First six witnesses take the stand in the state’s case against Alex Murdaugh
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) The first six witnesses took the stand in the state’s case against Alex Murdaugh Thursday.
The disgraced Lowcountry attorney is charged in the June 2021 killings of his wife and son.
Jurors viewed graphic body camera footage from the night of the murders, and new parts of the 911 call that Alex Murdaugh placed were released.
The defense hammered law enforcement for allegedly failing to keep the crime scene intact.
Several times during testimony Thursday, Alex Murdaugh was visibly emotional.
The state’s first witness Sgt. Daniel Greene with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office. He was the first to respond to the murder scene.
He described describing Murdaugh’s demeanor the night of the killings.
“He seemed upset, I wouldn’t say panicky,” Greene said.
Greene testified that he never saw Murdaugh shed any tears, however.
In new portions of the 911 call, Alex brings up the fatal 2019 boat crash involving his son Paul that killed Mallory beach.
“Did your son, I know you said that he had been threatened, did your son make reports of this at all?” the dispatcher asked on the call.
“Yes, ma’am,” Murdaugh replied.
In another unredacted portion of the 911 call played Thursday, Alex is asked if Maggie and Paul shot themselves, to which he responds, “Oh no, hell no.”
Moments later, Murdaugh again mentions the boat crash, this time to Greene.
“This is a long story,” he said. “My son was in a boat wreck months back. He’s been getting threats. Most of them’s been benign stuff we didn’t take serious. He’s been getting punched. I know that’s what it is.”
Prosecutors have long alleged that Murdaugh was seeking to sway public opinion and garner sympathy to make it seem like his family was being targeted.
The defense asserted that first responders and law enforcement contaminated the crime scene, mentioning tire tracks and bloody footprints that were not properly preserved.
“If there is exculpatory or inculpatory evidence that would help you find the perpetrator and prosecute him, or evidence that would clear somebody, that was destroyed, some of that was destroyed that night because you, your department and maybe even SLED didn’t preserve that evidence, isn’t that correct?” Defense Attorney Dick Harpootlian asked Greene.
“I’m not sure if I fully understand your question,” Greene responded.
Greene testified that he did everything he could to avoid crime scene contamination, and followed standard protocol.
Greene said Murdaugh told him he had a shotgun that he had grabbed for safety. It was secured inside his police vehicle before being turned over to SLED investigators. The shotgun was admitted as evidence and shown to jurors as was the body camera footage.
Harpootlian grilled Corporal Chad McDowell with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office, and got him to concede that “it’s possible” officers may have distributed something on the scene around shell casings.
Late Thursday afternoon, the attorneys agreed to release redacted versions of all body camera footage admitted into evidence Monday morning.
Thursday morning saw the start of arguments in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial. Court is set to resume at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
The state is slated to begin presenting its case and hear from witnesses. The first witness called to the stand is Sgt. Daniel Greene of the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO).
Greene explained he was working from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. the night of June 7, 2021. He explained how first responders arrived at the scene of the murders after being notified of a 911 call. He said he was the first officer on the scene, it took roughly 20 minutes to get there.
He described finding the bodies at the scene. Greene said he found a large amount of blood at the site and explained he spoke with Murdaugh that night. Greene said he followed standard protocol in checking for weapons at the scene. He said he was wearing a body camera and the first thing Murdaugh spoke about was a boating incident involving his son without being prompted.
Greene said Murdaugh told him he had a shotgun that he’d grabbed for safety. It was secured inside his police vehicle before being turned over to SLED investigators. The shotgun was admitted as evidence and shown to jurors as was the body camera footage.
The second witness called was Corporal Chad McDowell of CCSO. McDowell also had body camera footage played from the night of the murders.
The prosecution questioned the deputies on the night of the murder and their initial interactions with Murdaugh. Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian questioned whether first responders may have contaminated the scene or accidentally destroyed evidence showing potential other suspects. Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters asked questions establishing what level of training the first responders had in preserving a scene and what they observed.
At around 12:55 p.m., the judge called a recess until 2:15 p.m.
After the recess, Tinish Bryson-Smith was the first witness called to the stand. Bryson-Smith works for the Hampton County Dispatch. She she said the initial 911 call from Alex Murdaugh came into the Hampton County dispatch. Once it was determined it was a Colleton County location, it was transferred to that dispatch. She said 911 calls are routed based on the nearest cell phone tower to the caller.
The 911 call from Murdaugh was played for jurors.
The state continued to call first responders and other members of the law enforcement response. Waters expanded on his line of questioning to expand on what was found and what led to the initial response. Harpootlian continued to ask questions about the first responder training and the potential for evidence to have been missed or destroyed.
GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING: This live stream contains discussions from a murder trial. It may have disturbing content.
Fiery opening statements from the prosecution and defense in the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial yesterday paint two vastly different pictures of June 7, 2021, when Alex’s wife and son were killed.— Nick Neville (@NickNeville_) January 26, 2023
Our recap of the arguments. @wis10
MORE: https://t.co/ceylRCnkuP pic.twitter.com/Ji2HQWNDpq
WIS has embedded the full list of witnesses below.
The week began with a search of 900 potential jurors. Over the course of three days, the prosecution and defense whittled down the potential pool into 12 jurors and six alternates. Just hours after seating the jury, Wednesday afternoon saw opening statements from the prosecution and defense.
Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian and lead prosecutor Creighton Waters laid out their respective cases in opening statements. In graphic detail, the murders of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh were described.
Waters told the jury that forensic evidence and cell phone records will link Alex Murdaugh to the 2021 murders of his wife and son. Harpootlian explained that investigators honed in on his client’s guilt early without proof and cast doubt on the evidence being used to try him.
- EXPLAINER: Alex Murdaugh goes on trial in 2021 killings of wife, son
- VIDEO: First day of Murdaugh trial underway, search for jurors difficult
- Judge in Murdaugh trial decides key motions as jury selection continues
- WATCH: Opening statements in the Murdaugh murder trial
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