Alex Murdaugh trial: A big murder case in a small town
CBS - 9 WNCT (Greenville, NC)
(NewsNation) — South Carolina's Lowcountry, known for its coastal waterways and salt marshes, and part of the Deep South a century ago, is now a bustling spot for tourists attracted to the historic cities of Charleston and Savannah.
In the southeast corner of the state, we find Hampton County, home to fewer than 3,000 people. It's a small community, where everyone knows everyone — which means everyone knows Alex Murdaugh.
Murdaugh's family has legal roots as old as the county itself. It is even known by some as "Murdaugh County."
Jury selection begins as Alex Murdaugh stands trial for murder of wife, son
This is where Randolph Murdaugh Sr. became a solicitor, a role similar to a district attorney.
He was succeeded by his son, Randolph "Buster" Murdaugh Jr. in 1940 and then his grandson Randolph Murdaugh III.
What is the reputation of this family, this dynasty? Ruthless and not afraid to use the power they have amassed, some say.
And then ... there's Alex Murdaugh.
He didn't have quite the same reputation as some of his predecessors, but he was the patriarch of a picture-perfect family. He was, that is, until first responders went to the family's Moselle estate — a 1,700-acre hunting property — tucked away in a rural area.
Alex Murdaugh called 911 at 10:07 p.m. on June 7, 2021, saying, "My wife and my son have been shot badly!"
According to court documents, his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, was shot multiple times with a high-powered rifle, including in the back of the head while she was lying facedown on the ground.
Their 22-year-old son, Paul, was killed with a shotgun, struck in the head and chest.
Authorities reportedly thought Alex Murdaugh was a person of interest from the very beginning.
But he has adamantly insisted, from the moment he found the bodies that he was not the killer. Beginning Monday, it will be up to 12 jurors to decide if they agree.
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The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) was tasked with investigating the murders.
Around that time, the rest of his world started to unravel.
On Sept. 4, 2021, he called 911, saying he had a flat tire.
"Someone stopped to help me, and then they tried to shoot me," Alex Murdaugh said.
The initial report was that a vehicle passing by saw him changing one of his tires and took a shot at him.
Alex was taken to the hospital with a superficial gun wound. Days later, there was another bombshell connected to that roadside call: Authorities say Alex Murdaugh hired a former client named Curtis Smith to kill him. With Murdaugh dead, they say, it would clear the way for his son, Buster, to collect on a $10 million insurance policy.
It's just another component of this Southern gothic drama that continues to unfold in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Not only did Alex Murdaugh not get the insurance payment, but he is accused of embezzlement and fraud.
There are nearly 100 counts of financial criminal activity totaling nearly $10 million over the period of about a decade. Accused of stealing from clients in his legal practice, Alex Murdaugh resigned from the firm, then days later, a 20-year addiction to opioids was disclosed and he went into rehab.
Then, in July 2022, more than a year after his wife and son were killed, Alex Murdaugh was arrested and charged in their deaths.
Forensic evidence was really what drew investigators to Alex Murdaugh as the top suspect in these killings. That evidence, however, has come into question over the last few weeks.
Prosecutors say it took Alex Murdaugh more than an hour to call 911. They point to blood spatter on his clothing.
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Some are questioning, though, whether the spatter or the article of clothing where they were reportedly found had been damaged, or if they even exist anymore.
One theory for Alex Murdaugh's motive is that he allegedly committed the two killings to try to buy time to fend off his financial downfall.
Alex Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty. His defense attorneys say there is no DNA.
Lawyers expect jury selection to last several days before testimony begins. It took state agents 13 months of investigation to charge Murdaugh with two counts of murder, and a judge has set aside three weeks for the trial. Murdaugh insisted on the trial as soon as possible.