(NEW YORK) — Alex Murdaugh, a disgraced South Carolina attorney accused of killing his wife and youngest son, began testifying in his own defense in his double murder trial on Thursday — admitting to jurors that he lied to investigators but denying that he committed the brutal murders.
The bodies of Margaret Murdaugh, 52, and Paul Murdaugh, 22, were found dead from multiple gunshot wounds near the dog kennels at the family’s home near Islandton, South Carolina, in June 2021, authorities said.
Alex Murdaugh, 54, who called 911 to report the discovery, was charged with their murders 13 months later.
Weeks into the trial, Alex Murdaugh was called to take the stand by his defense team. His attorney, Jim Griffin, asked right away if he shot his wife and son in the head.
“No, I did not,” Alex Murdaugh said. “I didn’t shoot my wife or my son any time, ever.”
He grew emotional when asked by his lawyer what he saw at the scene of their murders.
“I saw what y’all have seen pictures of,” he told the jurors, crying. “So bad.”
Prosecutors have focused on footage taken from Paul Murdaugh’s cellphone the night of the murders, including a video taken at the kennels several minutes before the victims were believed to be killed that investigators said has Alex Murdaugh talking in the background. Alex Murdaugh told investigators early in the case that he was not down by the kennels that night and had last seen his wife and son at dinner.
When asked by his lawyer about those prior statements, Alex Murdaugh admitted to lying to investigators.
“I did lie to them,” he said, and confirmed he was in the video the night of their murders on June 7, 2021.
When asked why he lied about the last time he saw his wife and son, Murdaugh blamed his addiction to painkillers, which he said caused “paranoid thinking.”
“On June the 7th, I wasn’t thinking clearly,” he said. “I don’t think I was capable of reason and I lied about being out there and I’m so sorry that I did.”
Alex Murdaugh detailed on the stand a 20-year addiction to opioids, noting that he has been clean for 535 days.
“I battled that addiction for so many years, I was spending so much money on pills,” he said.
Alex Murdaugh faces 30 years to life in prison without parole if convicted of the killings, for which he has pleaded not guilty and adamantly denied.
During the trial, which began last month, prosecutors have presented more than 60 witnesses and evidence, including body camera footage of police arriving at home following the murders and an interview Alex Murdaugh gave to police two months later, in which he denied killing his wife and son.
In the body camera footage from that night, a distraught Alex Murdaugh told officers, “It’s bad, it’s bad,” and mentioned that his son had been getting threats following a boat wreck he was involved in.
At the time, Paul Murdaugh was awaiting trial on a charge of allegedly boating under the influence after a crash in February 2019 that killed a 19-year-old woman, Mallory Beach of South Carolina.
In the months following his wife’s and son’s murders, Alex Murdaugh resigned from his law firm, which sued him for allegedly funneling stolen money from clients and the law firm into a fake bank account for years. He also said he entered a rehab facility.
Prosecutors claim that Alex Murdaugh, who comes from a legacy of prominent attorneys in the region, killed his wife and son to gain sympathy and distract from his alleged financial wrongdoings.
Meanwhile, the defense has portrayed him as a loving husband and father and argued that police ignored the possibility that anyone else could have killed them.
During hours of questioning on Thursday, Alex Murdaugh’s attorney asked if he believed his “financial house of cards was about to crumble” on June 7, 2021, to which Alex Murdaugh replied, “Absolutely not.”
The trial adjourned Thursday evening while prosecutors were in the middle of questioning Murdaugh about his financial dealings as a lawyer — during which he admitted to stealing money from several clients.
“I did a lot of damage, I wreaked a lot of havoc, there’s no question,” Alex Murdaugh said.
Court is scheduled to resume Friday at 9:30 a.m. ET. Prosecutors estimated they need another three to four hours to finish their cross-examination of Alex Murdaugh.
The trial has drawn a packed courtroom, with lines outside. After two jurors tested positive for COVID-19, both sides were worried an outbreak could sicken more jurors and force a mistrial.
Alex Murdaugh faces about 100 other charges for allegations ranging from money laundering to staging his own death so his surviving son could cash in on his $10 million life insurance policy.
He was also charged for allegedly misappropriating settlement funds in the death of his housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who reportedly died after a falling accident in the Murdaugh family home in February 2018.
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