After a difficult first week, attorneys for accused killer Alex Murdaugh found their stride on Monday as South Carolina’s ‘Trial of the Century’ kicked off its second week in Walterboro, South Carolina.
Murdaugh has been accused of savagely murdering his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and youngest son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh on his family’s sprawling, remote 1,700-acre hunting property in Colleton County on June 7, 2021.
Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters got the state off to a strong start last week, delivering a compelling opening argument and launching the state’s case with a bang with dramatic testimony from the first responders who arrived at the Murdaugh hunting property, known locally as Moselle.
In pushing back against the prosecution, Murdaugh’s attorney Dick Harpootlian has consistently advanced a theme of shoddy police work – although prior to Monday, he had very little to work with on that front.
On Monday, Harpootlian injected the theory of a “second shooter” into this graphic double homicide – while simultaneously building upon the narrative that law enforcement bungled the crime scene from the beginning.
Harpootlian reminded jurors one of the responding officers left a bloody footprint in the feed room near the body of Paul Murdaugh. He also pointed to first responders traipsing through grassy areas where a shooter may have trailed Maggie Murdaugh.
“They were walking in an area where the perpetrator walked,” Harpootlian said. “Walking in the dark!”
Harpootlian also grilled Worley on the angles of .300 blackout shots fired from an AR-15 rifle through the wall of the feed room at the crime scene – including one angle measurement which was incorrectly recorded into her official report.
“One of the shots fired by the AR was fired from somewhere way up here,” Harpootlian said, pointing to a poster board based on Worley’s original crime scene sketch. “The AR was some distance away from the feed room.”
“Does none of this indicate to you that there were two shooters?” Harpootlian asked Worley. “Is it conceivable?”
As Harpootlian tried to coax Worley into acknowledging a second shooter was a “reasonable explanation,” she pushed back saying she couldn’t do so because she “wasn’t there.”
“None of us were there!” Harpootlian responded. “We’re trying to figure out what happened that night and clearly one of the explanations is two shooters!”
Another exchange which saw Harpootlian appear to score points with jurors involved an impression found on the calf of Maggie Murdaugh which he claimed contained was “not a naturally occurring pattern.”
“There was a footwear impression on Maggie’s calf,” Harpootlian said.
Harpootlian pressed Worley on whether or not she should have identified and examined the impression, adding “once Maggie’s body had been removed, that examination could never be done.”
“If I had realized … I would have documented it properly,” Worley acknowledged.
A photo of the impression was shown to jurors – but was not made available to media or to the courtroom audience.
Jurors seemed to be closely following Harpootlian as he built his “shoddy police work” narrative to a climax.
“Do we know what other evidence they may have destroyed?” Harpootlian asked Worley at one point.
“I have no idea,” Worley replied.
“No, you don’t,” Harpootlian responded.
Prosecutors reclaimed the momentum shortly before noon on Monday when SLED special agent Jeff Croft took the stand. Croft’s testimony allowed the state to introduce significant firearm and ballistics evidence given his starring role in collecting various guns and ammunition from multiple locations at Moselle.
Lead prosecutor Waters walked Croft through the introduction of this evidence. Croft also provided some initial testimony which touched cell phone evidence likely to play such a huge role in this case.
Specifically, Croft interviewed Rogan Gibson – a friend of Paul Murdaugh’s who was the last person to speak to him prior to his death. Croft testified that Gibson received two incoming phone calls from Murdaugh – one at 8:40 p.m. EDT and another at 8:44 p.m. EDT.
According to prosecutors, Paul was murdered less than five minutes after receiving the second call.
Gibson texted Paul at 8:49 p.m. and again at 9:18 p.m. EDT but received no response. He also texted Maggie Murdaugh at 9:34 p.m. EDT, saying “Tell Paul to call me.”
Outgoing calls from Gibson to Paul were made at 9:10 p.m., 9:29 p.m., 9:42 p.m. and 9:57 p.m. EDT – all with no response.
Of interest? Gibson’s phone contained multiple missed incoming calls from Alex Murdaugh at 10:21 p.m., 10:24 p.m., 10:25 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. EST.
The big moment for prosecutors on Monday? The playing of Alex Murdaugh’s second interview with SLED agents – a conversation which took place on June 10, 2021 (three days after the murders).
In the video, Murdaugh makes several demonstrably false statements.
(Click to view)
The most damning one? That the last time he saw Paul and Maggie alive was when the family ate dinner together in the main house at Moselle.
“Nobody was in that home when I left,” Murdaugh told SLED special agent David Owen in the video.
This is the so-called ironclad alibi which was shredded by a cell phone video taken by Paul Murdaugh just moments before he was murdered. That video – which has not been played for jurors – is described in detail in this article.
Jurors also have yet to hear the August 2021 interview with SLED in which Murdaugh is confronted about his presence at the kennels. 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.”
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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