Former victims describe dangerous "therapy" at Elan School for troubled teens in Maine [Alternate title supplied by Project NoSpank]

Associated Press, May 25, 2002


Verrochi was followed to the stand by three former students of the Elan School, a rehab center for troubled and addicted teens in Maine that Skakel attended three years after the murder.

Their testimony was an apparent bid by the defense to cast doubt on the testimony of Elan alums who testified earlier about alleged confessions made by Skakel.

Sarah Peterson of Key West, Fla., recalled how Skakel was forced to wear a sign that said, "Confront me about the murder of Martha Moxley." She said he wore it for at least six weeks "from the moment he got up to the moment he went to bed."

She said Skakel also was called to a general meeting, where as many as 110 students screamed and spat at him and asked him about the murder.

"He said he didn't do it," she said.

He also was put into a boxing ring and had to fight six or seven men as part of the effort to get him to confess to the murder, she said.

She recalled that he "was crying a lot . . . sometimes uncontrollably . . . and all the time he said he couldn't remember. And when he was tortured for long periods of time, he said he didn't know."

Peterson said Skakel also was paddled and forced to wear a dunce cap when he didn't confess.

Fighting back tears, she told jurors she was forced to confess that she was a "slut."

Another Elan alumnus, Michael Wiggins of South Carolina, echoed much of Peterson's testimony.

He recalled a general meeting at which Skakel was told, "We are going to get to the bottom of this and you will tell us why you murdered Martha Moxley."

Wiggins also described the boxing-ring incident and how Skakel initially said he didn't kill Moxley. "And each time he said it, he had to go back into the ring" where six or seven people "hit him as hard as they could."

Wiggins told jurors how he, too, was called to a general meeting and told to admit he was "a coward and a chicken."

When he balked, he said, he was beaten "black and blue and bloody" with a paddle and then forced to put on a chicken suit and sit in the middle of the room with blood running down his leg.

Both Wiggins and Peterson were asked about the "reputation for truthfulness" of fellow Elan alum John Higgins, who testified this week that Skakel had confessed to him. Both said they didn't consider him truthful.

The third Elan graduate to take the stand, Donna Kavanah, didn't remember much of what happened to Skakel at the school. But she recalled a general meeting where she was asked to confess that she was "acting black."

She finally did, after "being beaten," she said.

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