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Michael Skakel, cousin to America’s Kennedy dynasty, has been found guilty of a 1975 murder in which a 15-year-old girl was battered to death with a golf club on the lawn of her parents’ home in the wealthy Connecticut town of Greenwich. He may now face up to life imprisonment.

For more than a quarter of a century, the case of Martha Moxley has remained unresolved, casting a shadow over the Kennedys, to whom Skakel is related through his aunt Ethel, widow of Robert Kennedy.

Skakel, 41, one of the original suspects, was finally arrested in January 2000. He was convicted Friday on circumstantial evidence: there were no forensic proofs to the crime, and no witnesses. The club used to batter Martha – the broken shaft of which had also been jammed into her neck – was traced to a set belonging to Skakel’s mother. Several witnesses said they had heard Skakel, son of millionaire industrialist Rushton Skakel, confess to the murder. One quoted him as saying, “I’m going to get away with murder, because I’m a Kennedy.”

The crime occurred after a party given by Michael and his older brother Tom. One of their guests was Martha, the girl who lived next door. In her diary, Martha had written that she thought both brothers had a crush on her. Witnesses testified that Michael was upset because she apparently preferred Tom’s attentions.

Martha’s mother, Dorothy, who has led the campaign to find the murderer, was jubilant after the verdict. “This whole thing was about Martha,” she said. “This is Martha’s day and I hope that people remember that.” Martha’s brother, John, described the outcome as “bittersweet, a hollow victory.”

Skakel’s younger brother, David, said the trial has been like “a witch hunt” for his family. “Michael is innocent,” he maintained.

When the verdict was read out, Skakel asked if he could speak, but was told he could not by the judge, and was led away in handcuffs.

Sentencing has been set for July 19; Michael Skakel now faces between 10 years and life in prison. He is to appeal the guilty verdict.

Photo: ©
Michael Skakel, 41, is to appeal the guilty verdict. Sentencing has been set for July 19: he could face between 10 years and life in prison Photo: Reuters/Chip East