Live updates: Alex Murdaugh sentencing on murder charges


Maggie, Paul and Alex Murdaugh. (Handout)

Alex Murdaugh has been convicted Thursday of killing his wife and son. Despite the lack of direct evidence, the prosecution spent weeks outlining how Murdaugh had the motive, means and opportunity to commit the murders.

The case hinged on circumstantial evidence: Proving Murdaugh was at the crime scene that night and that he lied to investigators, and painting him as a fraudster who killed his family in a desperate bid to distract the investigations into his actions.

Motive

A series of witnesses have accused Murdaugh of extensive financial wrongdoing at his namesake law firm and presented evidence that he lied to nearly everyone around him in a yearslong fraud. A “day of reckoning” was coming from several different angles, so he killed his family to distract and delay those financial investigations, the prosecution argued.

Two investigations in particular that could have exposed Murdaugh’s wrongdoing were coming to a head at the time of the killings.

For one, the chief financial officer of his law firm testified she had confronted Murdaugh about missing funds on the morning of June 7, 2021, hours before the killings. After the murders, the internal investigation into the funds took a backseat.

Second, Murdaugh was facing a lawsuit from the family of Mallory Beach, a 19-year-old who was killed in February 2019 when a boat, owned by Murdaugh and allegedly driven by Paul, crashed. A hearing in that civil case was scheduled for June 10, 2021, and had the potential to reveal his financial problems, prosecutors argued.

Means

Maggie was killed by a Blackout rifle and Paul was killed by a shotgun, prosecutor Creighton Waters said, adding that both were family weapons. Testimony from a weapons expert proved that Blackout rifle bullet casings discovered near Maggie’s body matched casings found on other parts of the family’s property.

Waters noted this weapon went missing and Murdaugh could not account for it.

Paul Murdaugh was killed by shots from a shotgun, one of Paul’s “favorite guns,” Waters said. Investigators determined that the two shells that killed Paul had “class characteristics” that were similar to a 12-gauge shotgun. Waters added that Alex Murdaugh had this shotgun with him on the night of the killings and that “Maggie’s DNA and blood” were found on the receiver of the gun.

The hanger and dog kennels where Paul and Maggie’s bodies were found at the Murdaugh’s Moselle property in Islandton, South Carolina. 
The hanger and dog kennels where Paul and Maggie’s bodies were found at the Murdaugh’s Moselle property in Islandton, South Carolina.  (Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post And Courier/AP)

Opportunity

One of the prosecution’s most compelling pieces of evidence was recorded audio that it said placed Murdaugh at the crime scene on the night of the murders. The video focuses on one of their dogs and appears to have been recorded at the kennels at their family home in Islandton, South Carolina. Three different voices can be heard in the background of the video, and family friends identified those voices as that of Paul, Maggie and Alex Murdaugh.

A video was filmed on Paul’s phone starting at 8:44 p.m. on June 7, 2021, just minutes before Paul and Maggie were shot dead, according to Lt. David Britton Dove, a supervisor in the computer crimes center at the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

Murdaugh’s presence there contradicted his original claim to investigators that he was not at the kennels that night, prosecutors said.

Murdaugh “told anyone who would listen he was never there,” the prosecution said in opening statements. “The evidence will show that he was there. He was at the murder scene with the two victims.”

Murdaugh later admitted to lying, testifying during the trial that he misled law enforcement because of addiction-induced paranoia.



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