Criminal Justice

Cellphone video places Murdaugh at murder scene, says prosecutor in once-prominent lawyer's trial

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AP Alex Murdaugh January 2023

South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh prepares for jury selection to resume during his murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, on Jan. 23. Photo by Joshua Boucher/The State via the Associated Press.

A prosecutor described cellphone video and gun residue on a raincoat Wednesday to support his contention that once-prominent South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh killed his wife, Maggie, and son Paul.

The defense, meanwhile, said the case was all circumstantial, and 54-year-old Murdaugh couldn’t have committed the “butchering” of his loved ones.

Reuters, Courthouse News Service and the New York Times are among the publications that covered the opening statements in Murdaugh’s trial for the June 2021 murders at the family’s hunting property.

Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters said 22-year-old Paul had recorded a cellphone video of a dog only minutes before the time that the murders were thought to have taken place, and Alex Murdaugh can be heard talking on the video. The elder Murdaugh has said he left the home before the murders happened, and he was not at the dog kennels that night.

Alex Murdaugh Alex Murdaugh. Photo from the Hampton County Detention Center via the Associated Press.

The news coverage said Waters also cited this evidence:

    • Alex Murdaugh was seen taking what appeared to be a blue tarp into his parents’ home. Investigators later found a large blue raincoat at the home, and the inside was coated with gunshot residue.

    • The Murdaughs owned two .300 blackout rifles at the time of the murders, but one of them is now missing. Maggie was killed with such a rifle, while Paul was killed with a 12-gauge shotgun.

    • Neither Maggie nor Paul had defensive wounds, suggesting that they didn’t see a threat from their attacker.

    • Murdaugh’s life was unraveling like a “perfect storm” before the murders. Murdaugh has been accused of stealing settlement money from the family of his late housekeeper, of insurance fraud for attempting to stage his own shooting death, and of stealing millions of dollars from law clients and his law firm.

    • Murdaugh called and texted his wife minutes after the murders in what prosecutors say was an attempt to cover his tracks. In the texts, he said he was going to visit his mother. Murdaugh told police that he discovered the bodies at about 10 p.m.

The defense counsel, Dick Harpootlian, countered that the evidence was all circumstantial, and his client couldn’t have committed such a “butchering” of his family.

Harpootlian said the murder of Paul was particularly brutal, and it was not believable that Murdaugh could have killed his son that way. The second shot “literally exploded his head like a watermelon hit with a sledgehammer,” Harpootlian said. “His brain exploded out of his head.”

There were no eyewitnesses, no fingerprint evidence and no blood evidence that connects Murdaugh to the murders, Harpootlian said. Two other videos recorded earlier that night show Murdaugh having a relaxing evening with his family, according Harpootlian, who also said his client didn’t have enough time to commit the murders and then get to his mother’s home.

Murdaugh was disbarred in July 2022.

The trial is taking place in Walterboro, South Carolina. The jury consists of eight women and four men.

See also: “Law firm staffers were first to suspect once-prominent lawyer Murdaugh was stealing client money, partner testifies” “Lawyer is charged with insurance fraud for allegedly hiring ex-client to kill him” “Lawyer accused of staging his own shooting now faces allegations of stealing settlement payout”

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