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Alex Murdaugh Found Guilty Of Murdering Wife, Son, Sentenced To Life In Prison
Jurors deliberated for less than three hours before convicting Alex Murdaugh of murder in his wife Maggie and son Paul's shooting deaths, capping a stunning fall from grace for the prominent South Carolina attorney.
Updated Friday, March 3 with news on Alex Murdaugh's sentencing.
A South Carolina jury convicted disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh of murder in the fatal shootings of his wife and youngest son.
Jurors deliberated for less than three hours, ultimately returning a guilty verdict on Thursday evening. On Friday, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Throughout the month-long trial, the prosecution argued that Alex fatally shot his wife Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22, at the family's hunting compound in Colleton County on June 7, 2021 to deflect scrutiny from him over allegations that he committed numerous financial crimes at his law firm. The defense contended, however, that Murdaugh was visiting his ailing mother and father at the time of the killings.
Investigators determined that Maggie and Paul were likely shot sometime between 9 and 10 p.m., with cellular data indicating that the mother and son last used their phones around 8:49 p.m. It was around this time, Alex said, that he left for his parent's nearby home before returning to the compound at 10 p.m. He then drove to the dog kennels on the estate, where he found the remains of his wife and son, at which point he called 911 to report the discovery at 10:07 p.m.
Multiple witnesses for the prosecution, however, cast doubt on Murdaugh's alibi.
Lt. David Britton, a supervisor in the computer crimes center at the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), testified about a Snapchat video taken by Paul Murdaugh at 8:44 p.m. The video placed Maggie and Paul at the kennels, with a third individual's voice seemingly heard in the background. Though Dove couldn't definitively say that it was Alex, two of Paul's friends testified that it sounded like him, Oxygen.com previously reported.
The defense repeatedly stated that Alex had been taking a nap prior to departing for his parent's home, but the now-disbarred lawyer admitted to lying about his whereabouts when he surprisingly took the stand on Feb. 24. He stated that it was indeed his voice heard in the background of the Snapchat video, explaining that he lied to authorities about his whereabouts because he was paranoid due to his opioid addiction.
"I wasn’t thinking clearly,” he testified, according to CNN. “I don’t think I was capable of reason, and I lied about being down there, and I’m so sorry that I did.”
Nonetheless, the defense contended that the murders took place sometime after 9 p.m., when Alex had already departed for his parent's home.
The presiding judge also allowed evidence of Murdaugh's alleged financial crimes to be presented to the jury, including testimony from Alex's former associates who said that they had confronted him about stealing from the firm in the days leading up to the murders. Multiple former associates said on the stand that, following the murders, the firm felt they couldn't investigate the stolen money further because of Alex's emotional state.
"There's no way we are going to talk about money in the wake of the tragedy of June 7," managing partner Ronnie Crosby said. "I trusted Alex and I said, 'Just let it go.'"
Murdaugh, who is facing 99 other charges related to those alleged financial crimes, ultimately admitted to wrongdoing in his testimony. He stated that he was "embarrassed" by his actions and no longer disputes his former colleagues' claims, according to CNN.
Blanca Turrubiate-Simpson, a housekeeper for the Murdaughs, testified that Maggie had confided in her that she was worried about the family's finances.
Maggie was also concerned about Alex's addiction, her sister Marian Proctor testified, according to the Post and Courier. The family was aware that Alex's drug use had been going on "for some time," with Paul making a concerted effort to prevent his father's continued use of painkillers. Proctor said that Maggie referred to Paul as a "little detective" because the 22-year-old would search the home for Alex's drugs.
In the final days of the trial, the defense honed in on the lack of physical evidence tying Alex to the crime scene. They called Timothy Palmbach, a former professor of forensic science at the University of New Haven, who theorized on the stand that there were two shooters involved in the killings. Paul was killed with a shotgun while Maggie was shot by a Blackout rifle — neither of which have been found— making it "structurally difficult" for one assailant to kill the mother and son, Palmbach said, according to CNN.
The defense suggested Maggie and Paul could've been targeted as the Murdaugh family had been receiving death threats because of Paul's involvement in a 2019 boat crash that led to the death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach. The 22-year-old had been released on bond and was awaiting trial on one count of boating under the influence causing death and two counts of causing significant bodily injury.
Alex testified that Paul received the "most vile threats" but the family didn't take them seriously, according to People.
Additionally, the defense contended that the investigators did a shoddy job securing the crime scene, potentially destroying key evidence.
Alex's brother, John Marvin, testified that the investigators released the crime scene to the family after just 12 hours, at which point he cleaned the area, according to the AP.
"No mother or father or aunt or uncle should ever have to see or do what I had that day," he said.
At his sentencing Friday, Judge Clifton Newman offered Alex the chance to speak.
“As I tell you again, I respect this court. But I am innocent. I would never under any circumstances hurt my wife Maggie and I would never under any circumstances hurt my son Paul-Paul,” he said.
Newman responded: “And it might not have been you. It might have been the monster you become,” referencing Alex's years of opioid dependency.
Alex is still awaiting trial on about 100 charges of financial crimes, some of which are tied to his botched suicide attempt in September 2021.
For more on the Murdaugh case, watch the Oxygen special "Alex Murdaugh: Death. Deception. Power."