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Defense raises multiple shooter theory as prosecutors focus on law enforcement interview in Alex Murdaugh murder trial

“I did it so wrong.”

That’s what a South Carolina investigator testified Monday that Alex Murdaugh sobbed during a taped interview three days after Murdaugh’s wife and son were killed.

But to others inside and outside the courtroom, it sounded as if Murdaugh was saying, “They did it so badly,” in audio police interview played on the court. Double murder trial of a disgraced lawyer after being asked about a photo of his son’s body.

Court ended Monday before the defense could cross-examine the officer.

Earlier in the day, defense attorneys continued to challenge the way state authorities collected and analyzed evidence in the shooting deaths of Murdaugh’s wife and son.

Murdaugh, 54, is permanent judgment on two counts of murder in the shootings of his wife and son at their Colleton County home and hunting lodge on June 7, 2021. His wife, Maggie, 52, was shot multiple times with a rifle; His 22-year-old son Paul was shot twice with a shotgun near the property’s kennels. Murdaugh faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted.

Alex Murdaugh cries as the Colleton County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant describes the murder of his wife and son. Daniel Greene during Murdaugh’s murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse on Thursday, January 26, 2023.

The state

In the interview played Monday, Murdaugh spoke with the state trooper at his brother’s home for about an hour, three days after the murders. Murdaugh’s lawyer was nearby.

Prosecutors stopped the video multiple times to give State Law Enforcement Division Senior Special Agent Jeff Croft a chance to emphasize some of Murdaugh’s comments. At one point, Murdaugh said his wife was home hours before the murders when he and his son returned from hanging around the property. Later in the interview, Murdaugh could be heard saying “It’s so bad”, before the obscure comment that Croft said made it sound as if Murdaugh was implying that he had killed his son.

In court, Murdaugh appeared to shake his head when Croft said what he heard.

Murdaugh also broke down in tears on the 2021 recording after bringing up a minor disagreement he had with his wife about visiting family.

“She was a wonderful girl and a wonderful wife. And she was a great mother,” Murdaugh said.

Video evidence of an interview taken the night of the murder during Alex Murdaugh’s trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina on Friday, January 27, 2023.

The state

Monday began with cross-examination of another state trooper who testified at length about evidence collected at Murdaugh’s home and property.

Similar to previous days of testimony, officers and crime scene technicians presented evidence to the jury that investigators will likely explain in more detail later. Prosecutors described their case as a puzzle in last week’s opening statement.

Yet while cross-examining witnesses, defense attorneys have asked questions that suggest that the metaphorical pieces of the puzzle are not clear or that prosecutors are not putting them all on the table.

State Law Enforcement Division Special Agent Melinda Worley testified Friday about photographs of the bodies, pellets and DNA swabs from the scene, as well as clothing and nail clippings from autopsies.

In cross-examination Monday, defense attorney Dick Harpootlian honed several elements, including fingerprint identification, one of Worley’s specialties. She told him that one of the prints in the blood near where Murdaugh’s son was shot came from an officer.

“Is that the scene preservation your standards require?” Harpootlian asked.

“Not exactly, no,” Worley replied.

Harpootlian also had Worley come down from the stand and work on a rough diagram of the angles of the shots at Paul and Maggie Murdaugh, noting a significant disparity between the directions from which the shots at each victim came from.

Worley said that can happen when a shooter is moving.

“One explanation would be movement. One explanation would be two shooters,” Harpootlian said.

Alex Murdaugh continued to rock and wipe his eyes during more graphic testimony, including when Harpootlian held up a photo of his wife’s body to ask Worley if there might be a shoe print on his wife’s calf that wasn’t formally documented when the shoe was examined. scene.

Worley said she couldn’t be sure.

Croft was one of the lead officers investigating the double murders and also testified about guns, ammunition, and shell casings collected from the Murdaughs’ home after the murders, showing at least four different shotguns and rifles to the jury and testifying that the Murdaughs were they kept their weapons. loaded in his gun room.

In his interview, Murdaugh told Croft that his son was not focused and would be staying with family and friends across the state, leaving his possessions behind rather than taking them home.

“He did that with clothes, he did that with weapons, he did that with my boats,” Murdaugh said.

Prosecutors in their opening statement said the weapons that killed Paul and Maggie Murdaugh have not been found, but marks on casings found around the house that may have been used for target practice matched casings found at the scene.

Alex Murdaugh also faces around 100 charges related to allegations of money laundering, stealing millions of clients and the family law firm, tax evasion and trying to get a man to fatally shoot him so that his surviving son could collect on a $10 million life insurance policy. He was being held in jail without bail on those charges before being charged with murder.

Since the murders, Murdaugh’s life has experienced an astonishingly rapid decline. Her family dominated the legal system in neighboring small Hampton County for generations, both as prosecutors and private attorneys known for obtaining life-changing settlements in accident and negligence cases.

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