By JEFFREY COLLINS Associated Press
After nearly an hour of no activity, Alex Murdaugh‘s cellphone suddenly showed a flurry of steps just before he drove away in his SUV some 16 minutes after investigators think his wife and son were killed, a state agent testified Friday at the disgraced South Carolina lawyer’s double murder trial.
GPS data from Murdaugh’s SUV and cellphone data also shows Murdaugh called 911 less than 20 seconds after he arrived at the kennels where the bodies of his son and wife were, a short distance from their home. Murdaugh told the 911 operator he checked them to see if they were alive before the made the emergency call.
Murdaugh, 54, is standing trial in the killings of his 52-year-old wife Maggie and their 22-year-old son Paul on June 7, 2021, at their home in Colleton County. He faces 30 years to life in prison if he is convicted.
Prosecutors were finishing their case with a detailed to-the-second, 43-page color-coded timeline of everything that happened with the cellphones of Murdaugh, his wife and son during the six hours leading up to and after their deaths. Murdaugh’s phone settings didn’t record specific location data, but a cellphone can be more generally located each time it reaches out to a cellphone tower. As a result, agents were able to obtain proximate locations for Murdaugh’s phone, but not exactly where the device moved around the property.
The timeline includes the 16 minutes between when investigators think Paul Murdaugh was killed at close range with two shotgun blasts and Maggie Murdaugh was shot four or five times with a rifle — because their cellphones stopped being used at that point — and when the GPS data in his SUV showed Murdaugh left the home to visit his ailing mother.
BACKSTORY AND EVIDENCE PHOTOS: SC v. Alex Murdaugh: Murdaugh Family Murders
Prosecutor Creighton Waters pointed out that Murdaugh’s phone had shown no activity for an hour, and then suddenly came back to life before he drove away. It showed him taking more than 70 steps a minute for about four minutes, well over the pace he had walked any other time that evening. Exactly where he was walking wasn’t captured.
“He was a busy guy right then, was he?” Waters asked State Law Enforcement Division agent Peter Rudofski.
“It appears,” Rudofski replied.
Murdaugh told police that he tried to call and text his wife and son after he returned home that night and didn’t see them, so he got back into the SUV to go down to the kennels to look for them, a 49-second drive.
Prosecutors said they planned to rest their case after Rudofski finishes testifying. They have presented 61 witnesses and introduced more than 550 pieces of evidence over 17 days of testimony.
The trial broke for lunch, just before the defense got to cross examine the agent.
Earlier Friday, defense lawyer Dick Harpootlian, for the first time in front of the jurors, mentioned that Murdaugh has been held in jail without bail for nearly two years and won’t walk free even if he is found not guilty of murder because of all the other crimes he is charged with, ranging from stealing from clients and his family law firm to money laundering to tax evasion.
“Was he indicted on 90 charges of financial fraud for which he faces life without parole?” Harpootlian asked another state agent.
READ MORE: Alex Murdaugh’s crime saga timeline: Murder, fraud, death and betrayal
Prosecutors objected and the judge sustained it, meaning jurors are supposed to ignore the question. But it was already out there.
Prosecutors ended their questioning of Rudofski by asking him to identify a few other items agents pulled off Maggie Murdaugh’s iPhone.
The first was a recent picture of her and her sister in evening dresses. The second was a photo of her and her two sons — the first one introduced in the trial that didn’t also include Alex Murdaugh.
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