Alex Murdaugh Verdict: Lawyer Guilty of Killing Wife and Son

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By Kayla Epstein in Walterboro, South Carolina & Jude Sheerin in Washington, BBC News.

A disgraced South Carolina lawyer has been found guilty of murdering his wife and son to distract from his multi-million dollar financial crimes.

The jury deliberated for less than three hours before finding Alex Murdaugh, 54, guilty of two counts of murder at the end of a six-week trial.

He faces 30 years to life in prison without parole for each murder charge.

Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were shot at close range near the dog kennels on their family estate known as Moselle on 7 June 2021.

Alex Murdaugh stood impassively as he learned his fate during Thursday evening’s hearing in Walterboro.

Alex Murdaugh (right) murdered his wife, Maggie, and his youngest son Paul

He had pleaded not guilty to killing his wife and youngest son in an attempt to conceal years of financial fraud, which he himself had acknowledged in court, forcefully insisting he would “never” harm his family.

After the verdict dozens of spectators gathered outside the back of the court where officers ushered him quickly into a black van.

Reporters shouted questions, though Murdaugh remained silent. As police tucked him inside the vehicle, one man behind the media line shouted that he was praying for him.

The prosecution’s case against Murdaugh was based entirely on circumstantial evidence. No direct evidence – things like a murder weapon, blood on his clothing or an eyewitness – was presented at trial.

But the prosecution focused on an incriminating Snapchat video taken by Murdaugh’s son just before the murders.

For 20 months after their murders, Alex Murdaugh told law enforcement repeatedly he had not been at the dog kennels at all that evening, and was at home napping.

But in the Snapchat video filmed by Paul just minutes before the shootings took place, the defendant’s voice could be heard in the background.

On the stand at trial, Murdaugh admitted he had lied, saying his years-long addiction to painkillers had put him in a paranoid state.

Early on in the proceedings, Judge Clifton Newman ruled that prosecutors could bring in evidence of Murdaugh’s alleged financial misdeeds.

Investigators say he stole millions from clients and colleagues, including $3.7m (£3m) in 2019 alone. And at trial, Murdaugh admitted to wide-scale theft.

Prosecutors argued that these crimes drove him to murder – that he thought the deaths of Maggie and Paul would gain him sympathy and stave off a reckoning over his theft of millions of dollars.

Murdaugh and his defence team had argued in court that this theory was ludicrous and financial problems would never have led him to murder.

Several witnesses testified that on the night of the murders Alex Murdaugh had asked Maggie, who had been at the family’s other property in nearby Edisto Beach, to return to Moselle.

Maggie much preferred Edisto to Moselle and hadn’t planned on leaving, her sister Marion Proctor told the court. But Murdaugh’s elderly father was dying, and so Mrs Proctor encouraged her to support him.

Alex Murdaugh and his two sons were fond of hunting, and Moselle was home to a collection of guns.

Prosecutors alleged that Murdaugh had used one of these – a .300 Blackout assault-style rifle – to kill Maggie, and another weapon to kill Paul.

Police l were unable to find either firearm and Prosecution could not produce them at trial.