WALTERBORO, S.C. (WSAV) — Thursday proved to be the biggest day so far for the defense in the double murder trial of the once prominent Lowcountry attorney, Alex Murdaugh, as he testified on his own behalf.
Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife and youngest son at their Moselle hunting property in June of 2021.
In the first three minutes of his testimony, Murdaugh said he loved his wife, Maggie, he loved his son, Paul, and could never take a gun and shoot them.
It was the beginning of nearly six hours on the stand for the murder suspect where he denied his role in the killings.
However, he did not deny lying and stealing.
“What a tangled web we weave,” Murdaugh said. “But once I told a lie, I mean, I told my family, I had to keep on lying.”
Murdaugh admitted he lied to law enforcement about being at the kennels on the night of the murders. He blamed it on his addiction saying it made him paranoid, adding that he distrusted SLED investigators as well.
Meanwhile, Murdaugh admitted he stole from the law firm and from clients.
The state focused on Murdaugh’s admission, going one by one through all of the people he took thousands of dollars from.
Murdaugh was emotional throughout his testimony. At one point a juror pushed tissues toward him while he cried talking about Paul and Maggie. Most others remained stone-faced as they listened.
Murdaugh will be back on the stand Friday for more cross-examination. That’s expected to start at 9:30 a.m.
WSAV is streaming all throughout the Alex Murdaugh murder trial. Follow WSAV‘s Investigative Reporter @WSAVAndrewD and Reporter @JLeonardNews for live tweets and keep up with the trial via our live blogs on wsav.com. Tune in to News 3 at 4 p.m., 5 p.m., and 6 p.m. for full coverage.
ALEX MURDAUGH MURDER TRIAL LIVE BLOG:
8 a.m. – A long line of people waited to enter the Colleton County Courthouse, with some showing up as early as 5 a.m. to witness Alex Murdaugh’s testimony.
9:30 a.m. – Judge Clifton Newman gavels court into session. Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian begins with an attempt to renew motions to exclude all financial crimes from Alex’s testimony.
Harpootlian says the trial will go on for a week longer if we include the financial crimes.
9:43 a.m. – Alex Murdaugh approaches the bench with his defense team. Judge Clifton Newman reads Murdaugh his rights. He tells him that no one can force him to testify but that he is allowed to do so.
Murdaugh is sworn in. Newman warns him he can be “examined or cross-examined on any relevant issue in this case.”
Newman asks if Alex Murdaugh needs to consult with his counsel before proceeding to which he says, “No sir, I don’t need to talk to them anymore. I am going to testify. I want to testify.”
9:49 a.m. – The defense calls Nolan Tuten, a friend of Paul Murdaugh’s, to the stand. Nolan is the brother of Nathan Tuten who testified as the prosecution’s witness earlier in the trial.
Tuten tells the jury about his relationship with Paul. He says the pair would hang out at the Moselle home, ride around the property, etc. He also talked about how the pair would hunt together.
9:59 a.m. – The state begins cross-examining Tuten. The state begins asking him about a party he and Paul went to where Paul’s gun was allegedly stolen from his car.
10:07 a.m. – Tuten testifies that he spoke to Paul on the day of the killings. Tuten said he drove by that morning to check on the sunflowers and noticed they were dying.
Tuten said he and Paul decided to meet up that afternoon to plow the sunflowers however, work prevented him from making it back down there that afternoon.
Tuten got a Snapchat video from Paul showing a piece of farm equipment that was used to spray the fields.
He also identified Murdaugh’s voice in the kennel video.
10:15 a.m. -Tuten testifies that the kennel area was well-lit enough to be visible from the main house. He says he rushed over to the scene the night of the murders and noticed Paul and Maggie’s bodies with tarps over them.
Tuten said he hugged Murdaugh and when they spoke he said Murdaugh mentioned the boat crash twice. He also asked him to reach out to Rogan Gibson, one of Paul’s close friends.
“The boat wreck, the boat wreck,” Tuten said.
10:18 a.m. – The defense begins its redirect. Tuten said you can’t see in detail what would be going on at the kennels but you could see the lights and the roof. No further questions.
10:20 a.m. – Judge Newman dismisses the jury for a short break.
Newman asks Harpootlian if he needed additional time to take a break to speak with Murdaugh to which he replies, “He indicates he doesn’t need to talk to me, it hurts my feelings but we don’t need a break.”
10:36 a.m. – Court resumes and the jury re-enters the courtroom
10:45 a.m. – The defense calls Alex Murdaugh to the witness stand. Murdaugh is accused of shooting and killing his wife and son at the family’s home on June 7, 2021.
This morning Judge Newman read Murdaugh his rights concerning his testimony. Newman asked him if he’d like to take a recess to discuss further with his lawyers and Murdaugh emphatically said he wanted to testify in his own defense.
“I am going to testify. I want to testify,” Murdaugh said.
10:46 a.m. – Defense attorney Jim Griffin asks Murdaugh “Did you take this gun or any gun like it and blow your son’s brains out?” Murdaugh replies, “No I did not.”
Murdaugh denies killing his wife and son. “Mr. Griffin I didn’t shoot my wife or son anytime. ever.”
Murdaugh admits he lied to SLED agents and sheriffs about being at the kennels on the night of the murders.
Murdaugh testifies he lied due to his opioid addiction and paranoia.
“I would never do anything intentionally to hurt either one of them. Ever,” Murdaugh stated.
When asked why he continued to lie, Murdaugh says “Oh what a tangled web we weave. Once I told the lie, and I told my family, I had to keep lying.”
10:51 a.m. – Griffin asks Murdaugh to recount what happened on June 7, 2021.
Murdaugh testifies Maggie left to go to Charleston to visit the doctor earlier that day and had to do some work on their Edisto home.
Alex Murdaugh testifies that he met Paul later that afternoon, and they rode out to the dove field in Buster’s black truck and discovered the sunflowers were dead.
“After that, we just rode the property. We spent time together,” he said while in tears.
11:00 a.m. – Griffin asks if Alex Murdaugh was close with his son Paul. He testifies they were “closer than close” and he loved to spend time with him.
Griffin asks about the Snapchat video Paul took of him trying to stand up a tree.
“What you see me doing is fooling with a fruit tree,” Murdaugh says.
Murdaugh testifies he took a shower after working at the property and changed into the t-shirt and shorts seen during the trial.
Paul had left and did not have dinner with Maggie and Alex. Murdaugh said he sat on the couch after dinner and Maggie asked him to go down to the kennels with her. He said he didn’t want to because it was too hot and he didn’t want to do any more work. Paul had left and did not have dinner with them.
11:07 a.m. – Murdaugh details the days leading up to the murder. On June 4, 2021 he says he went to visit his father in the hospital in Savannah and spent the night there.
He testifies on June 5, he and Maggie met with Buster and his girlfriend in Columbia to go to a USC baseball game.
On June 6, he says he and Maggie went to another USC baseball game. That night, they returned home and visited his parents. Both he and Maggie stayed at Moselle that night.
11:12 a.m. – He testifies on June 7, Maggie left and went to the kennels without him because he was tired. When asked about how Maggie got to the kennels, Alex said that based on the records presented in the trial, he thinks she rode down there with Paul.
Alex testifies he changed his mind and then eventually went down to the kennels on a golf cart.
He says when he got to the kennels there was “a little bit of chaos” because Maggie was letting the dogs out.
Alex testifies about Bubba chasing a chicken and says after he got the chicken out of Bubba’s mouth he placed it on top of the kennel and left the kennels in the golf cart using the same route he came.
Griffin asks what Murdaugh did next. He testifies he came back to the house and the TV was still on. He says he laid on the couch and decided he would go visit his mother who suffers from dementia.
Griffin asks when he went to his mother’s house where he parked. Griffin pulls up the state’s GMC On-Star data of the property and a photo of the entrance to his mother’s house. Murdaugh says he parked at the back on the left side of the entrance to the house at the edge of the house.
“We always parked any time we were going in that entrance,” Murdaugh said. He says most of the family usually parked there to be closer to his mom’s bedroom.
Alex testifies he knocked on the door but his mother’s caretaker, Mushelle “Shelley” Smith, didn’t answer so he called her to let him in.
Murdaugh said he held his mom’s hand that night while he was visiting. He said she seemed to be doing well. He said she wasn’t agitated at all. He said he spoke positively to her and just had a conversation.
“I stayed there for a few minutes.” He said he then sat on the bed and then laid back on the bed and watched tv with Shelley.
Murdaugh said Maggie didn’t like to visit his mom because of his mom’s poor health. Murdaugh said “it was kind of sad,” to visit his mother because she was “a shell of her old shelf.”
11:40 a.m. – Murdaugh is then asked about when he left his family home on Moselle Road toward his mom’s house in Almeda. Murdaugh said he tried to call Maggie twice to let her know he went to visit his mother and then sent her a text. He says he wasn’t alarmed because she was with Paul and it wasn’t uncommon because of the spotty cell service at the home.
GPS data shows Murdaugh stopped for a minute in his parent’s driveway. He testifies that he dropped his phone and was trying to fish it out from under his seat. Murdaugh is asked point blank if he was disposing murder weapons or bloody clothes. Murdaugh says “no.”
Murdaugh then says he pulled down his driveway and went straight to his home. All of the lights were on inside the home and he remained there for several minutes, Murdaugh testifies.
Murdaugh says he would’ve thought Paul and Maggie weren’t home but he wasn’t shocked.
11:48 a.m. – Murdaugh testifies that he drove his SUV down to the kennels and saw Paul and Maggie’s bodies lying on the ground. “I saw what y’all’ve seen pictures of,” Murdaugh says while crying. “It was so bad.” He pauses and takes time to wipe his tears.
Murdaugh says he isn’t sure what he did. But he knows he jumped out of his car and then ran back to my car called 9-1-1. He says he was going back-and-forth between Paul and Maggie check for pulses.
“Paul was so, so bad,” Murdaugh said. He said he also tried to turn him over but he doesn’t know why. “I mean my boy was laying face down, and his head was the way his head was, I could see his brain laying on the sidewalk. I didn’t know what to do.”
11:55 a.m. – Griffin plays the 9-1-1 call from the night of the murders.
Murdaugh says he knows Paul and Maggie didn’t shoot themselves. He’s asked about when he says “here” on the 9-1-1 call. He says the phone didn’t pick up the beginning of what he was saying it just picked up “here.” He denies that there was anyone alongside him and that all the dogs were in their kennels.
Murdaugh is heard saying “I should’ve known” on the 9-1-1 call. He says he was saying “Paul Paul I should’ve known” that something was going to happen because of the boat crash that left Mallory Beach dead.
12:01 p.m. – Murdaugh says the last time he saw Paul and Maggie was when he took the chicken out of the mouth of their dog “Bubba” around 8:44 p.m.
12:06 p.m. – Murdaugh says he went back to the main house to get a gun. He says he thinks it was laying on a table inside the home and grabbed “a handful” of shotgun shells. Murdaugh says he put a 16-gauge shell into the 12-gauge shotgun because he wasn’t thinking clearly. He testifies he grabbed the gun because he “didn’t know if someone was out there.”
Murdaugh is heard telling the 9-1-1 operator that he was 100 yards away from the house. Murdaugh says he was wrong about his estimate about how far away he was from the kennels.
12:17 p.m. – Griffin asks about Alex telling 911 that Paul had reported threats about the boat crash.
Murdaugh says he didn’t submit any formal police reports or that kind of thing. “It was well-known,” he said.
12:19 p.m. – Murdaugh says he calls Randy, John Murdaugh and Paul’s friend Rogan Gibson. He says Gibson lived within 3 miles and “Rogan was like family… I just wanted somebody to be out there.”
12:22 a.m. – Griffin asks about Murdaugh searching for Whaley’s restaurant in Edisto minutes after discovering Paul and Maggie’s bodies.
He says his family would order takeout from that particular restaurant so he assumes the tab was already open on his phone. He claims he did not search for that restaurant at that time.
12:25 a.m. – Judge Newman issues a 10-minute break.
12:39 a.m. – Court resumes and the jury re-enters the courtroom. Alex Murdaugh returns to the stand to resume testifying in his defense.
Griffin asks if Alex got blood on him the night of the murders. Murdaugh says he got blood on his fingertips after he checked their bodies. “It was so much blood.”
He says if there was fresh blood on the steering wheel, it was from him but if not Maggie had driven his car earlier that day.
Murdaugh says if Maggie’s blood was found on the gun then he put it there after he checked her body because Maggie didn’t really handle the guns. He said that night he had that gun with him pretty much the whole time. He says he rested it on the truck when police arrived.
12:45 p.m. – Murdaugh testifies he didn’t have high-velocity blood spatter — which is typically caused by a gunshot — on his clothes. “I was nowhere near Paul and Maggie when they got shot,” Murdaugh adamantly says.
12:48 p.m. – Griffin asks Murdaugh about what he did the morning after the murders. Murdaugh says it’s hard to remember times, such as when he returned the following morning but the timeline provided in the trial helps him piece it together.
Murdaugh says he knew he was a suspect in their killings, so he was asking for SUV data from General Motors to clear his name. That GPS data was provided last Saturday. “I knew it would prove there is no way I could have done this.”
He also says he and Buster were “attached to the hip” in the days following the killings.
1:05 p.m. – “Never seen it before, never touched it, don’t know anything about it,” Murdaugh says when asked about the blue rain jacket.
1:11 p.m. – Murdaugh denies testimony that claims he coerced witnesses into saying things that weren’t true. Such as when Smith testified he told her he was at his mom’s house longer than he actually was. Or when the housekeeper Blanca Simpson testified he was trying to tell her what shirt he was wearing the night of the killings.
1:16 p.m. – Murdaugh says he asked Simpson about the clothes he had on the night of the killings. He says he asked if she remembered getting his clothes. Murdaugh testifies that the reason he asked was because investigators were asking about him changing clothes. Murdaugh says SLED never asked for his clothes.
“I’m well aware my clothes never became an issue in this case, until my lawyers proved that this blood spatter that they said I had on my shirt from my wife and son was a lie. And that there was no blood on my shirt. And once they filed the documents and they proved that that was a life, all of the sudden the clothes I was wearing, back on that day, became an issue,” Murdaugh said.
2:45 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 of 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.
3:30 p.m. – Court breaks for 10 minutes.
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. Murdaugh 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.
5:35 p.m. – Court adjourns for the day. Testimony is expected to resume at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
WCBD contributed to this report.