Alex Murdaugh found guilty of killing wife and son

WALTERBORO, S.C. (NewsNation) — Alex Murdaugh, the patriarch of a once-powerhouse legal dynasty in South Carolina, has been found guilty of murdering his wife and youngest son.

The jury in the double murder trial reached a verdict at 6:41 p.m. ET, just hours after they began deliberations.

Prosecutors took more than a year to charge the disgraced lawyer with murder, but they ultimately decided not to pursue the death penalty. He was also charged with about 100 counts of financial and other crimes related to his legal practice and funds that he admitted he stole.

Authorities said Paul Murdaugh, 22, was shot twice with a shotgun, each round loaded with a different size shot, while Maggie Murdaugh, 52, was struck with four or five bullets from a rifle. A crime scene report suggested both victims were shot in the head after initially being wounded near dog kennels on the Murdaughs’ sprawling rural property.

The case began on June 7, 2021, when Murdaugh said he returned home to the family’s sprawling hunting estate after visiting his ailing mother and found his wife and son dead.

Murdaugh was convicted of two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.

After the verdict was read, Judge Clifton Newman denied a defense motion to declare a mistrial, saying “the evidence of guilt is overwhelming.”

A sentencing hearing was set for 9:30 a.m. ET Friday. Murdaugh faces 30 years to life in prison without parole for each murder charge.

During the trial, defense lawyers sought to poke holes in the state’s forensic evidence and suggested there may have been two shooters — as Maggie and Paul were killed with different firearms.

More than 75 witnesses were called and about 800 photographs, reports and exhibits were presented as evidence. Jurors also visited the crime scene — a move opposed by the prosecution who claimed the scene looks different than it did in June 2021, as trees and vegetation have grown and no one has lived on the property since the killings.

Prosecutors contended Murdaugh killed his wife and son to distract from his financial crimes but did not present direct evidence against him.

They called 61 witnesses and introduced more than 550 pieces of evidence over 17 days of testimony — from descriptions of the brutality of the killings to numbing details about bank records.

In a news conference outside the courthouse, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson declared it a “good day in South Carolina.”

He thanked lead prosecutor Creighton Waters for what he called a “Herculean effort.”

“We had no doubt that if we had a chance to present our case in a court of law, (the jury) would see through the one last con that Alex Murdaugh was trying to pull,” Waters said in thanking the jurors for their service. “Justice was done today.”

Defense attorney Jim Griffin told reporters the Murdaugh team was disappointed in the outcome but had no further comment until sentencing.

The weapons used to kill the victims have not been produced. But prosecutors did get one key piece of evidence that both showed Murdaugh lied to police and put him at the kennels where his wife and son were shot just five minutes before investigators think they were killed because they stopped using their cellphones.

An expert testified that the markings on the bullet casings found near Maggie Murdaugh’s body matched those found on casings at a shooting range on the family’s property.

But there was no blood spatter linking the killings to Murdaugh or anyone else, and prosecutors didn’t spend much time laying out how they think Murdaugh could have killed his family, cleaned himself up, disposed of the clothes and weapons, and composed himself in the 15-minute window before GPS data shows he left the property to visit his ailing mother.

Murdaugh, 54, found himself the star witness as the trial neared its end.

His defense team’s first questions were whether he killed his wife or son, which he denied forcefully. He would deny again and again ever hurting them in response to questions from his lawyer and cross-examination by prosecutors.

During his time on the stand, Murdaugh admitted several times that he lied and stole millions of dollars from his clients and law firm.

“I took money that wasn’t mine. And I shouldn’t have done it. I hate the fact that I did it. I am embarrassed by it. I’m embarrassed for my son. I am embarrassed for my family,” Murdaugh said.

Murdaugh’s lawyers will almost certainly appeal the conviction based on the judge allowing evidence of the financial crimes, which they contend were unrelated to the killings and were used by prosecutors to smear Murdaugh’s reputation.

NewsNation writers Caitlyn Shelton, Cassandra Buchman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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