Alex Murdaugh’s lone surviving son Buster – who is on the witness list to potentially testify against his father – witnessed father Alex sobbing during the opening statements Wednesday
The disgraced South Carolina attorney, 54, is accused of shooting his wife, Maggie, 52, and younger son Paul, 22, at their sprawling hunting property in Islandton, a rural corner of South Carolina’s Lowcountry, on the night of June 7, 2021.
Buster, 26, is among those expected to testify against the legal scion, as well as Murdaugh’s own brothers, John Marvin and Randy Murdaugh.
He sat still and silently behind his father in the Colleton County Courthouse during the opening remarks in his first public appearance during his father’s legal proceedings.
Alex Murdaugh’s lone surviving son Buster (circled, pictured center-right) – who is on the witness list to potentially testify against his father – witnessed father Alex sobbing during the opening statements Wednesday
Murdaugh angrily rejected the suggestion that he is ‘supporting his father,’ DailyMail.com revealed in November.
Buster has remained tight lipped as his once illustrious family’s fortunes have publicly spiraled since his mother and brother were gunned down at the family’s former hunting estate of Moselle, Islandton, on June 7, 2021.
But when approached by DailyMail.com at the home he shares with long-term girlfriend Brooklyn White, also 26, in South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island, this week Murdaugh’s sole surviving heir gave the first glimpse into his mindset.
Responding emotionally to DailyMail.com’s enquiry, ‘Presumably you’re supporting your father?’ he replied, ‘You have no right to presume anything.’
And he was adamant as he said, ‘I don’t want to see it written anywhere that I’m supporting my father.’
Asked if he wished to make any other statement regarding his father’s innocence or guilt he said simply, ‘I have no interest in saying anything. I have no comment,’ before politely returning indoors.
Prosecutor Creighton Waters told jurors how Murdaugh first blasted his son with buckshot before picking up an AR-15-style rifle to shoot his wife Maggie twice in the head. ‘It was a family weapon that killed Maggie Murdaugh,’ Waters said.
Buster, 26, is among those expected to testify against the legal scion, as well as Murdaugh’s own brothers, John Marvin and Randy Murdaugh
He sat still and silently behind his father in the Colleton County Courthouse during the opening remarks in his first public appearance during his father’s legal proceedings
Buster has remained tight lipped as his once illustrious family’s fortunes have publicly spiraled since his mother and brother were gunned down at the family’s former hunting estate of Moselle, Islandton, on June 7, 2021
When approached by DailyMail.com at the home he shares with long-term girlfriend Brooklyn White, also 26, in South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island, Murdaugh’s sole surviving heir gave the first glimpse into his mindset
Alex Murdaugh, 52, is accused of murdering his wife Maggie and son Paul last June at the family’s home. He denies the killings
Only Buster (right) remains alive and free while his mother and brother are dead, and father is in prison
Buster angrily rejected the suggestion that he is supporting his father when questioned by DailyMail.com, and said, ‘I don’t want to see it written anywhere that I’m supporting my father’
Buster was seen walking his two dogs – golden retriever, Miller, and a black Labrador
Buster is currently living in a modest $180,000 condo on Hilton Head Island with his longtime girlfriend, Brooklyn White
He cited evidence from gunshot residue found on a raincoat that was discovered at Murdaugh’s mother’s home following the killings. He also said gunshot residue was discovered on the seat belt of his car.
But Murdaugh’s defense lawyer Dick Harpootlian said it was ‘not believable’ that he could have ‘butchered’ his son and ‘executed’ his wife so callously, describing him as a ‘loving’ father and husband.
Murdaugh appeared inconsolable as his lawyer Dick Harpootlian described how he arrived home to ‘find his son lying in his own blood with his brains lying at his feet – shot to hell.’ Harpootlian said Paul’s ‘head literally exploded’.
Murdaugh, who was indicted by a grand jury in July, denies two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon in connection with the deaths of his wife and son.
The trial is taking place at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, a sleepy, rural town 50 miles west of Charleston in a low-lying region of South Carolina over which the Murdaugh family has wielded immense judicial and political power.
Murdaugh, center, and his legal team stands as Judge Clifton Newsman enters the courtroom for double murder trial
Murdaugh holds a tissue as he speaks to his attorney Jim Griffin
Alex Murdaugh pictured with his wife Maggie and their two sons Paul (left) and Buster
Indeed, in the courtroom where Murdaugh faces judgment a portrait of his late grandfather – legendary longtime 14th Circuit Solicitor Buster Murdaugh Jr. – had hung on the wall before it was removed ahead of the trial.
Prosecutor Waters described how Murdaugh shot Paul in the feed room of their hunting property at around 8.50pm – first with buckshot in the chest and shoulder, then a second shot to head, causing catastrophic damage.
He said moments later Murdaugh picked up an AR-15 style rifle loaded with with .300 Blackout ammunition, shot his wife Maggie twice in the lower body, then twice in the head, killing her.
Waters added that the victims never saw it coming.
‘They were shot at close range and they did not have defensive wounds,’ Waters told jurors.
Murdaugh claims he was not there and at the family’s dog kennels when the murders happened.
But Waters said data from ‘cell phones are going to show otherwise.’
The prosecutor stressed that phone records will be critical in the case and the jury will hear that the Murdaughs were ‘prolific’ cell phone users.
Waters added that bodycam footage and audio records of statements from the night of the murders will play a key role in the trial.
‘Watch those closely. Watch his expressions. Listen to what he’s saying and what he’s not saying,’ the prosecutor said.
Waters said Maggie was killed by a ‘family weapon’. He cited evidence from a ballistics expert who said .300 Blackout casings found throughout the property have matching tool mark patterns. The prosecutor said that a Blackout rifle owned by the family has never been located.
Waters added that a raincoat with gunshot residue was found at Murdaugh’s mother’s home following the killings. He also said the residue was discovered on the seat belt of his car.
Waters concluded the opening by telling jurors they were assessing a complicated case and there would be a long trial ahead, but that once the ‘puzzle pieces’ start coming together – the ‘building storm’ will lead them to the inescapable conclusion that Murdaugh killed his wife and son.
‘(Alex) was the storm, the storm was coming for them, just like the storms are coming here right now, and the storm arrived on June 7, 2021. They died as a result,’ the prosecutor said.
In his defense, Harpootlian said that Murdaugh’s son Paul was the ‘apple of his eye’ and dismissed the prosecutor’s claims as conjecture.
Alex Murdaugh tears up after the jury was excused and the defense and prosecution teams discuss how to handle sensitive crime scene photos during his double murder trial
Alex Murdaugh talks with his lawyer Dick Harpootlian during his double murder trial
Murdaugh is seen arriving at Colleton County courthouse in Walterboro
Alex Murdaugh appeared upbeat Wednesday as he arrived flanked by sheriffs on day three of his double-murder trial over the execution-style killings of his wife and son at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina
Murdaugh was seen getting out of a black sheriffs van at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro
He described a Snapchat video taken by Paul an hour before the killings showing the father and son.
‘They’re laughing, they’re having a good time,’ Harpootlian said.
Harpootlian said the shot that hit Paul in chest also struck his arm, indicating that he may have been holding his arms up when he was killed.
Harpootlian said that prosecutors were merely speculating when they said there were no defensive wounds.
He described how ‘the gasses from that [second] shot literally exploded his head, like a watermelon hit with a sledgehammer.’
‘All that was left was the front of his face, everything else was gone. His brain exploded out of his head. It hit the ceiling in the shed and dropped to his feet. Horrific. Horrible. Butchering,’ Harpootlian said.
The courtroom where Murdaugh faces judgment a portrait of his late grandfather – legendary longtime 14th Circuit Solicitor Buster Murdaugh Jr. – had hung on the wall before it was removed ahead of the trial.
‘So to find Alex Murdaugh guilty of murdering his son you have to accept that within an hour of having an extraordinarily bonding… you can see it in the Snapchat – that he executes him in a brutal fashion. Not believable.’
He then went on to describe how there were no defensive wounds on Maggie because she was shot while running away – contrary to the prosecutor’s claims she was caught unawares when she was killed.
‘Who was Maggie running from?’, Harpootlian asked.
The defense lawyer said his client was hysterical and inconsolable when he called 911 after finding Maggie and Paul.
Harpootlian said Murdaugh was so ‘traumatized’ after finding the pair that he loaded wrong-sized shells into a shotgun while fearing their killer was still ‘out there.’
He argued it was implausible that Murdaugh used two weapons to kill Maggie and Paul, saying it as much more likely the murders were carried out by two people.
Harpootlian also questioned why no bloody clothes had been found, giving the gruesome way and close-range nature of the shootings.
‘Where are the bloody clothes?’ he asked.
Harpootlian concluded: ‘He didn’t do it.’
Following the opening statements by both legal teams, Judge Clifton Newman adjourned the case to 9.30am Thursday when jurors will see body-worn camera video.
Murdaugh is being tried by a jury of four white men, six white women and two black women.
Deciding against the death penalty, state prosecutors are seeking a sentence of life in prison without parole.
THE KILLINGS AND EVIDENCE
Murdaugh, 54, told police he found Maggie, 52, and their son, Paul, 22, dead outside their Colleton County home on June 7, 2021. He said he’d been gone for an hour to visit his ailing father and mother.
Authorities released little information about the killings beyond saying that Maggie Murdaugh was killed with a rifle and Paul Murdaugh with a shotgun.
Prosecutors have not detailed direct evidence linking Murdaugh to the deaths. So far, they have filed no confession or witness statements about the killings with the court and there is no evidence that either gun has been found.
Video from Paul Murdaugh’s phone timestamped not long before the killings shows the three talking without indication of anger. Alex Murdaugh’s lawyers said he has never denied being at his home.
There is DNA from the victims on Alex Murdaugh’s shirt, but his defense said that came from checking for signs of life when he found their bodies.
The defense and prosecution are fighting over whether to allow an expert to testify that the blood splattered onto Murdaugh´s shirt when his son was shot. Defense lawyers contend the expert testing the shirt is lying and destroyed it before the defense could conduct its own tests.
Prosecutors are expected to rely heavily on evidence of Murdaugh’s financial problems, which they said led him to kill to garner sympathy and buy time as he covered up his theft of clients’ settlement money and other crimes.
Murdaugh’s attorneys contend it is absurd to say Murdaugh would have thought his wife and son dying violently would reduce scrutiny into his finances.
A jury of 12, and six alternates, has been selected and sworn in for the Murdaugh trial. Jury consists of four white men, six white women, two Black women.
Prosecutors have said Murdaugh killed his wife and child to generate sympathy and distract from his financial crimes, an alleged motive that Murdaugh’s lawyers have argued doesn’t make sense.
But he has adamantly insisted from the moment he found the bodies of his wife and youngest son shot multiple times that he was not the killer.
Following the murder trial, Murdaugh will have to face more than 100 additional criminal charges, ranging from drug trafficking to allegations that he stole nearly $9 million from clients and other attorneys.
Prosecutors say Murdaugh lured his wife and son to their 1,700-acre hunting lodge and shot them dead.
The court also claims that his life was spiraling out of control amid years of opioid addiction and ballooning debts.
Murdaugh pleaded not guilty in June, and the blockbuster trial is expected to include wild allegations of dark family secrets, financial ruin and hedonistic excess.
Among those expected to testify against the legal scion are Murdaugh’s own brothers, John Marvin and Randy Murdaugh, as well as his surviving son Buster.
Murdaugh allegedly called John Marvin the night of the murders, and used that call as part of his alibi.
Curtis Smith, who is accused of helping Murdaugh in a twisted assisted suicide scheme is also expected to take the stand, as well as members of his wife’s family.
In total, over 220 people could testify against Murdaugh in the trial, it was revealed Tuesday.
From 1920 to 2006, members of the family served as the leading prosecutor for a five-county district including Colleton. Prior to his recent troubles, Murdaugh was a prominent personal injury attorney in the state.
Ahead of a second-day of jury selection on Tuesday, Murdaugh’s lawyers filed a slew of motions seeking to bar the testimony of an expert witness who claims the defendant was standing near his wife and son when they were brutally murdered.
Tom Bevel is set to testify that blood stains on Murdaugh’s t-shirt taken into evidence by agents from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division on the night of the murders show he was clearly in close proximity to them when they were killed.
But Murdaugh’s lawyers claimed Bevel’s findings were ‘unreliable.’
The defense attorneys argued in court documents obtained by WCNC that ‘Bevel’s methodology in reaching his conclusions, and the substance of those conclusions are not reliable.
Murdaugh, right, pleaded not guilty to the murders of Maggie, second from left, and Paul, second from right, in June — but now his surviving son, Buster, left, is expected to testify against him
The murder charges are only two of about 100 criminal counts Murdaugh faces. He also is on trial on two counts of possession of a weapon during a violent crime.
Still hanging over his head are a broad range of dozens of state charges. They include stealing millions of dollars from clients, diverting a wrongful death settlement from the family of his longtime maid to himself, running a drug and money laundering ring, evading taxes and committing fraud from what police said was an attempt to have someone kill him so his surviving son could collect a $10 million life insurance policy.
Murdaugh also faces a number of civil suits from former clients and a 2019 boat crash that killed a teen. Police said Paul Murdaugh was driving the boat while grossly intoxicated and he faced criminal charges when the teen died. The family of the teen was aggressively trying to get information about Murdaugh family finances at the time of the 2021 killings.
‘Moreover, Bevel’s blood splatter opinion testimony directly contradicts the state’s scientific forensic serology and DNA testing, which failed to detect human blood anywhere on Murdaugh’s shirt and failed to detect Paul’s DNA.’
Defense attorneys, Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian, had previously argued that any blood on the shirt was transferred when Murdaugh found the bodies and ‘frantically checked them for signs of life.’
Murdaugh’s attorneys accused SLED of ‘badgering’ Bevel into changing his report.
The T-shirt was later destroyed ‘for purposes of forensics testing by the unnecessary application of an oxidizing chemical stain,’ the court filing states.
A second motion also seeks to exclude blood splatter testimony of Orangeburg County Deputy Chief Kenneth Kinsey, a former SLED agent and a forensics expert, who defense attorneys say based his testimony off Bevel’s findings.
And a third motion seeks to limit or preclude firearm ballistic testimony by forensic expert Paul Greer, calling into question his methodology.
But Judge Newman found on Tuesday that the evidence Greer will present ‘will assist the jury in its decision.’
He said the underlying science is reliable, and defense attorneys could bring up their questions about the value of ballistics testing in cross-examination.
He was seen smiling as he arrived in court Tuesday for the second day of jury selection.
Video posted online showed the once-powerful South Carolina attorney being escorted out of a black police van in front of the Colleton County Courthouse Tuesday morning, nodding to the press at the scene.
A crime scene photo showing what appears to be blood droplets on the floor, a mannequin and an evidence marker in the feed room where Paul was fatally shot
Several views of the crime scene where Paul had been shot were in the court filings
The 22-year-old was shot in the feed room connected to the Moselle properties dog kennels, while his mother was shot five times, including in the back of the head, with a semiautomatic rifle – the pair dying just 30 yards from one another
The Murdaugh name is well-known in judicial circles in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Alex Murdaugh worked for the family law firm that had been in business in tiny neighboring Hampton County for a century, winning a number of multimillion-dollar settlements for fatal accidents and workplace injuries.
Murdaugh´s father, grandfather and great-grandfather were the elected prosecutors for 87 years straight in Colleton, Hampton and three other counties.
Typically, a portrait of Murdaugh’s father hangs in the Colleton County Courthouse. Judge Clifton Newman ruled that it be removed for his son’s trial.
But the once-powerful lawyer seemed more anxious as the hearings went on, visibly chewing on the end of a pen.
The 12-member jury will hear all of the evidence presented against the once-prominent lawyer, after authorities took over a year investigating the mysterious deaths to charge Murdaugh in connection with the crimes.
More than 900 potential jurors were sent detailed questionnaires to determine if they were eligible to sit for this case.
When asked if they had heard of the case, all potential jurors confirmed that they had, with several being excused because they had ‘formed opinions which cannot be changed’.
Last week prosecutors claimed that a Snapchat video was ‘critical to the case’, with Paul sending the footage shortly before 8pm on the night he died.
Investigators believe he and his mother died between 9pm and 9:30pm, and are seeking permission to call a Snapchat executive to testify as to the veracity of the video.
Creighton Waters, senior assistant deputy attorney general said: ‘Amongst other things, critical to the case is a video sent out to several friends at approximately 7:56p.m. on the night of the murders.
Alex Murdaugh (center) is accused of killing his wife Maggie, 52, (right) and son Paul Murdaugh, 22, (left) in 2021
‘The contents of this video is important to proving the State’s case in chief.’
The order was approved, with prosecutors not revealing what was in the Snapchat video during the hearing.
The move came as Kinsey described Paul’s horrific wounds, explaining he was shot twice — with a second bullet entering the left shoulder into his neck and brain.
Kinsey said his ‘brain was completely detached from head’, adding that the 22-year-old was first struck in the chest as he stood in the feed room.
The room was connected to the Moselle properties dog kennels, while his mother was shot five times, including in the back of the head, with a semiautomatic rifle.
TIMELINE OF MURDAUGH FAMILY MURDERS, DEATHS, LAWSUITS AND ARRESTS
Police investigating the double murder of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh have also reopened the case into a 2015 hit-and-run of teen Stephen Smith
July 8, 2015: Teenager Stephen Smith dies
Smith was found on the side of the road.
Police officially rule his death a hit-and-run but he had suffered blunt force trauma to the head.
His mother has since shared her belief that she thinks he was killed in a hate-crime because he was gay.
Case notes obtained by DailyMail.com revealed Paul’s older brother Buster was named multiple times in the investigation.
Police wanted to know more about his relationship with Stephen.
Stephen’s mother said he had been having a ‘fling’.
In a deposition years later, one of Paul’s friends said the family had ‘covered’ other killings up.
He mentioned Smith’s death.
February 2, 2018: Murdaugh family housekeeper Gloria Satterfield dies
Murdaugh family housekeeper Gloria Sattlerfield dies
Gloria died after ‘falling’ down the stairs in the family house
The family gave her family $500,000 in a wrongful death settlement but it’s unclear why her death was ruled to be their fault.
Alex Murdaugh was listed as the defendant in the lawsuit.
Satterfield was only 57 when she died.
She left behind a husband and children.
Her death was also mentioned in the deposition by Paul Murdaugh’s friend.
February 23, 2019: Mallory Beach dies being thrown from boat driven by Paul Murdaugh
Mallory Beach, 19, died in February 2019
Paul was charged afterwards because he’d been drinking and was behaving ‘belligerently’ that night.
He had been released on bond.
One of the six teens on board testified that they were scared to speak about the Murdaugh family because they knew how to ‘cover things up’.
The boy named Stephen Smith and the housekeeper, and claimed Paul pushed Beach from the boat.
June 7, 2021: Paul and Maggie are murdered
The mother and son were found shot dead at the family home in Islandton, South Carolina.
Alex Murdaugh says he found them at the home.
The medical examiner said the pair had been dead for an hour at most when he discovered them.
It was later revealed Alex waited an hour to call 911 about their deaths.
Alex’s son Paul, 22, (left) and wife Maggie, 52, (right) were found dead from multiple gunshot wounds on June 7 at the family hunting lodge
Alex’s father Randolph Murdaugh III died ‘peacefully’ at home three days after Maggie and Paul were found shot dead
June 10, 2021: Alex’s 81-year-old father Randolph Murdaugh III dies ‘naturally’ and ‘peacefully’ at home
Alex Murdaugh’s alibi for the night of his wife and son’s murder was that he was visiting his ailing father in the hospital.
The father died just three days later, following a battle with cancer.
September 3, 2021: Alex resigns from his law firm amid claims he misused funds
The firm has hired a forensic investigator to go through the accounts.
September 4, 2021: Alex calls 911 claiming he’s been shot in the head in a drive-by
He only had ‘surface’ wounds and was also able to call his brother.
September 6, 2021: Alex resigns from law firm
In a statement he says: ‘I’m resigning from my law firm and entering rehab after a long battle that has been exacerbated these murders.’
September 14, 2021: Police arrest alleged hitman in Alex’s shooting
Police said Alex Murdaugh orchestrated his own shooting in a botched assisted suicide scheme, designed so his surviving son can collect a $10 million life insurance payment.
Curtis Edward Smith, 61, was arrested on charges of assisted suicide, assault and battery, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.
Smith, from Walterboro, South Carolina, is a former client of Murdaugh, who represented him in minor traffic matters as well as a 2015 lawsuit that Smith filed against a forest management company.
According to police, Murdaugh paid him to shoot him in the head and kill him, making it look like a random, drive-by attack.
September 15, 2021: Police open criminal investigation into Satterfield’s 2018 death
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced it is investigating the 2018 death of Gloria Satterfield and the subsequent handling of her estate.
Satterfield, 57, had been the Murdaugh housekeeper and nanny for around 25 years when she suffered a fatal brain injury following a mystery fall inside the Murdaugh family home.
She died several weeks later on February 26, 2018.
SLED said that hit had opened a criminal investigation inter Satterfield’s death based on a request from the Hampton County Coroner, as well as ‘information gathered during the course of our other ongoing investigations involving Alex Murdaugh.’
September 16, 2021: Alex turns himself into police over insurance fraud scheme
Murdaugh handed himself over to police in connection to the insurance fraud scheme, where he arranged his own killing so that his surviving son could collect $10 million payout.
He faces charges of insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and filing a false police report.
November 29, 2021: Murdaugh faces 27 new counts after an indictment for an alleged $4.8 million in financial crimes
Murdaugh was indicted on 27 additional charges, with prosecutors saying he stole nearly $5million in settlement money he had obtained for his dead housekeeper, an injured state trooper and other people, as well as fees meant for his law firm.
December 6, 2021: Satterfield’s family sues Bank of America for allowing Murdaugh to stash life insurance money meant for them
The bank was added as a defendant in the lawsuit against Murdaugh, who is accused of bilking the sons of Gloria Ann Satterfield out of life insurance money after the housekeeper’s mysterious death.
Statterfield’s sons say the bank looked the other way when it allowed Murdaugh to set up a fake account and transfer the insurance payouts to himself and a cousin.
June 28, 2022: Alex Murdaugh and Curtis Smith are charged with drug trafficking
Murdaugh is accused of writing 437 checks worth $2.4 million that Curtis Smith – the man he hired to murder him – cashed over eight years, until September 2021.
Smith kept some of the money for himself and used the rest for wide-ranging illegal activities, according to indictments unsealed on June 28.
That illegal activity included a ‘distribution network’ for the painkiller oxycodone, according to prosecutors.
Both men were charged with possessing, manufacturing or distributing narcotics.
Russell Lafitte, the former Palmetto State Bank CEO, is charged with bank fraud, wire fraud and misapplication of bank funds for allegedly helping Murdaugh steal money from his client’s settlements
July 21, 2022: Palmetto State Bank CEO is charged with bank fraud for ‘helping Murdaugh steal money from his clients’
A federal grand jury indicted Russell Lafitte, the former Palmetto State Bank CEO, for allegedly conspiring with Murdaugh to steal $8.5 million from his client’s settlements.
He is charged with bank fraud, wire fraud and misapplication of bank funds.
November 8, 2022: Lafitte faces federal trial
Lafitte’s federal trial on the bank fraud charges began November 8.
The Associated Press reported that defense lawyers, Bart Daniel and Matt Austin, argue Murdaugh manipulated people and lied to Lafitte.
They say he was just a pawn following Murdaugh’s instructions and didn’t willfully participate in the alleged fraud.