So I’ll be the first to admit it … that headline is a bit of a tease. I certainly wish I was able to publish (in its entirety) the short, cell phone video that shredded the alibi of Alex Murdaugh, the man currently at the epicenter of South Carolina’s ‘Trial of the Century.’
The video – obtained by this news outlet on Monday – is very much as it has been described in previous stories here and in other media outlets (but not quite as it has been described by Murdaugh’s lead attorney, state senator Dick Harpootlian).
Why aren’t we publishing the clip – and letting viewers decide for themselves?
Because our sources were adamant this video not be released until jurors in Murdaugh’s case – who will be selected and seated later today – had the opportunity to view it for themselves after it was admitted as evidence.
I respect that prohibition … and am gladly abiding by it.
I have, however, been cleared to post a still image from the clip (above) – and to describe the contents of the video while discussing its significance to the ongoing trial.
(Click to view)
A disbarred attorney who hailed from one of the most powerful families in the Palmetto State, Murdaugh stands accused of savagely murdering two of his family members nineteen months ago in Colleton County. This graphic, true crime component of a multi-faceted, multi-layered Southern Gothic saga has captured audiences from across the nation – and around the world.
Yesterday in court, for example, I sat next to a Parisian reporter covering this trial for the European editions of Vanity Fair.
Before diving into the video that helped break this case open, let’s briefly recap what we know about the murders, shall we?
Sometime after 8:44 p.m. EDT on June 7, 2021, state prosecutors say Murdaugh brutally dispatched his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and their younger son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh, near the dog kennels on the family’s 1,700-acre hunting property – known locally as Moselle.
Paul Murdaugh was hit by a pair of shotgun blasts on that fateful evening – one to the head, the other to the arm and chest. Maggie Murdaugh was killed by multiple rounds from a semi-automatic rifle around the same time her son was killed. At least two of Maggie Murdaugh’s gunshot wounds were inflicted as she was lying wounded on the ground – consistent with initial reports we received of “execution-style” slayings.
How do we know Paul and Maggie were alive at the kennels at 8:44 p.m.? Because a timestamped cell phone video taken by Paul at that location proved they were there.
“There is talking, and it’s extremely playful and friendly,” one source 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. Because from the moment we were made aware of this clip, our news outlet was not provided with the same “happy family” narrative provided to Monk.
“On the recording, Paul is taking a video of his friend’s dog, who Paul was concerned about,” Harpootlian and Griffin 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.”
Harpootlian and Griffin’s description of the video as “convivial” (a.k.a. friendly, lively, cheerful or jovial) was key to their arguments before the court – and in the court of public opinion.
(Click to view)
“There is absolutely no indication of a disagreement or dispute between Paul, Maggie and Alex, according to family members who viewed the recording,” the motion continued. “However, the state contends that within minutes after this convivial, light-hearted conversation, Alex murdered both Maggie and Paul for no apparent reason.”
Prior to watching the recording for the first time this week, our news outlet provided additional information on it in an article published on December 5, 2022. In that report, we noted the video was sent by Paul Murdaugh to a friend whose dog he was keeping in the kennels at Moselle. The dog – a chocolate Labrador retriever puppy belonging to Rogan Gibson – had an injured tail and Paul Murdaugh appears to have been trying to document its status for his childhood friend.
As I noted in the December report, while Paul was filming his friend’s puppy, one of the Murdaugh hunting dogs – Bubba – began racing around the kennels (off-camera) with a chicken in its mouth. As the three family members – including Alex Murdaugh – called out for the dog, Maggie Murdaugh speculated the animal in its mouth was a guinea, not a chicken.
“Hey he’s got a bird in his mouth!” Maggie exclaimed on the video. “It’s a guinea.”
She was quickly corrected on this point by both her husband and her son.
“It’s a chicken,” Alex told his wife.
“It’s a chicken,” Paul confirmed.
Alex Murdaugh is not seen on the video, but he is clearly heard correcting his wife and calling out after the dog.
“Come here, Bubba!” Murdaugh is heard yelling. “Come here, Bubba!”
More than a dozen people – including Murdaugh’s own family members and former law partners – have reportedly confirmed to law enforcement that the voice on the footage belonged to him. Which it clearly is.
(Click to view)
While there is nothing on the cell phone recording hinting at any animosity amongst the family members – let alone the sort of animosity which would lead one of them to commit two brutal murders – there is also nothing on the audio I would describe as “convivial” family conversation, either.
What Harpootlian tried to paint as a Norman Rockwell illustration was really nothing of the sort …
In her final moments of life, Maggie Murdaugh certainly sounded amused by the antics of Bubba the family dog – but Paul Murdaugh did not sound “convivial” in his assessment. Instead, he responded rather dismissively to his mother’s comment – quickly refocusing his attention to his friend’s puppy.
As for Alex Murdaugh, I would not describe his tone in the video as “convivial.” If anything, he sounded agitated.
According to my sources, Murdaugh was confronted by SLED agents about his presence at the kennels during an interview conducted in August of 2021. Initially taken aback at the assertion, Murdaugh informed investigators they were wrong about this key point of information.
“No,” he told them bluntly.
Murdaugh later qualified this denial by saying there was no way he could have been at the kennels at the time the video was filmed “unless my timeline is wrong.”
In pretrial motions and hearings for Alex Murdaugh’s double homicide trial, lead state prosecutor Creighton Waters confirmed video evidence placed Alex, Maggie and Paul together at Moselle at 8:44 p.m. EDT. Waters further noted the state was prepared to show evidence indicating Alex Murdaugh left Moselle at 9:06 p.m. EDT to drive to his parents’ home in Almeda, S.C. – approximately twenty minutes away.
For more on that shredded alibi, click here …
In addition to the kennel video, this news outlet has also obtained the first crime scene photos from Moselle. As with the video, we are declining to publish those until they have been entered into evidence during the trial.
UPDATE: In keeping with our source agreement, now that this video has been admitted into evidence and seen by the jury, here is the kennel video …
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.
WANNA SOUND OFF?
Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our articles? Or an issue you’d like to proactively address? We have an open microphone policy here at FITSNews! Submit your letter to the editor (or guest column) via email HERE. Got a tip for a story? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE.