Thursday, December 7

Embattled attorney Alex Murdaugh indicted in slayings of wife and son

A grand jury indicted embattled South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh on murder charges in the 2021 slayings of his wife and son, authorities announced Thursday.

“Over the last 13 months, SLED agents and our partners have worked day in and day out to build a case against the person responsible for the murders of Maggie and Paul and to exclude those who were not,” said Mark Keel, South Carolina’s law enforcement division chief. “At no point did agents lose focus on this investigation. From the beginning, I have been clear, the priority was to ensure justice was served. Today is one more step in a long process for justice for Maggie and Paul.”

The disclosure of the charges is a major development in the saga of the Murdaugh family to South Carolina legal dynasty in which Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, and the couple’s younger son, Paul, 22, were found shot to death on the night of June 7 at their rural estate and hunting lodge in Colleton County.

NBC News reported Tuesday part of the indictment was based on new evidence.

Two sources close to the investigation said that authorities have cellphone video that they believe not only puts Alex Murdaugh at the scene of the slayings shortly before they took place, but also contradicts a previous timeline of events provided on the day of the slayings.

Lawyers for Murdaugh have previously said he had an alibi on the night of the killings and was spending time with his mother, who has dementia, and her caregiver. The lawyers steadfastly denied his involvement in the deaths.

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“Alex wants his family, friends and everyone to know that he did not have anything to do with the murders of Maggie and Paul. He loved them more than anything in the world,” according to a statement released by Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, lawyers representing Murdaugh.

The statement continued, “It was very clear from day one that law enforcement and the Attorney General prematurely concluded that Alex was responsible for the murder of his wife and son. But we know that Alex did not have any motive whatsoever to murder them. We are immediately filing a motion for a speedy trial, we are requesting that the Attorney General turn over all evidence within 30 days as required by law and we demand to have a trial within 60 days of receiving that evidence.”

The South Carolina Supreme Court also moved to disbar Murdaugh, who worked as a personal injury attorney, this week after initially revoking his law license last fall.

From left, Paul, Margaret and Alex Murdaugh.via Facebook

The court’s order said Tuesday that its decision “in no way” affects any ongoing investigations.

In the wake of the deaths of his wife and son, Murdaugh’s business dealings came under investigations, and he was indicted on dozens of finance-related charges.

State law enforcement officials said they uncovered a financial scheme involving Murdaugh that began to unravel when, in September, he told authorities that he had been randomly attacked in a roadside shooting near the family’s estate.

He survived, but the claim came under scrutiny and, days later, authorities said Murdaugh had arranged for a man to kill him so his older son, Buster, could collect on a $10 million life insurance policy.

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Attorneys for Murdaugh later said he was trying to get off a 20-year opioid addiction, and his poor decisions at the time were the result of suffering from mental anguish over the deaths of his wife and younger son.

A state grand jury indicted him this year on 21 counts of breach of trust with fraudulent intent and six counts of computer crimes, the state attorney general announced in January.

The indications allege that he stole more than $2.6 million from clients Natarsha Thomas, Arthur Badger and Deon Martin and the family of Hakeem Pinckney.

In all four cases, Murdaugh is alleged to have used funds meant for his clients for his personal use, those indications state.

A state grand jury also indicted Murdaugh in November and December on 48 counts, including breach of trust with fraudulent intent, forgery, money laundering, computer crimes and obtaining property by false pretenses.

Curtis Edwards Smith, then 61, who is accused of assisting Murdaugh in the failed suicide plot to collect life insurance money, was arrested last month, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. The charges include four counts of money laundering, three counts of forgery and criminal conspiracy, NBC affiliate WCBD of Charleston reported.

Smith was previously arrested in September after investigators said Murdaugh gave him a gun and directed Smith to kill him. Smith was charged with assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and drug offenses.

Murdaugh’s father, a grandfather and a great-grandfather were each elected to the top prosecutor’s position in South Carolina’s 14th Circuit, which covers a coastal region of the state known as the Lowcountry, totaling almost 90 years of the family holding a prominent role in the region.

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Haylee Barber, Carol Gable and Craig Melvin contributed.

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