CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) — A cellphone video of a dog’s tail was closely scrutinized Wednesday at the double-murder trial for disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh, who is accused of slaying his wife and son almost two years ago at the family’s hunting estate.
The 50-second video was a pebble among the mountain of cellphone data that prosecutors introduced this week detailing the family’s activities in the minutes before the brutal murders. But prosecutors believe the “kennel video” — one of the last communications found on the phone of Murdaugh’s youngest son — is a knife in the heart of the defendant’s alibi.
Murdaugh, 54, told investigators he was not at the dog kennels on the 1,770-acre hunting estate when his loved ones were fatally shot the night of June 7, 2021. But his voice is heard on a roughly 50-second video Paul Murdaugh recorded for a family friend.
The friend, Rogan Gibson, testified Wednesday he was “100 percent” certain Alex Murdaugh, whom he described as a second father, can be heard speaking in the video.
Murdaugh’s lawyers did not challenge Gibson’s testimony, but the taciturn farmer said in cross-examination he could not imagine a scenario where the man he knew most of his life would kill his beloved son and wife.
State prosecutor Creighton Waters pushed him — did he really know Alex Murdaugh?
“Yes, I know Mr. Alex,” he asserted.
He isn’t the only one. The family’s roots run deep in the Palmetto State’s Lowcountry, where three generations of Murdaughs were elected solicitor, or prosecutor, while running a lucrative private law firm in the small town of Hampton. The red-haired defendant was heir to that legal dynasty, earning a small fortune litigating personal injury cases while working part-time in the solicitor’s office.
Potential jurors in the high-profile trial were dismissed after they identified themselves as kin to the Murdaughs. A state wildlife officer testified Tuesday he was Murdaugh’s second cousin. A sergeant for the local sheriff’s office told the jury that same day he previously testified about gang terminology in one of Murdaugh’s civil cases.
The family’s name would be in the public's eye for months after the murders. Murdaugh was accused of defrauding former law clients and trying to kill himself in a bizarre insurance fraud scheme before the murder indictments were revealed in June.
Murdaugh gave three interviews to investigators after the killings of his wife, Maggie, and 22-year-old son Paul, according to testimony. The veteran attorney seemed at ease around law enforcement officers, even as he frequently broke down in tears while describing the gruesome crimes.
Murdaugh told investigators in the interviews he had dinner with his loved ones, took a nap and then drove to his parent’s house on the night of the murders. He said he did not see his wife or son again until he found their bodies shortly after 10 p.m. near the estate’s dog kennels.
The slayings of the 52-year-old woman and her son were a “butchering,” defense attorney Dick Harpootlian said in an opening statement. A shotgun blast to Paul Murdaugh’s head splattered his blood and brains across the kennel’s feed room. His mother was shot five times with .300 blackout rounds, commonly used to hunt feral hogs, according to testimony.
The first interview took place in a police vehicle parked outside the family’s hunting estate hours after the killings. Murdaugh sweated through a white T-shirt and olive shorts as it rained on that humid night. Colleton County Sheriff’s Office detective Laura Rutland scribbled notes in the backseat as Danny Henderson, an attorney from the Murdaugh family’s law firm, comforted his friend, who choked on his words and occasionally spit out the passenger side door during the roughly 30-minute interview. Dave Owen, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division lead investigator, sat in the driver’s seat.