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Former Skakel friend contradicts his alibi

From Ronni Berke

NORWALK, Connecticut (CNN) -- A prosecution witness stood by her previous testimony Friday and insisted Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel was not miles away at his cousin's house at the time the defense claims Martha Moxley was killed.

Skakel, now 41, is accused of beating his neighbor to death with a golf club on October 30, 1975, when they were both 15 years old. Police originally believed -- and the defense now claims -- that the murder occurred around 10 p.m., when several neighborhood dogs began barking.

Earlier this week, Skakel's cousin, James Dowdle, said Skakel had gone home with him just after 9:30 p.m. and stayed until about 11 p.m. But Andrea Shakespeare Renna, a former close friend of Skakel's sister, Julie, said Skakel did not leave the house around 9:30 p.m. with his brothers to drive his cousin home.

"I base that on years of remembering that in fact, that did not occur," Renna said.

Renna was recalled to the stand by defense attorney Mickey Sherman in an effort to attack her credibility. Sherman produced a 1991 interview Renna had with two detectives in which she expressed some confusion about what she actually saw at the Skakel house that night.

In the 1991 interview, Renna never wavered in her belief that Michael Skakel did not make the trip to the cousin's house. She said she did not see Michael Skakel after the car left the Skakel home, but insisted, "I know he was in the house after the car left."

Renna also said that she appeared unsure in the 1991 interview because she was distracted by her children and was surprised when investigators asked her about Skakel, who was not a suspect at the time. She said he was the first one to tell her Moxley's body had been discovered the next day.

"Michael told me that Martha Moxley had been killed and he and Tommy [Skakel, Michael's brother] were the last to see her that night," Renna said.

In earlier testimony, another former classmate of Skakel's described the difficult conditions at Elan, the private boarding school for troubled teens. Skakel was sent to Elan after being arrested for drunk driving and disobeying a police officer's instructions in 1978.

Angela McFillin, who attended the school from 1978 to 1980, said she saw Michael Skakel being beaten in a boxing ring after he tried to escape from the school.

McFillin said students and staffers repeatedly asked Skakel to say he killed Moxley, but he denied having done it. The beatings finally stopped when Skakel said he didn't know and didn't remember whether he killed Moxley.

Similar testimony came from two Elan classmates Thursday. Sarah Peterson said she saw students beating Skakel and trying to get him to confess to Moxley's murder in the boxing ring, and Mike Wiggins said he witnessed Skakel being tormented by fellow students and staffers at a meeting after his escape attempt.

After at first denying involvement in the murder, Peterson recounted, Skakel would say "I don't remember." Then the beatings would stop, she said.

Peterson said the brutality and humiliation was so great at Elan that students would say anything to keep from being confronted and beaten. She once confessed to being "a slut" just so they would leave her alone, she added. She was a virgin at the time, she said.




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