Alex Murdaugh denies killing his wife and son, but admits to lying and stealing
WALTERBORO, S.C. – (WIS) Alex Murdaugh took the stand today in his double murder trail, admitting to lying to investigators about where he was the night his wife and son were killed but denying that he pulled the trigger.
After weeks of speculation and witness testimony, the disgraced attorney testified Thursday against the advice of his lawyers.
They said they had concerns about the scope of cross-examination from state prosecutors.
Murdaugh turned his body toward jurors as he testified, at times sobbing as he described his wife and son.
The defendant empathically denied the murders of his wife Maggie and son Paul from the stand several times.
“Mr. Griffin, I didn’t shoot my wife or my son, anytime, ever,” Murdaugh said.
However, he did admit to repeatedly lying about his whereabouts on the night of June 7, 2021.
Murdaugh blamed his lie that he was never at the family dog kennels, the scene of the crime, on his opioid addiction, saying it made him act irrationally. He also said he had a distrust of SLED, despite the fact he was an assistant solicitor at the time of the murders, and his family enjoyed a long-standing and cozy relationship with law enforcement.
“As my addiction evolved over time, I would get in these situations or circumstances where I would get paranoid thinking,” he said.
He said he was remorseful about this.
Defense attorney Jim Griffin asked Murdaugh why he continued to lie.
“Oh what a tangled web we weave,” he said. “But once I told the lie, I mean I told my family, I had to keep lying.”
Murdaugh wept talking about the ride with his son Paul on June 7, who he repeatedly described as “Paul Paul,” an affectionate term.
He addressed the Snapchat video taken by Paul before the murders, without ever detailing the whereabouts of the clothes he was wearing in the video.
Murdaugh said he changed into shorts and shirt after arriving home for dinner.
He testified that Maggie asked him to go down to the kennels. He drove a golf cart there, and witnessed “chaos” there with the dogs.
Murdaugh got a chicken out of the family dog Bubba’s mouth, and then “went straight back to the house to the air conditioner.”
That was the last time he saw Maggie and Paul alive, he testified.
Murdaugh said Thursday that he was only at the kennels for a short time.
He said he laid down on the couch for a 5 to 10 minute nap, then left to go see his mother.
There was no reason to go by the kennels before he left because he wasn’t concerned, he testified.
Murdaugh said he discovered the bodies of his wife and son after visiting his mother’s home.
“I saw what y’all have seen pictures of,” he said, holding back tears. “So bad.”
Griffin walked Murdaugh thru his 911 call to Colleton County dispatch. Murdaugh said he tried to tend to Paul and Maggie, while on the phone for 911. Lifting a badly wounded Paul, wearing the same shirt and shorts he was wearing when investigators showed up.
Murdaugh said as he checked the bodies for pulses, he got blood on his fingertips.
Deputy Laura Rutland with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office described his appearance that night as clean from head to toe.
He could not explain why he grabbed a shotgun.
Murdaugh blamed the 2019 boat crash as an event that prompted the murders that night and even Thursday, all while denying his involvement in the killings.
“I would never do anything to intentionally hurt either one of them, ever, ever,” he said.
Murdaugh went on to contradict testimony from his mother’s caretaker Shelley Smith, who said she saw him carrying a “blue tarp-like something” into his mother’s Almeda home at 6:30 A.M. a few days after the killings.
He denied ever seeing a blue raincoat that was covered in gunshot residue.
“Never seen it before, never touched it, and don’t know anything about it,” Murdaugh said.
Murdaugh told defense attorney Jim Griffin that he had urged investigators to obtain GPS data from his car because he knew that would exonerate him.
The defendant also said SLED never asked for the clothes he was wearing in the Snapchat video taken by Paul.
But he said his clothes never became an issue in this case until it was discovered that evidence alleging his shirt had blood spatter on it turned out to not be true.
The shirt he was wearing in the Snapchat video has never been recovered.
Murdaugh also said he was not very bothered about being confronted about PMPED fees on June 7.
Asked if he felt he was facing a pending financial house of cards crumbling in on him, he answered, “Absolutely not.”
Murdaugh also said he was not concerned around the pending June 10 boat crash lawsuit hearing, which would have caused him to disclose his financial accounts.
When asked why he stole millions of dollars from his firm and clients, Murdaugh said, “I’m not quite sure what let me get where I got.”
He blamed it on his addiction.
Murdaugh said he has been battling his opioid addiction for “as long as I can remember” and that his law partners were not aware of it.
When asked about the roadside shooting on September 4, 2021, Murdaugh said he told Curtis “Eddie” Smith to shoot him, “so I’d be gone.”
However, jurors may wonder why Murdaugh called 911 after the shooting, and why Smith only shot once, if his true intention was to be dead.
Prosecutors have alleged the plot was a ploy to garner sympathy, and illustrate that he was being “targeted.”
During a bruising cross-examination, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters hit Murdaugh’s credibility, getting him to admit to all sorts of financial crimes, laying bare in case after case how Murdaugh had no qualms lying to his clients’ faces, and stealing from them behind their backs.
Waters began by reminding Murdaugh he said he was never at the kennels until Thursday’s admission, lying to law enforcement and friends for months.
Waters sought to highlight for jurors Murdaugh’s family legacy, seeking to cast the defendant as an experienced and successful litigator, sifting through evidence, and performing for a jury.
Murdaugh notably struggled to admit his family was “prominent,” despite holding the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office for nearly a century.
Waters hinted to the jury that Murdaugh is a seasoned professional, who knows how to work evidence and work a jury, and corrupt enough to lie to people without remorse.
He repeatedly pressed Murdaugh about lying to clients, “sitting down with them, just like you did here today,” implying that Murdaugh was lying to jurors throughout the morning.
Waters highlighted Murdaugh’s long association with law enforcement, pointing out that Murdaugh installed blue lights on his vehicle.
He further demonstrated how Murdaugh would use his badge to wield influence, in speeding offenses and even in the 2019 boat crash investigation involving his son Paul.
Murdaugh admitted that badge has “warming effect” on fellow law enforcement.
Waters showed Murdaugh a photo of him displaying a badge hanging from his hip pocket at the hospital the night of the boat crash.
“You didn’t recall it, until I showed you that picture,” Waters told him.
Under cross-examination, Murdaugh looked directly at Waters, instead of addressing the jury like he had all morning.
While highlighting Murdaugh’s financial misdeeds, the defendant did not rebut any of them.
However, he did not remember specific conversations.
Waters asked him about stealing from the family of Hakeem Pinckney, a quadriplegic, and Natasha Thomas.
“You stole money from a teenager,” Waters said, which Murdaugh did not deny.
Waters also took Murdaugh to task over his repeated use of nicknames in his testimony, referring to Paul, Maggie and Rogan Gibson as “Paul Paul,” “Mags,” and “Ro Ro.”
He asked Murdaugh if he had referred to them in that way in any interview with law enforcement, which he had not.
The implication from prosecutors is that Murdaugh was seeking to humanize himself and show a close family relationship, while performing for the jury.
Waters sought to take the shine off Murdaugh’s emotional direct examination.
Murdaugh’s strategy from the stand proved he was willing to admit to crimes and lies.
He was defiant in saying he did not kill his wife and son.
Cross-examination continues Friday morning at 9:30 A.M.
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