Alex Murdaugh pleads not guilty to the murder of his wife and son


WALTERBORO, SC (AP) — Alex Murdaugh, a once powerful and now disbarred South Carolina attorney, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of murdering his wife and son 13 months ago, one of his attorneys of the defense calling for a speedy trial to erase his name and incite the authorities to “target the real killers”.

Wearing a white mask under his shaved head and anklets over shiny leather shoes, Murdaugh, 54, made his first appearance in Colleton County Court since being charged in the murder case the week last. Despite his plea of ​​not guilty, he agreed to remain in prison without bond.

One of his lawyers, Dick Harpootlian, said the defense team wanted to avoid a bail hearing that could reveal new information about the murders and risk prejudice to potential jurors when the case goes to trial. He also said Murdaugh, already on $7 million bail on unrelated criminal charges, could not afford to pay the money for his release pending trial.

Murdaugh has been behind bars since October, charged with financial crimes and several other wrongdoings uncovered after the murder of his wife Maggie, 52, and their 22-year-old son, Paul, at the family’s Colleton County hunting estate in June 2021. .

TIMELINE: Key dates in Murdaugh family investigations, charges

Harpootlian told a judge on Wednesday that Murdaugh wanted to stand trial within the next three to four months to show that South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division investigators targeted the wrong person.

“He thinks the killer(s) are still at large and that would allow SLED to put that behind them and get to the real killers,” Harpootlian said.

Attorney Creighton Waters, an assistant state attorney general, responded that trying the case by January or sooner would be “very aggressive.”

“The evidence in this case is substantial and it all goes back to Alex Murdaugh,” Waters said. “There is forensic and other evidence of his guilt in these murders.”

Circuit Judge Clifton Newman made no decision in court other than denying Murdaugh bail. He said he would release written orders later on the request for a speedy trial as well as a request for a gag order to bar lawyers and investigators in the case from speaking to the media.

SEE ALSO: Investigators can exhume body of housekeeper Alex Murdaugh who died in ‘trip and fall accident’

Murdaugh is charged with two counts of murder and two counts of possessing a weapon in a violent crime. The indictment alleges he killed his wife with a gun and used a shotgun to kill his son.

Authorities have released no evidence of how police linked Murdaugh to the deaths after 13 months of investigation. And Wednesday’s hearing offered no clue as to why a man who had no criminal history and was part of a wealthy, well-connected family that dominated the legal community in the small town of Hampton might have wanted to kill his own family members.

The authorities have been discreet since the start of the investigation. Last year, they released the late-night 911 call in which Murdaugh reported finding the bodies of his wife and son outside near the kennels at his estate. The coroner said both victims were shot multiple times.

Newman, the judge who presided over Murdaugh’s hearing on Wednesday, had previously denied Murdaugh bail on the financial crimes charges. Another judge then set bail at $7 million, but Murdaugh was unable to pay it and remained in jail. His lawyers repeatedly complained that the bond was too high and said that because of the lawsuits and frozen assets, Murdaugh could not even afford to buy underwear from the prison store.

If convicted of murder, Murdaugh faces 30 years to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Under state law, prosecutors could also choose to seek the death penalty because more than one person was killed.

The four new indictments related to the murders add to a pile of 80 other charges brought against Murdaugh by investigators who have examined every part of his life over the past year. No trial date has been set for any of the cases.

Prosecutors say the once-prominent lawyer stole more than $8 million in settlements and other funds from clients, committed fraud and lied to police while trying to stage his own death so his surviving son could collect a $10 million life insurance policy. Murdaugh was also accused last month of co-running a $2 million drug and money laundering ring.

The murder charges and other cases are being prosecuted by the South Carolina Attorney General’s office due to ties Murdaugh has with the local 14th Circuit District Attorney’s office. The bureau’s jurisdiction includes Colleton County and Hampton County, where Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather served as elected prosecutors for 87 consecutive years.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.



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