Day 6: Prosecution shares key interviews with Alex Murdaugh conducted days after the murders
Alex Murdaugh, a once prominent Hampton-based attorney from a well-known politically-connected family, is on trial in the deaths of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul.
Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty. He faces life in prison without parole if found guilty. The trial started last week with jury selection, opening arguments and the initial round of witness testimony. It is expected, for now, to run through Feb. 10 in Walterboro.
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5:10 p.m. — Court dismissed for the day
Croft remains on the stand as Judge Newman dismisses the jury for the day. Court will resume at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday when cross-examination of Croft’s testimony will begin.
4:50 p.m. — Prosecution claims Alex Murdaugh told investigators ‘I did him so bad’
During Alex Murdaugh’s interview with Croft, Murdaugh was asked about his effort to turn over Paul Murdaugh’s body.
“You definitely saw a traumatic picture and I know it’s not easy,” Croft said, asking for more detail on how Alex Murdaugh may have manipulated his son’s corpse and where he found Paul Murdaugh’s phone.
Before answering, Alex Murdaugh broke into tears. The audio is unclear, with Murdaugh potentially having said “I” or “they did him so bad,” but Waters asked Croft what Murdaugh said in the recording.
“’I did him so bad,’” Croft replied.
During the exchange, Alex Murdaugh shook his head in the courtroom and appeared to say “That’s not what I said,” reporters viewing the livestream noted. Murdaugh’s defense team did not object during the exchange.
4:15 p.m. — Family dynamic was ‘good as it could possibly be,’ Murdaugh says
In a new interview shown to jurors, Alex Murdaugh told SLED agent Croft there were no family issues between himself, Maggie Murdaugh or Paul Murdaugh leading up to Maggie’s and Paul’s killings.
The interview repeated sentiments he’d shared with Laura Rutland, a Colleton County Sheriff’s Office investigator, in a previous interview.
Murdaugh told Croft he and Maggie didn’t “have much to argue about,” but said Maggie Murdaugh had wanted to spend more time with her own family before she was killed. She was noted to spend more time at the family’s Edisto Beach property than Moselle in the days leading up to her death.
“I’m sure a few things came up here and there,” Murdaugh told investigators, but added there were no major disagreements. “She was a great mother.”
SLED agents later asked Murdaugh about guns on the property. He said before the killings he had moved several firearms from a smaller gun case to the large gun room in Moselle because Maggie Murdaugh’s parents had visited and needed room to stay. Leading up to the killings, Alex Murdaugh told investigators no guns were moved out of the gun room.
He kept a shotgun in his bedroom, Murdaugh told investigators. Paul Murdaugh would often ride around the property with his brother’s .300 Blackout rifle and shoot wild hogs. Alex Murdaugh said Paul would “leave anything, anywhere,” and was using Buster Murdaugh’s gun since Paul said his own rifle had been stolen.
“It was not unusual for guns to be out there (in the kennels),” Alex Murdaugh said. “We didn’t keep guns out there, but there were usually guns out there. I’ll be honest with you, we were all bad about it, but Paul was the worst.”
However, Alex Murdaugh said a .300 Blackout was not in the kennels the night of the killings.
Paul Murdaugh’s missing rifle was never officially reported, Alex Murdaugh said, because he “wasn’t convinced it was stolen as opposed to lost.” Alex Murdaugh said he’d told Bedingfield [the gun dealer] and local law enforcement about the weapon going missing, just in case “it turned up in a drug thing.”
3:30 p.m. — Prosecution enters casings from crime scene as evidence
Prosecutor Waters spent much of the afternoon solidifying the presence of .300 Blackout and 12-gauge shotgun shells found at various places around the Murdaugh family’s Moselle property. Both ammunition types were used in the murders of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh, but without a murder weapon in-hand, prosecutors have argued the casings could indicate that family weapons” killed the two victims rather than outside actors.
Croft confirmed through bodycam footage and still images that he located .300 Blackout casings and an empty ammo box in the Moselle house’s gun room, and found 17 more spent casings at the estate’s gun range. SLED agents also contacted John Bedingfield, who Croft said previously assembled multiple rifles for Alex Murdaugh that used .300 Blackout ammunition.
Bedingfield provided records of sale indicating Maggie Murdaugh purchased .300 Blackout rounds before the murders as well, Croft said.
Maggie Murdaugh was killed using .300 Blackout ammo. Paul Murdaugh was slain by a 12-gauge shotgun, and Croft said they discovered 12-gauge shells across the property, including two near a pond authorities searched days after the crime.
2:45 p.m. — Court resumes, Croft returns to witness stand
The jury has returned from lunch recess and SLED agent Jeff Croft will continue his testimony.
Croft has testified on phone communications Paul Murdaugh received after his death and the discovery of shell casings matching the .300 Blackout rounds used to kill Maggie Murdaugh outside the Moselle gun room.
1:20 p.m. — Court breaks for lunch, judge says guns relevant to case
With Croft still on the stand, Judge Newman sent the court into recess for lunch. The trial will resume at 2:40 p.m.
Before the courtroom emptied, Newman gave the defense an opportunity to further argue against the use of guns recovered from the Moselle property as evidence. Griffin shared concerns that presenting the weapons would be “prejudicial” and sway the jury’s opinion, despite neither of the weapons being tied to the crime.
“The guns had been tested ballistically, the test excluded the guns from being (the) murder weapons to my understanding,” Griffin said. “As a result, they’re just not relevant. They have photos of the guns, which is completely sufficient information for the jury.”
Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters responded the weapons were introduced to highlight the thoroughness of the state investigation, which the defense has repeatedly questioned in cross-examinations and opening statements.
“The defense, as you might expect, has already challenged the sufficiency of the investigation,” Waters said. “I think the state in response to that ... is entitled to show the extent of the examinations that were done in analyzing the relevant firearms evidence on scene.”
Newman briefly explained his decision to allow the weapons as evidence before breaking for lunch.
“These guns were part of the crime scene, in and around the crime scene, at or around the time of the murders. Issues have been raised regarding multiple guns, multiple shooters, multiple spent rounds, and the court in its discretion admitted the evidence as being relevant,” Newman said. “There’s no dispute that the defendant had multiple guns in and around his place and I find it is relevant.”
12:30 p.m. — SLED agent testifies about weapons in gun room
SLED agents investigating the Moselle gun room the day after Paul and Maggie Murdaugh’s deaths identified bullet casings similar to the .300 Blackout casings found at the crime scene, Croft said. An empty box of the same ammunition was also discovered.
Croft confirmed that during SLED’s search, agents only found one rifle in the gun room that would be able to fire the bullets. Prosecutors have not said the rifle seized from Moselle was the murder weapon and maintain the murder weapon is still missing.
Also unaccounted for is a firearm prosecutors say Alex Murdaugh bought for Paul before the murders.
A rifle agents believe is similar to the rifle used to kill Maggie was presented as evidence, alongside a pump shotgun also taken from the property.
Defense attorney Jim Griffin made multiple objections to introducing the weapons as evidence since the murder weapons have not been discovered, but Judge Newman has overruled each objection so far.
12 p.m. — State calls 10th witness, SLED agent Jeff Croft
Jeff Croft, a senior special agent with SLED, has taken the stand as the prosecution’s tenth witness.
Croft has been an agent with SLED for nearly 12 years, he said. He was called to the crime scene around 5:30 a.m. on June 8, 2021, the morning after the murder of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh.
Croft was involved in recording phone data from Rogan Gibson, an individual on the prosecution witness list who Croft said communicated with Paul, Maggie and Alex Murdaugh the night of the killings. Gibson’s dog was being housed in the Murdaugh’s dog kennels at that time.
At 8:49 p.m., Gibson texted Paul asking Paul to get a photo of his dog. Paul did not respond.
According to the prosecution’s timeline, Paul’s phone “went silent” at 8:49:01 p.m.
Gibson attempted to texted Paul again around 9:58 p.m., “Yo.”
At 9:10, 9:29, 9:42 and 9:57 p.m. the same night, Gibson tried to call Paul, Croft said. Gibson called once more at 10:08 p.m.
After Paul didn’t answer, Gibson tired to contact Maggie. Gibson texted Maggie at 9:34, “Tell Paul to call me.”
Gibson missed several calls from Alex Murdaugh at 10:21, 10:24, 10:25, and 10:30 p.m.
Prior to the jury returning from a short recess, jurors sent a note to Judge Clifton Newman.
The note reminded the packed gallery that the jurors’ identities are to be kept secret. The courtroom Monday morning was the fullest it has been at any point in the trial so far.
11 a.m. — Defense suggests 2 shooters, mishandling of footprint evidence
In cross-examination of SLED analyst Melinda Worley, a footwear and tire marks expert, Harpootlian criticized investigators on the scene for not recording potential footwear impressions “according to procedure” the night of the killings.
Harpootlian asked Worley if investigators identified or recorded any other impressions in the feed room where Paul was killed, including an impression on the back of Maggie’s calf. Worley said she wasn’t able to confirm the impression on Maggie’s calf was a footprint, but agreed it wasn’t “naturally occurring.”
Worley also said impressions besides those linked to Paul were not recorded properly on the scene.
“If I’d realized that was footwear (impressions) on the scene, I would’ve documented it properly,” Worley said.
Other bloody footprints belonging to investigating officers were seen in photographs. Harpootlian sharply criticized the impressions potentially contaminating the scene.
“Do you know what other evidence they may have destroyed,” Harpootlian demanded.
“I have no idea,” Worley said.
“That’s right, you don’t,” Harpootlian responded.
Based on different angles law enforcement say the shooter fired from — identified through examination of bullet holes in the kennel wall and a nearby dog house — Harpootlian suggested two shooters could’ve been present.
Worley pointed out another explanation could be the shooter simply moved between shots.
Harpootlian wrapped up his cross-examination at 11:16 a.m. Prosecutors began redirect, asking Worley whether there also could have been two guns used by one person.
Worley officially stepped from the witness stand at 11:30 a.m.
9:45 a.m. — Bloody footprint found not left by Murdaughs, witness says
During Worley’s cross-examination, defense attorney Dick Harpootlian brought attention to a bloody shoe print left at the crime scene. Harpootlian asked Worley if the print was a match to Paul, Maggie or Alex Murdaugh, which Worley denied.
“It’s not mine,” Worley confirmed on further questioning.
“So that could’ve been anyone’s, could’ve been SLED, could’ve been Colleton County (officers)?” Harpootlian suggested.
The line of questioning continues Harpootlian’s effort to establish doubt in first responders’ handling of the crime scene the night of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh’s killings, June 7, 2021. Early in the trial, Harpootlian repeatedly suggested contamination of evidence at the site of the murders could have prevented discovery of additional suspects.
9:30 a.m. — Court resumes for Week 2 of trial
Court is back in session for Week 2 of the Alex Murdaugh double-murder trial.
Melinda Worley, a crime scene analyst and forensic scientist with the State Law Enforcement Division, is back up on the stand after giving hours of testimony Friday, which included the state’s logging of various pieces of evidence they plan to use at trial.
Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian is expected to launch into a multi-hour cross-examination of Worley, who responded to the murder scene and collected evidence for SLED.
Harpootlian said last Friday he’d need at least two hours.
We expect to see members of the public, Murdaugh’s family and reporters back in the courtroom Monday.
Also in the courtroom is television and radio legal commentator Nancy Grace, and S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson.
More of the public also appeared to be in the courtroom as opposed to the previous week.
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