WALTERBORO, S.C. (NewsNation) — Alex Murdaugh, the patriarch of a once-powerhouse legal dynasty in South Carolina, received two consecutive life sentences after being found guilty of murdering his wife and youngest son.
“I am innocent. I would never hurt my wife, Maggie, and I would never hurt my son,” Murdaugh said as he addressed the court Friday before his sentencing.
His lawyers said afterward they will appeal the conviction within the next 10 days.
But prosecutor Creighton Waters said the only just consequence for Murdaugh would be to spend the rest of his life in prison.
“This case is about Maggie Murdaugh and Paul Murdaugh, and I’m so thankful the jurors gave them a voice,” Waters said.
Both Maggie and Paul, “like everyone else,” were unaware of Alex Murdaugh’s true nature, Waters said.
“No one who thought they were close to this man knew who he really was, and Your Honor, that’s chilling,” Waters said to the judge. “I’ve looked in his eyes. He liked to stare me down as he walked by me during this trial. I could see the real Alex Murdaugh when he looked at me.”
Talking about the “depravity, the callousness,the selfishness of these crimes” and the way Murdaugh lied, Waters said: “This man should never be allowed to be among free, law-abiding citizens again.”
“This is a great day for the people of South Carolina, where they get to see justice delivered to someone who desperately needed a measure of it,” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson told “Morning in America” host Adrienne Bankert.
Mark Keel, chief of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, said at a press conference Friday that there were “no winners” in this case.
“Today is not the end, it’s the next step in a long road to justice for every person who has been victimized by Alex Murdaugh,” Keel said.
Murdaugh, 54, was convicted of two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
However, prosecutors did not ask for the death penalty, despite it being legal in South Carolina.
Judge Clifton Newman said he didn’t question this decision at Friday’s sentencing, but he noted that Murdaugh and his family prosecuted cases where people did get the death penalty, adding that it was “probably for lesser conduct.”
“You have a wife who has been killed, murdered. A son savagely murdered. A lawyer, a person from a respected family who has controlled justice in this community for over a century. A person whose grandfather’s portrait hangs at the back of the courthouse that I had to have ordered removed in order to ensure a fair trial,” Newman said.
However, Newman noted Murdaugh’s decadeslong addiction to painkillers, saying “it might not have been you” who killed Maggie and Paul.
“It might have been the monster you’d become,” he said.
Referencing lies Murdaugh was caught in during the trial, Newman questioned when they will end.
“It’s already ended for many who heard you and concluded that it’ll never end,” Newman said. “But within your own soul, you have to deal with that. And I know you have to see Paul and Maggie during the nighttime when you’re attempting to go to sleep. I’m sure they come and visit you.”
In response, Murdaugh said: “All day, and every night.”
Authorities said Paul Murdaugh, 22, was shot twice with a shotgun, 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.
After the verdict was read, Newman denied a defense motion to declare a mistrial, saying, “The evidence of guilt is overwhelming.”
Murdaugh, who wore a dress shirt and jacket, appeared stoic with a slight grimace as the verdict was read. Once the hearing ended, Murdaugh was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom by two sheriff’s deputies.
Prosecutors told jurors that Murdaugh was afraid all of his misdeeds were about to be discovered, so he killed his wife and son to gain sympathy to buy time to cover his tracks.
NewsNation writers Sean Noone, Tyler Wornell, Caitlyn Shelton, Cassandra Buchman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.