Buster Murdaugh takes the stand in his father’s double murder trial

Day 21: Alex Murdaugh's son takes the stand during his father's trial
Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 9:04 AM EST

WALTERBORO, S.C. – (WIS) For the first time today, jurors in the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial heard directly from Murdaugh’s family, as surviving son Buster took the stand.

The defense called buster as its third witness to begin week five of the closely-watched trial.

Buster said that his father was “destroyed” and “heartbroken” by the killings of Maggie and Paul.

The defense seeks to paint the picture of a loving father who could not be capable of brutally murdering his wife and son.

Buster showed little emotion throughout his testimony, with his father at times smiling at him.

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Murdaugh’s oldest son described the moment his father called him to tell him his mother and brother were dead.

“He asked me if I was sitting down, and I was like, ‘Yea,’ and then he sounded odd and then he told me that my mom and brother had been shot,” Buster said.

He testified that the family was close, and would often call and text each other multiple times a day.

Alex Murdaugh coached all of Buster’s little league teams, Buster testified.

The family handled disputes civilly, he said.

Buster said that he was aware of his father’s opioid addiction, but thought he had beaten it.

Defense attorney Jim Griffin asked how the defendant reacted when confronted about that.

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“I don’t know for sure because I wasn’t there when a lot of the confrontations happened with them finding the pills, but I mean I’ve never heard anything, just apologetic and sorry,” Buster said.

He told the jury that his brother Paul was bullied and threatened for his alleged involvement in the 2019 fatal boat crash that killed Mallory Beach.

Buster added that his mother was anxious about that wreck, and the ensuing civil lawsuit against the Murdaugh family.

“It kind of consumed her,” he said. “She’s big on reading all of it and when she read the negative stuff, it made her feel upset and what not. It ultimately kind of caused her to distance herself from Hampton.”

After the murders, Buster said he spent every day with his dad for awhile.

He said the two had discussions about safety, but he did not take any additional security precautions.

“Did you want any security protection?” Griffin asked.

“No sir, I didn’t,” Buster replied.

“Why not?” Griffin asked.


“Well I didn’t want to carry a gun or anything like that,” Buster said. “And I also didn’t want like a private security detail following me around just for lack of privacy.”

The defense also replayed a portion of Murdaugh’s interview with investigators on June 10, 2021, which caused a lot of controversy over whether he said “I did him so bad” or “they did him so bad” in reference to Paul.

Buster said he heard him say “they did him so bad,” and that he’d heard his father say that several times after the murders.

Griffin also showed Buster the Snapchat video from 7:56 P.M. the night of the murders.

Buster said it did not look like his father was wearing a Columbia shirt, a shirt prosecutors say he was wearing in the video, and one that is now missing.

In their cross-examination of Buster, prosecutors did not ask him to identify his father’s voice in the kennel video that is central to the state’s case.

The state has already had eight witnesses state that they heard Alex at the kennels five minutes before prosecutors say the murders happened, busting his alibi.

Prosecutors may not have wanted any rebuttal, and they may not have wanted to appear as though they were badgering Buster, a grieving brother and son.

The defense also established with Buster that parking at the back of the Almeda home where his grandmother lived was not unusual.

Last week, the state established that Alex Murdaugh drove into the backyard to park at his mother’s house on the night of the murders.

Prosecutors argue that this was strange, and could have given the defendant the opportunity to hide the murder weapons.

On Tuesday, the defense also called Mike Sutton, a forensic engineer, who cast doubt on some of the state’s witnesses, especially when it comes to ballistics.

Sutton created a reconstruction of the crime scene, and said that in his expert opinion, he believes the person who fired the shots that killed Maggie was a about foot shorter than Alex.

Sutton was hired by the defense team in October 2022.

On cross-examination, prosecutors established that Sutton was paid $350 an hour for his work.

He estimates that he put about 40 to 50 hours into the case, totaling anywhere from $14,000 to 17,000, making him a high-priced expert witness for the defense.

Based on the angle of the bullet holes, and his own measurements of the crime scene, Sutton testified that Murdaugh was likely not the killer...

Rather it was someone between 5′2″ and 5′4″.

“The quail pen shot was 5′2″ to 5′4″?” Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian asked.

“That is the most likely explanation, yes,” Sutton said.

“Okay. And we know that Alex is 6′4″?” Harpootlian asked.

“Yes,” Sutton said.

“So could you say to a degree of engineering certainty that it’s more probable than not that Alex Murdaugh on the night of June 7 did not fire that shot into the quail pen?” Harpootlian asked.

“In my opinion, it’s very unlikely that he fired that shot,” Sutton said.

The defense also once again brought up the possibility of two shooters.

Sutton said it is possible that Alex could have seen Maggie and Paul’s bodies with his headlights when arriving at the kennels at 10:05 P.M., providing a possible explanation for his quick 911 call.

He also conducted testing at Moselle, and determined that Murdaugh likely would not have been able to hear gunshots at the kennels if he were napping at his house with the television on.

On cross-examination of Sutton, prosecutors sought to discredit him by questioning his training, expertise and findings...

The state established that Sutton does not have formal firearms training, but he defended his ability to offer opinions on these matters.

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