NORWALK, Conn., May 24 (UPI) -- A Kennedy family sex scandal spiced testimony at Michael Skakel's trial on charges of killing neighbor Martha Moxley in 1975.
More testimony was scheduled for Friday, but it was the brief appearance Thursday of Marisa Verrochi that brought the Kennedy name into the proceedings.
Verrochi was called by the defense to counter testimony that Skakel, at a party in Boston in 1997, appeared to implicate himself in the Moxley slaying.
The party was at the condominium home of Gerrane Ridge, Verrochi's longtime friend. Ridge testified she overheard Skakel say, in jest, "Ask me why I killed my neighbor."
Verrochi, 24, said, "I don't recall that ever happening."
Skakel, 41, is on trial in Norwalk, Conn., on a charge of bludgeoning Moxley to death on Oct. 30, 1975, when they were 15-year-old neighbors in Greenwich, Conn.
Skakel later was a neighbor to Verrochi and his first cousin Michael Kennedy in Cohasset, Mass. It was at Kennedy's home that Skakel and Verrochi met and became friends when the sex scandal erupted in 1997.
Under cross-examination by state's attorney Jonathan Benedict, Verrochi admitted Skakel came to her aid as she tried to escape a sexual relationship with Michael Kennedy, the sixth of the late U.S. Sen. Robert and Ethel Kennedy's 11 children,.
Verrochi, who often took care of Kennedy's three children, was 14 when the affair with Kennedy started in 1992.
"When you met him you were certainly in the middle of a personal and family mess, and it involved Michael Kennedy?" Benedict asked.
"Yes," she responded.
She again answered yes when Benedict asked her if Skakel "took you under his wing" and "tried to get you help."
This was the first time Verrochi has spoken publicly about the scandal. Skakel's relationship with the Kennedys apparently became strained at this time because he cooperated with authorities investigating possible statutory rape charges against his cousin.
Because Verrochi declined to testify against Kennedy, no charges were filed against him. Kennedy died in a 1997 skiing accident.
Defense attorney Michael Sherman, who said he expects to wrap up his case next week, called three former students who attended the Elan School for troubled teens in Maine with Skakel in the late 1970s.
Two of them, Sarah Petersen and Michael Wiggins, said they never heard Skakel confess to killing Moxley, as some other students have testified.
They said Skakel was repeatedly abused and badgered by Elan director Joseph Ricci, who demanded Skakel confess.
Petersen testified she repeatedly heard Ricci tell Skakel, "You're not getting out of here until you 'fess up."
When Skakel didn't, he was forced to get into a "boxing ring" where he was pummeled by other students, they said.
"He was crying a lot of times, sometimes uncontrollably," Petersen said. "After long hours of torture, he would say, I don't know.' ... After six to eight hours I heard him say, I don't know. I don't know. Maybe I did."'
"When he was asked the question, he said, No, I did not murder Martha Moxley,'" Wiggins said. "He said it, but each time he said it he'd go in the ring and each time he said it Joe would say, Who wants to go in the ring with him?' When Joe stopped putting him in the ring is when Michael said, I don't remember.'"