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Friday, July 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Deputies describe bloody scene in Alex Murdaugh double murder trial

Law enforcement officers testified about the gruesome murder scene they encountered after the prominent South Carolina attorney reported his wife and son were gunned down.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) — The sergeant arrived just before 10:30 p.m. at the hunting estate. It wasn’t easy to find on the dark and rural road – he turned around once before spotting the mailbox.

The 911 caller told dispatchers he found his wife and son shot. The sergeant navigated his patrol vehicle down the long driveway until he saw the dog kennels.

Two bodies were face down in large pools of blood. A man cradled a shotgun. He insisted, unprompted, the killing of his wife and son were tied to a boat crash.

Colleton County sheriff’s deputies chatted as they secured the crime scene.

“Y’all familiar with this family?” one asked.

“I wasn’t until you told me their names.”

“Alright, I’ll fill you in later.”

The family was the Murdaughs.

The name became ubiquitous in the months that followed the brutal killings. Alex Murdaugh, the man holding the shotgun, would be charged in the double homicide, one of several twists in a lurid crime story that has gained international attention.

Even before the killings, locals knew the prestigious family. Murdaugh was the scion of a Lowcountry legal dynasty that for nearly a century controlled the solicitor’s office for the 14th Judicial Circuit, prosecuting crimes in five counties across South Carolina's Lowcountry.

In 2019, Murdaugh’s youngest son, Paul, who he is accused of killing, was charged with boating while intoxicated in a fatal crash that killed a 19-year-old girl. Some community members suspected the Murdaughs were using their influence to shield the young man from punishment.

Murdaugh’s murder trial began this week.

Alex Murdaugh cries as the murder of his wife and son is described by Colleton County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Daniel Greene during testimony in Murdaugh's double murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, S.C, on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. (Joshua Boucher/The State via AP)

On Thursday, law enforcement officers told the jury what they found when they arrived the night of June 7, 2021, at the family’s estate in unincorporated Colleton County.

Colleton County Sheriff’s Sergeant Daniel Greene was the first officer on the scene. He found the bodies and spoke briefly with Murdaugh, a conversation recorded by the sergeant’s body-worn camera.

Murdaugh was nervous, anxious and upset, according to Green, but he was not crying. Murdaugh told the sergeant he believed the shooting was retaliation for Paul’s alleged role in the boat crash, according to the body-worn camera footage. The father made similar claims to an emergency dispatcher.

He told the dispatcher his wife and son were not breathing when he arrived at the estate. As he spoke with Greene, he asked several times if they were hurt.

“Any reasonable person who came across those bodies would come to the conclusion they were deceased,” Greene testified.

Murdaugh told the dispatcher he armed himself with a shotgun from the estate after discovering his loved ones' bodies. Greene took the firearm and stowed it in his squad car, he testified. Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian noted in cross-examination a 16-gauge shell was loaded in the 12-gauge shotgun. Greene acknowledged firing a shell of the wrong size could be dangerous.

Murdaugh’s state of mind at that moment is a critical question in the trial. In his opening statement Wednesday, state prosecutor Creighton Waters alleged the defendant was already crafting an alibi after he gunned down his wife and son. His gasping breaths and hoarse voice was a ruse, intended to garner sympathy and draw attention to other suspects, Waters said.

Harpootlian said in his opening statement that Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and the couple's 22-year-old son were “slaughtered.” Paul’s skull was destroyed by a shotgun blast while his mother was shot five times with a semiautomatic rifle.

The jurors saw video and photos of the bodies. Colleton County Judge Clifton Newman ordered that the graphic images would not be released to the public.

Testimony hinted at the gruesomeness, though. In one photo, Paul’s brains were visible “down there around his ankles,” according to Colleton County Fire Chief Barry McRoy.

Murdaugh wept at the defense’s table as McRoy testified.

The trial is expected to last several weeks.

Follow @SteveGarrisonPC
Categories / Criminal, Trials

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