COLLETON COUNTY, SC – Disgraced South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh took the witness stand in his own defense Thursday and admitted he lied to investigators, but denied having shot his wife and son.
Murdaugh, 54, is on trial for murder in the deaths of his wife, 52-year-old Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, and his son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh. He called 911 on June 7, 2021, after he said he found the pair dead near a dog kennel at the family’s home, Moselle, in Colleton County. Maggie had been killed with a rifle and Paul with a shotgun, according to officials.
An often tearful and emotional Murdaugh recounted events for the jury: “I didn’t shoot my wife or my son any time, ever,” he said.
Murdaugh admitted that he lied to authorities about his whereabouts on the day of the murders, blaming his addiction to prescription painkillers and his distrust of state investigators. He said he had been in the kennel with his wife and son before they were shot and killed after previously denying being in the area.
“As my addiction evolved over time, I would get in these situations or circumstances where I would get paranoid thinking,” Murdaugh said Thursday, adding that he could usually take a deep breath and reason his way through it. “On June the 7th, I wasn’t thinking clearly. I don’t think I was capable of reason, and I lied about being down there. And I’m so sorry that I did.”
Crying, he described finding his family members dead.
“I am not sure exactly what I did,” he said. “I was on the phone with 911 and I was trying to tend to Paul Paul, I was trying to tend to Maggie and I just went back and forth between them. Paul he was so, he was so bad. At some point, I mean, I know I tried to check him for a pulse. I know I tried to turn him over. … You could see his brain laying on the sidewalk.”
Prosecutors have argued that he killed his wife and son for sympathy as he faced a slew of criminal charges and the family’s crumbling finances, The Associated Press and The Post and Courier reported. Defense attorneys argue that the state’s case is circumstantial and lacking in hard evidence connecting Murdaugh to the shootings.
The former attorney admitted Thursday to asking someone to shoot and kill him. He said he knew “all this was going to come to a head” and that it was going to be humiliating for his surviving son, Richard Alexander “Buster” Murdaugh Jr.
“At the time, in the place that I was, it seemed like the better thing to do,” he said.
Prosecutors have accused Murdaugh of attempting to arrange for someone to kill him to allow Buster Murdaugh to collect a $10 million life insurance policy. The elder Murdaugh said Thursday that he had a total of $12 million in life insurance for himself and that his wife had been the beneficiary.
Murdaugh also admitted to stealing from clients when he was working as an attorney, connecting it to his longtime addiction to painkillers. He is facing a host of criminal charges, including several counts of fraud related to allegations that he stole millions of dollars from his clients.
Jurors heard opening statements in the case against Murdaugh on Jan. 25. The trial was expected to last about three weeks.
The Murdaugh family has long been influential in southwest South Carolina, where members of the family have served as elected prosecutors for decades. Murdaugh previously served as a part-time prosecutor for the state’s five-county 14th Judicial Court. He also worked for a personal injury attorney at his family’s prominent law firm.