Alex Murdaugh, the disgraced patriarch of a legal dynasty in South Carolina, was charged Thursday with double murder more than a year after the mysterious deaths of his wife and son outside their home.
The killings have captured national attention, due in part to the Murdaugh family’s prominent status in South Carolina, where three generations of Murdaughs once served as elected prosecutors for 87 consecutive years.
The indictment by the Colleton County grand jury for two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime does not elaborate on what evidence led investigators to conclude Murdaugh killed his wife and son but says the two were fatally shot with a rifle.
Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, lawyers for Murdaugh, said their client had no motive to kill his wife and son, and the legal team will file a motion for a speedy trial and required evidence.
“Alex wants his family, friends and everyone to know that he did not have anything to do with the murders of Maggie and Paul,” the lawyers said in a statement. “He loved them more than anything in the world. It was very clear from day one that law enforcement and the Attorney General prematurely concluded that Alex was responsible for the murder of his wife and son.”
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson (R) said he would not comment on specifics of the case, citing the pending court action, but thanked law enforcement and others involved in the investigation. South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said investigators worked over the last 13 months “day in and day out to build a case against the person responsible for the murders of Maggie and Paul and to exclude those who were not.”
“From the beginning I have been clear, the priority was to ensure justice was served,” Keel said in a statement. “Today is one more step in a long process for justice for Maggie and Paul.”
The news comes after John Marvin Murdaugh, Alex’s younger brother, told The Post and Courier in Charleston on Tuesday that the state law enforcement division met with the Murdaugh family Tuesday to give them a heads-up that criminal charges would be presented to a grand jury this week.
“The entire family has been consistent that regardless of what goes on, we want the truth,” the brother said to the newspaper.
The case has remained unsolved during a 13-month stretch in which the story has gained national attention, as people across the United States have been captivated by the double homicide involving a prominent family at Moselle, their 1,772-acre rural estate in Colleton County, S.C.
Once seen as a standard for a successful lawyer, Murdaugh, 54, has seen his life come unglued. In addition to being accused of killing his family, authorities also allege he was part of a multimillion-dollar insurance fraud scheme. Since November, 15 state grand jury indictments containing 79 charges have come down against Murdaugh, who prosecutors say defrauded $8.4 million from victims.
On June 7, 2021, Murdaugh called 911 to say he found his wife and son shot outside, near dog kennels at the estate.
“My wife and child have been shot badly. … Please hurry!” Murdaugh yelled, according to a 911 call. “They’re on the ground out at my kennels.”
Murdaugh told authorities at the time that he had left the estate earlier in the night.
“As soon as I answered the phone, I knew something was wrong,” John Marvin Murdaugh told “Good Morning America” in June 2021. “He said, ‘Come as fast as you can. Paul and Maggie have been hurt.’ ”
In the months that passed, authorities did not name suspects in the case.
The mystery surrounding the Murdaugh family continued last September, when his family law firm not only fired Alex Murdaugh but also accused him of stealing from clients, according to the state. Then after Murdaugh initially told authorities that he was the victim of a shooting in September, police charged Murdaugh with hiring a hit man to kill him so that his surviving son, Buster, could collect a $10 million life insurance payout, according to the state law enforcement division.
Police arrested Curtis Edward Smith of Walterboro, S.C., on charges of assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. Shortly thereafter, authorities allegedly obtained a confession from Murdaugh admitting to the insurance fraud plot. Murdaugh later announced that he was entering rehab to confront an opioid addiction.
Murdaugh is still being held in the Richland County jail on a $7 million bond on the financial-related charges. A bond hearing has not been set in the murder case.
If he is convicted of murder in the killings of his wife and son, he could receive the death penalty, according to state criminal law.
Katie Shepherd contributed to this report.