How Skakel tu­tor­ing gig plunged me into mur­der night­mare

42 yrs. later, ex-sus­pect says Martha Mox­ley case is still haunt­ing his life

New York Post - - NEWS - By IS­ABEL VIN­CENT ivin­cent@ny­

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.

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