WALTERBORO, S.C. (WSAV) — Alex Murdaugh’s double murder trial continues into the twelfth day. He is accused of killing his wife and son at their Moselle property in June of 2021.
After yesterday’s decision by Judge Clifton Newman, allowing alleged financial crimes evidence and witnesses into the Murdaugh murder trial, we should begin to hear from those witnesses today.
Murdaugh is facing more than 90 charges alleging he stole millions from his own clients, law firm, and even his own clients.
Today, The state and the defense began by arguing over Muschelle “Shelley” Smith’s testimony —something that was a point of controversy for both legal teams on Monday. The defense asked to throw out Smith’s testimony saying she had contradicted herself but Judge Newman denied the motion to strike Smith’s testimony or declare it irrelevant.
Jeanne Seckinger, the chief financial officer of the Parker Law Group, previously PMPED, provided crucial testimony for the state late into the morning. She told the jury that Alex Murdaugh was really good at manipulating people in order to settle cases. Seckinger also said that Murdaugh was hiding assets which the firm did not want to be a part of.
She said Murdaugh had begun acting erratic and taking pills. In a statement made shortly after Alex’s failed suicide attempt in September 2021, his lawyer Dick Harpootlian said Alex had an addiction to opioids spanning over the past 20 years.
Ronnie Crosby, one of Murdaugh’s former law partners and attorney for the Parker Law Group was also called to the witness stand to testify about Alex’s financial crimes. He told the jury that the firm had to change its name as well as its status as its own legal entity after Alex Murdaugh’s financial crimes were uncovered.
During questioning, Crosby told the state he was close with the family and had even planned to go offshore fishing with Paul on June 8, a day after he was killed. Crosby was also shown the video from the night of the murders and was asked to identify the voices he heard. Like Rogan Gibson and Will Loving, Crosby said he heard the voices of Paul, Maggie, and Alex in the video.
The trial wrapped up with forensic scientist, Megan Fletcher, who assisted Jamie Hall, an evidence custodian and former SLED forensic technician, discussing GSR (gunshot residue) found on items turned over for testing.
Gunshot primer residue particles were found on Murdaugh’s hands, the white shirt, cargo shorts, and blue raincoat that Alex Murdaugh turned over to authorities. Fletcher says there was a significant number of particles found on the inside of the coat—typically, forensics teams do not collect from the inside of clothes unless instructed to do so—that probably totaled well over 38.
The defense is expected to pick up the cross-examination of the GSR expert Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.
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ALEX MURDAUGH MURDER TRIAL LIVE BLOG:
9:30 a.m. – Court is gaveled into session.
9:41 a.m. – Defense attorney Jim Griffin reads a transcript of witness testimony from Muschelle “Shelly” Smith. Smith is the caregiver of Alex Murdaugh’s mom known as “Miss Libby.”
The state and Murdaugh’s defense team argued over the contradictions in Smith’s testimony. Griffin read the transcription where Smith said she never saw the blue jacket that SLED found in Alex’s mom’s home.
Judge Clifton Newman denied the motion to strike Smith’s testimony or to declare it irrelevant.
Griffin said the defense’s objection Monday was that the gunshot residue evidence is prejudicial. Newman disagreed with the defense and denied that objection. Juror 548 was excused for the day because he is currently in the emergency room. This juror is an alternate.
9:55 a.m. – The state called Jeanne Seckinger to the witness stand. Seckinger is the chief financial officer of the Parker Law Group, previously PMPED. Seckinger’s first testimony in this trial happened last Thursday where she focused on Alex’s alleged financial crimes.
That testimony was not made in front of the jury because it was before Judge Newman decided to admit testimony on Alex’s alleged financial crimes.
PMPED was the law firm where Alex Murdaugh was a lawyer and partner. That law firm was founded by Randolph Murdaugh at the turn of the 19th century. PMPED eventually transitioned into Parker Law Group LLP after Alex’s departure on Sept. 3, 2021.
10:11 a.m. – “I think Alex was successful more not from his work ethic, but from his ability to establish relationships and to manipulate people into settlements and clients into liking him,” Seckinger testified. “So, he did it through the art of bulls***, basically.”
Seckinger said Alex would use the emotion of each case and the emotion of his clients to get good results.
10:25 a.m. – Seckinger testified that there’s a firm based in Atlanta named Forge Consulting that clients of the law firm would use for structured settlements. One might decide to do this to avoid paying taxes on the money that particular year, Seckinger testified. Alex allegedly used a Bank of America account under a similar name “Forge” to steal money from the firm.
10:35 a.m. – Seckinger testified that she told Alex he had transferred money from the trust account incorrectly because he sent the money directly to the law firm instead of Forge Consulting because he wouldn’t recoup the tax benefits.
Alex told her was trying to put money in Maggie’s name while going through the deadly boat crash case.
“That is hiding assets,” Seckinger said. “And we’re not going to be a part of hiding assets or any wrongdoing so we were very concerned that he was trying to do that and we didn’t want to be a part of it.”
10:49 a.m. – Seckinger testifies about confronting Alex on June 7, 2021 outside his office. She says Murdaugh gave her “a pretty dirty look” and asked what she wanted.
Seckinger explains she has reason to believe Murdaugh was stealing money and that he needed to prove he wasn’t. Murdaugh responded saying the money was in Chris Wilson’s account and he needed more time to figure out what to do with it.
The conversation was cut short after Murdaugh received a call that his father, Randolph Murdaugh III, was sick in the hospital and it wasn’t looking good.
His father died within a few days after the conversation.
10:52 a.m. – After the killings of Paul and Maggie, Seckinger testified that Alex wasn’t working much and when he was he was acting erratic and taking pills. Seckinger didn’t specify what type of pills she said he was taking at the time. However, in a statement made shortly after Alex’s failed suicide attempt in September 2021, his lawyer Dick Harpootlian said Alex had an addiction to opioids spanning over the past 20 years
Seckinger said the last thing the law firm was worried about was confronting him about the missing $792,000 that they believed Alex had stolen from the firm. The investigation into the missing funds was halted.
“We were just worried about his sanity, so we weren’t going to go in there and harass him about money when we were worried about his mental state and the fact that his family had been killed,” Seckinger said. “It just wasn’t even on our mind at that point.”
10:57 a.m. – Seckinger testifies about a check being brought to her attention by a colleague. The check was made out to Alex Murdaugh from Chris Wilson’s client trust account for $225,000 dated for March 10, 2021.
Seckinger continued to dig into Murdaugh’s financial history at the firm. She traced back all of Alex’s payments and canceled checks to an account titled Forge and found they were being paid to a Bank of America account with Murdaugh’s signature.
She notified William Barnes and he agreed that it was his signature. They notified Mark Ball and he noticed one of the cases was a Worker’s Compensation case that could not be sent to Forge Consulting.
They notified Michael Gunn, owner of Forge Consulting, and asked if they had been banking at Bank of America and he confirmed they had not banked there in years.
11:11 a.m. – Seckinger said PMPED lawyers met at Lee Cope’s house on Sept. 3, 2021 to discuss the findings they allege show that Alex had been stealing from the law firm.
“Randy [Murdaugh] came in, we presented him the evidence and he immediately hung his head and said ‘he stole it, we’ve got to do something about this,’” Seckinger said.
Danny Henderson and Randy Murdaugh then went to confront Alex about the evidence where he admitted to stealing the money and decided to resign, Seckinger testified.
11:12 a.m. — Judge Newman issues a 25-minute break.
11:56 a.m. – Seckinger testified over “phantom money” that Alex pocketed. In one instance discussed, Seckinger said the money was stolen from a client named Deion. Seckinger said Alex created a fake recovery fee and wrote on the disbursement sheet that the money was going to Michael Gunn, the owner of Forge Consulting.
However, Seckinger claimed through their investigation they found that there was no structured annuity to Gunn. Instead, Alex pocketed the fee which amounted to $200,000.
“That $200,000 should have been the client’s money, but he faked a fee,” Seckinger said. “It was counted in as fees under his column in our system. Poof phantom money,” Seckinger said.
Seckinger said the law firm had to pay back the client their money.
12:02 p.m. – Seckinger testified in one particular case, none of the recovery money went to the client, instead, it was sent to Alex’s bank account under the name “Forge.”
Seckinger said after the fact, Alex’s secretary called the firm’s accounting and said Alex wanted to send the money to the client. The accounting department then told his secretary that the money had already been sent to the client.
“So then Alex said he wanted to give a portion of his fee back to the client because she was just a sweet lady that he felt she needed some funds given back to her.”
12:23 p.m. – Seckinger reads an email exchange between Alex and Russell Laffitte discussing a loan. At that time, Laffitte was the CEO Of Palmetto State Bank. Seckinger alleges that Alex asked her to recut a check to Palmetto State Bank.
Seckinger obliged and claimed the money was then used to pay for personal loans Alex owed on.
12:46 p.m. — Defense attorney Jim Griffin begins cross-examing Seckinger. Griffin began asking Seckinger about her interaction with Alex on June 7, 2021, in regard to the missing $792,000.
1:03 p.m. – Griffin asked Seckinger why she was scared following the killings. Seckinger said she was scared because nothing as violent as the killings of Paul and Maggie had ever happened with the other lawyers or employees at the law firm. She said employees were also scared.
Griffin: “But your mind didn’t go to, ‘gosh I think he killed his wife and his son because I asked him about the Farris fee,’ right?”
1:11 p.m. – Seckinger said the law firm didn’t investigate Alex’s alleged financial crimes earlier because they had never heard complaints from clients about their missing funds. Seckinger reiterates that the clients told her that they were shocked to find out about the years of alleged stealing from them.
“He fooled a lot of people like a said, myself included,” Seckinger said.
Griffin: “Clients weren’t calling up complaining around June 7 that ‘hey, y’all need to be looking at Alex because something’s a miss here. That wasn’t happening around June 7, was it?
Seckinger: “No, and shamefully when we did talk with clients they talked about how much they trusted Alex and much he thought of ‘em and how that they were shocked and confused by the fact that he had manipulated and confused them all those years.”
Griffin ends his questioning. The state begins questioning Seckinger again.
1:22 p.m. – Seckinger told the state that when the firm found a check to Chris Wilson it created a domino effect resulting in the opening of an investigation it claims uncovered the alleged financial crimes.
Judge Newman issues a lunch break with the trial set to resume at 2:40 p.m.
2:52 p.m. – The jury returns to the courtroom.
2:55 p.m. – The prosecution calls attorney Ronnie Crosby to the witness stand. Crosby is a former law partner of Alex when the pair worked together at PMPED, now known as Parker Law Group LLP.
Crosby is asked about Alex Murdaugh’s cellphone usage as well as his skills as a lawyer. Crosby tells the prosecution that he was good at making people believe that he cared about them.
The prosecution asks about Murdaugh’s financial status during 2008, 2009, and 2010. He tells the jury that Alex was financially strained during that time.
3:07 p.m. – Crosby is asked about the boat case in which Mallory Beach was killed. Beach had worked for Crosby’s wife.
The prosecution asks Crosby if he knows Gloria Satterfield. He says he spoke with Alex about the incident after it occurred. Alex Murdaugh tells Crosby that the dogs tripped Satterfield causing the deadly fall and that her children were going to sue him.
Crosby is asked if he was involved in the Farris vs. Mack truck case. Murdaugh worked on that case with Chris Wilson which sparked PMPED’s investigation into his finances
Crosby told Alex “Oh f— no, he did not,” when it was suggested Alex could hide money from the boat crash lawsuit in structured settlements.
He tells the prosecution that he did not think Alex Murdaugh was stealing funds during late May of 2021.
Crosby gets emotional speaking about the murders saying, “I didn’t know this was going to be so hard.”
He knew the family well including Paul and Maggie Murdaugh.
3:22 p.m. – Crosby was at home on the night of June 7. He had invited Paul to go fishing with their family the next day. Crosby says Murdaugh fell asleep on the couch around 8 p.m. and then woke up around 9:00 p.m. to go check on his mother. Murdaugh tells Crosby that he laid next to his mother for a short while before returning to Moselle where he discovered Maggie and Paul weren’t there.
The State plays the video from the night of the killings and asks Crosby if he recognizes any voices. He says he is 100% sure he hears Paul, Maggie, and Alex in the video.
Crosby said Paul and his friends would hunt hogs on the property. He tells the prosecution that they would kill the hogs with the .300 Blackout Rifles at first, but later they moved on to killing them with knives.
In September of 2021, Crosby said his partners called and insisted he comes to Danny Henderson’s house. He was given a folder of the fake Forge checks.
3:50 p.m. – Crosby says Alex was told he was getting fired for the financial issues, he admitted that”he knew he would get caught at some point in time.”
3:53 p.m. – Defense attorney Jim Griffin begins cross-examining Ronnie Crosby.
Griffin asks if Maggie and Paul’s bodies were covered when he arrived at Moselle on the night of the murders. He was close enough to determine the caliber of the shell casings. Crosby says he thought he saw 223 shell casings, but later found out it was .300 Blackout shell casings. Crosby later visited Jimmy Butler’s, a local car shop, because Paul had taken his truck there the night before the murders to see if Paul’s guns were in his truck.
Crosby says that the crime scene was gruesome with blood and biological material still visible after SLED released the crime scene. The defense asks Crosby if he felt the crime scene was preserved on the night of June 7.
The defense asks about Alex Murdaugh’s cellphone habits again. He tells the defense that Murdaugh would pick up the phone during a deposition.
Crosby says Alex Murdaugh wasn’t sleeping or eating very well after the murders. Crosby says Alex Murdaugh brought a gun to a gathering after the murders. He says he didn’t remember Alex Murdaugh carrying a gun around prior to the killings.
4:00 p.m. update:
4:22 p.m. – Creighton Waters takes over questioning again.
He asks Crosby if “he really knew Alex Murdaugh.”
The jury leaves for a break.
4:35 p.m. – The jury returns to the courtroom.
The State calls forensic scientist Megan Fletcher to the witness stand. She started her career with SLED in 2007 and was first trained in gunshot residue trace evidence. Explosives, fire debris, glass, gunshot residue, and general chemical unknowns can be detected by testing despite being unnoticeable to the naked eye.
Gunshot residue is everything that comes out of a gun when it’s fired, but gunshot primer residue particles are microscopic particles that come from the primer component of a gun’s cartridge.
Gunshot residue can easily be transferred. A simple handshake can cause GSR to transfer and it can stay on inanimate objects indefinitely while the testing window for living beings is about 6 hours.
SLED has not tested victims for GSR who have sustained gunshot wounds since January 2022.
Fletcher says there was a strong scent of laundry detergent on the white shirt Alex turned over to authorities. The State asks Fletcher about the testing methods performed on the clothes collected from Alex Murdaugh.
5:00 p.m. update:
5:05 p.m. – Gunshot primer residue was found on the white shirt.
Gunshot primer residue particles were also found on the cargo shorts.
The shoes turned over on the night of the murders that Alex was wearing was tested as well but no particles were detected.
The seatbelt was examined on Sep. 1 2021. Fletcher says she assisted Hall in the particle lift performed on the seatbelt from Alex Murdaugh’s vehicle. GSR particles were found on the buckle.
There is no timeframe from when the particles were deposited on the clothing or seatbelt.
The State shows Fletcher images of the blue raincoat that she tested alongside Jamie Hall. Fletcher describes for the jury how they went about collecting gunshot primer residue from the jacket. She said that particles of gunshot primer residue were found on the raincoat.
There were 38 GSR particles from the inside of the jacket, a significant number, and possibly more since Fletcher made the decision to stop counting the number of particles because there were so many found.
5:35 p.m. – The jury adjourns for the day.
6:00 p.m. update: