One of the most high-profile true crime cases in recent history is playing out in a South Carolina courtroom.
Testimony is underway in the double murder trial of disbarred attorney Richard “Alex” Murdaugh, who is charged with killing his wife and son.
Murdaugh, part of a South Carolina legal dynasty, was charged with murder in connection to the 2021 shooting deaths of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul. Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty.
After the shootings in June 2021, police launched investigations into two other deaths connected to Murdaugh and alleged criminal acts dating back more than a decade.
Here are the details of the case:
Alex Murdaugh trial:Catch up on everything from the beginning.
Alex Murdaugh trial jury selection
Jury selection began Monday, Jan. 23 in a Walterboro, South Carolina, courtroom for the highly anticipated trial.
Attorneys narrowed down a list of 900 residents to a potential jury pool of roughly 150 in open court and made further cuts in judge’s chambers. On Wednesday, Jan. 25, they settled on a final jury of four white men, six white women and two Black women. The alternates include two white men, one white woman, one Black man and two Black women.
The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office is seeking life in prison for Murdaugh if he is convicted.
A deep dive:Learn more about jury selection in the Alex Murdaugh trial.
Alex Murdaugh murder trial begins:What could happen in this historic case?
Murdaugh trial witness list
More than 250 people are on the potential witness list for the defense and prosecution.
The list includes agents from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), forensic experts, Murdaugh family members and medical professionals.
Here’s who has been called so far:
- Tinish Bryson-Smith: Hampton County 911 Dispatch
- Angela Stallings: Colleton County Dispatch/Colleton County Sheriff’s Office
- Barry McRoy: Colleton County Fire Rescue
- Jason Chapman: Colleton County Sheriff’s Office Captain
- Laura Rutland: Colleton County Sheriff’s Office Detective
- Sgt. Daniel Greene: Colleton County Sheriff’s Office
- Corp. Chad McDowell: Colleton County Sheriff’s Office
- Dalila Cirencione: SLED agent
- Melinda Worley: SLED forensic agent
Alex Murdaugh murder trial:First officers on scene of murders offer revealing testimony.
Alex Murdaugh trial opening statements
Opening statements were given by state prosecutors and defense attorneys on Wednesday, Jan. 25.
Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters asserted evidence would show a “perfect storm” was brewing that led Murdaugh, 54, to kill his wife and son in June 2021. Dick Harpootlian, Murdaugh’s defense attorney, reminded the jury his client is innocent until proven guilty and dismissed the state’s evidence and mere “theories.”
Waters detailed a precise timeline of the crime in his opening statement, drawing on ballistic and forensic evidence, cell phone data and video footage of the crime scene. He alleged Murdaugh used a family gun, which is now missing, to commit the murders, then drove to his mother’s house before returning home later and phoning 911.
“You are going to see what he did to Maggie and Paul, and it is going to be gruesome,” Waters said.
Murdaugh trial kicks off:Opening statements given in former attorney Alex Murdaugh’s double murder trial
What is Alex Murdaugh charged with?
Murdaugh is facing double-homicide charges, accused of killing his son Paul, 22, and wife Maggie, 52.
Murdaugh also is the subject of other state investigations and has been indicted on roughly 100 additional charges. Those charges include tax evasion, drug trafficking and fraud.
His cases have thrust the small town of Walterboro and Colleton County, South Carolina, into the national spotlight.
The criminal saga of Alex Murdaugh, whose family had control over a local prosecutor’s office in Hampton County for over 80 years, stretches back nearly a decade. Following the June 2021 shootings, law enforcement began to investigate two other deaths in connection with Murdaugh. He himself survived a gunshot during a drive-by shooting prosecutors allege was part of a failed insurance fraud scheme.
Take an in-depth look at the timeline: What we know about Alex Murdaugh’s crime saga.
Who is Alex Murdaugh?:Behind the man who wrecked a South Carolina legal dynasty
Who is on Alex Murdaugh’s defense team?
Judge Clifton Newman is presiding over the trial and Murdaugh’s defense team is headed by attorneys Richard Harpootlian and Jim Griffin.
Harpootlian is a trial lawyer with decades of experience, having worked as a prosecutor, defense attorney and civil litigator. He is no stranger to high-profile cases. Notably, in 1983, Harpootlian sealed a death-row conviction for the prosecution of Donald “Pee Wee” Gaskins — a notorious serial killer.
Griffin is both a trial lawyer and health care attorney and has extensive experience in representing clients charged with federal crimes, including various classifications of fraud, public corruption, and criminal tax charges.
Dig deeper:Learn more about Alex Murdaugh’s media-savvy defense team
Creighton Waters is leading the prosecution
Creighton Waters is the chief attorney for the State Grand Jury division of the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office and is the lead prosecutor in all of the criminal cases involving Murdaugh.
Waters, 52, has worked for the Attorney General’s Office for more than 24 years. He has won State Grand Jury indictments on corrupt law enforcement officers, as well as school district and county officials. His work has earned indictments on more than 100 suspects following investigations into drug operations in the state prison system.
Since 2019, Waters’ primary focus has been on unraveling Murdaugh’s alleged web of financial and drug-related crimes, and leveling indictment after indictment against the disbarred attorney and several of his alleged accomplices.
Alex Murdaugh’s son’s boat accident
In July 2021 court documents were filed alleging a civil conspiracy that would have connected law enforcement with members of the Murdaugh family after a 2019 Beaufort County boat crash killed Mallory Beach, 19.
Paul Murdaugh, Alex Murdaugh’s late son, was allegedly driving the boat when he crashed into a bridge, resulting in Beach’s death and injuries to the two other passengers on board. He was awaiting trial after pleading not guilty to three felony counts of boating under the influence. The boat was owned by Alex Murdaugh.
In court proceedings Sgt. Daniel Greene of the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office testified that Murdaugh, moments after officers arrived on the scene the night of Maggie and Paul’s death, told them that the shootings were likely related to the 2019 boat crash and threats his son had been receiving.
How many children does Alex Murdaugh have?
Alex and Maggie Murdaugh had two children: Paul, who is the subject of the murder trial and one other surviving son Richard “Buster” Murdaugh.
Buster is on the witness list for the trial. He attended law school at University of South Carolina before being kicked out over accusations of plagiarism, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Buster and Maggie Murdaugh were both named in the wrongful death lawsuit brought by Mallory Beach’s family following the 2019 boat crash, but their names were eventually dropped in the settlement. Buster was charged originally because his ID was used by younger brother Paul to buy the alcohol in his system at the time of the crash.
Murdaugh trial location vs Murdaugh Property
The trial is taking place in Walterboro, South Carolina at the Colleton Country Courthouse. The Murdaugh estate where both Maggie and Paul were killed, however, is in Islandton, South Carolina.
This is also the home where Gloria Ann Satterfield, long-time housekeeper for the Murdaugh family, died followina fall down the stairs.
Alex Murdaugh was later investigated by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) in connection with Satterfield’s death over allegations he stole insurance settlement funds from her heirs. Murdaugh also faced a civil suit from Satterfield’s sons in connection with those allegations.
Contributing: Michael M. DeWitt Jr. and N’dea Yancy-Bragg
Story Credit: usatoday.com