Prosecutors hoping to put disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh in prison for life for the murder of his wife and son scored significant victories during a detailed and dramatic day of testimony in Walterboro, South Carolina on Wednesday.
Murdaugh stands accused of killing his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and youngest son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh, on his family’s hunting property in Colleton County, South Carolina on June 7, 2021. He has pleaded not guilty and is currently standing trial at the Colleton County courthouse – one of the many Lowcountry halls of justice where his powerful family, a regional legal dynasty, once ruled with impunity.
The day began with prosecutors providing additional down-to-the-second detail on the cell phone activity of Alex, Maggie and Paul Murdaugh on the night of the murders. This testimony was provided by lieutenant Britt Dove of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
One of the first prosecution witnesses to begin establishing a narrative of this shocking crime – which has attracted international attention – Dove’s testimony documented the calls, text messages and steps recorded by all three phones on the Moselle property.
Critically, Dove testified that Alex Murdaugh's phone recorded a gap in activity between approximately 8:09 p.m. and 9:02 p.m. on the evening of the murders - which prosecutors are implying indicated premeditation on his part.
As for the time of the killings, Dove testified that Paul Murdaugh's phone recorded him reading two text messages from a female friend at precisely 8:48:59 on the evening of June 7, 2021. He further testified Maggie Murdaugh's phone recorded her reading a text message at precisely 8:49:27.
Just eight seconds later - at 8:49:35 - Paul Murdaugh received a text message from his childhood friend, Rogan Gibson. That message was never read. In fact, from that moment forward neither Paul nor Maggie's phone was ever unlocked again until the devices were in the possession of law enforcement officers investigating their murders.
While jurors were positively riveted by the details of this data, the most compelling testimony of the day came from Gibson.
In addition to confirming the cell phone activity detailed in Dove's testimony, Gibson managed to humanize Paul Murdaugh - who had drawn the ire of many in the Lowcountry (and beyond) for his involvement in a February 2019 boat crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach of Hampton, S.C.
Paul Murdaugh was facing three felony boating under the influence charges at the time of his murder.
According to Gibson, though, he was a fun-loving country boy.
"He loved the outdoors - huntin' and fishin' - he loved being out there at Moselle," Gibson said, referring to his friend.
Rogan Gibson testified that the Murdaughs' were his "second family," and that Alex Murdaugh was like a "second father" to him.
(Click to view)
On the day of the murders, Gibson and Paul Murdaugh were texting each other about planting sunflowers. As this news outlet has previously reported, the two friends were also texting each other about Gibson's chocolate lab - a dog named Cash whose tail was injured.
According to his testimony, Rogan received a call from Paul Murdaugh at around 8:40 p.m. on June 7, 2021 - less than ten minutes before Paul was murdered - to ask if there was something wrong with Cash’s tail. On this call, Rogan testified to hearing Maggie Murdaugh and a male voice he believed belonged to "Mister Alex" in the background.
Gibson testified he was "99 percent" sure the voice he heard in the background on the call belonged to Alex Murdaugh.
At 8:44 p.m. - five minutes before he was murdered - Paul tried to FaceTime Rogan so he could see the dog’s tail. Since cellular reception was often bad at Moselle, the friends discussed Paul sending Rogan a video of the dog instead.
"Was that the last time you ever talked to your friend?"
"It was," Gibson said, becoming emotional.
Gibson never received the video sent from Paul Murdaugh. In fact, he didn't see it until November of 2022 when it was played for him by law enforcement.
As you can see, the video is exactly as this news outlet described it in an exclusive report published just last week ...
After playing the video for Gibson, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters asked him to tell the jury what his level of confidence was that the voice on the recording belonged to Alex Murdaugh.
"How sure are you now?"
'Positive?" Waters asked.
"That's correct," Gibson responded.
Another witness for the prosecution, Paul Murdaugh's friend Will Loving, also testified he was "100 percent" sure the voice on the recording belonged to Alex Murdaugh.
Murdaugh lied to investigators on multiple occasions, telling them he was never at the dog kennels on this sprawling 1,700-acre property - but rather asleep in the house at the time his wife and son were "butchered." For more on the evolution of his erstwhile "ironclad" alibi, check out this report ...
RELATED | ANATOMY OF AN ALIBI
As of this writing, Murdaugh's attorneys have yet to put forward an explanation in court for this shredded alibi.
During cross examination by Murdaugh attorney Jim Griffin, though, Gibson reiterated his love for the Murdaugh family and expressed his refusal to believe Alex Murdaugh was capable of killing his wife and son.
"Can you think of any reason why Alex Murdaugh would have murdered his wife and son?," Griffin asked Gibson.
After an extended pause, Gibson said he could not.
During a follow-up examination from Waters, Gibson was asked whether he still felt as though he knew who Alex Murdaugh was.
"As you sit here today did you really know him?" Waters asked.
After a brief pause, Gibson responded that he did.
(Click to view)
Wednesday's testimony ended in dramatic fashion as Waters peppered the day's final witness with a litany of alleged financial crimes perpetrated by Alex Murdaugh.
Murdaugh's attorneys objected, invoking rule 404(b) of the South Carolina rules of criminal procedure.
According to that rule, evidence of "other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person." However, the rule does permit such "prior bad acts" to be admitted in order "to show motive, identity, the existence of a common scheme or plan, the absence of mistake or accident, or intent."
S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman is scheduled to address this issue outside the presence of the jury tomorrow morning ...
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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