WALTERBORO, S.C. (WSAV) — As the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial resumed for its 13th day, jurors heard more about Murdaugh’s potential motive to kill his wife and son, Paul and Maggie, at their Colleton County property in June of 2021.
On Tuesday, the former chief financial officer of the PMPED law firm provided crucial testimony for the state about Alex’s financial infractions at the firm. One of Murdaugh’s former law partners also took the stand to testify on the impacts the crimes had on the firm. Finally, A SLED forensic scientist discussed gunshot residue found on some of Alex’s clothing from the night of the murders.
Today, the trial began with forensic scientist Megan Fletcher. The prosecution continued to cross-examine Fletcher about the spread of gunshot residue and how the particles could have gotten on the blue raincoat found in Alex Murdaugh’s mother’s home.
Annette Griswold, Alex’s former paralegal took the witness stand just after 10 a.m. She tells the jury that Alex was more absent following the boat crash. While she worked as a paralegal, Alex would ask her to change checks from Forge Consulting to Forge. At one point, Griswold reads a text from Alex that says, “the worst part is knowing I did the most damage to those I loved the most.” Griswold would eventually find a check that wasn’t supposed to exist revealing that Alex was hiding funds from the firm. Alex allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from Chris Wilson, Murdaugh’s best friend, in one of his schemes.
A bomb threat would interrupt court proceedings just after 1:00 p.m. causing the courtroom to evacuate. SLED will continue to investigate the bomb threat and the trial was able to continue just after 3:00 p.m.
Dwight Falkofske, an electronics engineer for the FBI, also took the witness stand this afternoon. As an automotive forensics specialist, Falkofske explained how devices from Alex Murdaugh’s Chevy Suburban were obtained and processed. Data collected included states of the vehicle which showed the shift lever going in and out of park that could be used to determine what time Alex was in the Suburban.
Questioning of the automotive forensics expert is expected to continue tomorrow.
The trial is set to resume Thursday at 9:30.
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ALEX MURDAUGH MURDER TRIAL LIVE BLOG:
9:30 a.m. – Court is gaveled into session.
9:38 a.m. – The defense begins cross-examining forensic scientist Megan Fletcher. 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.
Griffin asked if it was possible for gunshot residue to be on the witness chair. Fletcher said it is possible. Griffin also asked if it was possible for Alex to transfer gunshot residue particles to the jacket if he had been shooting earlier in the day or at any time prior. Fletcher said it’s possible as long as the jacket wasn’t brushed off or washed.
9:54 a.m. – Griffin reiterates that investigators did not test the blue tarp they recovered from Murdaugh’s parents’ home, only the raincoat.
Fletcher says the jacket was balled up inside a closet and the tarp was folded in a storage container so they didn’t test it. She confirms the raincoat was a size large.
9:59 a.m. – State prosecutor John Meadors begins questioning Fletcher.
Meadors asked if someone had recently shot a gun and wrapped it up in the jacket could the gunshot residue be transferred from the gun onto the inside of the jacket? Fletcher said that could be possible.
10:05 a.m. – State prosecutors called Annette Griswold to the stand. Griswold began working at PMPED in 2012 and became Alex Murdaugh’s paralegal.
10:10 a.m. – Griswold said Alex was very knowledgeable about the law and it’s something she respected about him.
Griswold testified that Alex became more distant and “absent” following the deadly boat crash that left Mallory Beach dead in 2019. She said he was always on his phone “dealing with something bigger than what had going on.”
“It was consuming his life almost,’ Griswold said.
She said he didn’t treat the staff like he used to prior to the case.
10:12 a.m. – Griswold testified that Alex would ask her to change checks from Forge Consulting to Forge. PMPED would use Forge Consulting to structure settlements and attorney fees. The law firm’s clients would also routinely use it as well to structure settlements. Alex allegedly opened a bank account under the name “Forge” where he would deposit money from the law firm and his clients.
“Think of it like Forge Consulting is the large company and Forge is kind of under that umbrella of it,” Griswold said is how Alex would explain it to her.
Griswold testified that Alex would also tell her that he was meeting with Michael Gunn, the owner of Forge Consulting in person to deliver the checks to him.
10:30 a.m. – Griswold said she received a cover letter and two expense checks from Chris Wilson’s office in regard to the Farris fee. “Farris fees” is what was written on a check worth $192,000 that was made to Alex Murdaugh.
Griswold said she reached out to Wilson’s secretary to ask for disbursement checks and other documents relating to the Farris fees. Wilson’s secretary told Griswold both attorneys’ disbursement checks were handed out in March 2021.
Griswold said she spoke with the accounting department at PMPED to confirm that Alex had handed the checks over, but Griswold said they told her the firm had never received the checks.
Griswold then went to Alex’s office where he seemed dismissive and told Griswold that he never received the checks and that Wilson was holding the checks in trust funds. Griswold reaches back out to Wilson’s secretary who said the checks were written out personally to Alex instead of PMPED, which Griswold said was odd.
“I knew it wasn’t right. It should’ve never gone to an individual attorney, it should’ve gone out to the firm as a whole,” Griswold said.
10:51 a.m. – Griswold speaks about how small the town is. She uses the fact that Mallory Beach’s father is her cousin as an example.
10:52 a.m. – Griswold said she went into Alex’s office to find a file and began looking through the file cabinets. She said when she found the file and picked it up, a check “floated like a feather to the ground.” Griswold testified that she became very upset when she read “Farris fees” written on it.
Griswold testified that she found the check — which wasn’t supposed to exist — on Sept. 2, 2021. She said the check was dated March and written to Alex Murdaugh from Chris Wilson’s office.
“I said ‘well he’s been lying this whole time. He had these funds, he lied to me. That feeling in the back of my mind was correct, unfortunately, he did take these funds.’”
11:33 a.m. – Prosecutor Creighton Waters begins questioning Griswold again. Griswold testified that Alex was always on his phone and said it would “absolutely” be uncommon for Alex to go anywhere without his phone.
Waters played the kennel video Paul recorded several minutes before the state said he was brutally murdered. Griswold testified that she heard Paul, Maggie and Alex’s voices in the video. Griswold reads a text from Alex that reads, “the worst part is knowing I did the most damage to those I loved the most.”
11:37 a.m. – Defense attorney Jim Griffin begins cross-examining Griswold. Griswold said that she loved and respected Alex despite it sometimes being hard to work with him.
11:40 a.m. – Griswold testified Alex was a family man and would routinely take his family with him on work trips and when he was away during trials. Griffin also established that Alex never spent a night at the Moselle Road home following the killings of Paul and Maggie.
11:54 a.m. – The state calls Michael Gunn, one of the principals of Forge Consulting to the stand. Gunn said he met Alex at a convention around 20 years ago and said Alex was a very friendly and nice guy.
Gunn testified Alex never hand-delivered checks to him.
12:10 p.m. — Gunn testified that attorney Lee Cope called him in September 2021 to ask what Forge Consulting had done with several clients. Gunn testified that he told Cope that his firm didn’t have any paperwork with any of the clients on the list.
Gunn testified that he told Cope that his firm stopped banking with Bank of America four to five years prior.
12:18 p.m. — Defense attorney Jim Griffin begins cross-examining Gunn. Gunn said Alex and Maggie were invited to his wedding were the four of them got even closer friends.
Gunn also attended Paul and Maggie’s funeral and visited the family home on Moselle Road. Griffin asked Gunn what his demeanor was on the day of the funeral.
“He was a broken man, you could tell he was very upset,” Gunn said.
12:23 p.m. — The state called SLED computer crimes agent Brian Hudak to the witness stand. Judge Clifton Newman asks the jury to step out for a recess.
12:25 p.m. — Everyone is told to evacuate the building for a potential bomb threat. The trial is set to resume at 2:30 p.m.
12:29 p.m. – Forge Consulting releases a statement following earlier testimony in the trial:
12:55 p.m. — SLED releases statement confirming bomb threat:
A bomb threat was received by Colleton County courthouse personnel.
The building has been evacuated and SLED along with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the threat.
No additional information is available from SLED at this time.
2:10 p.m. — New video shows Alex Murdaugh being evacuated from the Colleton County Courthouse.
2:24 p.m. — Some reentries are being allowed.
3:07 p.m. — The jury returns to the courtroom.
The state continues to question forensic data analyst Brian Hudak.
3:15 p.m. — Dwight Falkofske, an electronics engineer for the FBI, takes the witness stand. Falkofske is an automotive forensics specialist and discussed how devices are obtained and processed from vehicles. Falkofske says he encountered a problem when processing Alex Murdaugh’s vehicle, the system was encrypted on the Chevy Suburban.
It took about one year for agents to access the data. The infotainment center showed call logs as well as some location data. Data collected included states of the vehicle which showed the shift lever going in and out of park.
Forensics teams cannot determine which gear the car is in but can tell when the vehicle has been put in and taken out of park.
4:00 p.m. update:
4:12 p.m. — The data is encrypted by the manufacturers and not by someone’s doing, Falkofske explains.
4:19 p.m. — Jury is dismissed for a short break.
4:31 p.m. — The jury returns to the courtroom.
The jury is dismissed until 9:30 a.m. tomorrow morning.
5:00 p.m. update:
6:00 p.m. update: