Since the murders of his wife and son at kennels near the family’s estate, Alex Murdaugh has insisted that he was never there — but that appears to have been proven untrue.
After more than a year, state agents hacked into his son Paul’s iPhone and found a Snapchat video featuring the accused’s voice shot less than five minutes before the victims stopped using their mobile devices, when prosecutors claim they were killed.
Mr Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife, Maggie, and their 22-year-old son on June 7, 2021. He has repeatedly denied any role in the fatal shootings and faces 30 years to life in jail if convicted.
Autopsies show that Paul and Maggie were each shot several times between 9pm and 9.30pm, with the young man's body found inside the kennels and his mother's was found nearby. Two final shots were fired into her head at close range.
The disgraced South Carolina legal scion was already in hot water well before the murder trial began in late January, after being charged with about 100 other crimes, including stealing from clients and tax evasion.
In this week’s shocking evidence, the once-prominent lawyer admitted to bilking clients out of millions, using the money to buy painkillers.
“I took money that wasn’t mine. And I shouldn’t have done it. I hate the fact that I did it. I am embarrassed by it. I’m embarrassed for my son. I am embarrassed for my family,” Mr Murdaugh said.
He also admitted to lying to investigators about time spent at the kennels.
During cross-examination, prosecutor Creighton Waters hammered Mr Murdaugh on his “new story”.
“Other than lying to them about going to the kennels, I was co-operative in every aspect of this investigation,” Mr Murdaugh said while taking the stand in his own defence.
Mr Murdaugh said that he had been at the home kennels with his wife and son, but then showered and went to visit his elderly mother in nearby Almeda.
GPS does show his vehicle in her driveway for a very short amount of time and prosecutors have little direct evidence of Mr Murdaugh's guilt. The weapons used in the killings have never been found.
Botched crime scene
The Murdaugh defence called experts who gave evidence that investigators had failed to dust for fingerprints, collect and/or test blood, and that photographic evidence taken at the scene was essentially useless.
The first responding officer reached the sprawling Colleton County estate 20 minutes after Mr Murdaugh called 911.
Realising that he was dealing with a family that had for generations dominated the legal system in neighbouring Hampton County, the local sheriff turned the investigation over to the State Law Enforcement Division.
“Just anything they get in, they get out of,” Paul’s friend Connor Cook said in a 2019 deposition. “I’ve always been told that.”
Assembling agents took hours and before their arrival, more than a dozen family and friends walked around the scene, consoling Mr Murdaugh. The bodies of Paul and Maggie had been covered with one sheet, not a tarp, absorbing fluids. It also was not saved, potentially losing valuable DNA evidence.
Sporadic rain resulted in run-off from the kennel roof, which fell on Paul's covered body.
“It’s a crime scene. You don’t want water dripping all over the place. But more importantly, I thought it was pretty disrespectful,” Mr Murdaugh's former law partner Mark Ball said.
Jurors also heard expert evidence from a crime-scene reconstruction and blood-spatter analysis called for by Mr Murdaugh’s defence, in which a theory was put forward that the murders were carried out by two gunmen.
Searching for others with motive
At the time of his death, Paul was facing manslaughter charges filed after a 2019 boating crash that resulted in the death of passenger Mallory Beach, with others sustaining injuries.
Police had described the six underage passengers and the driver as “grossly intoxicated” as they took a joyride aboard Mr Murdaugh’s boat. At least one passenger gave evidence that Paul had crashed the boat at about 2.30am into a bridge’s pylon, launching Ms Beach into the water. Seven days later, her body washed ashore.
Renee Beach, mother of the deceased 19-year-old, filed a wrongful death suit against the Murdaugh family.
Charged with three felony counts of boating under the influence, including boating under the influence resulting in death, Paul had been facing up to 25 years in prison.
He had pleaded not guilty to all charges and was waiting a trial date at the time of his murder.
Since the 2021 murders, both Netflix and HBO have released true crime series depicting the gruesome murders: Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal and Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty, respectively.
Agencies contributed to this report