Murdaugh denies killing wife and son, says he lied to authorities

(NewsNation) — Alex Murdaugh denied killing his wife and son as he testified at the trial for their double murder Thursday.

“I didn’t shoot my wife or my son at any time, ever,” he said. “I would never intentionally do anything to hurt either one of them.”

However, Murdaugh, 54, did admit he lied to law enforcement about the last time he saw Maggie, 52, and 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh. Alex Murdaugh said he did so because of his addiction to opioids. The now-disbarred attorney originally told police he had been visiting his ailing mother in another town, and was not near his Colleton County, South Carolina, hunting property, known as Moselle, before the killings.

However, several witnesses said they heard Alex Murdaugh’s voice, along with his wife’s and son’s, on a cellphone video taken at kennels on their property, minutes before Maggie and Paul’s deaths.

“As my addiction evolved over time, I would get in these situations and circumstances where I would get paranoid thinking,” Alex Murdaugh said, adding that this caused him not to trust state agents. “It could be anything that triggered it. It might be a look somebody gave me, it might be a reaction somebody had to something I did. It might be a policeman following me in a car.”

Alex Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife and son in June 2021 on their sprawling hunting estate roughly 70 miles west of Charleston. Prosecutors say he shot them to death to deflect attention from the imminent revelation of a decade of financial crimes.

During testimony, Murdaugh said after his initial lies to authorities about his whereabouts, the fibbing continued.

“What a tangled web we weave,” he said. “Once I told a lie, I told my family, I had to keep lying.”

On the evening Paul and Maggie died, Alex Murdaugh says his wife asked him to go to the kennels, but he did not want to because he had just taken a shower. However, he ended up going later in a golf cart.

Murdaugh testified that while at the kennels, he had to get a chicken out of a dog’s mouth before deciding to go back to his house, and then to visit his mother at her residence.

After returning home, he said he saw neither his wife nor son were in the house, so he drove to the kennels to check on them. There, he found them dead.

“It was so bad,” Alex Murdaugh said. He became emotional as he described seeing his son’s brain laying on the sidewalk, and talked about trying to check on Paul and Maggie.

Alex Murdaugh swears to tell the truth before he takes the stand during his trial for murder at the Colleton County Courthouse on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023 in Walterboro, S.C. (Joshua Boucher/The State via AP, Pool)

According to a recording of the phone call Murdaugh made to 911, he said, “I should have known.” When asked what he meant by that at the trial, Murdaugh answered that he was referring to threats Paul had gotten after a boat crash that led to the death of a 19-year-old woman. Alex Murdaugh testified that his son had received many threats over the incident on social media, but they were so over the top that the family didn’t take them seriously.

A caregiver for Alex Murdaugh’s mother testified previously for the prosecution that she saw him walk into his mom’s house with a blue tarp in the days after the killings, The New York Times reported, and prosecutors have also said they found a blue rain jacket in his mother’s house, which tested positive for gun residue.

But on Thursday, Alex Murdaugh insisted in his testimony that he never saw or touched a blue jacket, and did not take a blue tarp to his mom’s house.

As he gave his testimony, he was asked about his finances. Alex Murdaugh is charged with about 100 other crimes, including stealing from clients and tax evasion.

In testimony, he admitted he did steal client funds.

“I’m not quite sure how I let myself get where I got,” Murdaugh admitted. “I battled that addiction for so many years, I was spending so much money on pills.”

Murdaugh hurt his knee in college and got surgery for it, but the procedure “didn’t last,” he said. That’s when his knee troubles started.

Eventually, he started taking Hydrocodone, got addicted to it “very quickly,” and continued to use it for a long time.

“I’d force myself off of it, wean myself off of it, I’d go back to it,” he said. “After a while, I was taking so much of that I moved on to Oxycodone.”

Murdaugh’s first time in detox was in December 2017. He would end up going three times.

“Opiate withdrawal is … it’s hard,” he said. On the stand, Murdaugh said he’s been drug-free for “535 days.”

“I’m very proud of that,” he said.

On Labor Day weekend 2021, Alex Murdaugh was confronted by his law firm over the stolen funds. To one of his law partners and his brother, Murdaugh admitted his misconduct and told them about his addiction.

Ultimately, he resigned from the law firm.

Another incident from Murdaugh’s past that came up was a man, known as Curtis “Eddie” Smith, who was arrested in connection with an insurance fraud scheme involving Murdaugh.

A few months after the deaths of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, Alex Murdaugh was shot in the head while changing a tire on his vehicle. Investigators said Murdaugh provided Smith with the gun used and hired the man to kill him.

Responding to an attorney’s question, Murdaugh said the shooting was not a ploy for sympathy.

“I meant for him to shoot me so I’d be gone,” Murdaugh said. “I knew all this was coming to a head, I knew how humiliating it was going to be for my son. I’d been through so much. At the time, in the bad place that I was, it seemed like the better thing to do.”

Murdaugh added he doesn’t think that way anymore.

Maggie was the beneficiary of Alex Murdaugh’s $12 million in life insurance policies. There was no life insurance for Maggie or Paul, Murdaugh testified.

Defense counsel asked Murdaugh to talk about his relationship with his wife, who he said was “as beautiful inside as she was outside.”

“She was so adventurous. You couldn’t tell her something was good or bad — she wanted to find out for herself,” Murdaugh said. “She wanted to do it, see it, experience it on her own, and form her own opinion.

Maggie was “devoted” to her family, Alex Murdaugh said.

“We didn’t want for anything ever,” he said.

When it comes to his son, Alex Murdaugh said Paul has been misrepresented in the media. He could be tough, his father said, but he had a side to him “that was so sweet.”

“I love him, like no other,” Murdaugh said tearfully of his son. “He and (eldest son) Buster. … I loved Maggie from the first time we went out.”

Blowing his nose, Murdaugh reiterated his claim that “I did not kill Maggie. I did not kill Paul.”

Prosecutor Creighton Waters opened cross-examination by asking Murdaugh if he agreed that he stole from his clients and law firm.

“Yes, sir, I agree with that,” Murdaugh replied.

Murdaugh is charged with about 100 other crimes, ranging from stealing from clients to tax evasion. He is being held without bail on those charges, so even if he is found not guilty of the killings, he will not walk out of court a free man. If convicted of most or all of those financial crimes, Murdaugh would likely spend decades in prison.

Waters didn’t question Murdaugh about the murders at the start of his cross-examination, focusing instead on clients Murdaugh stole money from.

“We heard about it in a very academic, paperwork manner. But in every one of these, you had to sit down and look somebody in the eye and convince them you were on their side when you were not,” Waters said.

Murdaugh said he couldn’t remember all the details of the thefts that took place over at least 13 years and offered a blanket statement that he was wrong, which Waters rejected before hammering on the personal nature of the thefts.

“There were plenty of conversations where I looked people in the eye and lied to them,” Murdaugh eventually conceded.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

Murdaugh Murder Trial

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