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Tuesday, January 25, 2000

01/25/00 A mother seeks justice in town's ‘other murder’

By Ryan Jockers - Greenwich Time

With the recent arrest in a long-unsolved murder of a Greenwich teenager, a similar case remains unsolved. This case, however, is far removed from an exclusive waterfront community, Kennedy relatives and a popular young girl from California.

And while the case of Matthew Margolies, who was 13 in 1984 when he was found in a shallow grave on a secluded hillside outside his Glenville neighborhood, does not have the made-for-television elements of the 1975 murder of 15-year-old Martha Moxley, his case is equally as compelling. Thus far, no one has been arrested for killing the boy.

Michael Skakel, now 39, a former neighbor of Moxley, was arrested last week after the state, in a last-ditch attempt to solve the crime, invoked a seldom-used grand jury statute that found probable cause to arrest him after an 18-month investigation. Skakel surrendered to the murder charge but maintains his innocence through his attorney, Michael Sherman of Stamford.

Maryann Margolies, Matthew's mother, who lives in the same home in which she last saw her son, said yesterday that the idea of a grand jury investigating her son's murder was appealing, though she has not taken steps to initiate such action.

Until State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict applied for and received approval from a three-judge panel in New Haven to appoint a one-man grand jury in 1998 to investigate Moxley's death, Margolies said she was unaware the option existed.

"It's appealing because obviously it led to an arrest in the Moxley case, and very well could lead to an arrest in my son's case," Margolies said in the living room of her home, decorated with photographs of Matthew. "But I'm not rushing into anything. I guess I'm rather cautious. I like to have details. I like to think things through."

The Greenwich Police Department began to reinvestigate the murder of Matthew Margolies in June 1998, the same month the Moxley grand jury convened.

In an interview with Greenwich Time in September, Greenwich Police Chief Peter Robbins said the reinvestigation of the 1984 murder was moving slowly but he expected it to build momentum after the department settled down after a major reorganization of personnel. Calling the work environment at the time stable, Robbins said of the Margolies case, "We're really going to have to pick things up and get going."

Robbins could not be reached yesterday for comment for this article.

Robbins, who supervised the Margolies investigation as a lieutenant, has shown optimism toward solving the case in various interviews with Greenwich Time. Yesterday, Maryann Margolies said she, too, is optimistic that an arrest will ultimately be made in her son's murder.

"I think there is light at the end of the tunnel," she said.

According to police, Matthew Margolies set out on the afternoon of Aug. 31, 1984, from his Pilgrim Drive home to go fishing in the Byram River, which had become a pastime for the boy. Police said they believe the boy was killed the same afternoon by someone who repeatedly stabbed and strangled him. The boy's partially nude body was discovered five days later in a wooded area near the river. A boning knife believed to be the murder weapon was found a short distance from the body.

Shortly after the murder, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Behavioral Science Unit profiled Margolies' killer as a white male familiar with Glenville, who knew Margolies as well as the victim's passion for fishing.

In 1986 the town paid an independent consultant to review the Police Department's investigation. That analysis further characterized the murderer as a sadist who lured the victim to a secluded area where he would be able to act out his gory fantasies.

Before reinvestigating the Margolies case, police tracked down occasional leads but the murder of a working-class family's only son did not attract as much attention as the Moxley case. Moxley was bludgeoned to death outside her family's mansion in the affluent Belle Haven section of town with a golf club belonging to a set owned by the prominent Skakel family.

The Moxley case maintained a high profile as Michael Skakel and his older brother Thomas, the prime suspect in the case for many years, are nephews of Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert F. Kennedy. Michael and Thomas Skakel, then 15 and 17, respectively, were with Moxley the night she was killed. Thomas Skakel has also denied any wrongdoing.

The Moxley case was the subject of two nonfiction books, the inspiration for a novel and subsequent television miniseries, and provided fodder for numerous talk shows and other television programs. In books and at a Web site devoted to the Moxley murder, the Margolies case has been referred to as "Greenwich's other unsolved murder."

"I don't think it's done intentionally," Margolies said. "I'd like to live in a naive bubble but the stark reality is that fame and fortune are factors to be considered."

Margolies, who works in a nursing capacity for the city of Stamford, said more media attention in her son's murder case "would only be helpful." Dorthy Moxley, mother of Martha Moxley, said her advice to the Margolies would be to "get her story out" to people.

Investigators and journalists who have covered the Moxley case have said that if not for Dorthy Moxley's persistence in keeping the story of her murdered daughter's death in the news, it would have faded into obscurity.

"I don't see how someone could commit a horrible crime and not tell somebody, and that somebody might be willing to tell," Moxley said yesterday from her home in Chatham Township, N.J. "Talk to the media; do television if you can. I know it's hard, but do it, and maybe someday you'll reap some success."

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