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State prosecutors said in closing arguments in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial on Wednesday that the disgraced attorney killed his wife and son in June 2021 in an effort to distract and delay investigations. on growing financial problems that would have exposed him as a fraud.
“After a thorough investigation, there is only one person who had the motive, who had the means, who had the opportunity to commit these crimes, and also whose culpable conduct after these crimes betrays him,” said prosecutor Creighton Waters.
“This defendant is the only person who was living a lie, the defendant is the person that a storm was descending on, and the defendant was a person where his own storm would actually have consequences for Maggie and Paul and consequences for those who trusted him. .”
Closing arguments for the defense will follow.
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Murdaugh, 54, is accused of shooting his wife, Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, and son Paul Murdaugh by the family kennels at their sprawling property known as Moselle in Islandton, South Carolina, in the night of June 7, 2021. He pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and two weapons charges.
Jurors heard from more than 70 witnesses over six weeks of testimony before heading to Moselle on Wednesday morning.
The defense case was highlighted by Murdaugh himself, who offered dramatic testimony over two days last week in which he adamantly denied killing his wife and son. At the same time, he admitted to lying to investigators about his whereabouts on the night of the murders, and he admitted to stealing millions of dollars from his former clients and his law firm and lying to cover up his tracks.
Closing arguments come more than a month after the start of the weirder-than-fictional trial of Murdaugh, the former personal injury attorney and member of a dynastic family in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, where his father, grand -father and his great-grandfather were successively the local prosecutor. from 1920 to 2006.
Murdaugh was a personal injury lawyer for a law firm bearing his name. But that notoriety belied the underlying problems, and the murders of his wife and son were followed by accusations of embezzlement, his resignation, a bizarre conspiracy to hire and sell scams. insurance, a stay in rehab for drug addiction, dozens of financial crimes. , his disbarment and ultimately the murder charges.
He separately faces 99 counts related to alleged financial crimes that will be tried at a later trial.
The family has been followed in recent years by a series of deaths, including those of Murdaugh’s wife and son; the 2018 death of their housekeeper Gloria Satterfield; the 2019 death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach after a boat allegedly driven by Paul Murdaugh crashed; and the unsolved 2015 death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith, whose case was reopened based on information gathered during the inquest into the deaths of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.
In his closing arguments, Waters presented a decade-long timeline of Murdaugh’s financial misdeeds which came to a head on June 7, 2021, the night of the murders.
He maintained that Murdaugh had been stealing from clients and his law firm for years and was desperately trying to stay one step ahead of debt collectors.
“The evidence you have heard shows that the defendant became so dependent and dependent on the speed of money that the millions of dollars in legal fees he was receiving were not enough and so he started to steal. He stole by charging personal expenses to the company; he stole by stealing from his own family,” Waters said.
The pressure on him increased in the spring of 2021. For one thing, his law firm’s chief financial officer testified that she confronted Murdaugh about missing funds on the morning of June 7, 2021.
Second, Murdaugh was facing a lawsuit from the family of Beach, the young woman who was killed in February 2019 when a boat, owned by Murdaugh and allegedly driven by Paul, crashed. A hearing in that civil case was scheduled for June 10, 2021 and had the potential to reveal his financial troubles, prosecutors argued.
“The pressure on this man was unbearable and it reached a crescendo the day his wife and son were murdered by him,” Waters said.
The murders made Murdaugh a sympathetic figure and took all the pressure off, at least for a few more months, Waters said.
Waters also said he was skeptical of Murdaugh’s claim that he had an opioid addiction and took 1,000mg of opiates a day – a potentially lethal amount – arguing it was a ploy to win the day. sympathy.
“That’s not what these (financial) records reflect. They reflect an insatiable desire for money and a long-lasting hamster wheel,” he said.
The focus on motive underscores that prosecutors faced a significant hurdle in the case – the lack of direct evidence, such as a deadly weapon, bloody clothing or eyewitnesses, that connects Murdaugh to the murders. .
Instead, they hinged their case on circumstantial evidence, including a video placing Murdaugh at the crime scene shortly before the murders.
Trial witness: ‘100% certain’ Murdaugh’s voice is on video made before killings
Details of how the night of the murders unfolded were the focus of the trial, as prosecutors suggested Murdaugh shot and killed his wife and son, then tried to fabricate an alibi by calling and texting on his wife’s phone and on the way to his parents’ home. in Almada.
One of the cornerstones of the state case is a video taken at or near the kennel – filmed on Paul’s phone from 8:44 p.m. – in which Murdaugh’s voice can be heard in the background. After a dozen friends and family identified his voice on the video, Murdaugh spoke up and admitted he was there.
He said he lied to police about his whereabouts because of “paranoid thinking” stemming from his addiction to opiate painkillers.
“I wasn’t thinking clearly,” he added. “I don’t think I was able to reason, and I lied about being there, and I’m so sorry I did.”
He testified he went to the kennel at Maggie’s request, but insisted he went home before the murders and then left the property to visit his sick mother in the nearby town of Almeda. When he got home later that night, Murdaugh testified he found Maggie and Paul dead and called 911.
The defense portrayed Murdaugh as a troubled but loving family man who was wrongfully charged following a shoddy investigation. Among the defense witnesses was Murdaugh’s only surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, who testified that his father was “devastated” by the murders.