29th May 2024

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Who is Alex Murdaugh? The trial that dominated the internet

3 min read

On Thursday, prominent South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh was convicted of murdering his wife and son during the finale of a six-week trial that has dominated headlines.

Murdaugh, 54, now faces 30 years to life in prison without parole for each charge after he was found guilty on two counts of murder. The jury deliberated for less than three hours.

Murdaugh’s trial and crimes have electrified public discourse after being made the subject of numerous podcasts and two high-profile documentaries. Here’s what you need to know.

Who is Alex Murdaugh?

Murdaugh is the disgraced heir to one of South Carolina’s most prominent legal dynasties. His family has served as solicitor in the 14th Judicial Circuit solicitor’s office for three generations, including his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

Now disbarred, Murdaugh was once a high-profile attorney working for the local prosecutor’s office as well as his family’s law firm, Peters Murdaugh Parker Eltzroth & Detrick (PMPED), founded by his great-grandfather. Murdaugh later resigned from the company in 2021 after the firm accused him of embezzling millions in funds.

After meeting his wife Maggie in college, the pair had two sons, Buster and Paul. Following the murders of Maggie and Paul, it was revealed that Murdaugh had struggled with a two-decades long oxycodone addiction — allegedly spending upwards of $50,000 a week on drugs, according to his lawyer.

What was Alex Murdaugh’s crime?

On June 7, 2021, Maggie and Paul were found dead near dog kennels on the family’s rural Colleton County home. Maggie was shot four or five times with a rifle; Paul twice with a shotgun.

Murdaugh was first to report the incident to police, claiming that he’d just returned home from visiting his ailing mother to discover his wife and son’s bodies. However, during his testimony 20 months later, the lawyer admitted to being at the kennels after all.

According to prosecutors, Murdaugh killed his wife and son to distract from a string of other crimes and scandals. He was accused of embezzling from his law firm the day before the shootings, and is now facing over 100 charges after allegedly stealing over $8.5 million from his clients’ wrongful death settlements.

This includes from the family of his deceased housekeeper, whom he allegedly stole $4 million in settlements after she died from a fall at his home.

Three months after the murders, Murdaugh allegedly tried to arrange a suicide-by-hitman so his surviving son would receive $10 million in life insurance. Murdaugh has since been charged in the incident.

Notably, at the time of Paul’s death, he was awaiting trial for boating under the influence after allegedly being behind the wheel of a crash that killed a 19-year-old.

How was Alex Murdaugh caught?

The six-week trial heard testimony from more than 75 witnesses and saw nearly 800 pieces of evidence, but it appeared the final piece of evidence that sealed Murdaugh’s fate was a cellphone video taken by Paul about five minutes before his death.

The video depicted a dog and a voice in the background. Friends of Paul testified that they recognized the voice as that of Murdaugh, who had denied for months that he wasn’t with his family when they died.

The trial culminated with Murdaugh taking the stand and confessing to stealing millions from clients, as well as lying to police about being at the kennels. Yet he maintained his innocence in the deaths of his family.

“I did not kill Maggie, and I did not kill Paul. I would never hurt Maggie, and I would never hurt Paul — ever — under any circumstances,” Murdaugh said.

Why do people care?

The Murdaugh case entered the mainstream after being featured in podcasts and documentary series, including HBO’s “Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty” and “Netflix’s Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal.” The trial has also received extensive news coverage over its six-week run.

With files from the Associated Press

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