A ‘confession’, bloody dog kennels and ‘clean’ shirt: Key revelations from the Alex Murdaugh murder trial
Legal dynasty heir Alex Murdaugh is currently on trial in a South Carolina courtroom for the brutal double murder of his wife and adult son.
Maggie, 52, and Paul, 22, were both shot dead at the family’s sprawling 1,700-acre property in Islandton, South Carolina, on the night of 7 June 2021.
Mr Murdaugh, 54, claimed that he returned home from visiting his elderly mother to find the victims’ bodies at the dog kennels on the land.
No arrests were made for more than a year, until – in July 2022 – Mr Murdaugh was charged with their murders.
Prosecutors allege that Mr Murdaugh killed his wife and son to distract from the growing number of scandals and crimes swirling around him.
It’s a dramatic saga that now includes murder, a botched hitman plot, multi-million-dollar fraud schemes and a series of unexplained deaths.
The now-disbarred attorney denies the allegations and has pleaded not guilty.
Mr Murdaugh’s trial got underway at Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro on 23 January.
Here are the key revelations from the trial so far:
Prosecutor’s opening statement reveals Snapchat video will be key to trial
Opening arguments kicked off the trial on 25 January, with the prosecution telling jurors that cellphone records and a Snapchat video taken by Paul minutes before he died are “critical” in proving Mr Murdaugh’s guilt.
Attorney Creighton Waters gave a timeline for the murders, saying that Paul was shot at the dog kennels first at 8.50pm and Maggie minutes later.
Cellphone records allegedly place Mr Murdaugh at the dog kennels minutes earlier – when the suspect had “told everyone he was never there”.
Mr Waters also described a video Paul made at the kennels minutes before his murder as he was filming a dog to send to a friend. According to the prosecution, three voices – Paul, Maggie and Mr Murdaugh – can be heard.
Other evidence the prosecution promised to show jurors included gunshot residue found in both Mr Murdaugh’s car, on him and on a raincoat that he allegedly left at his parents’ home a week after the murders.
Defence details horror injuries of victims in opening statement
In the defence’s opening statement, Mr Murdaugh was seen breaking down in tears as his attorney Dick Harpootlian described the fatal shot which killed his son Paul, saying it “exploded his brain, like a watermelon”.
Mr Murdaugh then arrived home and found his son’s brains by his feet, he said.
Mr Harpootlian insisted Mr Murdaugh is an innocent man, saying that jurors will see a Snapchat of him and Paul happily spending father-and-son time together less than two hours before the murders.
“Paul, the apple of his eye. You are going to see a video from the night of the murders of Paul and Alex riding around looking at trees they planted, a Snapchat sent to other people. They were laughing, having a good time,” he said.
He also argued that cellphone records from that night are “incomplete” and that Maggie’s phone was thrown on the side of a road halfa mile from the family estate at the same time that Mr Murdaugh was at the property.
The suspect would “have to be Houdini to be in both places”, he said.
Murdaugh ‘immediately’ told police murders were tied to 2019 boat crash
Mr Murdaugh “immediately” suggested that his wife and son had been murdered because of a 2019 fatal boat crash as soon as the first law enforcement officer arrived on the scene of the grisly slayings, bodycam footage played in court revealed.
In the footage, taken from the bodyworn camera of Colleton County Sheriff’s Sgt Daniel Greene when he was the first officer to respond to the scene, Mr Murdaugh says he believes the murders are connected to the boating incident.
“This is a long story. My son was in a boat wreck,” Mr Murdaugh says. “I know that’s what this is.”
At the time of Paul’s death, he was awaiting trial over the death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach.
Paul was allegedly drunk driving a boat of his friends including Beach in 2019 when it crashed and they were thrown overboard. The rest of the group survived but Beach’s body washed up days later.
Paul was charged with boating under the influence and faced up to 25 years in prison.
Mr Murdaugh is also heard mentioning the boat crash in the 911 call alerting law enforcement to the scene and in his first interview with law enforcement on the night of the murders.
Suspect shed ‘no tears’ after finding wife and son’s bodies
Colleton County Sheriff’s Office Sgt Daniel Greene testified that Mr Murdaugh appeared to shed “no tears” after he claimed to have found his wife and son’s bodies.
Sgt Greene told the court that Mr Murdaugh seemed “upset” and repeatedly asked if his wife and son were dead but did not appear to have any physical tears in his eyes.
“Did you ever see any physical tears?” the prosecutor asked.
“I did not,” the officer said.
As bodycam footage from the night of the murders was played in court, Mr Murdaugh was seen breaking down in tears.
Bodycam shows Murdaugh’s ‘clean’ shirt after claiming to touch bloody bodies
Bodycam footage from the night of the murders revealed Mr Murdaugh wearing a “clean” white shirt after he claimed he touched his wife and son’s bloodied bodies on finding them shot dead.
In the footage, Mr Murdaugh is dressed in a white T-shirt and dark shorts with no obvious signs of blood.
During courtroom testimony, multiple law enforcement officials described how Mr Murdaugh was “clean” and did not appear to have any blood on him when they arrived on the scene of the murders.
Yet, according to the 911 call made by Mr Murdaugh and bodycam footage from his first police interview on the night of the murders, Mr Murdaugh claims he touched his wife and son’s bodies when he found them by the kennels.
In the interview footage, he is heard telling law enforcement twice that he “tried to turn over” his son’s bloodied body and that he had checked him and his wife for pulses.
“I could see his brain ... I ran over to Maggie, actually I think I tried to turn Paul over first... um... you know, I tried to turn him over, I dunno, I figured it out,” he is heard saying.
Mr Murdaugh said that his son’s cellphone fell from his pocket when he tried to move him and that he handled it briefly.
“His cell phone popped out of his pocket, I started trying to do something with it but I put it back down really quickly, and then I went to my wife,” he says.
Detective Laura Rutland of Colleton County Sheriff’s Office contradicted his version of events as she said that Mr Murdaugh was “clean from head to toe” with no signs of blood on his body, shirt, shorts or shoes.
She said she didn’t say where he checked for a pulse but, in a gripping reenactment, agreed that if Mr Murdaugh had touched pulse points on Paul’s neck or wrists he would have been covered in blood.
As jurors have previously heard, the crime scene was especially violent and bloody, with Paul’s brain shot out of his skull and both he and Maggie lying in pools of their own blood.
911 call played at trial
The unredacted 911 call placed by Mr Murdaugh on the night of the murders.
In the dramatic audio, Mr Murdaugh cries and and sobs down the phone as he tells the dispatcher “it’s bad” and “my wife and child have been shot badly”.
He also the dispatcher about the 2019 boat crash involving Paul, saying that the 22-year-old had been getting threats “for months and months and months”.
The attorney then says he is going back to his house to get a gun “just in case”. When officers arrived on the scene, Mr Murdaugh had a shotgun which he handed over.
Murdaugh tells wild story about Black Panthers
Alex Murdaugh recounted a wild story about a farmhand claiming to “kill radical Black Panthers” when he was interviewed by law enforcement on the night of the double murder of his wife and son.
In footage of the interview, Mr Murdaugh says he can’t think of anyone “overly suspicious” who could be responsible for the murders but suggests law enforcement speak to a farmhand he had recently hired to work at the 1,700-acre estate.
Mr Murdaugh claims that the man had told Paul a “really weird” story just one week before the murders.
“He told Paul a story the other day of how when he was in high school he got in a fight with some Black guys and an FBI undercover teams observed him fighting those guys,” he says. “And they put him on an undercover team with three Navy Seals and their job was to kill radical Black Panthers.”
He adds: “Paul was so taken aback by it that he recorded it on his phone”.
Mr Murdaugh tells the officers that Paul had “been working with him a lot” and the story was “really weird”.
However, he adds that he doesn’t believe the man could be behind the murders, saying that it’s “such a stupid” that he was “embarrassed” to even bring it up.
Speculation over whether Murdaugh accidentally confessed
Audio from Alex Murdaugh’s second interview with law enforcement was played in court on 30 January, revealing that the disgraced legal dynasty heir may have unwittingly slipped up and confessed to the murders of his wife and son.
“I did him so bad,” a sobbing Mr Murdaugh appeared to say about his son in a police interview on 10 June 2021.
SLED Special Agent Jeff Croft was asked by prosecutor Creighton Waters to clarify what he heard Mr Murdaugh saying.
“It’s just so bad. I did him so bad,” he responded.
While prosecutors sought to suggest that the 54-year-old father and husband slipped up during the police interview, Mr Murdaugh was seen shaking his head and appearing to mouth “I did not say that” to his attorneys in court.
However, the audio of the interview has also raised doubts, being somewhat unclear as to whether Mr Murdaugh says “I” or “they”, with some inside and outside court believing he actually says: “They did him so bad.”
During cross-examination on Tuesday, Mr Griffin grilled Agent Croft as to why – if Mr Murdaugh’s statement raised alarm bells – he didn’t follow up on it.
The special agent testified that he “made a mental note” about Mr Murdaugh’s comment but said it was early in the investigation when officials were in more of an “information gathering” stage.
The audio was played again in court – twice in real time and once at one-third speed.
When asked by Mr Griffin if he heard “they” not “I” when the recording was slowed down, Agent Croft testified that he still heard “I”.
Guns and ammo at Murdaugh home match crime scene
Bodycam footage released by the court on 30 January revealed a huge stash of firearms inside the Murdaugh family home in the days after the murders.
SLED Special Agent Jeff Croft told jurors how he seized firearms and ammunition from the Murdaugh home – including weapons and ammo that matched the type of gun and bullets used to kill Maggie and Paul.
A .300 Blackout semiautomatic rifle, 12-gauge Browning shotgun, Benelli shotgun and 12-gauge pump shotgun which were seized from the family home were all brought into the courtroom and shown to jurors.
The agent testified that several empty boxes of ammunition were also found during searches of the Murdaugh home on 8 June and 13 June.
Inside the .300 Blackout rifle was Sellier & Bellot .300 AAC BLK ammo – the same type of ammo that was used to kill Maggie.
Also seized as evidence was a credit card receipt for an $1,021.10 item from Gucci – the item had been circled.
On 31 January, Agent Croft also testified that ammunition – steel shot ammo specifically Winchester DryLok – matching the fatal shot fired through Paul’s brain had been located on the Murdaugh family property.
Two separate guns – a rifle and shotgun – were used to kill Maggie and Paul. They have never been found.
Defence’s two shooters’ theory
Mr Murdaugh’s legal team sought to push its theory that there could have been two shooters separately responsible for killing the mother and son.
Jurors were shown photos and diagrams of the crime scene from both the night of the murders and more than one month later on 16 July, with defence attorney Dick Harpootlian honing in on two bullet projectiles in particular – one that travelled through the dog house and one through the quail pen.
Under cross-examination of SLED special agent Melinda Worley, Mr Harpootlian pushed the idea that, because the bullet projectiles were shot at different angles, it was a “reasonable” possibility that there was two killers.
“One reasonable explanation is there are two people there: one with a shotgun, one with an AR. Could someone have been a lookout, they went there to kill Paul and Maggie surprised them?” Mr Harpootlian pressed.
Agent Worley admitted that the theory is “possible” but said that it is only one “one explanation” as to what may have taken place that fateful night. She added that the angles could also be explained as one single shooter moving around.
Victims’ last texts and calls revealed
Jurors learned about the final text messages and phone calls made by Paul and Maggie before their brutal murders.
On the night of 7 June 2021, Paul placed a call on his cellphone to friend Rogan Gibson at 8.40pm, lasting four minutes, followed by a second call at 8.44pm. The second was the last incoming communication Mr Gibson received from Paul’s cellphone.
Five minutes later, at 8.49pm, Mr Gibson sent Paul a text message: “See if you can get a good picture of it. Marion wants to send it to a girl we know that’s a vet. Get him to sit and stay. He shouldn’t move around too much.”
The message – believed to be about a dog Paul was taking care of for him – went unanswered.
From that point onward, neither Paul nor his mother Maggie responded to any messages or calls on their cellphones.
Prosecutors said in opening statements that Paul was shot dead first at 8.50pm and Maggie minutes later. Their cellphones had no activity from 8.49pm onward.
After sending the text message at 8.49pm and receiving no response from his friend, Mr Gibson sent a follow-up text at 9.58pm, which simply read: “Yo.”
Mr Gibson also tried calling Paul multiple times at 9.10pm, 9.29pm, 9.42pm, 9.57pm and 10.08pm.
Getting no response from his friend, jurors heard that he also texted Paul’s mother Maggie at 9.34pm, saying: “Tell Paul to call me.”
Shortly after, Mr Gibson had four missed calls from Alex Murdaugh at 10.21pm, 10.24pm, 10.25pm and 10.30pm.
Doubts cast on preservation of crime scene
During much of his cross-examination of SLED Special Agent Worley, Mr Harpootlian sought to pick holes in the evidence gathered from the bloody crime scene.
He raised doubts about a mark or potential footprint spotted on Maggie’s calf on the night of the murders.
While Mr Harpootlian suggested it was a “footwear impression”, Agent Worley said she “couldn’t say” that was what the mark was but that it “could be”.
The mark was not examined on the scene and no impression of the imprint was taken, she testified.
She also confirmed that a bloody footprint found in the feeding room was later determined to be that of a law enforcement officer – something that supported the defence’s line of questioning that some evidence was not preserved correctly and was even “destroyed”.
“Do you know what other evidence they may have destroyed?” asked Mr Harpootlian.
“I have no idea,” the agent said, to which he responded: “That’s right you don’t.”
Murdaugh’s cousin testifies he sold him guns – matching one used to kill Maggie
On 31 January, Mr Murdaugh’s cousin John Bedingfield testified against him, revealing how the 54-year-old bought several firearms from him in the years prior to the murders – ones that match the type used to kill Maggie.
Mr Bedingfield, who works for the Department of Natural Resources but has a side business making and selling firearms under a federal licence, told the court that Mr Murdaugh approached him before Christmas 2016 wanting to buy both Paul and his surviving son rifles as presents.
He purchased two subsonic 300 BlackOut rifles – one black, one tan colour – for $9,188 so his sons could hunt hogs, he testified.
Two years later in April 2018, he said that Mr Murdaugh bought a third rifle from him for $875 because he said that Paul had lost his other one.
Murdaugh’s chilling text message to wife after murders revealed
On Alex Murdaugh’s chilling final text to his wife moments after he allegedly killed her and their son was revealed in court during his murder trial on Tuesday.
Jurors were shown data from the cellphones of Maggie, Paul and Mr Murdaugh on the night of the murders.
Prosecutors say that Mr Murdaugh shot Paul first at 8.50pm and Maggie after.
Almost immediately after, cellphone data shows Mr Murdaugh made several calls to Maggie and other family members.
Mr Murdaugh first called Maggie at 9.04pm – minutes after he allegedly shot her dead – and the call went to voicemail.
He then texted her phone at 9.08pm, claiming he was going to visit his mother: “Going to check on M. Be right back.” The text was never read.
In total, Mr Murdaugh called his wife five times between 9.04pm and 10.03pm after allegedly killing her. None of the calls were answered.
His last text message to his wife came at 9.47pm, writing: “Call me babe.”
As well as calling Maggie, Mr Murdaugh’s cellphone records show he also made several calls to other numbers in the hour between the time prosecutors say the murder took place and he called 911. Prosecutors allege that Mr Murdaugh was seeking to build an alibi for that night.
Minutes after the final call, Mr Murdaugh called 911 at 10.07pm claiming to have found Maggie and Paul’s bodies.
Someone was holding and moving with Maggie’s cellphone after murder
SLED Lt. Britt Dove, who works in the computer crimes centre, testified that he processed the three cellphones.
Based on the cellphone data, he said that the last text Maggie read was a message from her sister-in-law Lynn Murdaugh in a group chat which she read at 8.49pm.
After 8.49pm, she didn’t open or respond to messages or calls from several people including her husband, oldest son Buster and Mr Murdaugh’s brother John Marvin Murdaugh.
Jurors also heard how the cellphone data shows Maggie’s phone orientation changed from portrait to landscape at 8.54pm and then again at 9.06pm, indicating that it was in someone’s hands. One minute later, at 9.07pm the screen went on and off as though someone tried – but failed – to unlock it.
Health app data was also presented to jurors, showing that Maggie’s cellphone recorded 59 steps in two minutes after 8.53pm – after prosecutors allege Maggie and Paul were already dead.
“It tells me someone was holding this phone and took steps, and it recorded those steps,” said Lt Dove.
Maggie’s phone was locked between 8.49pm on 7 June 2021 and 1.10pm the following day when it was found dumped by the side of a road around a quarter of a mile from the Murdaugh property.
Paul’s cellphone was also initially locked after the murders, until US Secret Service Digital Forensic Examiner Jonathan VanHouten testified that he managed to unlock when he successfully tried Paul’s birthday as his passcode.
Witnesses say voice in murder scene video is Alex Murdaugh
In a dramatic day on 1 February, jurors were shown cellphone footage taken by Paul at the dog kennels just minutes before he and Maggie were shot dead which casts doubts on Mr Murdaugh’s alibi.
Off-camera, three voices are heard – Paul, Maggie and a man prosecutors say is Mr Murdaugh.
In dramatic testimony, two friends of Paul with close ties to the family told jurors that they are “100 per cent sure” that the voice belongs to Mr Murdaugh.
Cellphone data shows that the video was recorded for 58 seconds from 8.44.49pm to 8.45.47pm – less than five minutes before the murders. The disbarred attorney has claimed he was napping at the family home at that time.
Rogan Gibson, who had known Paul since they were young and described the Murdaughs as his “second family”, testified that he was “100 per cent sure” Mr Murdaugh is the voice in the footage. A second friend Will Loving echoed this.
As the footage was played in court, Mr Murdaugh appeared to rock his head up and down and cry.
Snapchat shows Alex Murdaugh in different clothing one hour before murders
Jurors were shown a Snapchat video Paul sent to Mr Loving less than one hour before he and Maggie were murdered.
The video, sent at 7.56pm on 7 June 2021, shows Alex Murdaugh on the grounds of the family estate.
In the footage, Mr Murdaugh, 54, is seen dressed in trousers, loafers and a blue button-down shirt – clothing that does not match what he is seen wearing in police bodycam footage in the aftermath of the murders.
In the bodycam footage, shown in court last week, the disgraced attorney is dressed in a white short-sleeved t-shirt and shorts.
Questions had already raised about this outfit as multiple law enforcement officials have testified that Mr Murdaugh and his clothing were “clean from head to toe” – despite his claims he had touched the bloody bodies of his wife and son.
It is not yet clear if investigators ever located or seized the second outfit Mr Murdaugh is seen wearing in the Snapchat video and jurors are yet to hear an explanation from the defence.
Less than one hour on from the 7.56pm Snapchat, Paul and Maggie were shot dead at around 8.50pm.
Murder timeframe narrowed down to eight-second window
Prosecutors claim that Paul was shot dead first at around 8.50pm, followed by Maggie – with cellphone data being used to narrow down the murders to a precise eight-second window.
SLED Lt. Britt Dove testified that Paul’s last phone activity was at 8.48.59pm and Maggie’s was at 8.49.27pm.
Eight seconds later at 8.49.35pm, Paul received a text message but it went unread. Neither Maggie nor Paul used their phones after that time.
Calls Murdaugh made to wife on night of murders ‘deleted’
In dramatic courtroom testimony, jurors heard that calls Mr Murdaugh made to his wife on the night of the murders were mysteriously later “deleted” from his call log.
In court on Tuesday, Lt Dove testified that Mr Murdaugh had called Maggie five times between 9.04pm and 10.03pm on the night of 7 June 2021 after he had allegedly killed her and Paul. None of the calls were answered.
But, according to the call log on his cellphone, Mr Murdaugh did not place or receive any calls between 4.35pm on 4 June and 10.25pm on 7 June.
Lt Dove, who processed the three cellphones belonging to Mr Murdaugh, Maggie and Paul, testified that the trove of phone calls Mr Murdaugh made to his wife’s cellphone after he allegedly shot the victims dead was missing from his call log.
The only explanation for the missing data is that the call logs were manually and intentionally deleted by someone between the 7 June 2021 murders and his phone being seized by authorities in September 2021, he said.
Defence casts doubt on theory Murdaugh took Maggie’s phone
Under cross-examination, the defence cast doubt on the theory that it could have been Mr Murdaugh who threw Maggie’s phone along the side of Moselle Road.
Lt Dove admitted that cellphone data suggested Maggie and Mr Murdaugh’s phones were not in the same place at the same time at 9.06pm as the step data did not match.
This was important because 9.06pm is when the final orientation change – or movement – was recorded on Maggie’s phone.
Lt Dove testified that this movement could have been as it was being thrown from a vehicle to where it was discovered the next day, with the defence contending that Mr Murdaugh was at the family property walking with his cellphone at that time.
However, under redirect, prosecutors cast doubt on the defence’s timeframe for when the phone was tossed down Moselle Lane, as Lt Dove testified that an orientation change can only take place when the phone screen is on.
The SLED agent testified that the screen on Maggie’s phone was off between 9.07pm and 9.31pm so if the phone was thrown from a car during that time, there would have been no orientation change recorded.