Opening arguments began Wednesday afternoon in Walterboro, S.C., in the trial of Alex Murdaugh, who is accused of murdering his wife and youngest son in 2021 — a once-famous But now the disqualified people face the most serious and dire charges, lawyers.
On June 7, 2021, Murdo pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon killed during a violent crime involving his wife Margaret, also known as Maggie, and 22-year-old son Paul. Murdoch was convicted, and prosecutors will seek life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Murdo called 911 that night to report that he had found his wife and son shot dead in the home. But prosecutors charged him with murder to divert attention from a series of allegedly illegal schemes he had undertaken to avoid “personal legal and financial bankruptcy,” according to court documents. Evidence will show that Murdo’s alleged financial crimes “were coming to light” when his wife and son were killed, the state claimed.
Chief prosecutor Creighton Waters made his opening remarks on Wednesday following two days of jury selection, which resulted in the selection of 12 initial jurors and six alternate jurors.
“Listen to the evidence,” Waters said. “Listen to the storm that peaked on June 7, 2021 – the day the evidence will show he killed Maggie and Paul.”
But Murdaugh’s defense attorney, Dick Harpootlian, said the state’s trial was full of “theory” and “conjecture”. Harpootlian said his client, who appeared in court in a navy sport coat and glasses, was “a loving father to Paul and a loving husband to Maggie”.
Lawyer Dick Harpootlian said none of the witnesses would have told the jury that Murdaugh and Maggie’s relationship was anything but love. He said Paul was “his (father’s) apple,” as the jury will demonstrate from a Snapchat video the night of the killing that shows father and son laughing and bonding over the trees they planted.
“To conclude that Alex Murdaugh murdered his son, you’re going to have to accept that within an hour,” and “he executed him in brutal fashion,” Harpootlian said. “Unbelievable.”
A Colton County grand jury charged Murdo with killing his wife and son 13 months after the murders. By then, Murdo had “fallen from grace,” buried, in the words of his own lawyers, under a mountain of white-collar theft and fraud allegations.
In addition to the murder charge, Murdo faces 99 charges from 19 grand jury indictments of various crimes, including allegedly defrauding his clients and former law firm of nearly 900, according to the state attorney general’s office. Ten thousand U.S. dollars. Just last month, the AG’s office announced that Murdaugh was indicted for tax evasion for failing to report nearly $7 million in income obtained through illegal conduct, and that he allegedly owed the state nearly $500,000.
The trial was complicated by the prominence of the Murdo family and name: what was already a gripping tragedy worthy of a true crime podcast and documentary was given a southern gothic twist, which made a big difference. In part because three generations of the Murdo family have served as attorneys for 87 years in the 14th Circuit, which oversees prosecutions throughout the Lowcountry, South Carolina.
As a result, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office is prosecuting the case because of the family’s close ties to the local attorney’s office.
Indeed, Murdo pleaded not guilty last summer in a Colton County courthouse where a portrait of his late grandfather, a lawyer, hangs on the wall.
The portrait was removed ahead of Murdo’s trial.
In his opening statement, Waters foreshadowed to the jury the evidence he said the state had amassed against Murdo, including that he called Murdo twice after his wife was killed a third of a mile away. fact.
Maggie’s phone was last locked around 8:49 p.m. on the night of the murder, Waters said. According to Waters, Murdo’s phone didn’t record much activity for about an hour starting at 8:09 p.m. He called his wife at 9:02 p.m. She didn’t answer, just four minutes later He called again. He then texted his wife to say he was going to visit his mother and drove to Almeida, South Carolina.
“It’s up to you,” Waters said, “to decide whether he’s trying to create an alibi.”
Victims shot at point-blank range had no defensive wounds — as if they “didn’t see the threat from their attacker,” Waters said.
Waters said Maggie was killed by a “family weapon,” an AR-style rifle Murdo bought for his son to replace another missing rifle. “That replacement gun is nowhere to be found.”
In the weeks leading up to the murders, Paul and his friends repeatedly fired on his family’s property and the shooting range across the street, leaving empty husks in flower beds and the shooting range, Waters said. Prosecutors, who will show the jury, said the blank casings were ejected from the same weapon that ejected the casings found around Maggie’s body.
while at the same time Murdo “told anyone who would listen” that he wasn’t at the killing scene and that the evidence would show he was there, Waters said, holding a cell phone.
Prosecutors allege Murdo’s voice can be heard on video Paul recorded from the kennel on the family property on the night of the murder, along with his wife and son’s phone “locked forever” minutes later.
In his own opening remarks, Harpootlian acknowledged the brutality of the murder, saying Maggie and Paul Murdaugh had been “butchered”.
Murdo “went home and found his son lying in his own blood, his brain lying at his feet, shot dead,” Harpootlian said. “He walked over, tried to get a pulse from Maggie, and called 911.”
“I want you to listen to the 911 tapes,” the attorney said. “This is a man, hysterical in grief, trying to figure out what happened.”
Harpootlian said Paul’s head “exploded” – an injury he believes would have left the perpetrator bloody from head to toe, especially if the killer had shot the 22-year-old at point-blank range. But investigators took Murdo’s clothes that night, and attorneys said they tested numerous spots on the defendant’s shirt and pants but found no blood.
Harpootlian also pushed back on the prosecution’s account of the missing rifle, saying Paul was “very irresponsible with guns and cars. He’d keep his guns with him, he’d leave his guns in his car.”
“I can’t tell you if he shot it with his own weapon, or if his mother shot it with his weapon,” Harpootlian said. “But I can tell you they didn’t shoot Alex. They don’t have guns. Without weapons you can’t draw conclusions.”
Ultimately, Harpootlian said, investigators concluded Murdaugh was guilty the night of the murder, pointing to what he called an “aggressive” interrogation. “No forensics, no cell phones, nothing,” he said. Since the killings, “they’ve been hammering round holes with square pegs,” he said.
Harpootlian stressed to the jury that his client was presumed innocent and that it was the state’s job to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Your frame is, he didn’t do that,” Harpootlian said. “They have to prove it to me beyond a doubt.”
Months after the murders, Murdo’s appearance as scion of a prominent and legitimate dynasty began to crumble when he called 911 to report he had been shot on the side of the road in Hampton County, not far from his home.
But he later told authorities that, according to court documents, he conspired with former client Curtis Edward Smith to have him killed as part of an insurance fraud scheme, allegedly to secure $1,000 for his surviving son. $10,000 life insurance payout.
Murdoch resigned from his law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick, or PMPED the day before the shooting. His attorney said he was battling opioid addiction and was undergoing rehabilitation, while the company said his resignation came after “PMPED found that Alex had misappropriated funds in violation of PMPED standards and policies.”
Murdaugh’s slaying has also revived interest in other deaths within the family circle, including longtime butler Gloria Satterfield. She died in 2018 in a “trip accident” at her home. Prosecutors later accused Murdo of connecting Satterfield’s family with another lawyer to help them sue Murdo himself for the eventual pocketing of the insurance money.
The Murdaugh case also casts new light on the February 2019 death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach, who was killed when a boat allegedly driven by Paul Murdaugh crashed into a bridge pier. At the time of his death, the 22-year-old was facing charges of causing grievous bodily harm resulting in death while driving a boat while intoxicated. He pleaded not guilty, and the charges were dropped after his death, court records show.
Beach’s family has filed a lawsuit against Alex Murdo, who owns the boat, and his financial records — which state court documents say “will reveal years of alleged misconduct by (Murdo)” — are likely to be released in June. It was revealed at a hearing held on the 10th that in 2021, three days after Maggie and Paul were killed.
After their deaths, the hearing was canceled, postponing what prosecutors described in court records as a “day of reckoning.”
Prosecutors say these and other cases help illustrate Murdo’s underlying motives for killing his wife and son. When Murdo was arraigned for murder, prosecutor Creighton Waters said information gathered in the grand jury case, including the white-collar fraud charge, “provides context and motivation for what happened on June 7, 2021.” .”
As for Murdo, he remained defiant that day. Asked how he wanted to be tried, he replied, “by God and country”.