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Saturday, August 31, 2002

08/31/02 With one murder solved, focus shifts to another notorious case

By Lindsay Faber - Greenwich Time

Two days after a decades-old murder case closed with the sentencing of Michael Skakel, another unsolved murder has reached its 18th anniversary, invigorated by a newly condensed list of suspects and a team of investigators more encouraged than ever.

Matthew Margolies disappeared on Aug. 31, 1984, 18 years ago today. His body was found five days later on a wooded hillside near his Pilgrim Drive home. An avid angler who spent many of his days by the Byram River, Matthew was stabbed more than a dozen times. Police said he had dirt forced down his throat before being strangled with his own T-shirt. His body was placed near the knife they believe was used to stab him.

The Margolies case has sometimes been referred to as Greenwich's "other" unsolved murder, falling short of the notoriety garnered by the world-famous Skakel case.

But Margolies' family has been pushing quietly, speaking monthly with the state's cold case squad and making sure the loss of their loved one never falls on deaf ears.

Even with almost two decades behind them -- Matthew died at 13 and would have been 31 now -- Matthew's mother, Maryann Margolies, and his sister, Stacey, are encouraged by Skakel's conviction and by the news that their own case has moved a step further.

Deputy Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano, who heads the cold case squad and served as a prosecutor on the Skakel case, said yesterday that his team has "substantially" narrowed the list of suspects in Matthew's case.

"We are focused on a much smaller number of individuals than we were even six months ago," Morano said. "And of the people we're interested in, we know exactly where they are."

Morano would not detail how many suspects are now being focused on.

"I cannot say more than that because somebody out there could easily be reading this," he said. "But I'm encouraged in that while we have not yet arrested anyone, we have not encountered any fatal roadblocks that would lead me to believe we will never solve this case."

He added that the team continues to test pieces of crime scene evidence for forensic information and meet with people suspected of knowing information about the brutal murder.

He also said the forensic science aspect of the renewed investigation holds promise because physical evidence from the homicide scene was well-preserved. Forensic scientists are employing the latest in DNA testing techniques, he added.

"We don't want to get tunnel vision and totally eliminate anyone yet until we feel we have enough for probable cause," Morano said. "That's based upon several factors, like forensic evidence, clear-cut alibis and actions that just don't fit the scenario of the crime."

The case lay dormant for years until Greenwich police announced in 1998 they would re-examine it. They also sought the help of the state, whose cold case team consists of Morano, the state's second-ranking prosecutor, a state homicide investigator, two Greenwich detectives and forensic scientists. The case has been prioritized on the state level as one of its top 40 cold cases, officials said.

For Matthew's mother and sister, today represents the celebration of a 13-year-old boy's life.

"To have known his love, I couldn't ask for more," Maryann Margolies said. "Of course you can't control the mind totally and there is the pain associated with what happened to him and the fact that no one had the right to take his life. And there's the void felt on a daily basis but particularly on holidays and his birthday and a time that would be a celebration day. He was just such a loving and caring person."

Margolies and her daughter believe they will one day sit in the same seats as Dorthy and John Moxley, the mother and brother of Martha Moxley, the 15-year-old found by a jury to have been murdered by Skakel in 1975.

"I remember vividly when Michael Skakel was convicted and I remember Dorthy Moxley saying it was Martha's day," Stacey Margolies said. "I really believe Matthew will have his day and that it will be soon."

Anyone with information about the case should call Greenwich detectives Timothy Duff or Gary Hoffkins at (203) 622-8054.

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