Disgraced US lawyer Alex Murdaugh gets life without parole for murdering his wife and son

3 March 2023, 15:11

Disgraced US lawyer Alex Murdaugh has been convicted of murdering his wife and son
Disgraced US lawyer Alex Murdaugh has been convicted of murdering his wife and son. Picture: Alamy/Social media

By Will Taylor

Disgraced US lawyer Alex Murdaugh has been given life without parole in the US after he was convicted of murdering his wife and son.

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Murdaugh, 54, shot his son, Paul, 22, twice with a shotgun. His 52-year-old wife, Maggie, was shot four or five times with a rifle outside dog kennels on their rural Colleton County property on June 7 2021, investigators found.

It is thought that Murdaugh had no more than about 17 minutes from the time his wife and son stopped using their mobile phones to when he left the property to visit his ailing mother.

Experts from both sides agreed there had to be a massive amount of blood, tissue and other material from the killings, but the prosecution did not present any evidence of blood spatter on clothes. The weapons in the case have not been found.

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Disgraced US lawyer Alex Murdaugh found guilty of fatally shooting wife and son

Alex Murdaugh
Alex Murdaugh. Picture: Alamy

Prosecutors argued that Alex Murdaugh killed his wife and son because he feared his years of stealing millions of dollars from his law firm and clients would be exposed.

He hoped their deaths would make him a sympathetic figure and draw attention away from the missing money, they said.

A key piece of evidence was a video that included Murdaugh's voice, his wife's and his son's at the kennels just minutes before they were killed.

The video was not discovered for a year because agents could not initially hack into his son's iPhone.

For 20 months, Murdaugh told everyone he was not at the kennels but, while testifying in his own defence, finally admitted he was there.

Through more than 75 witnesses and nearly 800 pieces of evidence, jurors heard about betrayed friends and clients, Murdaugh's failed attempt to stage his own death in an insurance fraud scheme, a fatal boat crash in which his son was implicated, the housekeeper who died in a fall in the Murdaugh home, the grisly scene of the killings and Bubba, the chicken-snatching dog.

His fate appeared sealed by the mobile video taken by his son Paul, who he called "Little Detective" for his knack for finding bottles of painkillers in his father's belongings after the lawyer had sworn off the pills.

Alex Murdaugh is led outside the Colleton County Courthouse by sheriff's deputies after being convicted of two counts of murder
Alex Murdaugh is led outside the Colleton County Courthouse by sheriff's deputies after being convicted of two counts of murder. Picture: Alamy

Murdaugh admitted stealing millions from clients and lying to investigators about being at the dog kennels where the shootings took place but maintained his innocence in the deaths of his wife and son.

"I did not kill Maggie, and I did not kill Paul. I would never hurt Maggie, and I would never hurt Paul - ever - under any circumstances," he said.

Murdaugh told police repeatedly after the killings that he was not at the kennels and was instead napping before he went to visit his ailing mother that night. He called 911 and said he discovered the bodies when he returned home.

But in his testimony, Murdaugh admitted joining Maggie and Paul at the kennels, where he said he took a chicken away from a rowdy yellow Labrador named Bubba - whose name Murdaugh can be heard saying on the video - before heading back to the house shortly ahead of the fatal shootings.

He blamed his decades-long addiction to opioids for making him paranoid, creating a distrust of police. He said that once he went down that path, he felt trapped in the lie.

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave. Once I told a lie - I told my family - I had to keep lying," he testified.

Alex Murdaugh murdered his wife, Maggie, and youngest son, Paul
Alex Murdaugh murdered his wife, Maggie, and youngest son, Paul. Picture: Social media

After the verdict was read, Judge Clifton Newman denied a defence motion to declare a mistrial, saying "the evidence of guilt is overwhelming".

Murdaugh was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom by two sheriff's deputies.

The 54-year-old comes from a family that dominated the local legal scene for decades. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were the area's elected prosecutors for more than 80 years and his family law firm grew to dozens of lawyers by suing railroads, corporations and other big businesses.

The now-disbarred attorney admitted stealing millions of dollars from the family firm and clients, saying he needed the money to fund his drug habit. Before he was charged with murder, Murdaugh was in jail awaiting trial on about 100 other charges ranging from insurance fraud to tax evasion.

Prosecutors told jurors that Murdaugh was afraid all of his misdeeds were about to be discovered, so he killed his wife and son to gain sympathy to buy time to cover his tracks.

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