Alex Murdaugh trial told ‘it’s possible’ two shooters killed wife and son as mystery ‘footprint’ questioned
An investigator has admitted “it’s possible” that two shooters killed Alex Murdaugh’s wife and son as the legal scion’s attorneys sought to pick holes in the evidence gathered from the bloody crime scene.
SLED special agent Melinda Worley returned to the stand in Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, on Monday morning as Mr Murdaugh’s high-profile murder trial entered its second week.
Under cross-examination by defence attorney Dick Harpootlian, Agent Morley was grilled about what she observed at the crime scene and what the direction and angle of the fatal bullets could suggest about how Maggie and Paul were shot dead.
Jurors were shown photos and diagrams of the crime scene from both the night of the murders and more than one month later on 16 July, with Mr Harpootlian honing in on two bullet projectiles in particular – one that travelled through the dog house and one through the quail pen.
He pushed the idea that, because the bullet projectiles were at different angles, it is a “reasonable” possibility that there was two killers.
“One explanation of the data would be two shooters?” he asked.
Agent Morley admitted that it could be “one explanation” but insisted that it is “not the only one”.
Mr Harpootlian went on to suggest that two shooters were responsible for the murders – one to kill Paul and the other to act as “a lookout”.
“One reasonable explanation is there are two people there: one with a shotgun, one with an AR. Could someone have been a lookout, they went there to kill Paul and Maggie surprised them?” Mr Harpootlian pressed.
Agent Worley admitted that it was “possible” but insisted that it was only “one explanation” as to what may have taken place that fateful night.
Two different guns were used in the shootings of Maggie and Paul.
Paul was shot twice – once in the head and once in the chest – with a shotgun while Maggie was shot five times with an automatic rifle – with some of the bullets striking her when she had already fallen to the ground.
Paul’s brain had been shot out of his skull and both he and Maggie were lying in pools of their own blood.
Mr Murdaugh, 54, is accused of gunning down his wife and son at the dog kennels at the sprawling family estate in Islandton back on 7 June 2021.
He denies the allegations, insisting that their killer or killers is still at large.
During Agent Worley’s testimony on Monday, Mr Harpootlian also sought to pick holes in the evidence gathered from the crime scene, raising doubts about a potential footprint found on Maggie’s calf.
Jurors heard that a “mark” was spotted on the victim’s leg on the night of the murders.
While Mr Harpootlian suggested it was a “footwear impression”, Agent Worley said she “couldn’t say” that was what the mark was but that it “could be”.
The mark was not examined on the scene and no impression of the imprint was taken, she testified.
She also confirmed that a bloody footprint found in the feeding room was later determined to be that of a law enforcement officer – something that supported the defence’s line of questioning that some evidence was not preserved correctly and was even “destroyed”.
“Do you know what other evidence they may have destroyed?” asked Mr Harpootlian.
“I have no idea,” the agent said, to which he responded: “That’s right you don’t.”
Agent Worley testified that testing was carried out on the clothes that Mr Murdaugh was wearing on the night of the murders – including the “clean” white shirt which several law enforcement officers previously testified had no visible signs of blood.
The tests found possible blood stains on the shirt – however the positive test could instead indicate bleach or rust.
Mr Murdaugh’s “clean” presentation was a key focus in courtroom testimony last week where the legal scion was heard in both his first police interview and his 911 call claiming he touched his wife and son’s bloodied bodies.
In his first police interview, which was heard for the first time, he described attempts to check the pulses of Maggie and Paul and to move his son’s lifeless body.
This account was contradicted by law enforcement testimony and images of his “clean” hands and clothing.
Crime scene photos of the dog kennels, the 911 call made by Mr Murdaugh and dramatic bodycam footage from the scene of the grisly murders were also shown to jurors. In the bodycam, the suspect was seen “immediately” telling the first officer on the scene that the killings were connected to a fatal 2019 boat crash.
During some ofthe most gruesome testimony, Mr Murdaugh was seen sobbing in court – while jurors heard that he shed “no tears” on the night of the murders.
The 54-year-old heir to a prominent legal dynasty is accused of gunning down his wife and son in an attempt to distract from a string of other scandals and crimes encircling him.
At the time of the murders, Mr Murdaugh was believed to be facing financial ruin from a 20-year opioid addiction and – one day earlier – had been confronted by his law firm PMPED over an alleged multi-million-dollar fraud scheme.
Now, Mr Murdaugh is charged with more than 100 counts from multiple indictments alleging he stole nearly $8.5m from clients at his law firm in fraud schemes going back a decade.
The attorney, who has since been disbarred, allegedly represented the clients in wrongful death settlements before pocketing the money for himself.
Alleged victims include family members of Gloria Satterfield family, the Murdaugh’s longtime housekeeper who died in a mysterious trip and fall accident at the family home in 2018.
At the time, her death was regarded as an accidental fall – though the investigation was reopened after Maggie and Paul’s murders.
Three months on from the murders – on 4 September 2021 – Mr Murdaugh allegedly conspired to pay a hitman to shoot him dead so that Buster would inherit a $10m life insurance windfall.
The now-disbarred attorney initially claimed he was ambushed in a drive-by shooting while changing a tyre on his vehicle, but his story quickly unravelled and he confessed to orchestrating the plot.
Mr Murdaugh and his alleged co-conspirator Curtis Smith were arrested and charged over the incident.
As well as the deaths of Beach and Satterfield, questions have also surfaced about other mystery deaths surrounding the Murdaughs.
Stephen Smith, 19, was found dead in the middle of the road in Hampton County, South Carolina. The openly gay teenager had suffered blunt force trauma to the head and his death was officially ruled a hit-and-run. But the victim’s family have long doubted this version of events, with the Murdaugh name cropping up in several police tips and community rumours.
An investigation was reopened into his death after Maggie and Paul’s murders.