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That’s right … we are officially twenty days into the double homicide trial of disbarred South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh, the scion of a Lowcountry legal dynasty who sits at the epicenter of a maze of alleged criminality known as the ‘Murdaugh Murders‘ crime and corruption saga.
After a big day for the defense on Wednesday, prosecutors regained some ground (and much-needed momentum) on Thursday as they dove into a bizarre September 4, 2021 roadside shooting incident involving Murdaugh.
To recap: A day after being fired from his law firm for allegedly stealing millions of dollars – and just hours after his best friend confronted him over the alleged theft of nearly $200,000 – Murdaugh called 9-1-1 from the Old Salkehatchie Road in Hampton County, S.C. and claimed a random passerby had shot him in the head as he attempted to change a tire on his late wife’s Mercedes SUV.
That narrative quickly collapsed, however …
Nine days later, Murdaugh acknowledged he lied to police about what happened on the roadside. According to him, the shooting was a botched suicide attempt involving his longtime friend and alleged drug dealer/ check casher Curtis “Eddie” Smith.
S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman originally ruled evidence and testimony related to the roadside shooting could not be brought into evidence, but he reversed that decision late Wednesday when Murdaugh attorney Jim Griffin raised the issue during his cross-examination of lead case agent David Owen of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
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, S.C. on June 7, 2021. He pleaded not guilty to those charges and is currently standing trial in Walterboro – part of the Lowcountry region of the Palmetto State which his famous family ruled like a fiefdom for more than a century.
The state is expected to rest its case at some point today …
It is not clear who will take the stand for prosecutors on this final, pivotal day of testimony for the state. We have heard reports it could be special agent Peter Rudofski of SLED – who is said to have compiled a detailed timeline of the double homicide.
For a link to yesterday’s live feed, click here …
THE POLLS …
At the opening gavel of each day of the trial, we will launch two new polls asking readers to weigh in on 1) whether they think Alex Murdaugh is guilty or not guilty of murdering his late wife, Maggie Murdaugh and, 2) whether they think he is guilty or not guilty of murdering his late son, Paul Murdaugh.
The goal of our daily polls is to track how perceptions of Murdaugh’s guilt or innocence related to the murders of his two alleged victims have evolved over the course of the trial.
As of late yesterday, 83 percent of respondents believed Murdaugh was guilty of killing his wife compared to seven percent who said he was not guilty and eight percent who said they were unsure. These percentages were identical to the responses received when our audience was asked whether they believed Murdaugh killed his son.
Here are today’s polls …
QUESTION ONE …
Based on the information you have now, is Alex Murdaugh guilty or not guilty of the murder of Maggie Murdaugh?
QUESTION TWO …
Based on the information you have now, is Alex Murdaugh guilty or not guilty of the murder of Paul Murdaugh?
THE FEED …
4:34 p.m. EST – S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman has dismissed the jury for the weekend … and adjourned court until Tuesday.
4:33 p.m. EST – Murdaugh’s lead attorney Dick Harpootlian announces that the defense’s next witness will take considerable time and asks to delay their testimony until next week.
4:32 p.m. EST – John Meadors is cross-examining Tyndall for the state … he confirms the veracity of the statement and that’s it. One quick joke from Harpootlian on redirect and Tyndall is off the stand.
4:31 p.m. EST – Harpootlian has finished questioning Tyndall …
4:30 p.m. EST – Harpootlian is now asking Tyndall whether Colleton County or SLED ever issued a statement reversing its view that there was “no danger to the public.” Tyndall says a follow-up statement that removed this language did not specifically repudiate it.
4:26 p.m. EST – Harpootlian is now asking Tyndall about the “process involved” in releasing the statement announcing there was “no danger to the public” – and the involvement of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED). This is going to go straight to the “rush to judgment” narrative the defense is hoping to establish in connection with this case.
4:24 p.m. EST – Harpootlian has introduced an article from The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier into evidence containing a quote from Tyndall in which she stated there was “no danger to the public” in the immediate aftermath of the killings.
The same quote was provided to this news outlet in this article …
4:21 p.m. EST – Harpootlian has called Shalane Tyndall, former public information director for the Colleton County sheriff’s office.
4:20 p.m. EST – No additional questions from the state for Harvey … not sure why he was called.
4:19 p.m. EST – Murdaugh’s lead attorney Dick Harpootlian is now on re-direct examination of Harvey.
“Did any Colleton County detectives talk to you about time of death?” he asked Harvey.
Harvey responds that they did not.
4:16 p.m. EST – Deputy attorney general Don Zelenka is cross-examining Harvey. This is Zelenka’s first appearance in this trial. Yesterday was his 71st birthday, incidentally. Zelenka doesn’t take much time with Harvey, mainly reminding jurors he declined to take rectal temperatures to gain a more precise time of death.
4:14 p.m. EST – Harvey said he declined to use a rectal thermometer on the bodies in an attempt to gain a more specific time of death, choosing to estimate it at 9:00 p.m. EDT on June 7, 2021. Harpootlian specifically asked Harvey whether the victims could have died at 10:00 p.m. EDT.
4:12 p.m. EST – Harpootlian asked Harvey how he first attempted to ascertain the times of death.
“I put my hands in their armpits,” he said.
4:10 p.m. EST – Harpootlian is asking Harvey about his issuance of the death certificates for the two victims in this case – including their respective times of death. Prosecutors have indicated the times of death occurred at 8:49 p.m. EDT.
4:05 p.m. EST – Murdaugh’s lead attorney Dick Harpootlian has called Colleton County coroner Richard Harvey as the first witness for the defense.
4:04 p.m. EST – Newman is now addressing the jury:
“You have heard the state’s case,” Newman said. “It is now the defense’s turn.”
4:03 p.m. EST – Newman asks the defense if it is ready to begin its presentation.
“Ready to roll with the defense?” Newman asked Harpootlian.
“Rock and roll,” Harpootlian responds.
(Click to view)
4:02 p.m. EST – S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman is responding to the defense’s motion to dismiss the case by issuing a directed verdict of not guilty. As he has from the beginning, Newman is quoting from the rules and backing up his decision with specific statutory language.
“At this stage of the proceedings, there is evidence to support a guilty verdict – if it is believed by the jury,” Newman said. “Therefore I deny the motion.”
3:59 p.m. EST – In response to the motion for a directed verdict, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters is pushing back hard on Griffin’s argument – citing the ballistics evidence of family guns being used, testimony regarding his alleged handling of a tarp containing gunshot residue and his handling of a shotgun which “cannot be ruled out,” among other items.
3:57 p.m. EST – Griffin saying the judge should issue a directed verdict of not guilty – i.e. taking the case out of the hands of the jury – based on this insufficient evidence.
“The state has proven – at most – that he was at the kennels at 8:44 p.m.,” Griffin said.
Griffin claimed Alex Murdaugh was not at the kennels at the time his wife and son were killed, arguing the time their cell phones ceased functioning is not synonymous with their times of death, which according to him have not been established.
3:55 p.m. EST – We’re back. Murdaugh attorney Jim Griffin is moving to dismiss the case arguing the state has failed to present evidence sufficient to rise above the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ threshold.
“The evidence is entirely circumstantial,” Griffin stated.
3:51 p.m. EST – Another brief recess …
3:50 p.m. EST – Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters has indicated that absent a few “housekeeping matters” the state is not calling any additional witnesses and is prepared to formally rest its case.
3:49 p.m. EST – Wow. Rudofski taking absolutely nothing off of Barber. When asked whether one of his answers is speculation.
“Just like yours is speculation.”
3:48 p.m. EST – Barber is back up for another bite at the apple …
3:46 p.m. EST – Waters asks only a handful of questions of Rudofski … demonstrating the lack of effectiveness of the defense’s cross-examination of this pivotal witness. He reminds jurors of Murdaugh’s calls to Rogan Gibson and that’s about it.
3:44 p.m. EST – Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters is now questioning agent Peter Rudofski of SLED on redirect.
3:42 p.m. EST – Court is back in session …
3:32 p.m. EST – Barber is done cross-examining Rudofski … Newman has indicated court will be in a short recess.
3:29 p.m. EST – Barber is now digging into the text messages presented by the prosecution showing how both Maggie Murdaugh and Paul Murdaugh appear to have had knowledge of Alex’s excessive use of opioids. Barber is presenting a text message from Alex Murdaugh to Maggie Murdaugh responding to the revelation.
3:26 p.m. EST – Defense attorney Phil Barber got a lick in when positing that a random killer (the defense is going to have to REALLY work to build this narrative now, though) could have seen Alex Murdaugh’s name on his dead wife’s cell phone and decided to throw it out of their window in a panic. According to Barber, that would be no more or less likely than the state’s theory that Murdaugh threw the phone out of the window of his Suburban.
Rudofski ultimately responds “It’s all in how you interpret the data.”
3:24 p.m. EST – Here is an example of Rudofski’s adeptness: He is repeatedly being goaded by Barber into hypothesizing on the data or affirming one of Barber’s own conclusions as his own … but is having none of it.
“Is that what the data shows?” Barber asks him at one point.
“That’s your inference of the data,” Rudofski responds.
3:21 p.m. EST – Rudofski is a very good witness for the state. Probably the best one they have put forward yet from SLED. He is handling Barber’s broadsides exceedingly well.
3:20 p.m. EST – Rudofski is aggressively pushing back against Barber implying it was normal for Murdaugh to be calling Rogan Gibson just moments after finding his family member’s dead bodies.
“I would be in shock,” Rudofski said. “I wouldn’t be on my phone.”
3:18 p.m. EST – Judge Clifton Newman has had enough of Barber’s perpetual interruptions.
“If you want him to answer your questions, you have to let him finish,” Newman chides Barber.
3:16 p.m. EST – The first person Murdaugh called after 9-1-1 was Randy Murdaugh at 10:17:06 p.m.
3:05 p.m. EST – The inference that Rudofski got from the camera activating on Maggie’s phone was that someone tried to unlock it with their face and was unsuccessful. But points out that he is not a cellular expert so that is just his inference.
3:02 p.m. EST – Rudofski tells Barber that the steps per minute is a general overview and not exact data.
2:56 p.m. EST – Barber asks Rudofski if there is any relevance to the consistency in the feet per steps listed on the report. Rudofski says it could be, but it was not explored. The steps and distance traveled are not exact numbers.
2:50 p.m. EST – The last orientation change on Maggie’s phone is 9:06:22 p.m.
2:42 p.m. EST – Barber points out the first call to 9-1-1 was misdialed as 9-1-1-1 and Rudofski confirms. Barber sets a timer on the stand for 20 seconds. Rudofski tells Barber he is there to testify on the data and not the hypothetical.
2:37 p.m. EST – Barber is asking Rudofski about the timelines provided. He zeroes in on when he approaches the kennels when he called 9-1-1. He asks if the way Murdaugh pulled in if it was possible that Murdaugh’s headlights could have illuminated the bodies of Paul and Maggie. Rudofski states that it is possible the way the Suburban was moving. When asked how close he stopped his vehicle to the bodies, Rudofski states he can’t say what Murdaugh saw or what the car illuminated nor can he give the exact distance the vehicle stopped from Maggie’s body.
2:30 p.m. EST – Court has resumed. Phil Barber is conducting the cross-examination of Special Agent Rudofski.
2:22 p.m. EST – The timeline submitted by the state …
(Via: S.C. State Law Enforcement Division)
2:08 p.m. EST – The final two pieces of evidence submitted by the State this morning…
1:08 p.m. EST – Judge Newman has called for an hour and 15 minute lunch break.
1:06 p.m. EST – A text asking for an extension on Murdaugh’s farm credit line is entered into evidence.
1:03 p.m. EST – Google searches found on Maggie’s phone are admitted into evidence.
1:01 p.m. EST – A text is admitted into evidence over objection. Dylan and I are putting our eyeballs back in our head.
12:57 p.m. EST – Paul’s phone dies at 10:34:24 p.m. on June 7, 2021. Maggie’s phone is unlocked on June 8, 2021 at 1:10 p.m. when investigators found it.
12:54 p.m. – Murdaugh calls Rogan just after Rogan texted Paul Murdaugh.
12:49 p.m. EST – Rudofski states that the 9-1-1 call was made 20 seconds after Murdaugh arrived at the kennels. This shows Murdaugh did not check for signs of life as stated in his 9-1-1 call. The 9-1-1 call ended at 10:17 p.m.
12:45 p.m. EST – Murdaugh arrived at Moselle at 10:00:30 p.m. via the main driveway and went to the main house. The 9-1-1 call was made at 10:06:14 p.m.
12:42 p.m. EST – The calls to Maggie’s phone from Alex (shown below) were missing from Murdaugh’s cell extraction.
12:39 p.m. EST – The 9:34 p.m. text from Rogan is never read.
12:32 p.m. EST – Rudofski testifies that Murdaugh’s vehicle doesn’t stop by the kennels when he left for his parent’s home on June 7, 2021.
12:29 p.m. EST – None of Alex Murdaugh’s calls to Maggie’s phone in the direct aftermath of the homicides were located on the extractions of his cell phone.
12:26 p.m. EST – Murdaugh’s steps between 9:02 p.m. and 9:06 p.m. are far greater than any other period that evening.
12:25 p.m. EST – Rudofski explains the steps taken by Alex, Paul and Maggie Murdaugh. (see above)
12:22 p.m. EST – At 9:02:18 p.m. Alex Murdaugh’s phone unlocks. (see above)
12:20 p.m. EST – The snapshot is not indicative of someone using Maggie’s phone.
12:18 p.m. – 8:49:01 p.m. is the last time Paul’s phone is locked. 8:49:31 p.m. is the last time Maggie’s phone is locked. Rudofski testifies that Murdaugh repeatedly denied in interviews being at the kennels.
12:14 p.m. EST – Paul calls Rogan Gibson at 8:40:20 p.m. The call lasts approximately 4 minutes.
12:05 p.m. EST – Data reflects that Maggie arrived at the main residence at 8:17:14 p.m. on June 7, 2021.
12:01 p.m. EST – A map showing C.B. Rowe’s phone located in the North Augusta area at 8:13:15 p.m. Any indication Rowe was involved in the homicides is shattered by this map. Paul Murdaugh’s phone was at the main house from 8:14 p.m. to 8:35:07 p.m.
11:57 a.m. EST – Paul travels to the main residence between 8:08:45 p.m. and 8:14 p.m. on June 7, 2021. Between 8:11 p.m. and 8:31 p.m. Maggie’s iPhone was locked.
11:54 a.m. EST – The below times show Alex and Paul’s steps align with each other along with the Snapchat video indicating they were together.
11:52 a.m. EST – Location data on Paul’s phone show he was at the kennels between 7:45 p.m. and 7:56 p.m. Maggie’s phone places her in the Walterboro area at 7:50 p.m.
11:45 a.m. EST – The map below shows Maggie Murdaugh’s movements on June 7, 2021.
11:43 a.m. EST – Paul Murdaugh arrives at Moselle at 7:04 p.m.
11:41 a.m. EST – Rudofski points out that many of these calls are not in the data extraction completed on Murdaugh’s phone.
11:39 a.m. EST – In order to ensure I have this data accurate, I am posting screenshots of the report as it is presented. I will add notes about the data as they go through it. – Jenn Wood
11:36 a.m. EST – The data in the box below is from the FBI telemetry data.
11:31 a.m. EST – The difference between Cell Data Records (CDR) is because the data wasn’t on the extractions obtained from Alex Murdaugh’s phone. Rudofski states the first times Paul’s cell phone pinged off of a tower near Moselle were at 6:53 p.m. and 7:05 p.m.
11:25 a.m. EST – Rudofski has completed his review of the GM data and is now testifying regarding his timeline of June 7, 2021.
11:20 a.m. EST – Court is back. Judge Newman states he received a note from the jury asking why they can’t appoint a foreperson. Judge Newman states that he explained to the jury his process but wanted to ensure it was on the record. The jury is being brought in. Direct examination of Special Agent Peter Rudofski is continuing.
11:00 a.m. EST – Judge Newman called for a brief recess.
10:56 a.m. EST – Murdaugh’s vehicle leaves the main house for the kennels at 10:05:06 p.m. His max speed on his drive to the kennels was 28 mph. Murdaugh arrived at the kennels at 10:05:57 p.m. The 9-1-1 call was made at 10:06 p.m. Murdaugh’s vehicle drove towards the main house at 10:11:54 p.m. and arrived at 10:12:54 p.m. The max speed reached on the drive to the house was 35.78 mph. Murdaugh’s vehicle drove back down to the kennels at 10:14:30 p.m.
10:52 a.m. EST – Rudofski explains that Murdaugh’s vehicle stopped for a minute on his parents’ property. Murdaugh arrived back to Moselle at 10:00:00 p.m. Murdaugh’s drive back to Moselle was 80 mph. The average speed was 46.2 mph and includes the time that he stopped at Almeda. Rudofski states that he would never drive 80 mph running code on a response due to the road and lighting conditions.
10:50 a.m. EST – On his drive to Almeda, Murdaugh’s top speed was 74.4 mph. His average speed was 51.94 mph. This is significantly more than his speed driving to work in Hampton earlier that day. Murdaugh left at 9:43:18 p.m. This is approximately 20 minutes.
10:46 a.m. EST – At 9:13 p.m. on June 7, 2021, Murdaugh’s vehicle clocked 68 mph on Snider’s Highway going towards Almeda. Murdaugh arrived at his parent’s home in Almeda at 9:22:39 p.m. on June 7, 2021.
10:38 a.m. EST – Data indicates Murdaugh left his law firm at 6:26:34 p.m. and arrived home at 6:42:54 p.m. It shows Murdaugh leaving Moselle for Almeda at 9:07:06 p.m. on June 7, 2021. Rudofski explains a slide showing Murdaugh’s vehicle where Maggie Murdaugh’s phone was located the next day that shows Murdaugh’s Suburban going 44 and 45 mph. After it passes that location, Murdaugh’s vehicle accelerates.
10:30 a.m. EST – Rudofski is going through his slide presentation of the data. The vehicle data indicates Murdaugh left Moselle for work at 12:07:40 p.m. on June 7, 2021. He arrived at his law firm at 12:24:06 p.m.
10:20 a.m. EST – Versions of Rudofski’s full and condensed timeline of June 7, 2021 are being admitted into evidence. Rudofski states he received a call on Friday explaining that GM had provided data from Murdaugh’s 2021 Suburban. He received the data this past Saturday.
10:16 a.m. EST – The State calls SLED Special Agent Peter Rudofski to the stand. Rudofski took a course in CAST analysis with the FBI. He was assigned to the homicide case in November 2021. His focus was to put all the data into a readable timeline. (I’m giddy with excitement. – Jenn Wood)
10:15 a.m. EST – Kelly reminds that they did not ask the doctors if Murdaugh had drugs in his system because they would not have questioned him. Kelly states he would have asked the same questions if he had known Murdaugh was under the influence of drugs because at that point in time he was a victim of a crime and not a suspect. Questioning of Special Agent Kelly has completed.
10:12 a.m. EST – Kelly states on the morning of September 4, 2021, Murdaugh had consumed opioids. He was not detoxing and didn’t appear to be under the influence of narcotics. He said they needed to question him as a victim of a crime and being the only apparent witness. When asked if Kelly asked a doctor if Murdaugh was competent to speak with him, Kelly replies, “I did not.” Kelly reminds Harpootlian that the doctors did not discuss Murdaugh’s medical records. They had to subpoena the records with a court order to have access to them. Harpootlian appears to not understand HIPPA laws.
10:09 a.m. EST – Harpootlian asks Kelly if he told the Murdaugh family if the reason he wanted to speak to him was to show him a picture of a truck. Waters objects. Harpootlian restates the question and the objection is overruled. Kelly states that was not the only thing about which they wanted to meet with Murdaugh. Kelly states he wanted to see if Murdaugh continued to lie when presented the information about the truck and Eddie Smith.
10:07 a.m. EST – Harpootlian asks Kelly if he recalls when the second arrest was and Kelly does not recall. Harpootlian asks if October 16, 2021 sounds correct and Kelly confirms. Harpootlian then asks since Murdaugh has been incarcerated, how would he have an opportunity to manipulate the evidence. Waters objects and the objection is sustained.
10:06 a.m. EST – Kelly states that limitations were placed on the interview done on September 13, 2021. They were not allowed to discuss the homicides or the financial crimes. Kelly states they took Murdaugh in custody twice. Once when they arrested him at Almeda and once when they extradited him Florida. Waters has completed re-direct.
10:03 a.m. EST – Kelly testifies that Murdaugh voluntarily agreed to answer questions when interviewed in the hospital. He states he appeared to understand the questions being asked and his answers related appropriately to the subject matter.
9:57 a.m. EST – Waters has begun re-direct. Waters brings up the interview completed of Murdaugh in the hospital. The jury is excused when Harpootlian objects and says they would need to have a competency hearing to admit that information. Waters states that they are going to only go into the summary of the interview. Harpootlian says if it stays to that line of questioning, he withdraws his objection.
9:55 a.m. EST – When Murdaugh agreed to surrender himself, Buster Murdaugh picked him up in Orlando and drove him to his mom’s house in Almeda. The agreement was for investigators to meet Murdaugh with his Murdaugh. As the agreement was to meet them with his lawyers, they arrested him. Murdaugh was granted bond and allowed to go back to rehab until he was indicted on financial crime charges.
9:50 a.m. EST – Kelly states that Harpootlian told him that the doctors stated he was in detox and once he came out and was coherent, Murdaugh would speak to the investigators. Kelly testifies that he called Harpootlian on September 7, 2021 and said due to additional information investigators would need to speak to Murdaugh again. Harpootlian stated that Murdaugh was en route to a detox center in Georgia. They attempted to interview him there, but they were unable to do so. Kelly says that on September 13, 2021, Murdaugh’s lawyers called him from a cell phone and allowed an interview where he admitted he had stolen money, done drugs and had lied. This admission led to charges of insurance fraud and filing a false police report.
9:44 a.m. EST – Ryan confirms Murdaugh was discharged on September 7, 2021. Kelly is shown two photographs of Alex’s head wounds. He says the first one was taken by first responders so is not what he saw when he saw Murdaugh at the hospital. The second image was taken in the hospital and can confirm that as the injuries he saw in the hospital on Murdaugh.
9:41 a.m. EST – Kelly states that at the time of hospitalization, they had a general understanding of his injuries, but that they subpoenaed his medical records. He confirms the records that Harpootlian has in his hand are the ones that SLED received in response to the subpoena. Harpootlian asks if the records indicate a furrow wound in Murdaugh’s head. Kelly states he is not a medical professional and that he is happy to read the report. Harpootlian proceeds to read the medical records to Kelly.
9:38 a.m. EST – Kelly confirms that he did make contact with the medical staff at Savannah Memorial Hospital when going to question Murdaugh. Kelly states that at the time of his arrival, he was not told that Murdaugh had a trough-wound and a fracture of his skull because tests were still being run.
9:35 a.m. EST – Court has resumed. Cross-examination of SLED senior special agent Ryan Kelly has begun. Harpootlian says, “Let’s see if we can do this quickly.” Kelly was the lead investigation on the September 4, 2021 roadside shooting investigation.
7:50 a.m. EST – We appreciate you! One of the coolest parts of this whole process has been interacting with the community of people following this story …
7:41 a.m. EST – The amazing Michael DeWitt …
(Click to view)
7:22 a.m. EST – Speaking of timelines, Murdaugh watcher Brandi Churchwell has just updated her latest second-by-second chart detailing the evening of the murders. Want to download the full version? Here is a link to it on Google Docs …
(Click to view)
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