Alex Murdaugh’s Surviving Son Describes ‘Heartbroken’ Dad on the Stand

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Florida Department of Corrections/Hampton County Sheriff's Office/Screenshot Twitter
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Florida Department of Corrections/Hampton County Sheriff's Office/Screenshot Twitter

Alex Murdaugh’s surviving son took the stand at his father’s double homicide trial on Tuesday—marking the first time he has spoken publicly about the murders of his mother and brother.

Buster Murdaugh, 26, was the third witness to be called in his father’s defense, a day after the prosecution rested its case. Prosecutors allege former lawyer Alex Murdaugh murdered his 52-year-old wife, Maggie, and his 22-year-old son, Paul, on June 7, 2021, at their family’s hunting estate in an attempt to distract from questions about his financial crimes.

The first time the younger Murdaugh has spoken out since the murders, Buster described to jurors the close relationship his family had, his “little bit” of knowledge about his father’s addiction to opioids, and the moments after the grisly murders. He also revealed that his dad was the one who called him and informed him about the slayings that are at the center of what local media has deemed “the trial of the century” in South Carolina.

Murdaugh “called me on the phone and he asked me if I was sitting down.. he sounded odd,” Buster said on Tuesday, taking a big breath as his father nodded from the defense table several feet away. “And then he told me that my mother and brother had been shot.”

“I kind of just sat there for a minute,” the young Murdaugh added, noting that when he and his long-time girlfriend finally arrived at the hunting property, they found his father “destroyed” and “heartbroken.”

“He was broken down,” he added.

The Tuesday testimony from Murdaugh’s son comes during the first week of the defense’s case in the double homicide trial that’s playing out in Colleton County Court. Over the last month, prosecutors alleged that Murdaugh fatally shot his wife and son with two different guns to garner public sympathy and evade questions about his years-long scheme of stealing money from his former law firm and clients. Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty to four charges and faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Speaking calmly and leaning forward into the microphone, the younger Murdaugh began his testimony by describing his father as a family man who “coached every little league team I played on” and stressed that it was “a rarity” for his parents to miss one of his games as a child. He also added that he knew nothing about his father’s alleged financial crimes.

“I spoke to my mom every day, multiple times a day. And the like for my dad and my brother too. They were all talking to each other too. A lot of conversations throughout the day among the family,” Buster said after noting that the family was very close-knit.

But despite the family’s closeness, he said that there was sometimes tension in the household surrounding his father’s two-decade addiction to opioids. Buster said that he knew “a little bit” about Murdaugh’s addiction—and revealed that the former lawyer even went to a detox center.

“He was apologetic and sorry,” Buster said about his father’s behavior. He insisted, however, that the conversations were always civil and there was never any violence in their home.

At the time of the murders, Buster said that his family was facing public scrutiny in connection with his little brother’s pending trial for a 2019 boat crash that killed his 19-year-old friend Mallory Beach. He said that Paul was bullied online and confronted in bars because of the ongoing case—and that it “consumed” his mother and prompted her to spend more time at the beach house.

“Amongst the family, none of us thought that he was driving the boat,” Buster said about the crash, noting that they planned to fight the criminal charges against his brother.

Marian Proctor, Maggie’s sister, previously testified that after the murders Murdaugh was focused on clearing Paul’s name in the boat crash. Buster, however, did not go into much detail about Murdaugh’s movements after the murders—but noted that he stayed by his father’s side.

During a brief cross-examination, prosecutor Creighton Waters offered his condolences before grilling Buster about whether he knew about his mother’s plans to stay at the beach house the night of the murders or his father’s financial crimes. Buster reiterated that he believed his family was financially stable and that he did not know about his dad’s alleged crimes until September—when he was fired from the family law firm.

Waters asked Buster to identify his father in a video taken by Paul at the dog kennels just minutes before the murders that has been at the crux of the prosecution’s case against Murdaugh’s alibi. Prosecutors never directly asked the younger Murdaugh if he believed his father murdered his family.

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