Jurors returned to the Colleton County Courthouse on Thursday morning after an eventful day before as prosecutors continued to present their case against attorney Alex Murdaugh over the double murder of his wife and son at the family’s hunting lodge in June 2021.
The 54-year-old disgraced legal scion – disbarred soon after the murder allegations and various alleged financial improprieties came to light – is accused of shooting and killing his wife, Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, and their youngest son Paul Murdaugh, 22.
After a two-hour delay due to an unsubstantiated bomb threat that evacuated the courthouse on Wednesday, a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division forensics agent briefly offered testimony that introduced information about the computer systems used by Alex Murdaugh’s SUV on the night of the slayings. Dwight Falkofske, an FBI electronics and automotive forensics expert, followed that testimony.
Jurors and alternates heard about several goings-on culled from the “infotainment” and OnStar modules removed by SLED agents from the defendant’s Chevy Suburban. Alex Murdaugh admittedly drove quite a bit on the night his family was killed – to and from his ailing mother’s house. It is unclear to what extent the various data will play in the eventual deliberations.
Law&Crime compiled the following timeline based on Wednesday’s testimony and prior state evidence from Maggie Murdaugh’s iPhone:
9:03:44 SUV door opens
9:04:23 missed called from Alex to Maggie
9:06:12 orientation change on Maggie’s phone
9:06:14 missed call from Alex to Maggie
9:06:49 SUV starts
9:06:50 SUV taken out of park
9:06:51 missed call Alex to Maggie
9:07 – 9:31 screen off of Maggie’s phone
9:08:51 Alex texts Maggie “going to check on M. Be right back”
9:22:45 SUV is put in park
Alex Murdaugh presumably spends 21 minutes at his mother’s home
9:43:05 SUV leaves off of park
9:43:59 SUV put into park
9:44:54 SUV out of park
9:45:32 missed call from Alex to Maggie
9:47:23 Alex text to Maggie “Call me babe”
10:00:36 SUV put in park
10:01:17 SUV out of park
10:01:29 SUV put in park
10:01:30 SUV out of park
10:01:43 SUV put in park
10:03:58 missed call from Alex to Maggie
10:04:44 – 10:04:47 SUV system powering down
10:04:49 SUV out of park
10:05:55 SUV put in park
10:11:45 SUV out of park
10:12:38 SUV put in park
10:13:39 SUV out of park
NOTE: Alex Murdaugh called 911 at least twice – at 10:06:14 and 10:06:18.
On Thursday morning, jurors first heard from Alex Murdaugh’s “best friend,” Bamberg, South Carolina-based attorney Chris Wilson. The state’s witness previously testified during a side hearing on financial crimes evidence against the defendant – outside of jurors’ ears – before such evidence was okayed by Judge Clifton Newman.
During his testimony, Wilson relayed a time the defendant unusually requested direct checks from a case the two had worked on together. Typically, he said, fees are first paid to the law firm and then distributed to attorneys. The witness said that request, in February 2021, did not “set off any red flags” at the time.
“Because he was your friend?” lead prosecutor Creighton Waters asked.
“He was,” Wilson replied.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Jim Griffin largely quizzed Wilson on how the defendant seemed on the night his family was murdered by two different kinds of guns. That testimony was largely in service of the defense’s overriding argument that Alex Murdaugh was a committed family man who had no reason to – and simply could not – murder Maggie and Paul Murdaugh in such a brutal fashion.
“Would you agree that Alex’s No. 1 priority seemed to be his family?” Griffin asked at one point.
“Yes, sir,” Wilson affirmed.
On the night in question, the defendant was “destroyed” the witness said later on, just before the court went to recess.
After lunch, jurors heard from Michael “Tony” Satterfield, the son of longtime Murdaugh family housekeeper Gloria Satterfield, who died under suspicious circumstances at Moselle, the family’s hunting lodge, in 2018. An inquiry into her death was later reopened by South Carolina law enforcement, in the aftermath of the June 2021 murders. The status of that investigation is unclear.
Gloria Satterfield’s death has been described as a “trip and fall accident.” After she passed away, after decades of working for the Murdaughs, Alex Murduagh sued himself in an effort to secure a lucrative payout, he said, for the woman’s surviving family. Instead, some $3.8 million was allegedly siphoned away by the defendant.
Tony Satterfield, son of Gloria Satterfield, on the stand telling the jury how #AlexMurdaugh stole the insurance money they were suppose to receive from their mother slipping/falling at Murdaugh’s home and eventually dying in the hospital. pic.twitter.com/L5PQ8KjdjF
— Cathy Russon (@cathyrusson) February 9, 2023
Tony Satterfield’s testimony was provided to jurors over an objection by defense attorney Dick Harpootlian, who raised an evergreen complaint that “this is a murder trial, not a financial fraud trial.”
Judge Newman overruled that objection. He said:
I find that this testimony is consistent with the state’s theory of the defendant being in a frantic state, seeking to avoid disclosure of these financial crimes and thefts. The court has granted the state’s motion to allow evidence of other crimes, and this is additional evidence that is close in point and time.
The defense later raised another objection – after it was revealed that a witness for the state, attorney Mark Tinsley, donated to the GoFundMe for a previous state witness, Mushelle “Shelley” Smith, the home health care aide who was looking after Alex Murdaugh’s mother on the night of the slayings.
Barber called it a case of first impression. Said the donation was public then marked anonymous. AG confirmed it was made by MT. Judge Newman “sounds like good fodder for cross examination.” @LawCrimeNetwork #AlexMurdaugh
— Angenette Levy (@Angenette5) February 9, 2023
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