Pool via AP
Michael Skakel in court in Middletown, Conn., on Jan. 24, 2012.
Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET: A parole board in Connecticut denied freedom Wednesday to Robert F. Kennedy's nephew, Michael Skakel, who was convicted 10 years ago for the 1975 murder of his neighbor when they were both teenagers.
After a two-hour hearing, a three-person parole board read a unanimous decision: He will next be eligible for parole in 2017.
This was Skakel's first opportunity to seek parole from his sentence of 20 years to life since his 2002 conviction of the beating death of Martha Moxley, who was killed when they were both 15 years old in an exclusive neighborhood of Greenwich, Conn.
The murder occurred after Moxley and friends attended a Halloween party at the nearby Skakel home where Michael and his then-17-year old brother lived. The next day, Moxley was found underneath a tree in her family’s backyard. An autopsy indicated she had been beaten and stabbed with a golf club, which was found in pieces nearby. The club was traced to the Skakel home.
Due to a lack of witnesses and alleged bungling by investigators, the case went cold for many years after her death. A grand jury investigation reopened the case after the publication of books in the late 1990s on the unsolved crime, leading to the conviction of Skakel.
The victim's mother, Dorothy Moxley, spoke at Wednesday's hearing, saying that Skakel should serve at least 20 years in prison.
"Martha, my baby, will never have a life," she said, her voice breaking, according to The Associated Press.
Skakel has continued to claim he is innocent, and did so again during Wednesday's hearing at a McDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Conn.
"If I could ease Mrs. Moxley's pain in any way, shape or form I would take responsibility all day long for this crime," Skakel said, the AP reported. But, he added, "I cannot bear false witness against myself."
His lawyers say he has been a model prisoner.
"There has never been a person more deserving of parole than Michael Skakel," attorney Hope Seeley said in a statement to CNN on Tuesday. "His track record during the past 10 years shows the person we all know him to be — caring, generous, and committed to his faith, family and friends."
At very least, Skakel's attorneys have argued, he should have been tried and sentenced as a juvenile because he was only 15 when the crime was committed.
AP also reported that the chair of the parole board, Erika Tindill, said it was odd for Skakel to ask for early release while proclaiming his innocence.
Ten years into a 20-years-to-life sentence, Michael Skakel, the Kennedy cousin convicted for the 1975 killing of neighbor Martha Moxley will be asking a parole board to set him free. He continues to say he is innocent of any wrongdoing. NBC's Katy Tur reports.
A legal expert who spoke to NBC's Today Show earlier said that Skakel's release was unlikely in part because of Skakel's continued insistence that he is innocent.
"They're going to look at the impact on the victim and the victim's family," said David Schwartz. "They are going to look at whether Michael Skakel is remorseful and they are going to look at acceptance of responsibility. And he has none of that going for him."
Skakel filed an appeal of his conviction in 2010, arguing that his trial attorney, Michael Sherman, was incompetent, among other allegations.
The appeal hearing is slated to start April 15.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
More content from NBCNews.com:
- Teen arrested in killing of Jessica Ridgeway, 10-year-old Colo. girl
- Colo. wildfire forces hundreds to evacuate
- Kennedy nephew Michael Skakel denied parole in 1975 murder
- Teacher's aide suspended after role in '65 torture death
- Man shot, killed at Georgia megachurch; suspect on the loose