Murdaugh uses public documents to sow doubt that he killed his wife and son

Associated press

COLOMBIA — Months after accusing disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh of killing his wife and son, South Carolina investigators and prosecutors have released some details about the evidence they say connects him to the shooting.

This led Murdaugh’s lawyers to file a slew of court documents seeking information from the prosecution, seeking to publicly weaken the case before the January trial begins.

Defense attorneys claim there was unknown DNA found under Murdaugh’s wife’s fingernails. They also have a different suspect, Murdaugh’s friend Curtis Eddie Smith, claiming he failed a lie detector test regarding the murders. Murdaugh has previously admitted to asking Smith to arrange Murdaugh’s own death to defraud his life insurance company.

These defense documents even bolstered a story by Smith that prosecutors say had no supporting evidence – that Paul Murdaugh killed his mother, Maggie, when he caught her with a gardener at the lodge. the Colleton County family hunt and the gardener then shot the son.

Alex Murdaugh, 54, has maintained his innocence since June 2021, when he found the bodies, each shot multiple times. He said through his lawyer that he “loved them more than anything in the world”.

It took more than 13 months for authorities to charge Murdaugh with two counts of murder, and his trial is due to start on January 23 after defense lawyers asked to hold it as soon as possible.

Even after the charges, prosecutors and investigators revealed little about how they linked Murdaugh to the deaths or why a man who had no criminal history and was part of a wealthy, well-connected family who dominated the legal community in small Hampton County might have wanted to kill his own family members.

In the months following the deaths, Murdaugh’s life fell apart. He was fired from the law firm founded by his family for stealing money, then lost his attorney’s license. Prosecutors said he was a drug addict who helped run a money laundering and painkiller ring and stole around $8 million in wrongful death or injury settlements which he mostly obtained poor customers.

As part of the back and forth over the evidence for the upcoming murder trial, prosecutors disclosed a little more of their case. Notably, there is cellphone video of Murdaugh, his wife and son near the kennels around 8:44 p.m. the night they were killed. Cellphone data indicates Murdaugh left at 9:06 p.m. and his frantic 911 call to report he found the bodies near the kennels came in at 10:06 p.m.

Murdaugh’s attorneys have requested an FBI report analyzing all cellphone data, saying those records are crucial to their defense.

“There is nothing to indicate (…) within 20 minutes he massacres his son and his wife, brutally executing them both,” said defense lawyer Dick Harpootlian. “He’s then on the phone talking to another lawyer from his car in a very friendly way.”

The defense also said it needed more complete gunshot residue reports after a few particles were found on Murdaugh. His lawyer says the particles likely landed on his clothes when he took a gun for protection after finding the bodies.

Authorities have not tested Smith’s DNA, and the defense said it had no findings on the source of the genetic material found on the victims’ clothing.

Murdaugh’s defense also wants full notes of a blood spatter report after a small amount of his wife’s blood was found on his shirt. Lawyers said the blood came when Murdaugh “frenziedly witnessed the bloodied corpse of his wife”.

Prosecutors have insisted they have handed over all the evidence they have and what is missing are mostly incomplete reports. They said the defense was aware of this when they had a friendly chat just before the motions were filed.

“This manner of conducting litigation speaks volumes about the true motivations of the defense,” Creighton Waters, South Carolina’s deputy attorney general, wrote in his response.

It is clear from pre-trial round trips that the prosecution has no eyewitnesses or video of how Maggie, 52, and their 22-year-old son, Paul, were killed on June 7, 2021. But the prosecutors said people were frequently convicted. through scientific evidence and circumstances that bring them closer to the scene or motivate them to commit wrongdoing.

“If every murder case required a confession and an eyewitness, it would be open season there,” Waters said in court Thursday.

In the months leading up to his murder trial, Murdaugh’s lawyers are focused on Smith, who authorities say was supposed to shoot Murdaugh at the side of a lonely highway in September 2021.

Murdaugh allegedly planned his own murder so his surviving son could collect a $10 million life insurance policy. In the end, Smith said the gun fired as he and Murdaugh argued over the gun, with the bullet only grazing Murdaugh’s head.

Smith’s attorneys say he didn’t kill Maggie or Paul Murdaugh. They argue Alex Murdaugh’s lawyers are looking for someone else to blame for the murders, so they entered a lie detector test where Smith allegedly showed a reaction when asked if he shot the victims or if he was present when they were killed.

Lawyers for Murdaugh said Smith knew the area around the kennels where the bodies were found because it was a drug. They also point out that Smith’s DNA had not been tested as of mid-October.

“I’m not saying he did. I’m just saying it certainly looks like he could have done it,” Harpootlian said.

Prosecutors pointed out that the spike during the test could have been an emotional reaction to Smith feeling guilty for the circumstances that led to the crime, even though he was not involved. They said Smith’s DNA was currently being tested and the polygraph test results were not admissible in court on their own.

Murdaugh’s attorneys also used court documents to publicize a story Smith said he heard about Maggie Murdaugh’s case leading directly to the murders. He did not explain how the gardener avoided arrest or detection in the 16 months since.

Prosecutors in court documents called him a “salacious scuttlebut who is offensive to the memory of his victims.”

“It’s very telling that they want to make this case about Eddie Smith,” Waters said.

About Chuck Keeton

Check Also

Are poinsettias poisonous to dogs or cats? Symptoms and what to do.

When it comes to decorating hallways, this can include more than just sprigs of holly. …