Prosecutors with the state Office of the Attorney General did not present hard evidence, such as a confession or video surveillance, that Murdaugh fired the guns used in the killings, and said state investigators had not located the weapons. Instead, their case against him was built primarily on circumstantial evidence and the premise that he had the motive, means and opportunity to kill his family.
Prosecutors allege that for years Murdaugh had schemed and stolen about $8.5 million from more than a dozen victims, including through his family’s law firm and from clients. On the day of the murders, the chief financial officer of the firm testified that she had confronted Murdaugh about $792,000 in missing client settlement funds. But after the killings, she said, she halted her investigation.
Paul was struck twice with a shotgun before Margaret was shot multiple times with an AR-style rifle, according to investigators.
Murdaugh denied to investigators that he had been at the dog kennels that night, and said the last time he saw his family was earlier in the evening at dinner and that he took a short nap before visiting his ailing mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease.
The prosecution, however, played video taken from Paul’s cellphone at the dog kennels at 8:44 p.m. to cast doubt on Murdaugh’s alibi. Three voices could be heard in the video speaking, and several of the state’s witnesses identified the voices as belonging to Paul, Margaret and Alex.
In response, Murdaugh was called to the stand by his defense lawyers and said he had lied multiple times to investigators, admitting that he was dishonest about his location before the murders because of his longtime addiction to prescription pain pills and his general paranoia.
During closing arguments, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters seized on his change of story to question Murdaugh’s credibility and proclaim he manufactured an alibi.
“Why would he lie about that, ladies and gentlemen,” he asked the jury. “Why would he even think to lie about that if he was an innocent man?”
Defense lawyer Jim Griffin reiterated that Murdaugh had lied about his actions and his addiction to pain pills, but called the prosecution’s motive that he killed his wife and son because he was under financial pressure and about to be exposed for swindling money from his family’s law firm an “illogical” theory.
After his sentencing Friday, Murdaugh was transported to a state prison in Columbia for medical and mental health evaluations. He will eventually be assigned to a specific custody level and placed in one of the state’s maximum-security prisons for inmates serving life sentences.
Apart from the murder charges, Murdaugh still faces 99 charges related to financial crimes. His defense attorneys said last week they plan to appeal the double murder conviction.
Chantal Da Silva contributed.