In case you hadn’t noticed, the mainstream media narrative in the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga is once again being driven by state senator Dick Harpootlian – the lead lawyer for disgraced, disbarred attorney/ accused killer Alex Murdaugh.
Like a “bulldog” with a bone, Harpootlian has once again seized the initiative in this case – slamming prosecutors in the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson for allegedly leaking evidence and other information prejudicial to his client to members of the media.
Namely, to me.
Wilson’s office has called Harpootlian’s claim “categorically false,” a statement I believe to be accurate.
That isn’t stopping the “bulldog,” though. In addition to alleging all manner of premeditated leaks, Harpootlian has also accused Wilson’s office of rushing to judgment against his 54-year-old client – and of lacking anything resembling a supposed motive for Murdaugh to have committed these killings.
Murdaugh has been charged with two counts of murder and two counts of possessing a weapon during the commission of a violent crime in connection with the June 7, 2021 shootings of his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and younger son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh. Maggie and Paul were killed at Moselle – the family’s sprawling 1,700-acre hunting property next to the Salkehatchie River on the border of Colleton and Hampton counties.
Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty to those charges.
The former president of the S.C. Association for Justice (SCAJ) is also facing an assortment of financial charges – 90 individual counts of alleged criminal activity involving “schemes to defraud victims” of $8.79 million – as well as drug charges and fraud charges (the latter batch of which are tied to a botched “suicide-for-hire” scheme that went down last Labor Day).
Oh, there is also a sprawling public corruption probe linked to the saga – as well as a similarly sprawling maze of civil cases.
Despite the incriminating totality bearing down on his client, Harpootlian – who has more than five decades of courtroom experience – is poised to further wrestle the narrative of this saga away from prosecutors and investigators at a highly-anticipated hearing in Walterboro, S.C. on Monday morning.
What does the wily, well-heeled attorney have up his sleeve? It’s not immediately clear … but reporters have been told to expect a major announcement at Monday’s hearing.
Specifically, something “explosive.”
Harpootlian’s tightening grip on the press coverage of this case was capably demonstrated via a “breaking news” item published Wednesday afternoon by reporter John Monk – a story which was, in fact, a repackaged narrative based on Harpootlian’s latest court filing.
Monk’s much ballyhooed report focused on a “short, cellphone video” of Alex, Paul and Maggie Murdaugh taken “right before Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were fatally shot.”
“There is talking, and it’s extremely playful and friendly,” a source claiming to have watched the video told Monk. “It sounds perfectly normal, like any happy family — mother, father and child — doing something together. They are spread out, it sounds like, and they are just talking back and forth.”
“They are talking about the different game birds out there,” Monk’s source continued. “I think one of the dogs was chasing or caught a chicken. There’s talk of that. You can hear a little bit of laughter.”
Monk acknowledged the existence of this video was first reported by our news outlet back in June, but according to him we “did not at that time characterize the contents other than to say it showed Murdaugh and Maggie talking by the dog kennels on the Moselle estate.”
That is accurate.
Monk also quoted extensively from Harpootlian’s filing – which I exclusively reported on Monday.
(Click to view)
In his filing (.pdf), Harpootlian (above) and fellow defense attorney Jim Griffin acknowledged “the existence of a video and audio recording from Paul’s phone that were first reported by the media.”
“On the recording, Paul is taking a video of his friend’s dog, who Paul was concerned about,” Harpootlian wrote. “Apparently a conversation between Maggie, Paul and Alex is also captured on this recording. Family members report Maggie, Paul and Alex (were) having a convivial conversation about the behavior of their own dog, Bubba.”
“There is absolutely no indication of a disagreement or dispute between Paul, Maggie and Alex, according to family members who viewed the recording,” Harpootlian continued. “However, the state contends that within minutes after this convivial, light-hearted conversation, Alex murdered both Maggie and Paul for no apparent reason.”
According to Harpootlian, FITSNews’ original reporting on the video “did not include any information about the convivial nature of the conversation and how incongruent the tone and tenor of the conversation is to the state’s theory of the case.”
“Perhaps this crucial information was intentionally omitted from the media leak to portray Alex Murdaugh in the worst possible light,” Harpootlian concluded.
Enter Monk … who dutifully portrayed this “crucial information” in the best possible light for Murdaugh.
The problem for Murdaugh and his “bulldogs?” And for their advocates in the mainstream media?
It comes down to this: No matter how “normal,” “light-hearted,” “friendly,” “playful” or yes, even “convivial” the conversations between these family members may have been … the very existence of the video shreds Murdaugh’s alibi.
The family could have been playing Tiddlywinks while posing for Norman Rockwell, in other words. That wouldn’t change the fact Murdaugh was there when they died. And lied about that fact for months.
As FITSNews reported in June, Murdaugh told investigators he arrived at his family’s hunting property at 10:00 p.m. EDT on the evening of July 7, 2021 to find his wife and son murdered near the dog kennels (i.e. the precise location where the video was filmed).
Murdaugh’s infamous 9-1-1 call was placed seven minutes later …
(Click to view)
(Via: FITSNews/ YouTube)
Murdaugh told police he had not been near the kennels at or around the time his wife and son were murdered – and that he had not seen Maggie or Paul before leaving for Varnville that evening, according to a report from Valerie Bauerlein of The Wall Street Journal.
“According to a person close to the family, he came back to Moselle, took a nap and when he awoke, he left to check on his mother, who suffers from dementia,” Bauerlein reported. “He didn’t see Maggie and Paul before he left, according to the person.”
Attorneys echoed the refrain put forward by the Murdaugh family …
“I can assure you that we have Alex’s whereabouts accounted for completely at that time,” Griffin told Fox Carolina in October 2021. “That night? He’s sitting on the bedside of his mother at her house when the coroner says the murders happened. She has dementia. There’s a house sitter, caregiver … with him and they’re watching a gameshow on television.”
Ironically, in this same interview Griffin belatedly acknowledged Murdaugh was, in fact, a “person of interest” in the murder investigation – something I exclusively reported less than 48 hours after the killings.
By way of contrast, Harpootlian told reporters in September of 2021 that he and Griffin were “working on and investigating an individual or individuals we believe may, may, have had some culpability or had did or done it,” referencing an alternative theory for the murders that has yet to be publicly presented.
Perhaps that is Harpootlian’s big bombshell on Monday?
One thing is clear, though: By May of 2022, Griffin’s account of Murdaugh’s movements on the night of the murders had changed – seismically. In another report from Monk, the other “bulldog” belatedly admitted that Murdaugh had left the scene of the crime at approximately 9:00 p.m. EDT “to drive to his mother’s house.”
So much for not seeing Maggie or Paul, right? So much for watching a gameshow with his mother, her caregiver and house sitter, right? Oh, and so much for Murdaugh being nowhere near Moselle “when the coroner says the murders happened.”
In other words, Murdaugh’s own attorney acknowledged he was at Moselle at the precise time investigators believe Maggie and Paul were savagely gunned down – something Monk appears to have completely ignored both then and now.
To recap: Paul Murdaugh was hit by a pair of shotgun blasts – one to the head, the other to the arm and chest. Maggie Murdaugh was killed by multiple shots from a semi-automatic rifle at or around the time her son was killed. At least two of Maggie Murdaugh’s gunshot wounds were reportedly inflicted as she was laying on the ground – consistent with initial reports I received of “execution-style” slayings.
Paul Murdaugh’s death certificate – which I obtained and published on August 6, 2021 – lists his time of death at approximately 9:00 p.m. EDT.
Where was Alex Murdaugh at that time?
Yeah: Don’t ask his lawyers … or if you do, be prepared for an evolving answer.
In addition to the cell phone video placing Murdaugh at the scene of the murders shortly before they were committed, it is believed all of his movements on the fateful evening of June 7, 2021 were tracked by law enforcement via his cell phone.
(Click to view)
Once again, all of this evidence – most notably the high-velocity impact spatter which has reportedly placed Murdaugh at the scene of the murders at the very moment one of the victims was killed – obliterates the narrative advanced by him and his attorneys.
You know … the same way evidence from Murdaugh’s botched suicide-for-hire scheme obliterated the narrative advanced by him and his attorneys last fall.
Which leads me to ask the following question: Are we seriously supposed to discount all of this because Harpootlian is mad about a leak?
I’ll go one better than that, though …
If Maggie Murdaugh was indeed lured to Moselle by her husband on the night of her murder under the guise of visiting his dying father, as has been suggested by those close to her – wouldn’t the killer want her to be lulled into a false sense of security?
Wouldn’t the killer, in fact, need her to think everything was “normal?”
Also, as we learned from the riveting account of former Charleston, S.C. sex worker Lindsey Edwards earlier this month, Murdaugh is said to be capable of flipping instantaneously from a kind and gracious (some would say “convivial”) persona one moment to a violently abusive deviant the next.
Edwards, incidentally, was interviewed last week by agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – which along with the attorney general is leading the various Murdaugh-related inquiries.
Look, I don’t begrudge Harpootlian for his tactics. He’s got a job to do – and after a very rough start to this case he is clearly hitting his stride. Love him or hate him, you would be hard-pressed to find a better defense attorney in the state – nor is there anyone associated with this case more adept at driving the mainstream press in one direction or the other.
My point is merely this … let’s not miss the forest for the trees as we prepare for Harpootlian to take us all on another wild ride next week.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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