Buster Murdaugh held his head in his hands as his father Alex sobbed on the stand today while testifying about the moment he found his wife and son shot dead.
The 26-year-old hunched over with his hand over his face as he listened to his father describing how he found his younger brother Paul with his brains splattered across the walls of the kennels at the family’s hunting estate in Moselle, SC, on June 7, 2021.
The alleged killer, 54, wept as he told jurors: ‘Paul was so bad … My boy was lying face down and I could see his brain hanging on the side wall.’
Murdaugh claimed he got back from visiting his mother to find Maggie, 52, and Paul, 22, dead. He recalled dashing back and forth between the pair’s blood-soaked bodies as he called 911, checking his son for a pulse and touching his wife’s waist.
Asked by his defense attorney Jim Griffin if he ‘blew his son’s brains out’ with a shotgun or whether he took an assault rifle and ‘fired into Maggie’s head’, Murdaugh answered both questions, saying: ‘I did not.’
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Buster, 26, hunched over with his hand over his face as he listened to his father describing how he found his younger brother Paul with his brains spattered across the walls of the kennels at the family’s hunting estate in Moselle, SC, on June 7, 2021
Alex Murdaugh wept as he denied ‘shooting his son’s brains out’ and said he did not execute his wife but admitted he lied to cops about being at the murder scene on the night of the killings
Maggie, Paul and Alex are pictured at the younger son’s high school graduation
On a day of blockbuster testimony in ‘the trial of the century’…
- Murdaugh admitted for the first time he lied when he told cops he was not at the kennels earlier on the night of the killings
- He claimed his crippling opioid addiction made him paranoid about the police
- The legal scion told jurors he was not ‘capable of reason’ that night and apologized: ‘Most of all I am sorry to Mags (Maggie) and PawPaw (Paul)’
- Murdaugh denied shooting the pair, saying: ‘I didn’t shoot my wife or son, ever’
- He said he believed his son had been killed in revenge for a fatal boat accident during which Paul was driving under the influence in February, 2019
- Murdaugh recalled speaking to Paul’s lifeless body that night: ‘I said PawPaw, I should have known. PawPaw got so many threats I didn’t take serious’
- Asked whether he thought his ‘financial house of cards was about to crumble’ on the day of the murders, Murdaugh told jurors: ‘Absolutely not’
- He said far from helping, Maggie and Paul’s deaths complicated his finances
- The disgraced legal scion took the stand against the advice of his attorneys following a night locked in talks with his legal team
- Defense Attorney Dick Harpootlian told the judge ‘he indicated he doesn’t need to talk to me. It hurts my feelings’
- During his testimony, Murdaugh denied a series of claims made by the State, including that he told his mom’s caregiver to change her story to match his alibi
- Murdaugh claimed he never Googled a restaurant near his beach house on Edisto Island which his phone records show he did after finding Maggie and Paul
- He told jurors he had never seen the blue tarp or rain coat which prosecutors allege was covered in gun residue and found at his mother’s home
- Murdaugh angrily denied the claim he changed his clothes after the killings because they were covered with blood spatter, calling it a ‘lie’
The State says Murdaugh killed Maggie and Paul to distract from his financial crimes which were coming to a head ‘like a gathering storm’. He had stolen more than $10m from clients and partners at his law firm since 2011 and had been confronted over the theft of $792,000 on the days of the murders.
Prosecutors say Murdaugh shot Maggie five times with a .300 Blackout rifle and then blasted Paul twice with a 12-gauge shotgun. He then drove to his mother’s house in order to ‘manufacture an alibi.’
When the cops arrived Murdaugh claimed he had never been at the kennels that night – but today he admitted for the first time that he lied about being at the murder scene before going to his mother’s, blaming his opioid addiction for making him paranoid when faced with police.
He said Maggie and Paul were alive when he last saw them.
Murdaugh said: ‘I don’t think I was capable of reason and I lied about being down there and I am so sorry that I did. I am sorry to my son Buster, I am sorry to Grandpa, Papa T (Maggie’s father) … most of all I am sorry to Mags and PawPaw.’
‘I would never intentionally do anything to hurt either of them. Ever. Ever,’ he sobbed. ‘I didn’t shoot my wife or son, ever.’
Murdaugh said: ‘Oh what a tangled web we weave. Once I told a lie, and I told my family, I had to keep lying.’
In the 911 call, which was played to jurors again this morning, Murdaugh can be heard saying, ‘I should have known.’
He told cops that his son had been threatened and punched in the wake of a drunken boat wreck in which Paul’s friend 19-year-old Mallory Beach was killed.
Murdaugh recalled speaking to his son’s lifeless body: ‘I said PawPaw, I should have known. PawPaw got so many threats I didn’t take serious or think too much about. I was just telling him: PawPaw, I should have known.’
When police arrived, one of the first things he told them was, ‘I know what this is about’ and mentioned the fatal boat crash. Murdaugh was being sued at the time of the murders over the boat accident during which Paul was driving his father’s vessel under the influence in February, 2019.
Murdaugh admitted he had been at the kennels that night, which prosecutors had earlier proved with a video taken by his son Paul at 8.45pm. But the disbarred attorney said he went back up to the house and then visited his mother’s house.
His car was fired up at 9.06pm and he drove to his mother’s in Almeda, around 15 minutes away. The State says his wife and son were already dead by then – shot dead at the kennels around 8.50pm.
The disgraced legal scion, 54, told jurors: ‘Paul was so bad … My boy was lying face down and I could see his brain hanging on the side wall’
Murdaugh said: ‘Oh what a tangled web we weave. Once I told a lie, and I told my family, I had to keep lying’
Alex’s brother John Marvin Murdaugh listens as he broke down on the witness stand
Buster Murdaugh, 26, Alex’s sole surviving son listens to his testimony at the Colleton County courthouse
Murdaugh’s mother Libby is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease and her caregiver had told the legal scion she was in an agitated state after her husband, Randolph III, had been taken to hospital. The Murdaugh patriarch died of cancer three days after Maggie and Paul’s murders.
Explaining his mindset that night and why he lied to police, Murdaugh told jurors that his ‘addiction developed over time’ to the point his paranoia could be set off ‘by anything.’
‘It might be a policeman following me in a car,’ he said.
He told jurors that when cops arrived at the scene that night he had been advised by his attorney friends and family not to say anything.
Murdaugh said: ‘I am sitting in a police car with (South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agent) David Owen asking me about my relationship with my wife and my son, coupled with my distrust of SLED, it caused me to have paranoid thoughts.
‘Normally I could take a deep breath, think about it, reason my way through it.’
He added: ‘Once I lied I continued to lie.’
Murdaugh was later asked to answer to the State’s claim that he killed his wife and son because his life was financially spiraling out of control.
‘On June 7, did you believe that your financial house of cards was about to crumble?’ Griffin asked.
‘Absolutely not,’ Murdaugh replied.
Griffin went on to try and pour scorn on the State’s alleged motive, that the killings would have saved Murdaugh from financial ruin.
The defense attorney asked: ‘Did Maggie’s death make it more difficult to obtain financing immediately after the murders? On June 7?’
Murdaugh answered: ‘Yes. Because the entire Moselle property was 100 per cent in Maggie’s name. The Edisto property was 50 per cent in her name.’
Earlier he refuted a series of claims made by the State, including that he asked his mother’s caregiver to change her story about how long he visited his parents’ house to match his alibi.
Shelley Smith said he was at the home for 20 minutes and that days after the murders he instructed her that he had been there for 40 minutes.
He suggested Smith must have misremembered and told the court he was particularly careful not to speak to any witnesses in the aftermath because of claims he had tried to ‘fix the boat case’ after Paul’s crash.
Defense attorney Griffin also asked a blue tarp which the State says Smith saw him bring to the property. Prosecutors say this was in fact a gun residue-covered blue rain jacket which was found at Murdaugh’s mother’s house after the killings.
Murdaugh testified of the tarp, he had ‘never seen it before, never touched it — and I don’t know anything about it.’
He claimed the clothes he was wearing earlier on the day of the murders ‘never became an issue’ until his lawyers proved the blood spatter he had on his t-shirt and shorts at the scene ‘was a lie.’
Jurors previously heard SLED agent Owen admit that he had misled the grand jury that the white t-shirt had blood spatter on it. He said initial testing had indicated the presence of blood – but that further testing proved negative for human blood.
‘Once they filed the documents and they proved that was a lie, all of a sudden the clothes I was wearing back on that day became an issue,’ Murdaugh told the court.
Alex places his hand on the Bible as he is sworn in at the Colleton County courthouse in Walterboro Thursday morning. In the latest twist in the Murdaugh saga, defense attorney Dick Harpootlian told the court they would first call another witness and ‘if he continues to want to testify’ then Alex will be called. The disbarred attorney was then summoned by the judge to be sworn in and confirmed he would be taking the stand.
Alex is flanked by his attorneys Jim Griffin, left, and Dick Harpootlian. He is accused of shooting dead wife Maggie, 52, and younger son Paul, 22, at the family’s 1,800-acre hunting estate at Moselle, South Carolina. He told cops he was visiting his mother when the pair were gunned down.
Buster Murdaugh watches on as his father took the stand Thursday
Jurors have been shown a Snapchat video taken by Paul earlier that evening which shows Murdaugh in a blue shirt, long pants and loafers. When cops arrived he was wearing a t-shirt, shorts and sneakers.
Prosecutors suggest he changed clothes after the killings.
Murdaugh also denied the State’s claim that he was Googling a restaurant in Edisto Beach after discovering Maggie and Paul’s bodies. Prosecutors suggest his phone records show he was not acting like a man who had just found his wife and son dead.
But Murdaugh said the Whaley’s search must have been from his history and is adamant he was not looking up the restaurant at the crime scene.
Murdaugh made the last-minute decision to take the stand against the advice of his own attorneys following a night locked in talks with his defense team.
In the latest twist in the Murdaugh saga, his defense attorney Dick Harpootlian told the judge earlier ‘he indicated he doesn’t need to talk to me. It hurts my feelings.’
The disbarred attorney was summoned by the judge to be sworn in. He was reminded of his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent but confirmed he would be taking the stand, placing his hand on the Bible and swearing to tell the truth.
Spectators started lining up from 3.30am outside the Colleton County courthouse as anticipation reached fever pitch for his testimony in the sleepy town of Walterboro.
Murdaugh’s sole surviving son Buster, 26, his brother John Marvin and sister Lynn were supporting him in court this morning.
The decision to take the stand comes after an apparent dispute between Murdaugh and his lawyers.
In a morning of high courtroom drama before the jury were called in, Harpootlian told the judge they wanted to first call another witness and then ‘if he continues to want to testify’ then Murdaugh would be called.
Harpootlian told the judge ‘our advice to take the stand or not would have been different’ if the financial crimes he is accused of had been ruled out from cross examination.
The defense requested the judge bar prosecutors from questioning their client about more than $10million he is accused of stealing from his law firm before his wife and son’s brutal murders.
‘This is a Bernie Madoff trial, this isn’t a murder trial,’ Harpootlian said, as he warned the judge that the cross examination would last several days, with prosecutors poring over his financial misdeeds in minute detail.
Judge Clifton Newman has allowed that into evidence because prosecutors say his soaring debts motivated the killings of his wife and son.
Alex’s brothers Randy (left) and John Marvin (right), and his son Buster and Buster’s girlfriend Brooklynn White arrive on Thursday morning
Murdaugh arrives at court Thursday as he prepared to take the stand
On the day of the killings he had been confronted over $792,000 that had gone ‘missing’ from the firm – but that was later found to be just the tip of the iceberg.
Defense attorney Jim Griffin told the judge: ‘We are asking for an order excluding the State from being able to question Mr Murdaugh in cross examination on matters relating to the financial crimes … We need a ruling today from the court at some point in time before tomorrow. We are not putting him up today.’
But Judge Clifton Newman rejected the request, stating: ‘For the court to issue a blanket order limiting the scope of cross-examination, that’s unheard of to me.’
Prosecutor Creighton Waters argued ‘obviously the general rule is that cross-examination is wide open’, adding that the financial crimes are essential to proving Murdaugh’s motivation for killing his wife and son.
The State claims the disgraced attorney was ‘out of options and out of time,’ faced with soaring debts and with a looming wrongful death lawsuit after a 19-year-old girl was killed in a boat crash during which Paul was allegedly driving his father’s boat while drunk.
On the day of the murders, Murdaugh had been confronted over $792,000 that had gone ‘missing’ from his firm. In the months after the murders it would be uncovered that he had stolen almost $9million from clients and partners at his family’s law firm dating back to 2011.
People began lining up outside the courthouse more than two hours before the trial was set to begin at 9.30am Thursday
The Murdaugh clan including Alex’s sister Lynn, son Buster and brothers John Marvin and Randy arrive this morning
Murdaugh gets out of the prison van ahead of giving his blockbuster testimony
Alex’s brothers Randy (left) and John Marvin, his son Buster (second from left), Buster’s girlfriend Brooklynn White, and Alex’s sister Lynn cross the street to the court Thursday
Later that week, he was due in court for a hearing to disclose his financial assets after claiming he was broke to the lawyers of Mallory Beach’s family – the girl killed in Paul’s boat wreck.
Legal experts have told DailyMail.com that Murdaugh would be rolling the dice if he takes the stand.
Lori Murray, a former prosecutor from South Carolina, said last week: ‘It’s virtually unheard of to call a defendant to the stand to testify in his own defense because when you do, you open your client up to cross examination which is basically a publicized interrogation with leading questions.
‘Instead, most defense attorneys focus on a lack of evidence against their client or, as in this case, shoddy police work. Remember the burden is on the state to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
‘The defendant has no burden to prove his own innocence. However, in some cases, like this one, there are some facts that can only be explained by the defendant taking the stand. Alex almost has to take the stand to explain why he lied about his alibi and where his clothes are.’
The defense is now calling witnesses after the prosecution rested its case on Friday.
Buster and his father Alex exchange a look as he walks up to the witness stand Tuesday at Colleton County courthouse in Walterboro
Alex Murdaugh, left, gives his son Buster Murdaugh a pat during a break in testimony during trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, S.C., on Tuesday
Buster looks on from the witness stand as his father returns to the courtroom following a break in his testimony
Murdaugh’s sole surviving son Buster was called to the stand Tuesday to give emotional testimony of how his father called him to tell him his mother and younger brother had been shot dead.
Describing the night he learned of the murders, Buster said his girlfriend Brooklynn White, also 26, had overheard the phone call with his father.
‘She just started packing stuff and I kind of sat there for a minute and I was kind of in shock,’ he said.
Buster said they drove to Moselle and arrived in the early hours of the morning.
He described his father as ‘destroyed … he was heartbroken, I walked in the door and gave him a hug and he was broken down.’
Buster added that his father was so distraught he was unable to talk.
He said Murdaugh was wearing a t-shirt and shorts when he arrived. The State suggests the legal scion changed after shooting his wife and son at close range.
Buster said his father took a shower and he helped him to pack. This an apparent reference by the defense to the testimony of the family’s housekeeper who said she found a puddle in the bathroom the following day.
After they packed up, Alex, Buster, Brooklynn and Alex’s brother John Marvin drove to his parents’ house in Almeda where they stayed the night.
The legal scion’s eldest son has been attending the trial everyday accompanied by girlfriend Brooklynn. Murdaugh’s brothers John Marvin and Randy and his sister Lynn are also expected to testify for the defense.
Murdaugh’s lawyers are expected to take a week laying out their case before the jury are sent out to consider their verdict at the Colleton County courthouse in Walterboro.
Buster began his testimony talking about his childhood, saying that his father and mother avidly attended his baseball games.
‘My father coached every little league team I played in up until I started playing for the schools that had a coach,’ he told jurors.
Buster described a seemingly idyllic family life, split between their mansion in Hampton, their sprawling hunting estate at Moselle and their beach house on Edisto Island.
He said he spent a lot of time with Murdaugh’s side of the family, grandfather Randolph ‘Handsome’ Murdaugh and grandmother Libby, known as ‘M’, his uncles Randy, John Marvin and aunt Lynn Murdaugh Goette. They rented lavish houses for vacations and spent time at the family’s river house at Chechessee near Okatie.
Buster also said that Murdaugh was close with his in-laws and that he and Maggie’s father Terry ‘Papa T’ Branstetter went on camping trips and played golf together.
Alex and his attorney Dick Harpootlian look up at Buster Murdaugh as he heads to the witness stand on Tuesday
Buster, 26, stated his full name, Richard Alexander Murdaugh Jr., as father Alex, 54, looked on smiling. He was supported in court by his girlfriend Brooklynn White
Buster Murdaugh, right, the son of Alex Murdaugh, listens to a question from defense attorney Jim Griffin while testifying during his father’s trial
Murdaugh smiles as he listens to Buster’s testimony Tuesday
Alex wipes his eyes while listening to his son Buster describing the night his father informed him his mother and younger brother had been shot dead
Describing his younger brother, Buster said: ‘Paul’s interests were outdoors mostly, hunting and playing around in the woods.’
He testified that his brother was ‘not good about storing guns.’
‘Paul left guns around the property more than anyone else,’ Buster said, noting how his own rifle would go missing after his younger brother shot with it.
Maggie was shot five times with a high-powered assault rifle, while Paul was shot twice with a 12-gauge shotgun. No murder weapon has ever been recovered.
But the prosecution say that guns bought for the Murdaugh boys had gone missing from the property. Only one .300 Blackout AR was seized by police, but Murdaugh had bought two guns for them for Christmas in 2016.
A third rifle was bought two years later after Paul lost his firearm.
The evidence regarding the shotguns seized from the estate was inconclusive. The weapons can neither be included or excluded as the gun that killed Paul.
Buster Murdaugh fought back tears today as he recalled his father phoning him to tell him his mother and younger brother had been brutally murdered.
Buster arrives at the Colleton County court in Walterboro Tuesday with his girlfriend Brooklynn White who has supported him most days
Murdaugh arrives at court Tuesday with his blazer draped over his handcuffs
The State contests that ‘family weapons’ were used to kill Maggie and Paul.
Buster told how Paul’s drunken boat crash, in which a 19-year-old girl was killed, ‘consumed’ his mother.
At the time of Maggie and Paul’s deaths, Murdaugh and Buster were being sued over the 22-year-old’s boat wreck in which Mallory Beach was killed.
The boat belonged to his father and he had used his older brother’s ID to buy alcohol.
Buster told how his brother was ‘bullied’ after the wreck, with people harassing him on social media and in public.
‘He would go out to a bar and there would be people who would make a scuff about it,’ he told jurors.
Referring to his mother, Buster said: ‘It kind of consumed her. She’s big on reading all of it. It made her feel upset and it eventually caused her to distance herself from Hampton.’
‘She just felt that there was a kind of a bad vibe in Hampton,’ he told the court.
At the time of the killings Maggie was living at Edisto Beach.
Buster said Maggie was particularly distressed about seeing on TV the attorney for the Beach family, Mark Tinsley, saying he was seeking $40million in the wrongful death lawsuit.
‘That made her anxious’, Buster said.
TIMELINE: NIGHT OF THE KILLINGS
Alex Murdaugh, 54, is accused of shooting his wife, Maggie, 52, and younger son Paul, 22, at the family’s hunting estate in Islandton, South Carolina, on the night of June 7, 2021.
Here are the key events in the timeline laid out by prosecutors:
At 7.56pm, Paul sent a Snapchat video to friends showing the 22-year-old riding around the estate with his father.
At 8.15pm, Murdaugh’s wife Maggie arrived home and the trio ate dinner together. Autopsies showed similar stomach contents in Maggie and Paul.
About 8.30pm, Paul’s phone starts moving towards the kennels.
Then at 8.44pm, a second video taken by Paul at the kennels – soon to become a murder scene – allegedly proves that Maggie, Paul and Alex were together.
At 8.49pm the prosecution say Paul’s phone locked and went silent forever, never to send another text or make another call.
Between 9pm and 9.30pm, Paul and Maggie were killed – according to the coroner.
At 9.06pm, Murdaugh’s car is fired up.
The alleged killer said he went to go visit his mother, who is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, in Almeda – around a 15-minute drive.
At 10.07pm, Murdaugh called 911 claiming he had arrived home a to find his wife and son shot dead.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk