Old Lowcountry ways sink their teeth into Murdaugh murder alibi | Opinion
They taught us in Sunday school to “be sure your sin will find you out.”
Whether that happens in the trial of the century we won’t know until a jury at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro renders a verdict as Alex Murdaugh stands accused of murdering his wife and son on June 7, 2021.
But by the middle of the second week of testimony, it was clear that the true Lowcountry itself could sort out its sins.
The Lowcountry is a much more gentrified, or some would say Yankee-fied, place than it was when Murdaugh’s great-grandfather, then grandfather, then father held the keys to the jail for 86 years as this rural five-county area’s chief prosecutors.
But the trial has rendered signs that some old Lowcountry ways have survived America’s migration to the coast.
We’ve seen a moment when the defendant opens a car door while being interrogated by law enforcement to spit tobacco juice. His grandfather, Randolph “Buster” Murdaugh Jr., spit tobacco juice in every courthouse in the Lowcountry, some of it in his designated spittoon.
A pickup truck was said to have a personal name.
The family home that the case swirls around has a name: Moselle.
We’ve heard nicknames. The defendant is “Big Red” and his son Paul was “Rooster.”
Witnesses say “sir.” They call victim Maggie Murdaugh “Miss Maggie” and the defendant “Mr. Alex.”
And I keep thinking a man sitting behind the defense table each day is Robert E. Lee.
But the real Lowcountry hit center stage on Feb. 1 when a yellow dog named Bubba blew a gaping hole in Murdaugh’s alibi.
A puppy’s tail
Alex Murdaugh told “everyone who would listen,” as the prosecutor put it, that he was not around the dog kennels at Moselle when his son and wife were shot and killed there.
But the video introduced Feb. 1 appears to place Murdaugh at the kennels with his wife and son within five minutes of their brutal murders.
The scene captured on the video is so Lowcountry.
Paul is chasing a chocolate Lab’s tail with his cell phone in his hand, trying to get it on video for a dear friend who owns the rambunctious puppy. The jury hears that Cash the dog had been staying in the Moselle kennel while its owner lived and worked during the week near Beaufort. Cash apparently had a problem with his tail that its owner needed to see.
Paul is circling around said tail when we hear Miss Maggie in the background squeal out, “Hey, he’s got a bird in his mouth.”
That’s Bubba, the family’s yellow Lab.
Then we hear a voice that two witnesses identify “100 percent” as Alex Murdaugh calling Bubba.
“It’s a guinea” Miss Maggie says.
She’s told it’s a chicken.
“Come here, Bubba,” shouts the person identified as “Mr. Alex” while Paul finally zeroes in on Cash’s tail.
But for Bubba the egg-suckin’ Lowcountry dog slinking through history at that precise moment, Alex Murdaugh’s whereabouts may never have been documented.
Sarah and Siri
The jury’s still out on that.
And the jury will have a lot of other evidence to chew on that is reminiscent of an older Lowcountry.
Jurors were given volumes of other information from the cell phones of Maggie, Paul, and Alex Murdaugh.
The phones sketch a precise timeline. Every move of the phones is recorded. Steps taken by whoever possessed the phone are numbered.
It’s like the old days when two women were the telephone operators in Ridgeland in Jasper County.
Like “Sarah,” the telephone operators in Mayberry in the “The Andy Griffith” show, these operators connected every call, knew every person, where to find them, who they were with and perhaps what they were having for supper.
“That was our newspaper,” an old-timer told me.
Alex Murdaugh does not have to face a mountain of evidence from Sarah.
He finds himself under a deluge of cold facts from Siri. And Siri doesn’t care who your granddaddy was, how slick you can talk or how many tears you shed.
Writers are capturing the pathos, saying Maggie and Paul are testifying from the grave.
We don’t yet know what sins will be found out in the murder trial.
Meanwhile, we’ll lean on an old Lowcountry saying: You can’t break an egg-suckin’ dog.
David Lauderdale may be reached at LauderdaleColumn@gmail.com.