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Conflicting testimony over whether Skakel confessed to killing
STAMFORD, Connecticut -- A former student at a Maine school for troubled teens testified Wednesday that it was no secret that Kennedy family relative Michael Skakel had killed a teenage girl.
"It wasn't a hidden thing," Gregory Coleman, who attended the Elan School with Skakel, said on the second day of the pre-trial hearing.
But another childhood friend of Skakel's testified Wednesday that while Skakel admitted he spent time at the scene where his teen-age neighbor was slain in 1975, he claimed he was not involved in her death.
Andrew Pugh said Skakel told him years after the beating death of 15-year-old Martha Moxley that he had masturbated while up in a pine tree in Moxley's yard the night she was killed. It was the same pine tree under which Moxley's bludgeoned body was found the next morning, Pugh said.
Skakel, 39, is accused of beating his neighbor Moxley to death with a golf club on October 30, 1975. Both were 15 at the time.
After the hearing, the judge will decide if there is enough evidence to try Skakel, and if so, whether he will be charged as a juvenile.
Skakel is the nephew of Ethel Skakel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy.
Coleman testified Tuesday that Skakel was given special treatment at the school.
"I said he'd gotten away with murder," Coleman testified. "And then he said, 'I'm gonna get away with murder. I'm a Kennedy.'"
Coleman said Skakel told him he beat Moxley's skull in with a golf club after she rejected his romantic advances.
He also said he heard Skakel admit to the murder during group therapy sessions and repeatedly scream, "I'm sorry."
During cross-examination Wednesday Skakel's attorney Mickey Sherman questioned Coleman about his alcoholism and drug abuse. Coleman admitted that he has some problems with his recall, but he stood by his testimony.
"I know what I heard upon initially meeting with Michael Skakel --I am sure of that -- not 99.9 percent but 100 percent," Coleman said.
Earlier, Sherman asked Coleman why he waited 20 years to say anything about what he says he heard and then went to a reporter instead of police.
Sherman also read part of a letter Coleman wrote to a Greenwich police officer in which Coleman indicated he wanted a reduced sentence and money to get his life started upon release from prison. Coleman is serving an eight-month sentence for misdemeanor criminal trespassing.
The state has not granted any concessions to Coleman.
Coleman is the second former classmate to testify that Skakel confessed to the killing.
John Higgins testified Tuesday that he and Skakel were talking one night at the center when the subject of the murder came up. Higgins testified that at first Skakel said he "didn't know whether he did it, but then over the course of several hours he said he did it."
Under cross-examination, though, Higgins said that he told a police investigator. "He never specifically told me he killed anybody." Sherman suggested Higgins came forward because a reward was offered. Higgins never claimed the reward, which later was revoked.
In his testimony Wednesday, Pugh said that when they were kids, he and Skakel frequently climbed an enormous pine tree on the Moxley property, which was located across the street from the Skakel family estate in Belle Haven, an exclusive gated community in Greenwich.
Pugh said he lost touch with Skakel after Moxley was murdered.
He said that Skakel tried to renew their friendship in the early 1990s, but that he told Skakel he was reluctant because he had some concerns about Skakel's possible involvement in Moxley's murder.
At that point, Pugh said, he asked Skakel if he had anything to do with Moxley's killing.
Pugh said Skakel told him that he had been in the pine tree masturbating the night Moxley was killed, "but that he had nothing to do with her death."
That account is similar to what Skakel told a private investigative firm hired by his family in the early 1990s. That was a change from the story he originally gave to police: that he was at his cousin's house at the time investigators believe Moxley was killed.
Prosecutors said they planned to call seven witnesses in the pre-trial hearing, which is scheduled to last up to five days.
Skakel could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted as an adult. If he's tried as a juvenile, he would face a maximum of four years if convicted, Connecticut officials said.
Skakel and his older brother Thomas were among the last people to see Moxley alive. Police matched the 6-iron used to kill Moxley to a set owned by the Skakel family, but no fingerprints were found.
For many years, Michael Skakel was not considered a suspect because he had a strong alibi, but police focused on him after he allegedly changed his story about his whereabouts on the night of the killing.
A special, one-judge grand jury was appointed to review the case and ruled that there was enough evidence to charge Skakel.
Skakel has maintained his innocence and is free on $500,000 bond.
Witness says Kennedy relative confessed to 1975 killing
The Martha Moxley Murder
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