COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Alex Murdaugh gave lengthy and emotional testimony Thursday as he took the stand to defend himself in his double-murder trial.
Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife Margaret and youngest son Paul at their family property in June of 2021.
During portions of his direct examination, Murdaugh could hardly hold himself together. He sobbed as he described his love for “Mags and Pawpaw” as he called them. He also became extremely emotional when describing the gruesome scene on the night of the murders.
Murdaugh came clean early in the testimony about being at the kennels around 8:44 p.m. the night of the murders, despite initially telling law enforcement that he was not there. He said it was his voice on the video Paul took and that he lied because he was paranoid.
Prosecution honed in on Murdaugh’s habit of lying, also pointing out that Murdaugh looked his clients in the eyes and stole millions of dollars.
Murdaugh admitted to all of the financial crimes. He said that he wronged a lot of people, including people that he cared about, and he was embarrassed by what he did.
The state went through several of Murdaugh’s financial crimes in detail; each time Murdaugh admitted that he was at fault.
Prosecution is expected to pick up cross-examination of Murdaugh at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
ALEX MURDAUGH MURDER TRIAL LIVE BLOG:
5:33 p.m. – Court is in recess and will resume at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Harpootlian says that they have two experts brought in that are not supposed to take long and asks if they could hear the witnesses before resuming cross with Murdaugh Friday morning so that the experts can leave and not stay over the weekend. Waters says that he does not want to be interrupted. Judge Newman asks how long Waters expects to continue questioning Murdaugh. Waters says he is very bad at that, maybe three to four hours. Judge Newman says that he is not going to require the state to break up the cross-examination.
3:43 p.m. – Prosecution begins cross-examination of Murdaugh. Waters asks about Murdaugh’s lie that he wasn’t at the kennels at 8:44 p.m. He agrees the first time he openly admitted he was there was today.
Waters asks about the Murdaugh legal dynasty. Murdaugh’s great-grandfather, grandfather, and father were all solicitors. They served consecutively from 1920 to 2006, according to Murdaugh.
Waters asks if a big part of the family history is being the solicitor. Murdaugh says it is. Waters asks if Murdaugh ever became a full-time solicitor. Murdaugh says no.
Waters asks about the type of cases Murdaugh worked on as a trial lawyer. Murdaugh says he worked all kinds of cases. Many of his biggest cases were automobile crashes.
Waters asks if Murdaugh was ever involved in cases where they had to gather telemetry data from cars. Murdaugh says he never had data like the data presented this week, but he’s looked at black boxes and other vehicle data.
Waters asks if he’s worked on cases where call record data, cell tower data, and GPS data were relevant to the case. Murdaugh says yes.
Waters asks if Murdaugh thought people viewed him as a successful lawyer and as his family as prominent in the community. He says he thinks his family was well thought of and respected, but didn’t consider themselves “big shots.”
Waters brings up the family’s long association with law enforcement. Murdaugh agrees. He says they had friendships and professional relationships.
Murdaugh says he became an assistant solicitor around 1998. Waters asks if he got a badge. Murdaugh says yes. From 1998 to 2021, Murdaugh thinks he was involved in around five jury trials, all with his father.
Waters presents Murdaugh’s assistant solicitor badge and his grandfather’s assistant solicitor badge, which Murdaugh inherited when he died. Waters asks where Murdaugh kept them. Murdaugh says he didn’t have a special place for it. Waters says it was found in the Mercedes the day of the roadside shooting.
Waters asks why Murdaugh would put it in the car. Murdaugh says he might have it on the dashboard or cup holder if he wanted someone to see it, like if he got pulled over. Waters asks why he would want that to be visible if he got pulled over. Murdaugh says he found that sometimes law enforcement was friendlier.
Waters asks about blue lights Murdaugh had installed on a law firm vehicle that he drove. Murdaugh says he thinks he thinks the same person who does most of the lights for law enforcement in the area installed them. He says he asked the sheriff at the time if it was okay and the sheriff said it was fine.
Waters asks why Murdaugh didn’t call Paul “Pawpaw” in any of the recorded statements played throughout the trial or if this is the first time he’s calling him that. Murdauh says he doesn’t remember if he ever called him that in the statements, but he has always called Paul that.
Waters asks if Murdaugh had the assistant solicitor badge on him the night of the boat wreck when he went to the hospital. Murdaugh says he doesn’t think so, but really isn’t sure. Waters shows a photo of Murdaugh with what appears to be the badge in his pocket. Murdaugh agrees it appears to be the badge, but says he doesn’t remember. Waters asks if it was maybe to get an advantage. Murdaugh says maybe. He says he really doesn’t recall, but if he had to guess, he was maybe trying to curry favor with other law enforcement. Waters asks if Murdaugh used that to get into areas meant only for official personnel. Murdaugh says absolutely not. He only went to areas that were open.
Waters asks if he told any of the kids not to cooperate with law enforcement. Murdaugh says he never told any of them that at any point in time.
Waters asks if Murdaugh ever wanted to be the solicitor. Murdaugh says for a time he did. Prior to his dad retiring, around 2006. He says he was struggling with pills and knew he couldn’t do it.
Waters asks if Murdaugh knows how former Colleton County Sheriff Andy Strickland lost his job. Waters points out it was a few months prior to Murdaugh learning about the investigation into his actions the night of the boat accident. Murdaugh says he thinks Andy was charged in the fall and he learned about the investigation into his actions in the spring.
In the fall of 2020, Andy Strickland was indicted in a financial corruption investigation and fired as the sheriff.
Waters asks when Murdaugh started stealing money from clients. Murdaugh says he really doesn’t know.
Waters goes through some of Murdaugh’s big cases starting with Natasha Thomas. He points out that Murdaugh got $800,000 in legal fees from the case and still stole from her. They also talk about the Pinckney case, the Plyler case, the Badger case, etc. Murdaugh says he admits that in all the cases Waters is about to present, he took money from people he shouldn’t have, he did them wrong and he is embarrassed by what he did. Waters asks if some of the money was used to support Murdaugh’s wealthy lifestyle. Murdaugh says yes.
Waters brings up Russell Laffitte. Murdaugh says that there was no conspiracy; anything nefarious was done by Murdaugh alone. He says that Laffitte didn’t do anything wrong. He says he doesn’t know about any money that Laffitte loaned to himself.
Murdaugh says that he did not take money from clients to pay off loans from other client accounts. If he did, he does not remember that being a motivation.
Waters asks Murdaugh to describe how he sat down, looked clients in the eye, and stole their money.
3:29 p.m. – The jury is sent to the jury room for a 10-minute break.
2:42 p.m. – Court resumes. Griffin asks about Murdaugh’s June 7 meeting with Jeanne Seckinger. Murdaugh says he remembers the meeting. He says Seckinger was just doing her job and he understood why she had to ask.
Murdaugh acknowledges that the check for the Farris fees came to him directly and it shouldn’t have, it should’ve gone to the law firm. He says he told her the fees were with Chris Wilson and there was nothing to worry about.
Murdaugh says he was concerned, but not incredibly concerned. Griffin asks if there was an immediate urgency on June 7. Murdaugh says no.
Griffin asks if Murdaugh believed on June 7 that his “financial house of cards was about to crumble.” Murdaugh says absolutely not.
Griffin asks if Murdaugh had equity in Moselle and was trying to get a line of credit on it. Murdaugh says yes. He says the process was made more difficult after Maggie’s death because a lot of their property was in her name.
A hearing on the boating case was scheduled for June 10. Griffin asks what Murdaugh’s level of concern was. Murdaugh says that he was more concerned about the change of venue, not about his finances coming to light. He says he was a plaintiff’s lawyer. He knows how the process works. In his 27 years, he says he was never able to get a judge to order anything more than a net worth statement before trial.
Murdaugh was working on a financial statement listing his assets and liabilities but didn’t expect to have to provide more detail than that.
Griffin asks if Murdaugh stole from clients. Murdaugh admits that he stole from clients and the law firm.
Griffin asks how Murdaugh got into such a financial predicament. Murdaugh says he’s not quite sure how he let it get to that point, but he was spending so much money on pills. He says that his addiction dates back to his days playing football in college. He hurt his knee and had surgery, but it didn’t fix the problem. In the early 2000s, Murdaugh had additional surgeries and got addicted to hydrocodone. Around 2008-2009 he estimates he switched to oxycodone.
Murdaugh says he has been to a detox facility three times, the first being in December 2017.
As of today, Murdaugh has been clean for 535 days. He says he is very proud of that.
Griffin asks about the confrontation with his law firm around Labor Day of 2021. He admitted to his partners that he was stealing money. He gave his drugs to his brother Randy and started trying to detox.
After meeting with Chris Wilson and suffering from withdrawals, Murdaugh called Curtis Eddie Smith to get more pills. He changed his mind and instead asked Smith to shoot him. Griffin asks why. Murdaugh says he knew everything was coming to a head and that it would be humiliating for Buster, he had been through so much, and it seemed like the easiest thing to do.
Murdaugh chokes up describing Maggie. He says she was beautiful inside and out, adventurous, fun, independent, classy, and devoted to her family. He says she had difficult pregnancies and it made her love the boys so much more. He says he would never do anything to hurt her.
Griffin asks Murdaugh to describe Paul. Murdaugh says Paul was bright, curious, tough, kind, loyal, and misrepresented by the media. Murdaugh challenges everyone who can hear him to find someone that really knew Paul who has a bad thing to say about him. He says that Paul hadn’t quite found his place yet, but whatever it would’ve been, Paul would’ve been the best at it.
He says that when they were doing Paul’s eulogy, one of Paul’s friends told them that Paul would tell everyone “be present, appreciate where you are, the things you have, and the people around you.” He says he thinks Mallory Beach dying really hurt Paul and changed his perspective.
He says he loved Paul and would never do anything to hurt him or Maggie. Griffin asks if he killed them. Murdaugh says no.
1:23 p.m. – Court is breaking for lunch and will resume around 2:40 p.m.
12:38 p.m. – Court resumes.
Griffin asks Murdaugh if he got blood on him when he checked the bodies. Murdaugh says yes, he knows he got blood on his fingertips. He said if the blood on the steering wheel was fresh, it was from his fingers.
Griffin asks if Murdaugh was anywhere near Paul and Maggie when they got shot. Murdaugh says no.
Griffin asks about the next morning. Murdaugh says they left Alameda, they came back to Moselle and showered. He says he gave SLED full permission to search any of his property (including his cars, which were company property) at any time.
Murdaugh says he asked SLED agent David Owen about phone GPS data and OnStar data several times. He said it was very important to him. He knew there would be GPS data on Maggie’s phone because she loved to use Find my Friends.
Griffin asks what Murdaugh’s understanding was of why SLED was interviewing him on June 7 and June 10. Murdaugh says he knew he was a suspect because he was the one who found them.
He says he had no question that the GPS data would exonerate him.
Griffin asks when the GPS data was finally obtained. Murdaugh says the OnStar data was obtained within the past week or two. The GPS data on Maggie’s phone was never obtained because her GPS data only went back to June 9.
Murdaugh never stayed at Moselle again after June 7. He stayed at Alameda for a few days then hopped between other family members’ homes. Murdaugh says he was with Buster almost 24/7 for the first few days after the murders.
Murdaugh’s niece had a baby shortly after the murders. He says it became even more important to him because Maggie was so excited for the baby.
Griffin asks if Murdaugh has ever seen the blue rain jacket. Murdaugh says he’s never seen it and never touched it. He says he doesn’t remember ever taking a tarp over to his parent’s house either. He says maybe Mushell Smith saw him with it some other time, but not in the weeks after his dad’s funeral.
Griffin plays a clip from Murdaugh’s August 11 interview with SLED. He points out that Murdaugh gave some inaccurate times for when he arrived to work and left work. Murdaugh says he told Owen that the times were estimates, but Owen could check his key card to get exact times.
Griffin plays a clip from the June 10 interview. Murdaugh says in the interview he thinks Paul arrived sometime around 5:00 p.m.
He says it was broad daylight, not dusk or dark, and they rode around.
Murdaugh now realizes that was wrong and it was around 7:00 p.m.
Griffin asks about the conversation with Mushell Smith during which she says Murdaugh tried to convince her he was at his mom’s house longer than he actually was. He says he doesn’t remember talking about that with her, but he did tell her SLED was going to want to talk to her and he would appreciate it if she would talk to them.
Murdaugh says he was careful not to talk too much to people he knew SLED would want to talk to because there was so much speculation that he fixed witnesses and influenced the boat case.
Murdaugh says that SLED questioned him in the August 11 interview about the clothes he was wearing in the video, but never asked him to produce them. He says his clothes were never an issue in the case until his lawyers proved that the bloodspatter the state said it found on the t-shirt he was wearing later that night was not actually there.
12:23 p.m. – The jury is sent to the jury room for a break.
10:45 a.m. – Murdaugh is called to the stand.
Defense attorney Jim Griffin presents a shotgun and immediately asks if Murdaugh blew his son’s brains out. Murdaugh says no.
He presents a 300-Blackout and asks if Murdaugh shot Maggie. Murdaugh says no.
He refers to Maggie as “Mags” and Paul and “Pawpaw”
Murdaugh appears to be holding back tears.
Griffin asks if it is Murdaugh on the kennel video. Murdaugh says yes. He says he lied to SLED. Murdaugh says he lied because of his opioid addiction. He says little things would make him paranoid. His partners told him not to talk to anyone without Danny (Henderson, Murdaugh’s attorney) with him.
Murdaugh said that he was paranoid because of the trauma of finding Maggie and Paul, everyone asking about his relationship with his wife and son, taking GSR tests of his hand, etc. He says he wasn’t thinking clearly and doesn’t think he was capable of reasoning.
He says he lied about being down there and he is so sorry that he did. He apologizes directly to Buster, Maggie’s parents, their families, and Maggie and Paul. Through tears, he says he would never intentionally do anything to hurt either one of them.
Griffin asks why Murdaugh kept the lie up. Murdaugh says “oh what a tangled web we weave.” He says once he told the lie he felt like he had to keep lying.
Griffin asks Murdaugh to go through the day of June 7.
Murdaugh says it was a regular day. Maggie was going to a doctor’s appointment in Charleston and had stuff to do at the Edisto house.
He says that when he learned the sunflowers were dead, he knew Paul would have to come home to help plow the field.
He met up with Paul after work. They went to the dove field (where the sunflowers were planted), then decided to ride around the property. Murdaugh chokes up when talking about spending time with Paul.
Griffin asks about the Snapchat video of Murdaugh next to the tree. Murdaugh says he was “foolin’ with a fruit tree” that had been falling over and he had been trying to fix.
Murdaugh says that you could not be around Paul and not have a good time. He says that he couldn’t have been any closer to Paul and couldn’t be closer to Buster.
Murdaugh says he thinks he and Paul were at the shop when Maggie arrived. She went to the house, then Murdaugh went to the house, and Paul stayed at the shop.
Murdaugh said after he got to the house, he talked to Maggie and took a shower. He says he is just over 6’4 and weighed around 265 pounds, so he was hot and sweaty. He says taking oxycodone also makes you sweat excessively.
Murdaugh claims the clothes in the Snapchat video were the clothes he wore to work that day.
He says that Paul was already eating when he came down, but he and Maggie ate together. They ate in the living room while watching TV.
Paul left to go do something else. Maggie left to go to the kennels. Murdaugh says he laid down on the couch. He says he didn’t want to go to the kennels because it was hot and he had just taken a shower and didn’t want to end up doing more work and getting sweaty again. He says the dogs are always chaotic and he didn’t want to go right then.
Murdaugh says that at the time, he didn’t know how Maggie got to the kennels, but after looking at the records presented in the trial, it’s clear to him Maggie rode with Paul.
He says that like many other times when Maggie asked him to do something and he didn’t want to, he changed his mind and decided to go to the kennels. He took the golf cart. He says it was a bit chaotic when he got there, as he suspected.
He had to get a chicken out of Bubba’s mouth. The chicken ended up dying.
Griffin asks how long it took to get the chicken out of Bubba’s mouth. He said it didn’t take long.
Murdaugh left in the golf cart and went back to the house. He says he laid down on the couch. Then, he decided to go check on his mom because his dad was in the hospital and his mom was particularly agitated.
Griffin asks why Murdaugh didn’t go by the kennels when he left to go to Alameda. He says there was no reason to and the main gate was closer. He tried to call Maggie twice, but she didn’t answer. At the time it didn’t concern him because service is spotty at Moselle, so it wasn’t uncommon to not be able to get ahold of someone.
When he got to Alameda, he parked around the back to the left of some steps, which is where they always parked if they were going into the house through the sunroom.
He says he knocked on the door but Shelly Smith didn’t hear him, so he called. He went in and sat with his mom and talked to her. She was awake at the time, according to Murdaugh.
Murdaugh says that Maggie wasn’t planning on going with him that night. He said that Maggie would go visit with him sometimes, but it made her sad to see his parents in that condition, so she didn’t go as often as he did.
Griffin asks what Murdaugh was doing when his car was stopped in the driveway at Alameda for about one minute. Murdaugh says he was getting his phone, which had fallen between the seat and the center console. Griffin asks if Murdaugh was disposing of the murder weapons and bloody clothes. Murdaugh says no.
Griffin asks how Murdaugh entered Moselle when he got back. Murdaugh says he went through the main gate and went to the house. Griffin asks if he was surprised Maggie and Paul weren’t there. Murdaugh says he expected them to be there, but he wasn’t shocked. He looked around the house for Maggie and didn’t find her, so he went down to the kennels.
Murdaugh sobs as he recalls what he saw at the kennels. He says he saw the bodies on the ground as he was pulling up. He thinks he jumped out of his car, ran back to his car and called 911, tried to check the bodies, and went back and forth between them.
He says Paul was “so bad.” He says he knows he tried to check Paul for a pulse, grabbed him by the belt loop, and tried to turn him over. Griffin asks why. Murdaugh says he doesn’t know. He didn’t know what to do. When he pulled on the belt loop, Murdaugh says Paul’s phone popped out. He picked it up and put it back on him. He says he didn’t see any messages on Paul’s phone at the time.
Griffin plays the Colleton County portion of the 911 call.
Griffin asks what Murdaugh was referring to when he said “it’s so bad.” Murdaugh said the scene was bad. He says he knew as soon as he pulled up.
Griffin asks why Murdaugh said “here!” in the middle of the call. Murdaugh says he was talking to the dispatcher. He said he was responding to a question that the dispatcher asked about whether there were any guns around them. He says he goes on to say “they didn’t shoot themselves if that’s what you’re asking.”
During the call, Murdaugh says “I should’ve known.” Griffin asks why. Murdaugh says that he was saying that to Paul about the threats he was receiving in connection to the boat crash. Murdaugh says they didn’t take them seriously because the threats were so crazy and over the top.
On the phone call, the dispatcher asks the last time Murdaugh talked to Maggie and Paul. He says an hour and a half to two hours ago. He tells the dispatcher he saw them in person.
Griffin asks the last time Murdaugh saw Maggie and Paul. Murdaugh says right after he got the chicken out of Bubba’s mouth. Shortly after 8:44 p.m., which would be close to an hour and a half before the 10:06 p.m. 911 call.
10:19 a.m. – The jury is sent to the jury room for a break. Harpootlian says that Murdaugh does not want to consult with his lawyers more before taking the stand, but that he does need to use the restroom.
9:59 a.m. – Prosecution begins cross-examination.
Prosecution asks about his relationship with Paul. Tuten again says Paul was like his little brother.
Paul’s cell phone use is again brought up. Tuten confirms Paul was an avid user.
They discuss Paul’s 300-Blackout going missing. Tuten says they went to a Halloween party, Paul left it in his car, and it was gone when they returned to the car. Tuten believes it was stolen.
When Paul’s was stolen, Paul started using Buster’s 300-Blackout.
Prosecution asks if Paul was unpredictable. Tuten says yes. He was all over the place from Columbia to Hampton to Charleston.
Prosecution asks about June 7. Tuten confirms he talked to Paul multiple times that day. They were going to plow the sunflowers, but Tuten got stuck at work.
Paul sent Tuten a Snapchat later that evening of a piece of equipment leaking.
Prosecution asks about the kennel video. Tuten identifies Paul, Maggie, and Murdaugh’s voices.
Prosecution asks if you could see the kennels from the house at night if all the lights at the kennel were turned on. Tuten says yes.
Tuten says that his mom told him something was going on at Moselle that night. He tried to call and text Paul and got no response, so he went over as fast as he could.
Tuten says that when he got there he saw first responders by the kennels, so he tried to pull in there, but they wouldn’t let him in. He went through the other entrance instead.
When he got there, the bodies were still at the crime scene. He says the immediate crime scene was sort of roped off, but people were still around the area.
Tuten says that Murdaugh brought up the boat wreck to him twice that night.
Murdaugh also asked Tuten to get in touch with Rogan Gibson.
9:50 a.m. – Defense calls Nolen Tuten to the stand.
Tuten is the brother of Nathan Tuten, who previously testified. He has known the Murdaugh family his whole life. He says Paul was one of his best friends and like a brother.
He says that the family had a good relationship and that Paul and his father were close.
Tuten describes Maggie as a very sweet woman who treated him as one of her own.
Tuten says that he and Paul would never walk to the kennels, but sometimes Maggie would. She would walk, drive, ride a bike, etc.
Tuten was supposed to go help Paul plow sunflowers on the evening of June 7, 2021, but got stuck at work.
He gets a call about the murders around 10:00 p.m. or 11:00 p.m. and went straight to Moselle. He said that when got there, Murdaugh was crying. They hugged.
9:35 a.m. – Court is in session. Murdaugh’s attorneys again bring up whether the prosecution will be allowed to question him about financial crimes, saying their advice to Murdaugh about whether to take the stand will differ based on that. Harpootlian also says that questioning on all the financial matters will extend the trial by a week.
Judge Newman says that those matters have already been admitted and the court will not make a special exception for Murdaugh.
Judge Newman explains to Murdaugh his rights.
He explains that Murdaugh is not required to testify, but he has the right to testify on his own behalf. If Murdaugh decides not to testify, Judge Newman says that the jurors will be instructed not to give that any consideration or let it prejudice their decision against Murdaugh in any way.
Judge Newman asks Murdaugh if he wants to testify. Murdaugh says yes.
There will be one witness before Murdaugh takes the stand.
9:00 a.m. – Alex Murdaugh arrives at the Colleton County Courthouse.