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Prosecutors present closing argument in Murdaugh murder case

Prosecutors in a high-profile murder case in the United States have presented their closing arguments and account of why they believe Alex Murdaugh, a prominent figure in his South Carolina community, murdered his wife and son.

Prosecutors described the deaths of Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and Paul Murdaugh, 22, as the calculated act of a desperate man who wanted to divert attention from his financial crimes and opioid addiction.

“As all this pressure mounted, the defendant killed Maggie and Paul,” said lead prosecutor Creighton Waters of 54-year-old Alex Murdaugh.

Speaking to a jury at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina on Wednesday, Waters claimed that Murdaugh — a now-disbarred attorney from a powerful legal dynasty — used his knowledge of criminal cases to carry out the crime.

Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were found shot to death on June 7, 2021 near the dog kennels of the family’s rural hunting lodge. Alex Murdaugh has denied any involvement in their deaths.

Chief Prosecutor Creighton Waters presents evidence during closing arguments in the March 1 murder trial of Alex Murdaugh (Joshua Boucher/The State via AP, Pool)

Holding up a cell phone during his closing arguments, Waters referenced a key piece of evidence taken from Paul’s iPhone to portray the elder Murdaugh as a serial liar.

Federal investigators spent more than a year hacking into the iPhone, eventually discovering that it contained a video recording capturing Murdaugh’s voice near the dog kennel minutes before the phone went idle.

Prosecutors allege that’s when the double homicide happened, though Murdaugh claims he left before the shooting to visit his mother, who suffers from dementia. In early interviews, Murdaugh initially denied being near the kennels the night of the attack.

“The forensic timeline puts him there,” Waters told the jury on Wednesday. “After an exhaustive investigation, there is only one person who had the motive, who had the means, who had the opportunity to commit these crimes, and also whose guilty behavior after these crimes betrays him.”

The defense will make its closing argument on Thursday. Throughout the trial, it attempted to highlight the gaps in the prosecution’s arguments and the flaws in the overall investigation.

Alex Murdaugh sits among his lawyers.  He wears black-rimmed glasses and writes something in a notepad.  A lawyer to his right appears to be thinking as he writes something.  Another attorney to Murdaugh's left is casually slumped in his chair, hands clasped, absently looking at a spot in front of him.  There are two water bottles on the sofa.
Alex Murdaugh (center) sits among his lawyers as closing arguments unfold Wednesday (Joshua Boucher/The State via AP, Pool)

The firearms used in the shootings have never been recovered and there is no DNA linking Murdaugh to the murders, the defense team said. They argued that detectives jumped to conclusions about their client without considering other suspects.

During the trial, defense attorneys also pointed to possible mismanagement of the crime scene, claiming that fingerprints had not been properly dusted and insufficient photographs had been taken.

For example, the victims’ bodies were covered with a cloth sheet instead of a tarp, which could have absorbed moisture or hair, the defense team explained. The fact that the sheet was later thrown away could mean evidence was lost with it, they said.

Prior to the prosecution’s closing arguments on Wednesday, the jury also visited Murdaugh’s property to examine the crime scene at the request of the defense.

While prosecutors objected to the visit because the crime scene had changed since 2021, Murdaugh’s lawyers hoped the passage — which indicated the distance between the bodies of the two victims — would lead the jury to consider alternative theories about who did the shooting. had committed. .

Dog kennels on the Murdaugh's Moselle estate are to the right of the photo.  The door swings open.  Behind the kennels is a forest of tall and thin trees.
On Wednesday, jurors toured the dog kennels where the bodies of Paul Murdaugh and his mother Maggie Murdaugh were found (Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post And Courier via AP, Pool)

This week’s closing arguments culminated in a nearly six-week Murdaugh murder trial that included 800 pieces of evidence and 75 witnesses, including the defendant himself.

If convicted, Murdaugh could face a prison sentence of 30 years to life. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty in this case.

The murder trial is just one part of Murdaugh’s ongoing legal woes. He has also been charged with more than 100 counts of financial crimes and other wrongdoings.

Prosecutors in those cases charged Murdaugh with stealing $7 million from his family’s law firm and $8.8 million in legal settlements from his clients, many of whom suffered injuries or killed family members in accidents.

Murdaugh was initially arrested in October 2021 on felony charges after millions in settlement funds went missing from his late housekeeper’s family.

A long line forms in front of the courthouse
A line forms outside the Colleton County Courthouse in South Carolina as visitors await closing arguments in the Alex Murdaugh trial (Joshua Boucher/The State via AP, Pool)

The Murdaugh cases have brought national scrutiny to rural South Carolina, where Murdaugh’s family has held sway for nearly a century.

Three generations of Murdaughs — the defendant’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather — have all held the elected attorney position for South Carolina’s 14th Circuit, which enabled them to pursue criminal cases in five counties.

Murdaugh called emergency services at approximately 10:07 p.m. on June 7, 2021, to report the deaths of his wife and youngest son. He claimed to have found them after returning from his mother’s house.

Investigators said Maggie Murdaugh died from four to five gunshots, while Paul Murdaugh was killed by two shotgun blasts, each of a different size.

Alex Murdaugh was charged with their deaths almost a year later on July 14, 2022.