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Alex Murdaugh double murder trial begins again after bomb threat evacuates courtroom on day 11


Jurors and alternates – though one less than usual due to an illness – returned to the Colleton County Courthouse on Wednesday morning as prosecutors continued to present the state’s case against disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh over the brutal double murder of his wife and son at the family’s hunting lodge in early June 2021.

During a Monday pretrial hearing, Judge Clifton Newman dealt the defense a substantial setback, ruling that various financial crimes by the defendant are “so intimately connected” to the state’s theory of the case that proof of them “is essential to complete the story.”

The 54-year-old disgraced legal scion – disbarred as the murder allegations and those 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.

The pretrial decision on those financial crimes – some admitted, some alleged – capped a nearly week-long series of hearings away from jurors’ ears. In the end, the court said those crimes could be mentioned by prosecutors in order to show motive. On Tuesday, jurors heard some financial crimes evidence from the former chief financial officer of the now-defunct Murdaugh family law firm.

As the day ended on Tuesday, the state was back to more direct evidence, calling on South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Trace Evidence Analyst Megan Fletcher. The state’s scientist testified that she and another forensics expert, former SLED employee Jamie Hall, found several instances of gunshot residue, or GSR, on various pieces of evidence connected to the defendant.

The forensic expert testified a “significant amount” of GSR was found on a blue, poncho-like raincoat recovered in September from the home of Alex Murdaugh’s mother in Hampton County, S.C.

Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters presaged the blue poncho evidence in the state’s opening statement, saying a witness told police they saw the defendant going upstairs to his mother’s home about a week after the slayings with something that looked like a blue tarp.

On Wednesday, defense attorney Jim Griffin will begin the defense’s cross-examination of Fletcher.

Hours into the proceedings, however, a bomb threat paused the trial as the Colleton County Courthouse had to be evacuated.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division addressed the incident in a statement posted on the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

“A bomb threat was received by Colleton County courthouse personnel,” the statement reads. “The building has been evacuated, and SLED, along with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the threat. No additional information is available from SLED at this time.”

Courthouse officials began allowing people back into the courthouse just before 2:30 p.m. EST. The judge quickly got the trial back on track after everyone was seated.

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.

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