By Andy Ann
Thursday, Jan. 26 was day four into the double murder trial of Richard Alexander “Alex” Murdaugh Sr. which began with the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office calling the first set of witnesses to the stand and continued into Friday, Jan. 27.
Murdaugh is charged with two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon. The four charges are related to the deaths of Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, and his son, Paul. Both victims were murdered on June 7, 2021, at the family’s hunting estate located in Colleton County. Murdaugh’s defense team maintains his innocence.
Some of the witnesses that were called included Colleton County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Sgt. Daniel Green, Corp. Chad McDowell, Detective Laura Rutland, and Capt. Jason Chapman; Hampton County 911 Dispatcher Tinish Bryson-Smith and Colleton County 911 Dispatcher Angela Stallings; SLED (South Carolina Law Enforcement Division) agents Paul Greer, Dalila Cirencione, Melinda Worley, and Colleton County Fire-Resue Chief Barry McRoy. Currently, there are 255 witnesses listed on the published list as of the deadline for the printing of this publication.
Each of the 911 Dispatch officers, Bryson-Smith and Stallings, was called to the stand to give their testimony about the 911 call received on June 7, 2021. The uncensored 911 recording was played publicly in the courtroom.
Prosecution and Defense attorneys began to center questioning around the 911 call regarding the statements that were made in the recording by Murdaugh. Along with a series of questions for each of the first responders on the scene and any SLED agents who entered the crime scene.
One key piece of information from the 911 recording is Murdaugh stating that he had not spoken to his wife, Maggie, for approximately two hours prior and that he was not at the crime scene at the time of the incident. Prosecutors stated they have cell phone and vehicle GPS tracking data evidence that contradicts Murdaugh’s story. The prosecution also claims that the timeline of Murdaugh’s account contradicts the data collected from the cell phones collected from Murdaugh and the victims.
The prosecution moved on to show video footage during the session of Murdaugh being questioned the night of the incident inside a cruiser by several officers. In the video, Murdaugh had talked about his son Paul, and the boating incident that Paul was involved in. Murdaugh also mentioned how Paul had been harassed and threatened.
Regarding the victims, the prosecution, the defense, and eyewitness accounts stated that Paul’s body was faced down with both his hands underneath, his neck was covered in blood, massive damage to the head, lots of blood and biological matter, and injuries not conducive to life. Maggie was shot several times throughout her body and head, with injuries not conducive to life. The bodies of the two victims were only yards apart near the “hanger,” dog kennels, and feed room.
Through witness testimony, it was indicated that Murdaugh stated on two separate occasions that he checked for a pulse on each of the victims. Murdaugh also stated during initial questioning that night that he tried to turn Paul over and Paul’s cell popped out of his pocket. According to witness accounts, Murdaugh appeared to be “clean” at the time first responders arrived with no visible blood on his person, nor any foot or knee prints near the bodies giving prosecution reason to question Murdaugh’s account.
There was also extensive questioning and cross-examination regarding tire tracks in a sandy area near the scene, footprints throughout the crime scene, and the amount of standing water near the dog kennels. During questioning on the night of the murders, Murdaugh also implicated the grounds caretaker as a possible suspect.
The prosecution claims at least one weapon from the Murdaugh family collection was used in the murders. A ballistics evidence report indicates that the ammo and shells spent at the murder scene matches with other ammo and shells in various locations on the property. One of the weapons used was a 300 Blackout AR rifle and the other was a shotgun.
The defense team cross-examined each witness’ account to unravel the claims of the prosecution. Defense diligently attempted to poke holes through the case, countering with possibilities of the crime scene being “spoiled” by first responders and SLED agents. The defense also claimed that the prosecution does not have any forensic evidence to tie Murdaugh to the murders. The type of questions raised by the defense has the potential to raise possible reasonable doubt in the jurors making it a difficult decision ahead for the jury.
During the trial proceedings, it was observed that Murdaugh rocked frequently, especially when any audio or video footage was played for the jury. He would frequently be overcome with emotion at times as well. Murdaugh has been supported by the attendance of some of his family members, including his son Richard Alexander “Buster” Murdaugh Jr.
The trial has tentatively been slated to continue to run through proceedings from now until Friday, Feb. 10. This date is merely an approximation.
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