Alex Murdaugh‘s defense is preparing to grill a forensic pathologist after she told jurors how his wife and son were brutally executed from three feet away.
Dr. Ellen Riemer described how Paul’s brain was blown out the back of his head by a shotgun and that the organ arrived at the morgue ‘in a separate bucket.’
Maggie was shot five times with an assault rifle and was down on all fours when she was struck by the fourth round, Riemer said. The fifth and final shot was fired from close range into the back of her head as she lay face down on the ground.
Murdaugh, 54, wept at the defense table as the court heard the grisly testimony of how his wife, 52, and son, 22, were murdered at their hunting estate in South Carolina’s Lowcountry on June 7, 2021.
His defense is this morning attempting to hit back and will likely push their two-shooter theory. They have previously told jurors that the direction of the shots and the fact that two guns were fired, indicates there was more than one killer.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Ellen Riemer describes the gun wounds to Maggie Murdaugh as prosecutor Creighton Waters looks on during day 16 of the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh at the Colleton County Courthouse on Monday. Maggie was shot five times with an assault rifle and was down on all fours when she was struck by the fourth round, Riemer said. The fifth and final shot was fired from close range into the back of her head as she lay face down on the ground
Maggie’s body was found a few yards to the right of a doghouse, while Paul’s was by the doorway at the end of the kennels. Dr. Ellen Riemer described how Paul’s brain was blown out the back of his head by a shotgun and that the organ arrived at the morgue ‘in a separate bucket’
Alex Murdaugh, seated besides defense attorney Jim Griffin, becomes emotional as the horrific injuries sustained by Maggie and Paul in the shootings are discussed at Colleton County Courthouse
Prosecutors are still laying out their case as the trial rumbles through its fourth week. They were aiming to rest their case tomorrow and then the defense will call its witnesses.
It was reported yesterday that Murdaugh himself could be called to the stand in a move that legal experts described as ‘virtually unheard of.’
Alex’s surviving son Buster, his brother John Marvin and sister Lynn – who have attended the Colleton County courthouse in Walterboro most days – are also listed as defense witnesses.
Murdaugh must still answer for apparent holes in his alibi about the night of the killings.
He claims he left the estate that night to visit his mother and the last time he saw Maggie and Paul before they died was when they were all having dinner at the house around 8.15pm.
But a video played in court taken by Paul at the kennels places Murdaugh with his wife and son at the crime scene at 8.45pm. Multiple witnesses, including close friends of the family, say they can hear his voice.
The State says Maggie and Paul were shot shortly after 8.49pm.
Riemer yesterday described in vivid detail the grave injuries sustained by the pair as jurors were shown graphic images of their bodies.
The pathologist explained that Paul could have remained standing after the first shotgun blast to his chest, but that a second shot blew his brain out the back of his head.
The 22-year-old’s brain arrived at the autopsy in a separate bucket, the court heard.
Alex Murdaugh wept as the court heard the grisly testimony of the forensic pathologist
Riemer indicates where the fourth shot to Maggie passed through her left breast and up into her brain from the bottom of her jaw
Riemer demonstrates on prosecutor Creighton Waters the shotgun wounds received by Paul Murdaugh
The fact that Paul’s face remained intact tells you he was facing his shooter, Riemer testified.
She said Maggie’s first two wounds featured gunpowder stippling, indicating her shooter was no more than three feet away. The first three rounds were not immediately fatal, striking her thigh and torso.
The direction of travel indicates Maggie was kneeling on all fours when she was struck by the fourth shot, which passed through the left side of her breast and penetrated her brain.
‘When it entered the left side of the face, it basically destroyed the brain,’ Riemer told jurors.
A final shot was delivered to the back of the head from close range as she was lying on the ground, the coroner said.
No murder weapon has ever been found.
The State says Murdaugh killed the pair to distract from his financial crimes. He embezzled millions from his law firm and was facing a lawsuit over his son’s drunken boat crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach in February, 2019.
On the day Maggie and Paul were murdered, Murdaugh had been confronted over $792,000 that he stole from the firm.
Later that week a hearing to determine the state of his finances was due in the boat wreck lawsuit.
Murdaugh told lawyers for Beach’s family that he was broke and the court has heard how he was siphoning funds from the firm into his personal accounts in an attempt to shield the money from the lawsuit.
Murdaugh cries during the testimony of the forensic pathologist Monday
Riemer demonstrates the gun wounds to Maggie Murdaugh on prosecutor Creighton Waters
Maggie had recently confided in their housekeeper that they were being sued for $30million.
The defense theory is that somebody else killed Maggie and Paul in revenge for the boat accident.
They argue that their client was a ‘loving’ husband and father who could have never killed his wife and son. They have branded the State’s alleged financial motivation as ‘ludicrous’.
Murdaugh claims that he went to visit his mother at around 9pm on the night of the murders. The State says Maggie and Paul were killed shortly after 8.49pm and that a video taken by Paul at 8.45pm proves he was at the scene.
Several witnesses, including close family friends, have testified they can hear the voices of Alex, Maggie and Paul in the footage.
But the alleged killer told investigators he was never at the kennels.
Murdaugh says that the family ate dinner together around 8.15pm and that Maggie and Paul went down to the kennels while he fell asleep in front of the TV.
At 9.06pm, his Chevrolet Suburban was fired up and he went to visit his mother in Almeda, around 15 minutes away.
Buster Murdaugh and his girlfriend Brooklynn White listen to testimony as autopsy photos of his mother and brother
Forensic pathologist at MUSC Dr. Ellen Riemer demonstrates the gun wounds to Maggie
He claims he was there for around 40 minutes, although this is disputed by his mother’s caregiver who said he was only at the house for 20 minutes.
Murdaugh says he arrived back at the hunting estate to find Maggie and Paul dead at the kennels. He called 911 at 10.07pm.
First responders have testified that they did not check either Maggie or Paul because their injuries were so horrific as to be ‘incompatible with life.’ Two shots entered Maggie’s head, while Paul’s brain was completely detached from his skull.
The court has previously heard evidence that Murdaugh’s clothing when cops arrived appeared clean to the extent that police believed he had recently changed.
Blood tests carried out on his white t-shirt later came back positive. However, Murdaugh does say that he touched their bodies to check for signs of life.
An earlier video taken that night by Paul at 7.56pm shows Murdaugh wearing a blue shirt, long pants and brown loafers.
Alex Murdaugh is seen on June 7, 2021, at the murder scene at the family’s hunting lodge in Islandton, South Carolina. Murdaugh is speaking on the phone in the video and tells the officer it’s his brother on the line.
PAUL’S BODY: Paul’s body is seen outside a doorway at the kennels. The body is blurred out
MAGGIE’S BODY: Murdaugh’s wife’s corpse is seen blurred out in the extreme foreground as he paces around in a white t-shirt near his parked up Chevrolet Suburban
The family’s housekeeper Blanca Simpson testified last week that she never saw the items of clothing ever again.
The State intends to rest its case by Wednesday and then the defense will start calling their own witnesses.
The trial is taking place at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, a sleepy, rural town 50 miles west of Charleston in a low-lying region of South Carolina over which the Murdaugh family has wielded immense judicial and political power.
Indeed, in the courtroom where Murdaugh faces judgment, a portrait of his late grandfather – legendary longtime 14th Circuit Solicitor Buster Murdaugh Jr. – had hung on the wall before it was removed ahead of the trial.
Following the murder trial, Murdaugh will have to face more than 100 additional criminal charges, ranging from drug trafficking to allegations that he stole nearly $9million from clients and other attorneys.
Prosecutors say Murdaugh lured his wife and son to their 1,700-acre hunting lodge and shot them dead.
The state also claims that his life was spiraling out of control amid years of opioid addiction and ballooning debts.
Murdaugh pleaded not guilty in June, and the blockbuster trial is expected to include wild allegations of dark family secrets, financial ruin and hedonistic excess.
In total, over 220 people could testify against Murdaugh in the trial.
Buster, Maggie, Paul and Alex Murdaugh. Buster was staying with his girlfriend near Charlotte at the time of the murders
At the time of Maggie and Paul’s deaths , Murdaugh and his son were facing a civil suit over the boat wreck that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach in February, 2019. Murdaugh told cops Paul and Maggie had been killed in revenge for the accident
TIMELINE: NIGHT OF THE KILLINGS
Alex Murdaugh, 54, is accused of shooting his wife, Maggie, 52, and younger son Paul, 22, at the family’s hunting estate in Islandton, South Carolina, on the night of June 7, 2021.
Here are the key events in the timeline laid out by prosecutors:
At 7.56pm, Paul sent a Snapchat video to friends showing the 22-year-old riding around the estate with his father.
At 8.15pm, Murdaugh’s wife Maggie arrived home and the trio ate dinner together. Autopsies showed similar stomach contents in Maggie and Paul.
About 8.30pm, Paul’s phone starts moving towards the kennels.
Then at 8.44pm, a second video taken by Paul at the kennels – soon to become a murder scene – allegedly proves that Maggie, Paul and Alex were together.
At 8.49pm the prosecution say Paul’s phone locked and went silent forever, never to send another text or make another call.
Between 9pm and 9.30pm, Paul and Maggie were killed – according to the coroner.
At 9.06pm, Murdaugh’s car is fired up.
The alleged killer said he went to go visit his mother, who is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, in Almeda – around a 15-minute drive.
At 10.07pm, Murdaugh called 911 claiming he had arrived home a to find his wife and son shot dead.