By Beth Hemphill, Court TV
The defense has begun their case-in-chief in disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh’s double murder trial, while unanswered questions linger from the prosecution.
Murdaugh, 54, adamantly denies any involvement in the violent deaths of his wife, Maggie, 52, and their 22-year-old son, Paul, who prosecutors allege Alex killed with two different guns a little before 9 p.m. on June 7, 2021.
The final witness for the State, Special Agent Peter Rudofski, went line by line through an 88-page forensic timeline with Creighton Waters, detailing significant findings before and after the murders occurred.
FIVE DAYS EARLIER
- Alex Murdaugh texts Russell L. Laffitte, the former Palmetto State Bank CEO, who was later convicted of helping Murdaugh steal money from clients. Alex’s texts read, “I need to extend farm credit line another 600k. My dad will sign also if needed. How much turnaround will that take?”
THE DAY BEFORE
- Paul sends a text to his dad, Alex: “I am still in EB (Edisto Beach) because when you get here we have to talk. Mom found several bags of pills in your computer bag.”
- Maggie searches Safari on her phone for ‘white pill 30 on one side rp,’ a type of Oxycodone pill. The search history was found to be deleted from her phone.
THE NIGHT OF
6:42 p.m. Alex arrives back at his Moselle home from his law firm
7:04 p.m.Paul cell phone also puts him at the family’s Moselle home
7:39 p.m.Paul records the Snapchat video of Alex by the tree in Kahki shorts and button down blue collared shirt
8:17 p.m. Maggie arrives at the main house, where both Paul and Alex are located
8:31 p.m.Alex and Maggie receive a group message from John Marvin Murdaugh about Alex’s father, who’s in the hospital and who’s health is declining.
- Alex doesn’t read until 6/8/2021 at 1:44 p.m. Maggie’s phone unlocks for the notification at 8:49 p.m.
8:44 p.m. Paul makes a video call to Rogan Gibson about his dog, who is being boarded at their kennels.
- Rogan, and other witnesses, testify to hearing Paul, Maggie and Alex’s voices on that call.
8:49 p.m. Paul’s phone locks for the last time until the phone dies at 10:34 p.m.
8:49 p.m. Maggie’s phone is unlocked and the group message from earlier is read, then her phone is locked.
- Rudofski created a pace spreadsheet using cell phone data to track the length of time their phones detected movement, and how many steps they believe were taken.
8:32 p.m. -8:42 p.m. Paul’s last steps
8:53 p.m. -8:55 p.m. Maggie’s last steps
- No steps are logged for Alex during the time prosecutors say Paul and Maggie were killed. Then, at 9:02 p.m., Alex logs 283 in four minutes, which prosecutors say indicate he was running.
8:49 p.m. Rogan Gibson sends an unread message to “Paul Murdaugh” stating, “See if you can get a good picture of it. MaryAnn wants to send it to a girl we know that’s a vet. Tell him to sit and stay and he shouldn’t move around to much.”
8:53 p.m. – 8:55 p.m. After locking at 8:49 p.m., Maggie’s phone starts to move again while locked — 59 steps and has multiple orientation changes, which indicates to investigators someone has the phone.
- Shortly after 9:00 p.m., Alex starts making a bunch of calls, starting first with Maggie. He calls her three times, and makes one call to Randolph Murdaugh.
9:07 p.m. Alex leaves in his Chevy Suburban en route to Almeda
9:08 p.m. Alex texts Maggie, “Going to check on EM be rite back.”
- Prosecutors believe this is when Alex throws Maggie’s cell phone out the window while on his way to Almeda. While driving 42 mph, Alex’s car passed the spot where Maggie’s cell phone was retrieved the following day. He quickly sped up, reaching speeds of 70 and 80 mph, which was deemed unusual because the rural roads were twisty and dangerous, especially in the dark.
- Alex then calls the following people while driving to his ailing mother’s home (in chronological order): Buster Murdaugh, Chris Wilson, and Johnn Marvin Murdaugh. Chris Wilson, who calls him back, and CB Rowe, who’s phone pinged in the Augusta area.
9:22 p.m. Alex arrives at his mom’s home
9:24 p.m. Alex calls Libby Murdaugh
9:43 p.m. Alex leaves Almeda to head back home
9:47 p.m. Alex texts Maggie, “Call me babe”
9:52 p.m. Alex texts Chris Wilson, “Call me if u up”
9:52 p.m. Alex takes a call from Chris Wilson
10:00 p.m. Alex Murdaugh returns to his home on Moselle Rd.
10:03 p.m. Alex calls Maggie Murdaugh
10:05 p.m. Alex arrives at the kennels in his Chevy Suburban
10:06 p.m. Alex calls 911
Investigators were not solely focused on Alex, Paul and Maggie. Cell phone data was also noted on Claude “CB” Rowe, Rogan Gibson, Buster Murdaugh, and Nolen Tuten.
Another unusual finding was said to have occurred at 10:40 p.m. after first responders arrived. Alex Murdaugh phone records showed a search in a Safari browser of “Whaley’s Edisto,” a self-described seafood dive restaurant.
This is yet another puzzling piece of evidence that prosecutors have not yet explained. Other examples include a receipt from Maggie Murdaugh for a $1,021 Gucci item, hair found in Maggie’s hands, a mysterious cooler and flip flop footprints left near the kennels.
It could be that there is no explanation for these curious findings, or the prosecution is waiting until closing arguments to tie everything together.