Alex Murdaugh murder trial: Investigators' testimony continues to reveal vivid evidence
The Greenville News and USA Today Network-South Carolina will be in the courtroom to give you the latest updates until a final verdict is reached in the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh. The video feed at the top of the story provides a live and replay stream of the trial.
The opening week of the Alex Murdaugh murder trial concluded Friday afternoon as investigators’ testimony continued to shed vivid, often graphic light on what the deaths of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh entailed, and what their crime scene looked like.
At times, Murdaugh, dressed in a dark gray sports coat, appeared studious as he pored over the evidence – but during graphic testimony he often hunched over the defense table and methodically rocked back and forth, sometimes nodding his head repeatedly.
As the crowd of curious public spectators continued to grow throughout the day, prosecutors continued to question SLED forensic specialist Melinda Worley, testimony that was accompanied by gory photos of the crime scene and chilling exhibits of shotgun pellets, rifle casings, and “biological matter.”
Perhaps the most morbid of the evidentiary material presented included autopsy evidence such as the deceased victims’ clothing, fingernail clippings, projective fragments taken from Maggie’s body and dress, shotgun pellets from Paul’s head area and plastic shotgun wadding from his left shoulder and armpit area.
Worley also testified that Murdaugh’s white T-shirt and green-khaki shorts tested positive for possible, or “presumptive,” blood stains.
Another interesting item of evidence included the entire seatbelt assembly from the Suburban that Murdaugh drove to the crime scene that night. The seatbelt had been removed for further blood and gunshot residue testing by SLED, and prosecutors had previously said that it tested positive for GSR.
Assistant S.C. Attorney General Savannah Goude devoted the bulk of her questioning of Worley in efforts that revealed several weapons and numerous pieces of shotgun and rifle ammunition where collected from Murdaugh’s homes, vehicles, and secondary buildings during the investigation.
The double-murder trial is expected to resume at 9:30 a.m. Monday. Murdaugh attorney Richard Harpootlian is expected to deliver the cross examination of Worley, which he told the court would likely take several hours.
Friday a.m. updates from Colleton County court
The fifth day of the Alex Murdaugh murder trial got underway Friday with more revealing – and incriminating - testimony and evidence from officers who were on the scene the night of June 7, 2021, when Maggie and Paul were shot and killed, as well as state police who investigated in the aftermath of the killings.
The first witness to testify for the state was Colleton County Sheriff’s Office detective Laura Rutland, who served as a liaison to SLED for the investigation and whose testimony helped further discredit previous statements made by Murdaugh.
Rutland testified that Murdaugh twice told SLED agents, as he had previously told 911 operators, that he had tried to roll Paul’s body over and check for a pulse.
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However, Paul’s body was surrounded by blood and brain matter, said several previous witnesses, and Rutland testified that she observed no footprints or knee prints in the blood pool area around the body, which would collaborate Murdaugh’s claim, and that she observed Murdaugh’s hands, arms, shirt, shorts, and shoes were all clean of blood.
“Is the individual who told you twice that he tried to turn Paul over and check his pulse, the same individual who was clean from head to toe, present in the courtroom?” Assistant S.C. Attorney General John Meadors asked Rutland, to which she indicated Murdaugh standing at the defense table.
“Did those clothes (he was wearing that night) appear to be fresh, like they just came out of the laundry?” Meadors continued, and despite the overruled objection of Murdaugh defense attorney Richard Harpootlian, Rutland answered “Yes.”
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Rutland also testified that, during an interview with SLED around 1 a.m. that night, Murdaugh told investigators, as he had previously told responding officers, that he thought the killings were related to the fatal 2019 boat crashing involving his son Paul, and he also suggested other possible suspects, including his caretaker, C.B. Rowe.
On cross examination, defense attorney Jim Griffin asked Rutland if she actually took forensic evidence to check for footprints or knee prints, or just did a visual observation, to which she replied “No.”
Griffin also questioned if investigators bothered to execute a search warrant they had and search Murdaugh’s home for bloody clothing or trace evidence of blood in sink drains, to which Rutland said she could not know what steps SLED may have taken.
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The state also called SLED agent Dalila Cirencione and entered into evidence swabs taken from both victims mouths, Paul’s cell phone taken from the scene, and called SLED forensic agent Melinda Worley to testify about footprints and other physical evidence taken at the scene.
Prosecutors continued to question Worley when the court resumed Friday afternoon.
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Thursday's recap in Colleton County court
Day four of the Murdaugh murder trial continued with an examination of the 911 call from Alex Murdaugh, and rounds of questioning from the prosecution and defense for the first officers to arrive at the scene that night.
The lines of questioning and exhibits of evidence indicated that water near Paul Murdaugh's body, as well as tire tracks and footprint impressions, may hold important clues as to who killed the Murdaughs.
Alex Murdaugh trial: Thursday recap:Footprints and tire tracks may hold clues to the killer.
The first witnesses of the day were Tinish Bryson-Smith of Hampton County 911 Dispatch and Angela Stallings of Colleton County Dispatch/Colleton County Sheriff's Office. Both witnesses testified about receiving the 911 call from Murdaugh on the night of June 7, 2021, and prosecutors played the unredacted 911 tape publicly for the first time.
For the first time, the public could hear the unredacted 911 call, which is frantic and graphic at times. When the 911 Dispatcher asked Murdaugh if Maggie and Paul shot themselves, he replied "Oh no, hell no!" Murdaugh also tells the dispatcher that both victims were shot in the head, there's "blood everywhere," and "I can see his brains."
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Follow Michael DeWitt's Twitter feed for Murdaugh trial updates
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Wednesday's opening statements
Watch video below of Wednesday's opening statements by S.C. Attorney General's Office chief prosecutor Creighton Waters and Richard "Alex" Murdaugh defense attorney Richard Harpootlian.
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Murdaugh murder trial: officers on scene of murders offer testimony