Alex Murdaugh’s lawyers are expected to call his only surviving son to testify Tuesday morning in the disgraced South Carolina attorney’s double murder trial, a source familiar with the case told CNN, as the defense tries to counter prosecutors’ allegations Murdaugh killed his wife and younger son.
Buster Murdaugh is expected to be called as the defense’s first witness of the day, followed by an accident reconstructionist who will likely focus on investigators’ findings at the killing scene, including how the scene was treated and what conclusions were drawn as a result, the source said.
Prosecutors rested their case Friday after calling more than 60 witnesses to bolster their argument that Alex Murdaugh shot and killed his wife, Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, and son Paul Murdaugh at the family’s Islandton estate in June 2021 in an attempt to distract from financial misconduct allegations against him.
Alex Murdaugh, 54, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and two weapons charges in the case. The now-disbarred lawyer also faces 99 charges in connection with alleged financial schemes including insurance fraud, misappropriation of funds, money laundering and forgery.
The defense has painted Murdaugh as a loving father and husband being wrongfully accused after what it says is a poorly handled investigation.
In the last three weeks of the trial, prosecutors have tried to overcome the lack of any direct evidence – such as an eyewitness – tying Murdaugh to the killings. Instead, their case has relied heavily on circumstantial evidence that they say shows Murdaugh lied to investigators and was at the scene just minutes before the killings.
His defense attorneys have criticized the prosecutors’ case as speculative and waved off their focus on his alleged financial schemes as irrelevant.
The defense appeared to suggest last week that the killings could be related to a financial dispute with a drug gang, saying Murdaugh was buying $50,000 worth of drugs each week from a man who was in significant debt to a gang.
Murdaugh’s lawyers have previously acknowledged he struggles with an opioid addiction and prosecutors presented evidence Friday showing Paul confronted his father about a stash of pills a month before he and his mother were killed.
The jury also has heard testimony about a roadside shooting that injured Murdaugh in September 2021, months after the killings. Authorities have alleged that Murdaugh arranged for another man to shoot him so that Buster could obtain millions of dollars in life insurance.
On Friday, the defense called their first two witnesses, including a coroner and spokesperson for the local Colleton County Sheriff’s Department.
Murdaugh has maintained that he was not home when the killings took place, telling investigators he had gone to visit his mother in Almeda that night.
Upon returning home to the family’s sprawling estate, he told investigators, he found the bodies of his wife and son on the ground by their dog kennels and called 911.
Colleton County Coroner Richard Harvey, the defense’s first witness on Friday, said he estimated Paul and Maggie’s times of death to be around 9 p.m. on June 7, 2021, based on body temperature checks.
When asked by the defense whether the pair could have been shot any time between 8 p.m. or 10 p.m., Harvey said yes.
Prosecutors, however, have used a piece of video evidence to argue that Murdaugh was at the crime scene shortly before 9 p.m. – which they say would contradict Murdaugh’s assertion to investigators that he had not been to the kennels that night before finding the bodies.
An almost minute-long video filmed on Paul’s phone beginning at 8:44 p.m. shows one of the family dogs and appears to have been taken at the kennels, Lt. David Britton Dove, a supervisor in the computer crimes center at the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, testified.
Three different voices can be heard, Dove testified. During the trial, family friends testified the voices belong to Paul, Maggie and Alex Murdaugh.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Dick Harpootlian said the audio showed Murdaugh and his wife having a “normal discussion” with “no animosity.” Paul is “very happy,” Harpootlian claimed. “Nobody’s down there threatening him. Daddy is not pulling out a shotgun and killing him.”