After 19 months of speculation, prosecutors finally presented their evidence Wednesday that Alex Murdaugh killed his wife and son as they opened the double murder trial for the disgraced South Carolina lawyer.
There was gunshot residue on a seat belt, bullets removed from bodies that matched boxes of ammunition from the house, and cellphones that were never used again just minutes after Murdaugh, his wife, and son were heard on video. cell phone, prosecutor Creighton Waters said in his opening statement.
“It’s complicated. It’s a journey. There are many aspects to this case,” Waters said. “But like many things that are complicated, we start to put it all together, putting it together like a puzzle, and suddenly a picture emerges.”
A defense attorney said prosecutors misperceived Murdaugh’s guilt from the start and have spent all that time trying to bog down bits of evidence that can be explained away or leave an incomplete picture in a story that frames the wrong man.
“There is no direct evidence. There are no eyewitnesses. There is nothing in the camera. There are no fingerprints. There’s no forensic evidence linking him to the crime. None,” said defense attorney Dick Harpootlian.
Waters opened the trial with a three-minute graphic description of the scene where the bodies of Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and her son, Paul, 22, were found with at least one bullet to the head from two different guns, pointed at Paul Murdaugh. head and calling it “catastrophic damage.
Harpootlian added even more gruesome details: how the shotgun blast that killed Paul Murdaugh was so close to his head that his brain exploded from his skull and was found at his feet. Alex Murdaugh began to cry when his lawyer discussed the detail.
“Alex was a loving father to Paul and a loving husband to Maggie,” Harpootlian said. “You’re not going to hear a single witness say that their relationship was anything other than loving.”
It was the start of what is expected to be a three-week trial in the Colleton County courthouse. Both sides finished choosing a 12-person jury with six alternates on Wednesday.
Murdaugh, 54, is on trial on two counts of murder. If he is convicted, he faces 30 years to life in prison.
This trial is the bottom of a surprisingly far and fast downfall for the man whose family dominated the legal system in neighboring small Hampton County for generations, both as prosecutors and as private attorneys known for winning life-changing settlements in accident and accident cases. negligence.
Murdaugh also faces about 100 charges related to other crimes, including money laundering, stealing from millions of clients and the family’s law firm, tax evasion and attempting to have a man fatally shoot him so that his surviving child can collect on a $10 million life insurance policy. He was being held in jail without bail on those charges before being charged with murder.
Prosecutors released little information about his case before Wednesday. In an opening statement, they outlined a timeline of what they believe happened at the Murdaughs’ home and near the kennels on their 1,300-acre (526-hectare) hunting property on June 7, 2021.
Waters said Murdaugh told investigators he had never been to the kennels before to find the bodies of his wife and son near them after spending an hour outside the house to check on his mother, who has dementia.
Waters said a video on Paul Murdaugh’s cellphone has the voices of him, Maggie and Alex Murdaugh. Less than five minutes later, Paul Murdaugh’s phone was never used again. Maggie Murdaugh’s phone “locks up forever” about 30 seconds later, Waters said.
The prosecution said rounds of ammunition found around Maggie Murdaugh’s body had markings that matched other rounds fired at a shooting range on the property and at other locations. The cartridges were used in a type of automatic rifle that Alex Murdaugh bought but cannot account for, Waters said.
Gunpowder and gun residue were found at several locations where Alex Murdaugh also was, the prosecutor said.
Stephanie Gosk takes a look at the timeline leading up to Alex Murdaugh’s trial in South Carolina.
Harpootlian said all of this was clinging to any evidence that might make Murdaugh look guilty and ignoring what didn’t fit with the theory that he did it.
The residue came when Murdaugh reached for a shotgun after checking his wife and son for signs of life and calling 911 in case the killers were still on their property, Harpootlian said.
Maggie Murdaugh’s cell phone, for which her husband provided the code that investigators used to find it the next day, showed it being dumped on the side of the road outside the property at the same time Alex Murdaugh’s phone showed it he started his truck right outside his house. said the defense attorney.
Harpootlian told the jury that he would love to tell them why someone so brutally killed Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, but investigators ignored all other suspects and scenarios.
“We do not know why. He doesn’t know why,” Harpootlian said, pointing at the prosecutor. “He has theories of this and theories of that.”
At the end of the day, Alex Murdaugh shook hands with his lawyer, then looked back, where his surviving son and brother were sitting behind him. He smiled and pointed at them.
He then walked to the side door of the courtroom where he will be taken to the Colleton County Jail, where he will remain during his trial.