Skakel to Be Tried as Adult

Kennedy relative Michael Skakel will be tried as an adult in the slaying of a teenage neighbor more than 25 years ago, a Connecticut judge ruled today.

Judge Maureen Dennis, a Juvenile Court judge in Stamford, Conn., issued her written ruling more than five months after finding there is enough evidence to put Skakel on trial for the 1975 slaying of Martha Moxley. At the time of that ruling, in August, Dennis ordered an investigation into whether Skakel should be tried as an adult.

Skakel's case was in Juvenile Court because he was 15 at the time of Moxley's death. In her ruling, Dennis said adult court was the proper venue for the trial, in part because the state has no juvenile facility where it could send Skakel, now 40, if convicted.

"The court further finds that the facilities of the adult criminal division of the Superior Court afford and provide a more effective setting for the disposition of this case," Dennis wrote.

State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict had considered dropping the case unless it was transferred to adult court. He said Skakel would have faced such a small penalty in juvenile court that it would not be worth putting him on trial.

If convicted as a juvenile, Skakel would have faced a maximum of four years in prison. If convicted of murder as an adult, he would face 25 years to life in prison.

24 Years Without an Arrest

Moxley, 15, was found beaten to death on her family's Greenwich, Conn., estate on Oct. 30, 1975. Authorities believe Skakel, her neighbor, bludgeoned the girl with a golf club belonging to his family.

The son of Rushton Skakel Sr., a brother of Robert F. Kennedy's widow Ethel, Michael Skakel was long suspected of Moxley's killing. The night before her death, Moxley had been at the Skakel household with a group of friends, including Michael and his older brother Thomas. Police originally suspected Thomas in the killing but turned their attention to Michael after he changed his story about his whereabouts during the slaying.

No arrests were made in the Moxley murder case for 24 years until another Connecticut judge, acting as a one-man grand jury, completed an 18-month investigation and concluded there was enough evidence to arrest Skakel. On Jan. 19, 2000, he was arrested.

During the hearings this past June, prosecutors presented two witnesses who testified that Skakel admitted killing Moxley. One of them — John Higgins, a classmate of Skakel's at the Elan School, a private boarding school in Maine for troubled teenagers — told the court the defendant admitted involvement in Moxley's death and remembered taking a golf club from his family's garage and running through the woods with it.

ABCNEWS.com's Bryan Robinson, ABCNEWS affiliate WTNH in New Haven, Connecticut, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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