set up a sting in a motel room with Mary Baker, Littleton’s ex-wife, who wore a wire and tried to get Littleton to confess to the crime. Littleton didn’t.
But Littleton was eager to help in “any way that I could to solve the case,” and he readily agreed to be questioned by police with- out a lawyer present. The move was a mistake, and Littleton was subjected to four days of intense interrogation, including two liedetector tests, which he failed.
“What it came down to was being investigated under the naked light bulb treatment,” Littleton told The Post.
He recalled Jack Solomon, the state’s lead inspector, screaming, “You murdered Martha Moxley! You murdered Martha Moxley!”
Littleton was unnerved, but refused to be pressured into a confession.
“I just told them to leave me the hell alone, in stronger language than that,” he said in the documentary.
Littleton said he had no motive and had never even met Moxley.
“I gave them everything I had, and then I said shove it,” he recalled. “I have no respect whatsoever for what he did to me.”
EIGHT years later, in 1998, a rare one-man grand jury was convened to re-examine the evidence in the Moxley case. Littleton was granted immunity, and his testimony about Skakel was recorded. After 18 months, it was decided that there was enough evidence to arrest Michael Skakel, then 40 and a former ski champion. He was convicted in 2002 and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.
In 2013, a judge granted him a new trial, citing evidence that Skakel’s lawyer did not adequately defend him in 2002. Shakel was released from prison. Last July, Skakel’s cousin Robert Kennedy Jr. wrote a book declaring Skakel’s innocence. But by December, the Connecticut Supreme Court reinstated Skakel’s murder conviction. As his lawyers revisit the case, Skakel, now 56, remains free, living with relatives in Bedford, NY.
For his part, Littleton said he worked up the nerve to tell his story in detail for the first time so that his two children would have no doubt that he is an innocent man. Wearing a business suit, white shirt and tie for the documentary, he speaks with great conviction, while overcome at times with emotion.
“I wanted to tell my story,” he told The Post through a friend. “I wanted to tell it badly. I got dressed to the nines, and I wanted to tell it succinctly.”
LONG SAGA: After Martha Moxley (left), 15, was beaten to death in 1975, police suspected the Skakel family’s tutor, Kenneth Littleton, at right with the Skakel brothers Tommy (in plaid) and Michael. Nearly 30 years later, a 41-year-old Michael (inset) was convicted of the murder.