04/06/1998 AT 12:00 AM EDT
A Connecticut state judge ruled on Friday that there is sufficient reason to believe that Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel bludgeoned his friend Martha Moxley to death in 1975, clearing the way for Skakel to be tried for murder before a jury later this year. The New York Times reports that Judge John F. Kavanewsky Jr. cited evidence that Moxley (who, like Skakel, was 15 in 1975) was killed with a golf club that belonged to a set owned by Skakel's mother, that Skakel told a friend that on the night of the murder he committed a personal sex act on the tree under which Moxley's body was found and that Skakel confessed to the killing to two classmates. "In conclusion," said the jurist, "these facts, when they are examined . . . provide probably cause that the crime of murder has been committed and that the defendant committed it as alleged in the state's information." Skakel, 40, entered his plea of not guilty. Monday on the "Today" show, his attorney, Mickey Sherman, said he was not surprised that the case is going to trial.