Murdaugh’s behavior changed during investigation, SLED statement scrutinized
Alex Murdaugh, a once prominent Hampton-based attorney from a well-known politically-connected family, is on trial in the deaths of his wife and son.
Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty. He faces life in prison without parole if found guilty. The trial started this week with jury selection and opening arguments, and is expected, for now, to run through Feb. 10 in Walterboro.
How to watch the Murdaugh double murder trial, who to follow from The State, Island Packet
5:30 p.m. — Court recesses until 9:30 a.m.
After a lengthy day of witness testimony and cross examination, Judge Clifton Newman says the court will be in recess. The jury is expected to return at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
5:22 p.m. — SLED statement comes under scrutiny
In cross examination, Murdaugh defense attorney Dick Harpootlian questions Chapman about a statement released by the S.C. Law Enforcement Division the day after the murders. SLED, on June 8, 2021, released a statement saying that there was no danger to the public.
Chapman testifies the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office, his agency, never released the statement and it would have had to come from SLED.
5:00 p.m. — Chapman says Murdaugh’s demeanor changed
Chapman testifies that Alex Murdaugh’s demeanor changed when investigators began looking into tire tracks near the crime scene. He says Murdaugh was initially emotional and upset and began to watch investigators more closely when they were examining the tracks.
Chapman says that he asked Alex Murdaugh how Maggie and Paul got to the dog kennels, where they were found shot to death. He says Murdaugh speculated that they drove Paul’s Ford F-250, which was missing. He says police found the vehicle around 10:30 a.m. or 10:45 a.m. the next morning off Highway 63.
4:49 p.m. — Police discovered footprints near murder scene
After returning from recess, Chapman tells the prosecution that investigators found a set of footprints near the crime scene. He describes the area as “a hangar,” which is across a driveway from the dog kennels where Paul and Maggie Murdaugh were found shot to death.
Chapman testifies that the footprints are similar to shoes worn by Maggie Murdaugh when she was killed.
4:00 p.m. — Investigator interprets Alex Murdaugh’s behavior at scene
Chapman, while being questioned by the prosecution, says he interrupted Alex Murdaugh’s decision to get a gun as a sign that he was scared and that Murdaugh may have thought there was an active shooter. He says the only thing he thought was strange from Murdaugh’s 911 call is that he ended the call early to call his family.
Chapman says Murdaugh was emotional while speaking with investigators at the scene. He testifies that investigators swabbed Murdaugh’s hand for gunshot residue.
The court takes a recess during Chapman’s testimony.
3:45 p.m. — Police checked for gun under Paul Murdaugh’s body
The next witness is Jason Chapman, a deputy with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office who responded to the murder scene. In his testimony with prosecutors, Chapman describes how police did not know “what we had” when they arrived at the scene.
“I don’t know if we had a active shooter, didn’t know if was a murder-suicide, didn’t know if we had people in the woods. We don’t have any idea,” he says.
Chapman tells prosecutors that police investigators checked underneath the body of Paul Murdaugh to see if there was a gun. He says they didn’t find one. He also testifies that he did not notice any blood on Alex Murdaugh’s shirt at the scene.
3:05 p.m. — Fire chief describes gruesome crime scene
Barry McRoy, the fire chief of Colleton County Fire and Rescue, is next on the stand. Alex Murdaugh cries in court as McRoy details the gruesome murder scene. McRoy describes one crime scene photo where Paul Murdaugh is “lying face down … with his brain around his ankles.”
2:50 p.m. — Murdaugh told 911 that Paul Murdaugh received threats
In the unredacted 911 call from June 7, 2021, Alex Murdaugh tells the operator that he wanted to head back to his house to get a gun “just in case.” When the operator tells Murdaugh not to get one, Murdaugh is heard saying that his son had been threatened “for months.”
This isn’t the first time the Murdaugh family has said that Paul Murdaugh received threats. In a June 2021 interview shortly after the murders, John Marvin Murdaugh, Alex Murdaugh’s younger brother, told ABC News that Paul received threats.
“I didn’t think it was a credible threat,” John Marvin Murdaugh said in the interview. “If it was, I would have tried to do something or notify someone. But, I guess, maybe I made a mistake.”
2:40 p.m. — Audio of Murdaugh’s 911 call
After coming back from break, prosecutors call to the stand Tinish Bryson-Smith with Hampton County Central Dispatch and Angela Stallings with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office.
Prosecutors play an unredacted recording of Alex Murdaugh’s call to 911 the night of the murders. While Murdaugh’s 911 call has been publicly released, certain parts of the call had not been previously heard.
In one part, which had not been previously released, the 911 dispatcher is heard asking Murdaugh if his wife and son shot themselves. Murdaugh responds, “No, hell no!”
12:55 p.m. — Court breaks for lunch
The court has recessed for lunch until 2:15 p.m. So far, Waters and Harpootlian have questioned two officers from the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office who responded to the murder scene on June 7, 2021.
In cross examination with both officers, Harpootlian has tried to poke holes in law enforcement’s initial investigation of the murders. He repeatedly asked about what steps the officers took to preserve the scene, pointing out that one of the officers did not take photos of tire tracks.
Waters, in his questioning, pushed back on this framing. He had one of the officers confirm that he was not aware of any evidence that was contaminated.
12:12 p.m. — Another officer takes the stand
Next up, Waters calls Chad McDowell to the stand. McDowell is an officer with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office and was one of officers who responded to the murder scene on June 7, 2021.
Waters asks McDowell a series of questions about his handling of the crime scene — an attempt to show the jury that the scene was properly preserved.
12:10 p.m. — Harpootlian targets handling of crime scene
In cross examination, Murdaugh’s defense attorney Dick Harpootlian repeatedly questions Greene about the steps law enforcement took to preserve the crime scene. Harpootlian’s main focus was tire tracks observed near the scene. Greene says he’s not an expert on tire tracks and did not take any photos of the tracks.
“I guess what I’m getting at ... a part of a crime scene is keep it pristine — don’t walk over things, trying to preserve tire tracks, take pictures of footprints, all those sorts of things,” Harpootlian says.
After Harpootlian’s questioning, Waters, the prosecutor, immediately pushes back against the framing that the crime scene was improperly preserved.
“You were asked a series of questions about contaminating evidence. Are you aware that any evidence was contaminated in this case?” Waters asks Greene.
“I’m not,” Greene says.
“Did you engage in everything you could to avoid contaminating evidence?”
“Yes,” Greene says.
10:20 a.m. — Murdaugh told police murders were related to boat crash
Prosecutor Creighton Waters plays footage from Greene’s body camera for the jury. On the night of the murders, Alex Murdaugh appears to tell Greene he thought the murders of his wife and son were related to the 2019 boat crash that killed Mallory Beach, according to the footage.
“This a long story. My son was in a boat wreck…he’s been getting threats. Most of it’s been benign stuff we didn’t take serious. You know, he’s been getting punched. I know that’s what it is,” Murdaugh is heard saying in the recording.
Waters appears to be trying to show that Murdaugh immediately offered a theory about the murders when police arrived at the scene.
9:51 a.m. — Prosecutors call 1st witness
Prosecutor Creighton Waters calls his first witness: Sgt. Daniel Greene with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office. Greene was the first officer who responded to the murder scene on June 7, 2021.
Greene describes arriving at the scene and finding the lifeless bodies of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh. He says he spoke with Alex Murdaugh, who immediately began telling him about the 2019 boat crash that killed Mallory Beach.
Alex Murdaugh appears to be crying in court as Greene describes the scene.
9:50 a.m. — Watch the Murdaugh trial live
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9:41 a.m. — Email condemns jury disclosure
Judge Clifton Newman opens court proceedings stating he received an email just before 6 p.m. Wednesday from a man named Chris Wilson. Wilson, according to Newman, complained about a violation of Newman’s court order that prohibited the public from disclosing the identity of jurors. Newman says he did not respond to the email.
Newman says he does not know whether this is the same Chris Wilson who is listed as a witness in the trial. That Chris Wilson is Bamberg-based attorney and longtime friend of Alex Murdaugh who has emerged as a key player in the ongoing saga.
9:35 a.m. — First witness to take the stand
Prosecutor Creighton Waters and Murdaugh’s defense attorney Dick Harpootlian gave dueling, and compelling, opening arguments on Wednesday. Today, the first witness will take the stand.
9:27 a.m. — Alex Murdaugh’s family arrives
Alex Murdaugh’s surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, arrives at the courthouse today for day 4 of the murder trial. pic.twitter.com/lIla9ymINA
— Blake Douglas (@Blake_Doug918) January 26, 2023
Alex Murdaugh’s remaining son, Buster, and his younger brother, John Marvin, have arrived at the Colleton County Courthouse. Buster and John Marvin Murdaugh made a surprise appearance in court Wednesday. Both are listed as potential witnesses for the defense.