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The Alex Murdaugh Double Murder Trial: Guilty or Not Guilty?

At exactly 10:06:14 pm on June 7, 2021, Alex Murdaugh frantically dialed 911. He reports that his wife, Maggie, and younger son, Paul, had been shot, neither of them breathing. However, as the investigation progressed, a complex web of lies and crimes came untangled, and a dark, bloody scheme came to light.

The Murdaugh Family Murder

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Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and her son Paul, 22, suffered multiple gunshot wounds, which led to their deaths on the evening of June 7. Their bodies were first found by Maggie’s husband, Alex, 54, near the kennels at their hunting lodge estate in Colleton County. 

Alex immediately called 911 to report what had happened, telling the dispatcher that he touched the bodies after finding them to check if they were still breathing. In a quivering voice, he said he had been gone and had just returned. 

He hung up after saying that he needed to call family. The 911 call lasted 7 minutes.

The authorities arrived, investigated the scene, and recovered the shell casings from the fatal shooting. Unfortunately, the murder weapon was nowhere to be found. 

According to Murdaugh’s alibi provided to the police, he spent the day with his dementia-stricken mother in Almeda and came home to a bloodbath. Additionally, he was nowhere inside the estate during the hours of 8:50 to 9:06 

Three months later, things started to unravel, and the murder investigation started to see some clarity.   

The Unraveling

On September 4, Alex Murdaugh sustained a minor injury in a roadside shooting in Hampton County while trying to change a flat tire. The investigation uncovered that Alex hired 61-year-old Curtis Edward Smith to kill him so his older son Buster could collect a life insurance policy worth $10 million. Following this incident, he resigned from his family law firm and had his law license indefinitely suspended. 

Richard Harpootlian, an attorney for Murdaugh, told NBC’s “TODAY” that the incident resulted from his client’s depression and opioid addiction. (Which he consumed in the wake of the deaths of his family members)

The court initially charged him with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, and filing a false police report. By the end of the state’s investigations of Murdaugh’s business dealings and other cases, he faced 84 criminal charges and 11 lawsuits. He was also formally disbarred by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

And The Plot Thickens

On July 14, 2022, Alex Murdaugh was arrested on a double murder charge for the deaths of his wife and son after a cellphone video, a little less than a minute long, was recovered by the investigators. The video was filmed on Paul Murdaugh’s cellphone, starting at 8:44 pm. 

The investigators identified the three voices in the video and said they were from Maggie, Paul, and Alex. The discovery places Alex at the crime scene just a few minutes before his wife and son got shot, contradicting his statements to the police after the killings. 

Murdaugh pled not guilty to the murder charges.

The Trial: “All Circumstantial”

The double murder trial against Alex Murdaugh officially opened on January 23, 2023, at the Colleton County Courthouse. Creighton Waters, the chief prosecutor for the state attorney general’s office, opened the case with a statement on the importance of circumstantial evidence. 

A lot of times people hear, ‘Oh, it’s just a circumstantial case,’ but the law says otherwise. The law says circumstantial evidence is just as good as direct evidence.

After four weeks and more than 60 witnesses later, the state rests its case. Here are two of the prosecution’s main arguments.

First, the prosecution attacked Murdaugh’s opportunity to commit the murder by breaking his alibi. There was also the video recording that put him at the crime scene just before the shooting, with his voice authenticated by statements of family friends who saw the footage. 

The defense played the conversation as a clear sign of Murdaugh and his wife’s normal discussion without animosity present. They also pointed out how Paul seemed to be happy and not the least bit threatened. 

They also put doubt in Murdaugh’s alibi through the same video recording and testimony from the home care worker of his mother, Shelly Smith. According to Smith, Murdaugh did visit his mother’s home on the night in question for around 15 to 20 minutes. And when they saw each other again, Murdaugh had insisted on her that he stayed for 30 to 40 minutes. 

Second, the prosecution had put forward a motive – a critical factor in establishing a murder case – a financial one. The investigation also revealed that Murdaugh had been heavily involved in extensive financial wrongdoings. 

In a testimony of Murdaugh’s law firm’s chief financial officer, she confronted him about the missing funds on the morning of June 7, 2021. However, after the murder, the internal investigation was set aside. 

There was also a lawsuit from the family of 19-year-old Mallory Beach, allegedly killed after the boat owned by the Murdaughs and driven by Paul crashed. Prosecutors argued that this case would reveal more of Alex Murdaugh’s financial problems. 

While the prosecution held compelling theories, no direct hard evidence (no witnesses, gun, or bloody clothes) could tie Murdaugh to the murders. Currently, the defense is looking to get the case tossed out. 

If Murdaugh gets convicted, he will face a minimum 30-year sentence. The prosecutors are not pursuing the death penalty for the case. 

Do you want to learn more about what happened? Netflix released a three-part docuseries titled Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal, which Jenner Furst and Jennifer Willoughby Nason directed. As for the latest Murdaugh murders update, sources say Alex Murdaugh will testify at his double-murder trial, but we won’t know the final decision until his hand hits the Bible.

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