Halloween eve, October 1975. It had been a week of trouble in wealthy Greenwich, Conn.: Two women had recently been strangled to death nearby, just over the Tappan Zee Bridge, and the sons and daughters of Greenwich were preparing for Mischief Night, a yearly ritual. The more adventurous kids might stick M-80 firecrackers in the hole of a 45 r.p.m. record and sail it, Frisbee-style, toward a neighbor’s house and watch it explode. But what would eventually happen that night would mean the end of all future Mischief Nights in Greenwich: Martha Moxley, a 15-year-old student at Greenwich High School, was murdered in the gated Belle Haven neighborhood, which employs its own private security force. The blue-eyed, blonde Moxley was beaten to death with a ladies’ Toney Penna six-iron golf club; the force of the blows caused the golf club to shatter into three pieces, and one of the jagged shards was then plunged through her neck. (The police were later surprised to learn Moxley had blonde hair, there had been so much blood.) Moxley’s body was left under a Ponderosa pine tree in her own front yard; it was found at about noon the next day by a female friend. Among the suspects were a pair of teenage brothers, Thomas and Michael Skakel, nephews of Ethel Skakel Kennedy, widow of Robert Kennedy. The golf club used in the murder came from the Skakel household.
No one has ever been arrested in the case. Dorthy Moxley, Martha’s mother, has spent the last 22 years looking for her daughter’s murderer. The fact that the Greenwich Police Department has never solved a murder case is not heartening. But now two competing writers, both working against tight deadlines, are hoping to do just that, or at least provide some intriguing leads. One of those writers happens to be Mark Fuhrman, the infamous, allegedly racist former Los Angeles police detective and author of the best-selling Murder in Brentwood . Mr. Fuhrman has let it be known he thinks he can solve the murder or provide enough information to prompt a grand jury investigation. The other writer is a native son, Tim Dumas, the 36-year-old former managing editor of Greenwich News , who has been working on his book for more than two years. “My book can only help his,” said Mr. Fuhrman. “Maybe we can go on shows together.”
For the most part, Greenwich residents side with Mr. Dumas: If they were put off by the attention their wealthy town received after the Moxley murder, they are hardly overjoyed that Mr. Fuhrman, the tabloid cover boy who pleaded no contest to perjury in the O.J. Simpson trial, is in their midst, tooling around in a rented Corvette. “Now that Mr. Fuhrman has arrived on the scene, people have made it clear that they don’t want him here,” said Greenwich Police Chief Peter Robbins.
Indeed, on Oct. 3, residents in the Belle Haven enclave-home to pop diva Diana Ross and the chief executive of I.B.M. Corporation, Louis Gerstner-called police to report that Mr. Fuhrman was seen near the former Moxley house at 38 Walsh Lane; one of the neighborhood’s private powder-blue patrol cars responded, and Mr. Fuhrman was asked to leave. He then reportedly made repeated, unsuccessful efforts to gain admission to another area of Belle Haven and then, according to Greenwich Time, “peeled away” in his car.
“It’s like stepping into Buckingham Palace,” said Mr. Fuhrman, temporarily back home in Idaho. “I think I can understand some of their feelings. The murder has caused a focus on their community. But what better way to get rid of that focus than a successful conclusion?”
Some people have apparently warmed to Mr. Fuhrman. A few of Mr. Dumas’ sources have mysteriously dried up. Steven Carroll, a former Greenwich police officer in his 70’s, has stopped returning his phone calls and, according to Chief Robbins, is now helping Mr. Fuhrman.
“In my opinion, Mark Fuhrman isn’t here to solve the Moxley murder,” said Chief Robbins, who has been on the force for 27 years and whose father was the town’s police chief, too. “He’s here to make money. I talked to him for 10 minutes. He said he had new information-which I was bewildered by, since the case has been analyzed and reanalyzed. There is nothing Mark Fuhrman can find out that will change what we have already. I am not going to cooperate with Mark Fuhrman. And as far as credibility, I personally can’t stand the man. He did more damage to the credibility of the police force than any other man in America. On the other hand, Tim [Dumas] and I have worked together. I have respect for Tim. He’s been here for a long time.” The Connecticut State Attorney’s office, which is still working on the murder, has given interviews to Mr. Dumas but refuses to speak with Mr. Fuhrman.
“In May of 1998, people are going to know the Greenwich Police Department and the State Attorney’s office for one of two things,” said Mr. Fuhrman. “Either they really care about who killed Martha Moxley, or they were just too damn busy.”
For her part, Dorthy Moxley, who moved away from Greenwich in 1978, is cooperating with both authors. “You always have hope,” she said, explaining her decision to speak with Mr. Fuhrman. “You think, oh, this is a new pair of eyes. It’s as if these characters are from Central Casting. Mr. Fuhrman is big and good-looking and confident and aggressive, a real detective. And Mr. Dumas is charming and handsome and, oh, if you’re thinking of a country gentleman and a writer, he’s perfect.”
A Dunne Deal
How did Mark Fuhrman end up in Greenwich? Simply put, Dominick Dunne, the novelist and Vanity Fair contributor, sent him there. Mr. Dunne had written a novel, A Season in Purgatory , about the Moxley murder, and sometime after he met Mr. Fuhrman during the O.J. Simpson trial, he suggested Mr. Fuhrman write a true-crime book about the Moxley case. He gave him Dorthy Moxley’s phone number. But Mr. Dunne had also been talking to Mr. Dumas; specifically, about an unpublished report on the murder, written by a private investigator hired by the Skakel family. But now that Mr. Fuhrman has come to town, said Mr. Dumas, Mr. Dunne won’t let him have a look at the report. “Tim never really asked me for it,” said Mr. Dunne. “Then he wrote me a letter about it, but it was too late. And now I’ve given my only copy to Mark Fuhrman.”
“I don’t know when celebrities got so important in book publishing,” said Mr. Dumas.
One answer may be the sales of Mr. Fuhrman’s O.J. book. Murder in Brentwood , written with collaborator Steven Weeks in about three months in 1995, sold about 300,000 copies for Regnery Publishing, a conservative publisher in Washington, D.C. For the Moxley book, Mr. Fuhrman signed a $250,000 contract with Harper Collins’ Cliff Street Books imprint in September. Mr. Fuhrman, again aided by Mr. Weeks, expects to hand in the manuscript in January for a May publication date.
Which is bad news for Mr. Dumas. While he plans to deliver his manuscript by the end of the year, the book is not scheduled to be published until next September, by Arcade, a small publisher distributed by Little, Brown & Company. Mr. Dumas received a $30,000 advance from Arcade.
“I don’t wish Mark Fuhrman ill at all,” said Mr. Dumas, who was born and raised in Greenwich and attended Greenwich High School with Martha Moxley. “If he can make something happen with the case, then that’s the bottom line.”
Mr. Dumas said he wants to use the murder as a prism through which to view the rarefied world of Greenwich. He has interviewed about 100 people, from Martha Moxley’s friends and family to doctors and trauma experts. “It is first and foremost a complex place,” said Mr. Dumas, a tall man with dark spiky hair and hazel-green eyes. On a recent sunny fall afternoon, Mr. Dumas drove around Greenwich with a reporter in his red Volkswagen. He wore a short-sleeved blue plaid shirt, blue jeans and white sneakers. “When you see it in the news, you only see one angle, that of the silver-plated bedroom community. Whenever I see George Bush on television, I think to myself, ‘Now that’s Greenwich.’ It wouldn’t be anything without its wealth, true. But it’s also a very stratified town, where you have good working people co-existing with those at the other end of the financial spectrum.” Mr. Dumas now lives in less pricy Stamford.
Mr. Dumas slipped past the guardhouse at the entrance to Belle Haven without notice. Belle Haven is a neighborhood of about 122 homes, ranging in price from $2 million to about $4 million. Mr. Dumas drove past thick stone walls hiding Diana Ross’ stone mansion. He passed the clubhouse of the private Belle Haven Club; next door, a construction crew was working on a house on a bluff overlooking Long Island Sound. The owner, said Mr. Dumas, had asked the contractor for a 21-car garage. A Range Rover drove past and Mr. Dumas waved, even though he did not know the driver. Two middle-aged men in formal tennis whites played on a nearby court, the air punctuated by sharp obscenities. They waved to Mr. Dumas even though he doesn’t know them. It was beginning to seem as if everyone in Greenwich waves to anyone who looks right, a protective gang signal of the elite.
Mr. Dumas stopped the car and pointed out a cherry tree next to the tennis courts. Beneath the tree, a brass plaque is set in the earth: “Martha, your smile will always bring happiness and love to all your friends. 1975.”
“There was a lot that was never said here,” said Mr. Dumas. “There was a lot that never bubbled up to the surface. It was almost taboo in the 70’s and 80’s to talk about Martha Moxley’s murder. This is a beautiful town, beautiful to look at, but it is a cool-hearted town.”
A Charmed Town?
Will either of the two writers end up actually solving the murder of Martha Moxley? Mr. Dumas hedged and said he wasn’t sure; Mr. Fuhrman’s collaborator, Mr. Weeks, said, “If I knew, do you think I would tell you?” Thomas Skakel, who was 17 at the time of the murder, and Michael Skakel, then 15, did admit to police a few years back that they lied about where they were on the night of the murder. But, said Chief Roberts, “What this case requires is a confession-and whoever did this is not going to confess.”
“I don’t know who killed my daughter,” said Mrs. Moxley. “But I think there is a strong possibility that whoever did it was in the Skakel house that night. The murder weapon came from that house, and there were 11 people there that night. But the police have had very little cooperation from the Skakels.”
“Nothing can bring Martha back,” said Mrs. Moxley, whose husband died two years after their daughter’s murder. “You know, I’ve had patience. And I don’t see how anyone could live with this. I can’t see how anyone could live with themselves after they had done such a terrible thing. It was horrendous.”
Will the two books shed any light, if not on the murder, then on Greenwich, a town which is often impenetrable? “The interesting part of Greenwich is that they cannot grasp one thing,” said Mr. Fuhrman. “I can produce theories, innuendo and opinion in a book. They cannot.”
“I really love and admire Dorthy Moxley,” said Mr. Dunne, who also lost a daughter to murder. “She has been bullshitted by the Greenwich Police for 20 years now.” He added: “And I want those fuckers to get caught if they are the guilty ones.”
Mr. Dumas said Greenwich natives could be pretty tight-lipped about the case, as if discussing a murder is tacky. “I talked to the guy who now owns the Moxley house,” said Mr. Dumas, “and I asked him if he thought his neighborhood was friendly. He said, ‘No, I can’t say friendly.’ And he paused for a really long time. Then he said, ‘Friendly, no. The word, I think, is civil.'”