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


WALTERBORO, South Carolina — Once-powerful and now disbarred South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to the murder of his wife and son 13 months ago.

Prosecutors agreed to keep the evidence secret amid media attention. His defense said Murdaugh could not afford to post bail and wanted a speedy trial because “he believes the killer(s) are still at large”.

The prosecution said all evidence showed he was responsible for the fatal shooting.

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

“Our answer to that is that he is wrong. And that’s why a jury will sit in this jury box,” defense attorney Dick Harpootlian said.

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. .

Murdaugh, 54, was charged last week with two counts of murder and two counts of possessing a weapon in a violent crime.

The indictment was not read in court on Wednesday, and court documents released to date do not indicate how police linked Murdaugh to the deaths after 13 months of investigation. Nor do they contain any clues as to why a man who had no criminal history and was part of a wealthy, well-connected family that dominated the small-town Hampton legal community might have wanted 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. The indictments add a new detail: an allegation that Murdaugh killed his wife with a gun and his son with a shotgun.

“It was abundantly clear from day one that law enforcement and the Attorney General prematurely concluded that Alex was responsible for the murder of his wife and son,” the defense wrote ahead of Wednesday’s hearing. “But we know that Alex had no motive whatsoever to murder them.

Circuit Judge Clifton Newman presided. He also 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.

ABC News

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