Prominent South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh killed his wife and youngest son in cold blood with a shotgun and an AR-style rifle, prosecutors alleged Wednesday in opening statements at his murder trial.
Creighton Waters, the state’s lead prosecutor in the case, pointed out that Murdaugh’s wife, Margaret, 52, and the couple’s youngest son, Paul, 22, had no defensive wounds – “as if they didn’t see a threat coming from the attacker. .”
Paul Murdaugh was shot with buckshot from a 12-gauge shotgun in the chest, shoulder and finally the head, causing “catastrophic damage,” Waters said. Margaret Murdaugh was shot with the rifle in the abdomen and leg before being shot in the head.
The details of the injuries are gruesome, Waters said, and their descriptions will be difficult to hear.
“It will be terrible,” he told the jury.
It grew horrifying as Murdaugh’s lawyer, Dick Harpootlian, detailed in his opening arguments the ugly state of Paul and Margaret’s bodies after they were shot. Alex Murdaugh sobbed as Harpootlian described how the family scion, who he said had a loving relationship with his wife and son, found Paul “lying in his own blood and brains at his feet” .
“I want you to hear that 911 tape, a man hysterical and in grief,” said Harpootlian, who argued that there were many holes in the prosecution’s case, based on “theories, his opinions” of the attorney general .
Harpootlian said police and prosecutors at the scene concluded that Murdaugh was guilty “without forensics, without cellphones — none of that,” adding that they tried to “put a square peg in a round hole” to build a case.
“He didn’t do it, and you need to put any thought he did out of your mind,” he told jurors, noting that Murdaugh had no blood on his shirt or pants despite the prosecution’s tests.
Waters, who spent about 30 minutes laying out a detailed timeline of the crimes, said prosecutors had built a case on a large amount of forensic evidence. That evidence includes cell phone data that Waters claimed showed Murdaugh was at the scene of the crime just minutes before his family’s cell phones went silent forever.
The state’s case would also include a video that Paul Murdaugh sent to a friend just before the shooting, in which he and his parents raised their voices, despite the fact that Murdaugh “told anyone who would listen that he wasn’t there. “
Police also found a “wadded up” raincoat that was “coated with gunshot residue” inside the home of Alex Murdaugh’s parents, Waters said.
Murdaugh is accused of murdering his wife and son in June 2021. Murdaugh was found shot to death on the property of the family’s country home, about 65 miles west of Charleston, after Murdaugh called 911.
The longtime personal injury lawyer has maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon.
After just two and a half days of jury selection at the courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, lawyers on both sides reduced the number of jurors from hundreds to 12 – six white women, two black women and four white men. The six alternates include two Black women, three white men and one black man.
Members of Murdaugh’s family, including his older son, Buster, 26, and his brothers John Marvin and Randy Murdaugh were all present for Wednesday’s opening statements. They sat behind Murdoch and entered shortly before lawyers gave their comments, and he thanked them for coming after opening statements were concluded.
Murdaugh used a suit jacket Wednesday to cover his handcuffs.
The patriarch of a South Carolina legal family is also facing another case involving numerous alleged fraud schemes, which prosecutors said he perpetuated to keep money afloat.
South Carolina prosecutors alleged at a hearing in December that Murdaugh killed his wife and son to try to cover up a decade of financial crimes in a desperate attempt to “escape accountability.” He faces over 80 financial charges for stealing approximately $8.5 million from more than a dozen victims.
Murdaugh’s money troubles allegedly began in 2007 and 2008, when land deals he was involved in went sour.
His troubles were compounded when his son Paul was involved in a fatal boating accident in 2019, resulting in the death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach. Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the family.
Murdaugh’s arrest last year in connection with the millions of dollars missing from a settlement related to the death of the family’s housekeeper appears to have heightened questions.
Due to technical problems playing body camera footage from first responders who arrived on the scene, both sides agreed to wait until Thursday morning to proceed with the case.