Alex Murdaugh, a prominent South Carolina personal injury lawyer, was so desperate to “escape responsibility” for a series of financial crimes that he fatally shot his wife and son last year and tried to cover up the murders to gain sympathy and buy more. time, state prosecutors alleged Friday.
Chief prosecutor Creighton Waters laid out the state’s motive during a hearing ahead of a criminal trial scheduled for next month, when Murdaugh, 54, will face murder charges in the death of his wife Margaret, 52, and son Younger of the couple, Paul, 22. .
“I think when this case started, a lot of people assumed it was a murder case and then, with some white collar employees, [crime] running there,” Waters said. “But the reality is, as we did this extensive investigation, we realized that this was a white collar case that culminated in two murders.”
Waters said the state has evidence showing that from about 2011 through 2021, Murdaugh stole money from clients in “an unbroken chain of constant lies, misappropriation and theft.”
Since Murdaugh’s arrest last year in connection with an investigation into the loss of millions of dollars from a settlement involving the death of his longtime housekeeper, prosecutors have filed more than 80 financial charges against him, alleging who stole about $8.5 million from more than a dozen victims
His need for cash began when land deals in 2007 and 2008 were turned “upside down,” Waters said.
Then in 2019, Paul Murdaugh was involved in a boating accident that resulted in injuries and claimed the life of a 19-year-old passenger, Mallory Beach. His family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Murdaughs, the ship’s owners, and the convenience store chain that allegedly sold alcohol to underage occupants.
Waters said the plaintiffs hoped to obtain a “personal recovery” from Murdaugh, whose financial situation was becoming increasingly bleak.
Murdaugh was on “a hamster wheel of constantly having to borrow, win and steal just to keep kicking the can down the road and stay afloat,” Waters said. “An exhaustive hamster wheel. A slow burn that was getting hotter and hotter.”
State grand jury subpoenas were issued in the 2021 boating accident case, and at the time of the June 7 murders of Margaret and Paul Murdaugh, Paul Murdaugh was facing trial.
The bodies of the wife and son were discovered by Alex Murdaugh at the family’s hunting estate in rural Islandton, about 65 miles west of Charleston. Both had been fatally shot, police said.
Murdaugh’s lawyers have said he had an alibi on the night of the murders and was spending time with his mother, who has dementia, and her caretaker. Lawyers deny that he was involved in the deaths.
On the day of the murders, Murdaugh was already facing a “day of reckoning,” Waters said, because his law firm was asking questions about finances related to one of his cases.
But with the deaths of his wife and son, Murdaugh benefited because his law firm stopped their questioning and a hearing in the boat case was canceled, according to Waters.
Jim Griffin, one of Murdaugh’s attorneys, rejected the state’s plea during Friday’s pretrial hearing, questioning why he would “steer a financial investigation away from himself to avoid scrutiny” only to put himself “in the middle of a financial investigation.” murder”.
He added that the state had not indicated that it had evidence showing that Murdaugh would derive a financial windfall from the death of his wife and child, such as a life insurance payout, nor that they were aware of any alleged wrongdoing, which he tried to cover up with killing them.
Griffin added that Murdaugh’s father, Randolph Murdaugh III, a former prosecutor, was also seriously ill at the time, and Murdaugh would have already “had all the sympathy”.
The argument over motive was one of several motions Murdaugh’s defense team asked Colleton County Judge Clifton Newman to rule before trial, as well as requesting that the state produce more evidence.
Murdaugh, who is being held on $7 million bail on finance-related charges, appeared in court Friday in a suit and without handcuffs. The trial is set for January 23.