COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Witness testimony resumed Monday for week two of the Alex Murdaugh murder trial.
Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife Margaret and youngest son Paul at their family property in June of 2021.
ALEX MURDAUGH MURDER TRIAL: DAY 5 RECAP
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SLED special agent Melinda Worley returned to the stand as Murdaugh’s defense team took aim at the integrity of the investigation, asking her questions about whether protocol was followed. Worley admitted that mistakes were made.
Defense also used her testimony to further their theory of two shooters, moving the blame away from Murdaugh. Worley said it was one possible — but not the only — explanation.
Following Worley’s testimony, prosecutors called SLED special agent Jeff Croft to the stand. During his testimony, body camera video of Murdaugh being interviewed days after the murders was played.
In the video, Murdaugh gets emotional several times, especially when discussing what a good wife and mother Maggie was and what a good boy Paul was.
Prosecutors also used that video to introduce what appears to be an early inconsistency in Murdaugh’s story. He told investigators in the interview that the last time he saw Maggie and Paul was when they ate dinner. However, both prosecution and defense have acknowledged that a Snapchat video apparently showing the family together at the kennels was taken around 8:44 p.m. that night, well after Murdaugh claimed to have last seen them. That evidence has yet to be presented in court.
Defense is expected to pick up with cross-examination of Croft at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
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5:07 p.m. – Court adjourned for the day with cross-examination of Croft expected to pick up at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
4:26 p.m. – Court resumed.
In the video, investigators ask Murdaugh about the last time he saw Maggie and Paul. He says it was when they were eating dinner. Murdaugh’s response conflicts with a Snapchat video that prosecution plans to introduce as evidence, which they say places all three together at the kennels at 8:44 p.m., just minutes before the murders.
When describing finding the bodies, Murdaugh begins hysterically crying again.
Investigators then ask about trying to turn Paul over and Paul’s phone popping out of his pocket. Murdaugh says that he didn’t try to unlock the phone or anything. He says he somehow had the presence of mind to try not to mess up any of the evidence.
Investigators ask about the traumatic scene and Murdaugh apparently responds “it was just so bad, [I] did him so bad. He was such a good boy too.” Prosecutors ask Croft to clarify what Murdaugh said. He repeats “it was just so bad, I did him so bad.” When that portion of the video is played, Murdaugh in court appears angry and shakes his head.
4:14 p.m. – Court is in recess for 10 minutes.
2:42 p.m. – Court resumed. State prosecutor Creighton Waters introduced several still images taken from Croft’s body camera into evidence. The images were of guns seized by Croft, areas of the home where he collected evidence, and the weathered casings he described earlier.
Waters asks Croft where they found Maggie’s phone. He says they found it on the side of the road outside of the family property.
Waters asks about a man named John Bedingfield, a DNR agent who has a side business building/repairing guns. Croft says he knows Bedingfield. Croft asks about work Bedingfield did for Murdaugh. He said that Bedingfield built 300-blackouts for Murdaugh. Croft contacted Bedingfield and asked for paperwork about the guns. He called again and asked whether Bedingfield built a third gun to replace a gun that Paul lost or was stolen. Bedingfield provided paperwork for that gun as well.
Prosecutors introduce additional body camera video from June 16, 2021. The video shows investigators searching for additional shell casings. Croft said they initiated the search after learning that the family had a nearby shooting range. They searched that area and some nearby bodies of water.
Croft also interviewed Murdaugh on June 10 as part of his investigation. The interview is played in court.
Agents ask Murdaugh if they can download data from his phone for a cell phone exam. They ask how much attorney-client privilege information is on the phone. Murdaugh says a lot. Agents assure him any sensitive information will be redacted.
Murdaugh talks casually with the agents as they download his phone. Murdaugh mentions John Bedingfield and calls him his cousin.
Agents ask Murdaugh to take him through the day leading up to the murders. Murdaugh says he really can’t remember what he did. He says he went to work, worked on some “big motions” coming up in his Dominion Energy case and on some motions for the boat crash case in which he was a defendant.
Murdaugh says it was common for Maggie to walk down to the dog kennels.
Murdaugh tells investigators Maggie left for the kennels, he assumes Paul left as well, then he took a nap. He says when he woke up, he called and texted Maggie to let her know he was leaving.
Murdaugh says he was certain that he heard someone pull up, but they didn’t. He thought it was Maggie or Paul, but it wasn’t them. He says when he walked out to his car, something ran by his car. He said he thinks it was a wild cat that lives out there, not a person, but that he wasn’t sure.
Investigators ask if Murdaugh can think of anyone that could be a suspect. He says he can’t think of anyone that would go to such great lengths. He mentions threats Paul was getting related to the boat crash.
As the video gets to the portion where Murdaugh is describing what a good kid Paul is, Murdaugh hangs his head and appears to be rocking back and forth in court.
In the video, Murdaugh describes his relationship with Paul and Maggie and says that they really didn’t argue about much. He then breaks down again describing what a good wife and mother Maggie was. He appears emotional in the courtroom. Murdaugh describes the biggest issue between him and Maggie as her wanting to spend more time with her family than he and Paul and Buster did.
1:18 p.m. – Judge Newman sent the jury to the jury room for an hour and 20-minute break.
After the jury left, he asked if the state or defense had anything else to say about the guns being admitted as evidence.
Defense said that ballistics testing proved the guns were not the murder weapons and photos of the guns were fine but sending multiple weapons into the jury room is excessive.
Prosecution said admitting the actual guns is necessary to show the extent of the investigation that was done into the murder weapons.
Judge Newman said the guns were part of the crime scene, so they are relevant.
11:48 a.m. – SLED Senior special agent Jeff Croft is called to the stand. The state presents evidence that appears to show Paul called Rogan Gibson at 8:40 p.m. and the call lasted four minutes. Paul again called Gibson at 8:44 p.m.
Gibson sent Paul a text at 8:49 p.m., apparently asking Paul to take a picture of an animal so they could send it to a vet. Paul does not respond. Gibson calls Paul several times over the next hour with no answer.
At 9:58 p.m., Gibson texts Paul “yo.” No response. He calls again at 10:08 p.m. No answer.
Gibson texts Maggie at 9:34 p.m. asking her to tell Paul to call him. She does not respond.
Alex Murdaugh calls Gibson at 10:21 p.m., 10:24 p.m., 10:25, and 10:30 p.m. Gibson did not answer.
Croft and another SLED agent interviewed Gibson and took a DNA swab from him.
Croft also assisted with securing firearms from the Murdaugh home. Part of that included searching for possible murder weapons.
Prosecutors introduce Croft’s body camera footage from the night of the murders. There is no audio, so they narrate it for the audience.
Croft says that Ronnie Crosby and Mark Ball, former partners of Murdaugh at PMPED, were at the scene when he arrived. John Marvin Murdaugh was also there. Attorney Chris Wilson was there as well.
Croft presents the 300-blackout rifle that he secured from Murdaugh’s home to the jury. He also presents the magazine that he removed from the rifle and the ammunition that it contained. The headstamps on the shell casings at Maggie’s crime scene match those in the magazine, according to Croft.
He then presents the Browning secured from the gun room.
A pump shotgun secured from the gun wall was also presented.
Defense objected on grounds of relevance in both cases, saying a lot of guns were seized and unless they have evidence tying it to the murder, it is irrelevant. The objections were overruled.
Prosecutors said that they are showing the guns to show the extent of the investigation and that many guns were tested.
Croft talks about other spent shell casings that appear to be from one of the same guns found near the house. Those casings appeared to be weathered like they had been there for some time, he said. They looked different than the casings found at the crime scene, according to Croft.
Prosecution then shows footage from Croft’s body camera of him and other investigators combing through trash that was taken from the Murdaugh house out to a shed.
They found three empty boxes of ammunition. They also found what appeared to be a credit card statement or receipt with an item circled on it, according to Croft. The circled item was a charge from Gucci for $1,021.10.
11:46 a.m. – The jury sent Judge Newman a note.
They asked him to inform the audience that each juror’s identity is to remain anonymous. They also asked that a cart in front of the large TV be moved.
11:30 a.m. – The jury is sent to the jury room for a 10-minute recess.
11:15 a.m. – Prosecutors ask Worley follow-up questions about why she prepared diagrams. She said it was for reconstructive purposes, but that reconstruction wasn’t really done in this case.
They go on to ask about the bloody footprints in the feed room. They ask if it was possible that the footprints were made after SLED took photos and moved Paul’s body. Worley says it’s possible. Regarding other footprints in the room, Worley said she was not made aware of them until about a week later.
Prosecutors bring up the ATV parked near Maggie’s body as a possible explanation for the prints on her calf. They point out what appears to be blood or some biological matter on the tire. Defense objects, asking if it was tested and confirmed to be human biological matter. Worley says it was not tested. Defense says it could have been deer blood, considering they hunt using those ATVs.
Defense asks about how Worley used Paul’s shoes to analyze the footprints. She says they used crime scene markers to gauge scale. Harpootlian asks if that’s the best way to do things. Worley says no.
10:16 a.m. – The jury has returned. Several pieces of evidence are admitted without objection. Cross-examination resumes.
Harpootlian has Worley explain her process of tracking projectiles using the bullet holes around the property. She explains that they place rods in what appear to be the entrance holes to show the trajectory, then measure using protractors. They did this for holes in the windows of the feed room, in kennels, and in another small animal cage.
Harpootlian asks Worley to draw the trajectory of some of the projectiles so the jury can see the process. Based on the calculations Worley makes, Harpootlian indicates that two of the shots they tracked had trajectories that did not come from the feed room. Worley says she can’t say where the shots came from, but the trajectory indicates the shots were fired from some distance away from the feed room.
Harpootlian asks if based on the trajectories, there is a possibility of two shooters. Worley says the trajectory indicates movement of the shooter. Harpootlian says movement is one explanation, and two shooters is another explanation. Worley is reluctant to agree, but says it is one explanation. Harpootlian says two shooters, two guns, is an explanation.
Harpootlian offers a theory that one was a lookout, they were there to kill Paul, and Maggie surprised them.
Harpootlian returns to questioning Worley about the bloody footprints found in the feed room. He asks about the process for comparing the footprint to Paul’s shoes.
Harpootlian asks about something on Maggie’s calf that could have been a footwear impression. Worley says she couldn’t tell. Harpootlian points out that they didn’t take photographs or work to preserve that evidence to further investigate.
“So the procedures followed were not the recommended procedures by your agency or any agency,” Harpootlian says.
He asks if they examined why Paul’s body was found facing away from the direction he appeared to be facing when he was shot. Worley indicates it appears Paul was walking as blood was dripping.
He moves back to the bloody footprint that belonged to a law enforcement officer. He asks if that was preservation of the scene, if that was protocol, and if they should have been walking through the scene. He then asks if we know what other evidence may have been destroyed. Worley answers no to all.
Harpootlian shows a photo of the mark on Maggie’s leg, which Worley agrees has a distinct pattern, but says she couldn’t attribute it to any type of footwear. He asks if the investigation of that mark followed procedure. Worley said she did not know about the mark at the time of the scene, but that she was present for the taking of the photograph. Harpootlian asks if they had taken a photograph with a scale, would she have been able to further investigate? She says no.
Harpootilan asks if that night, any footwear impressions were photographed following protocol, Worley says no.
Harpootlian moves on to asking about the processing of Murdaugh’s clothes he was wearing the night of the murders. She explains they photographed the clothing with and without scale, sprayed it with a chemical that is supposed to react with blood, then took photos of the shirt and the labeled presumptive blood stains.
Harpootlian asks if the shirt looks like it just came back from the laundry, noting smudges and stains. Worley agrees it does not look completely clean. On Friday, prosecutors and another witness suggested Murdaugh looked like he had changed into freshly-cleaned clothes.
10:06 a.m. – The jury is sent to the jury room for a break. Prosecution and defense are asked to review exhibits and decide what they agree to admit and what they do not agree to admit.
9:36 a.m. – Court gaveled into session and defense began cross-examining SLED crime scene expert Melinda Worley, who testified for hours Friday.
Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian asks Worley what first responders with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) was supposed to do. He asked if they were supposed to process the scene or secure the scene. She said secure the scene.
Harpootlian points out that Worley discovered one of the bloody footprints in the feed room was caused not by the perpetrator or Paul, but by someone responding to the scene. Harpootlian asks if people are supposed to walk through the crime scene, Worley says it’s best to have as few people as possible disturbing the scene.
Harpootlian introduces into evidence a crime scene diagram sketched by Worley.
The sketch is not to scale, so he has Worley explain the sketch to the jury.
Harpootlian has Worley explain how investigators used a Faro Scanner, which is a laser scanning device that takes images of the crime scene and creates a 3D rendering. Harpootlian likens it to drone video but makes sure the jury knows that the evidence being presented was created by the Faro Scanner. Worley goes through the evidence identifying structures on the property.
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