Alex Murdaugh Verdict: Disgraced attorney guilty of murdering wife and son

By Kayla Epstein in Walterboro, South Carolina & Jude Sheerin in WashingtonBBC News3. March 2023, 00:43 GMT

Updated 1 hour ago

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Watch: From police interrogations to trial testimony, who is Alex Murdaugh?

A disgraced South Carolina attorney has been found guilty of murdering his wife and son to distract from his multimillion-dollar financial crimes.

The jury deliberated for less than three hours before convicting 54-year-old Alex Murdaugh of double murder at the end of a six-week trial.

He faces 30 years to life imprisonment without parole for each murder charge.

Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were shot dead at close range near the dog kennels on their family estate on June 7, 2021.

Alex Murdaugh stood impassively as he learned of his fate during Thursday night’s hearing in Walterboro.

“The evidence of guilt is overwhelming,” said South Carolina District Court Judge Clifton Newman when denying a mistrial defense motion. He scheduled sentencing for Friday morning.

Murdaugh had pleaded not guilty to killing his wife and youngest son to cover up years of financial corruption – fraud he himself admitted in court.

After the 12-member jury’s verdict, dozens of onlookers gathered outside the back of the courthouse, where officers quickly ushered a handcuffed Murdaugh into a black van.

Reporters shouted questions despite his silence. As police put him in the vehicle, a man behind the media line called out that he was praying for him.

The case, which chronicles the downfall of a family born with power and privilege, made national headlines and inspired documentaries on Netflix and HBO.

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Murdaugh was once an influential personal injury attorney in the state, and his family members were the top prosecutors in the area for decades until 2006.

But the trial learned he had stolen from his legal partners and clients for years to encourage an addiction to painkillers and an extravagant lifestyle.

Image credit Maggie Murdaugh/Facebook

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Maggie Murdaugh, pictured here with Alex, was known to be a devoted mother

It took more than a year for investigators to apprehend Murdaugh as they unraveled the complex case.

In a risky move for any murder accused, Murdaugh took the stand and tried to convince the jury that someone furious over a fatal 2019 boating accident involving Paul could have killed his son to get revenge practice.

“I would never hurt Maggie, and I would never hurt Paul — under any circumstances,” Murdaugh testified.

The case against him was based solely on circumstantial evidence. No direct evidence – things like a murder weapon, blood on his clothes, or an eyewitness – was presented at the trial.

Instead, prosecutors focused on an incriminating Snapchat video taken by Murdaugh’s son shortly before the murders.

Paul and his mother were killed in the kennels on the family’s extensive hunting ground known as Moselle.

For 20 months after their murders, Alex Murdaugh repeatedly told law enforcement he was not in the doghouse at all that night and was napping at home.

But in the Snapchat video that Paul filmed minutes before the shooting, the defendant’s voice could be heard in the background.

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While standing in court, Murdaugh admitted to lying and said his years of addiction to painkillers left him in a paranoid state.

The court also heard about Murdaugh’s bizarre attempt to stage his own death in an insurance fraud scheme just three months after he murdered his 52-year-old wife and 22-year-old son.

Image Credit: Facebook/Maggie Murdaugh

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Alex Murdaugh (right) murdered his wife Maggie and youngest son Paul

Local resident Jessica Williams, 38, stood outside the court watching the proceedings over the phone with her six-year-old daughter.

“I’m so happy,” she told BBC News after the verdict was announced, adding, “I remember where I was when OJ Simpson was judged [in 1995]. That was the same.”

Early in the trial, Judge Newman ruled that prosecutors could present evidence of Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes.

Investigators say he stole millions from clients and colleagues, including $3.7million (£3million) in 2019 alone. And in court, Murdaugh admitted the large-scale theft.

Prosecutors argued that it was those crimes that drove him to murder – that he thought the deaths of Maggie and Paul would bring him sympathy and prevent reckoning for his other wrongdoings.

Murdaugh and his defense team had argued in court that this theory was ridiculous and that financial problems never led him to murder.

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PM: The jury finds Murdaugh guilty

Several witnesses testified that on the night of the murders, Alex Murdaugh had asked Maggie, who was staying at the family’s other property in nearby Edisto Beach, to return to Moselle.

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Maggie far preferred Edisto to Mosel and had no intention of leaving, her sister Marion Proctor told the court. But Murdaugh’s elderly father was dying, and so Mrs. Proctor encouraged her to support him.

Alex Murdaugh and his two sons enjoyed hunting and Moselle kept a gun collection.

Prosecutors alleged Murdaugh used one of these — a .300 Blackout assault rifle — to kill Maggie and another gun to kill Paul. But they were unable to locate any of the firearms and bring them to court.

Maggie was shot four or five times with a rifle and her son was shot twice with a shotgun, the trial heard.

South Carolina’s chief attorney, Attorney General Alan Wilson, said, “Today’s verdict proves that no one, no matter who you are in society, is above the law.”