Maggie Murdaugh’s sister testifies about Alex’s ‘strange’ statements to her after the murders

WIS reporter Nick Neville gives a recap of day 17 of the Alex Murdaugh murder trial.
Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 8:59 AM EST

WALTERBORO, S.C. – (WIS) On Tuesday afternoon, Maggie Murdaugh’s sister took the stand as a state witness in the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh, recounting the night her sister and nephew were both killed.

This is the first time jurors had heard from Maggie’s family.

Marian Proctor, Maggie’s only sister, began her powerful testimony by telling jurors about Maggie.

She said her sister was sweet, and kind of a free spirit.

Maggie’s sons, Buster and Paul, were “her whole world,” Proctor said.

Proctor became emotional as she described her final conversation with her sister on the day she was murdered.

She said Maggie called her around 4 P.M. that day, and told her Alex had wanted her to come home to Moselle to visit his ailing father.

“You encouraged her to go to Moselle?” Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters asked.

“I did,” Proctor said.

“Was that the last time you talked to her?” Waters asked.

“Yes,” Proctor replied.

Proctor said she was surprised when she later found out Alex went alone to visit his mother in Almeda, and that his ailing father was not even there.

Alex told Proctor he did not know who committed the murders, “But he felt like whoever did it had thought about it for a really long time.”

She testified that in the weeks after the murders, Alex mentioned to her that his number one goal was to clear Paul Murdaugh’s name in the 2019 fatal boat crash lawsuit.

“I thought that was so strange because my number one goal was to find out who killed my sister and Paul,” Proctor said. “I don’t know how he could’ve thought about anything else.”

Proctor further testified that Alex did not seem to be concerned about finding the killer. She felt like he and his son Buster needed protection, and said her family was living in fear.

“Alex didn’t seem to be afraid,” she said.”

On cross examination, defense attorney Jim Griffin became emotional, and said that this is hard for him too.

He suggested that Alex was fearful after the killings because he started carrying a gun.

Proctor doubled down, saying that he’d always done that, and that it appeared to her as though he was not living in fear.

After September 4, 2021, when she heard about the roadside shooting in which Alex Murdaugh was shot in what turned out to be a failed suicide for hire plot, her fears were exacerbated.

Alex was then let go from his law firm as the allegations of financial impropriety emerged.

Shortly after that incident, Alex admitted to that scheme and an opioid addiction.

Proctor testified that her prior concerns about the family being targeted shifted.

Waters asked what changed Marian’s perception about the roadside shooting after her initial concern.

“The story that was initially told about what happened turned out not to be true,” she said.

When asked who told the story, she answered, “Alex.”

This was the first time jurors heard anything about the roadside shooting.

Presiding Judge Clifton Newman will rule on how much they will hear about the September 4 roadside shooting on Wednesday morning.

Proctor’s testimony lies at the heart of the prosecution’s case: that Alex would do anything to change the subject, garner sympathy and change perceptions to cover his tracks for alleged crimes, financial and otherwise.

Earlier today, Murdaugh defense attorney Dick Harpootlian challenged the findings of Dr. Ellen Riemer, the forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsies, and proposed alternate theories as to how Paul Murdaugh died.

Riemer did not budge, standing firm and at times pushing back against Harpootlian’s suggestions.

The defense sought to show that the patterns of entry wounds on the victims differed from Riemer’s explanations.

Riemer defended her work, as she has conducted over 5,500 autopsies and testified in over 250 trials.

The defense suggested that Paul’s head wound could have been a contact entrance wound, as opposed to an exit wound.

Riemer shot down that assertion, saying that she would have expected to see soot around the wound if that were the case.

“Somebody could disagree with you, and that would be a reasonable disagreement?” Harpootlian asked.

“I would say that people can disagree, but that doesn’t change the truth,” Riemer said.

Riemer also said emphatically this was a homicide, a death caused at the hands of someone else.

The shotgun shells that killed Paul were fired from a lower angle, Riemer testified.

Waters in his opening statement demonstrated how Murdaugh, he said, carried the shotgun low and fired slightly upward.

The graphic descriptions from the defense throughout the trial appear to be an attempt to cast doubt that their client, by all accounts a loving father, would be capable of committing such brutal murders.

Throughout the testimony Monday and Tuesday, Alex Murdaugh was weeping, visibly disturbed by the graphic descriptions of the murders of his wife and son.

The defense also tried to undercut the pathologist’s conclusion that neither Maggie nor Paul had defensive wounds, specifically Riemer’s assertion that Paul’s arms were down when he was shot.

The state also called Roger Dale Davis, who took care of the Murdaugh dog kennels at Moselle.

He testified that he would clean the kennels twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.

Davis also said he would roll up the hose the same way each day, so as not to damage it.

Prosecutors then showed Davis a photo of the crime scene. The hose is hanging on a hook in the background. Dale testified that is not how he stored it at 4 P.M. on June 7, 2021.

On cross examination, Griffin showed Dale the video of Paul at kennels at 8:44 P.M., with no sound, that showed the hose was already moved before the murders.

However, it was positioned differently than in the photo prosecutors showed Davis.

Prosecutors also got Dale to identify Alex’s voice on Paul’s cell phone video at the kennels.

Eight witnesses have now identified Alex’s voice at the kennels five minutes before prosecutors say the murders happened.

Dale also said that there was an abnormal amount of water at the kennels shown in crime scene photos, as he said water does not typically pool by the feed room, or by the dogs.

Carson Burney, a forensic accountant for the SC Attorney General’s Office State Grand Jury Division, also testified.

He previously testified without the jury present.

Burney said at the time of the murders that Alex did not have the money to cover his many pressing financial obligations, including $792,000 in missing fees at PMPED that Murdaugh was accused of stealing, $500,000 to pay to the Satterfield family for the insurance payout in their mother’s death, and millions of dollars in the 2019 boat crash lawsuit, in which he was named as a defendant.

Prosecutors have said they hope to have their case wrapped up as early as Wednesday. At some point, jurors may hear a third law enforcement interview with Alex Murdaugh, and testimony from SLED investigator David Owen, who conducted the recorded interviews jurors have heard so far.