Alex Murdaugh maintains his innocence as he’s sentenced to life in prison for murders of wife and son

Judge Newman hinted that Murdaugh could have been sentenced to death for the heinous slayings of his wife and adult son as he said the case was ‘one of the most troubling’ he has ever presided over

Rachel Sharp
Friday 03 March 2023 17:32 GMT
‘I would never hurt my wife and son’: Alex Murdaugh speaks out before sentencing

A shackled Alex Murdaugh continued to claim his innocence as he was sentenced to life in prison for the brutal murders of his wife Maggie and son Paul.

The disgraced legal dynasty heir appeared for his sentencing in Colleton County Courthouse on Friday morning where he was told he will spend the remainder of his life behind bars.

Dressed in a prison jumpsuit, with his hands cuffed and feet shackled, it was a far cry from the powerful and wealthy lifestyle that Murdaugh once enjoyed as the heir of a family that reigned over the Lowcountry’s legal system.

While his surviving son Buster and other family members looked on from the public gallery, Murdaugh stood and addressed the court once again insisting his innocence of the brutal 7 June 2021 murders.

“I’m innocent. I would never hurt my wife Maggie and I would never hurt my son PawPaw,” he told the court.

While he gave a one-line statement professing his innocence, he then appeared to nod in agreement as Judge Clifton Waters told him that he will have to deal with what he did to his wife and son every night when he closes his eyes.

“You have to see Paul and Maggie during the nighttime when you’re attempting to go to sleep. I’m sure they come and visit you. I’m sure,” he said.

Murdaugh agreed that they do “all day and every night”.

But, when he was then given another opportunity by the judge to come clean, the disgraced attorney and serial liar reiterated his statement of innocence.

“I’ll tell you again. I respect this court, but I am innocent, and I would never under any circumstances hurt my wife Maggie and I would never under any circumstances hurt my son Paul,” he said.

Judge Newman was not fooled by the convicted killer, telling him: “It might not be you. It might have been the monster you’ve become. If you take 20, 40, 50, 60 opioid pills, you become a different person.”

Alex Murdaugh is sentenced to life in prison in court on Friday (AP)

While he gave Murdaugh the chance to finally tell the truth once and for all, the judge admitted he “would not expect a confession of any kind” – as he pointed out Murdaugh had lied and schemed from the moment he killed Maggie and Paul.

At one point, he asked him what he had meant on the witness stand when he said “oh what a tangled web we weave”.

“I meant that I lied and continued to lie,” Murdaugh replied.

Judge Newman asked him “when will it end?” as he recounted how Murdaugh had consistently lied to investigators in the 20 months since the murders – and then changed his story on the witness stand when he could no longer get away with his lies.

Even then, though, he said that he had continued to lie about what really happened.

The judge hinted that – in his eyes – Murdaugh perhaps should have been sentenced to death for the heinous slayings of his wife and adult son, suggesting he might have handed down the death penalty if prosecutors had requested it.

Judge Newman said that other inmates had been sentenced to death for a lot less – including by the Murdaugh family – but that prosecutors had taken the death penalty off the table.

“Over the past century, your family – including you – have been prosecuting people here in this courtroom, and many have received the death penalty – probably for lesser conduct,” he said.

Addressing Murdaugh head on, the judge told him that his case was “one of the most troubling cases” he had ever handled – pointing out the fact the killer was a high-powered attorney from a prominent family in the lowcountry.

“We have a wife who has been killed, murdered, a son savagely murdered, a lawyer – person from a respected family who has control of justice in this community for over a century – a person whose grandfather’s portrait hanged at the back of the courthouse – that I had to have ordered removed in order to ensure that a fair trial was had,” he said.

“It’s also particularly troubling, Mr Murdaugh, because as a member of the legal community, you’ve practiced law before me, and we’ve seen each other at various occasions throughout the years.

Alex Murdaugh is led to the Colleton County Courthouse by sheriff's deputies for sentencing (AP)

“It was especially heartbreaking for me to see you go in the media from being a grieving father who lost their wife and son to being a person indicted and convicted of killing them.”

The judge admonished Murdaugh for continuing with his lies in the courtroom – after he took the stand, changed his alibi and continued to deny killing his wife and son.

“You claimed to have been someplace else at the time the crime was committed. Then after all the witnesses placed you at the scene of the crime, in the last minutes, you switched courses and admitted to being there then that necessitated more lies,” he said.

“You continued to lie. Where will it end? It’s already ended for many. But within your own soul you have to deal with that.”

He added: “And you’ve engaged in such duplicitous conduct here in the courtroom, here on the witness stand.”

The court was expecting to hear victim impact statements but prosecutor Creighton Waters revealed that none of the victims wished to speak at this time.

The sentencing hearing began at 9.30am ET, with Mr Waters asking the judge to hand down the harshest possible sentence of two consecutive life sentences.

“It shows this man to be a cunning manipulator, a man who placed himself above all others, including his family, a man who violated the trust of so many – including his friends, his family, his partners, his profession, but most of all Maggie and Paul,” he said.

“A man like that should never be allowed to be among free, law abiding citizens again,” he said.

Mr Waters said that Maggie and Paul “like everyone else were unaware of who he really was... no one knew who he really was and that’s chilling”.

Over the course of the investigation and the trial, the lead prosecutor said he had come to learn who the real Alex Murdaugh really was.

“I’ve looked in his eyes. He liked to stare me down as he walked by me during this trial. And I could see the real Alex Murdaugh,” he said.

‘I would never hurt my wife and son’: Alex Murdaugh speaks out before sentencing

Mr Waters offered his condolences to the Murdaugh family for the deaths of Maggie and Paul – both of whom were cut down “in their prime of life”.

Murdaugh’s family members continued to put on a united front in the courtroom with his and Maggie’s only surviving son Buster, his sister Lynne and brother John Marvin all coming along to support him.

The family has attended the trial every day over the past six weeks, with Buster and John Marvin both testifying in his defence. Yet, notably, Murdaugh’s other brother Randy appeared to be absent from Friday’s sentencing.

He faced between 30 years and life in prison on each of the murder charges and five years on each weapons charge. Sentences could have been served concurrently – or consecutively.

In the end, the judge handed down the harshest possible sentence, making clear that he had not been fooled by the disgraced attorney’s web of lies.

Back on 7 June 2021, Maggie and Paul were gunned down on the family’s 1,700-acre estate.

Paul was shot twice with a 12-gauge shotgun while he stood in the feed room of the dog kennels – the second shot to his head blowing his brain almost entirely out of his skull.

After killing Paul, prosecutors said Murdaugh then grabbed a .300 Blackout semiautomatic rifle and opened fire on Maggie as she tried to flee from her husband.

She was shot five times including twice in the head after she had fallen to her knees.

Buster Murdaugh arrives at court for his father’s sentencing (AP)

Prosecutors said that Murdaugh killed his wife and son to distract from his string of financial crimes – at a time when his multi-million-dollar fraud scheme was on the brink of being exposed.

Jurors were told that on the day of the murders, Murdaugh was confronted by his law firm CFO about missing money that he had stolen.

Three days after the murders, a hearing was also slated to take place in a lawsuit over a fatal boat crash.

In February 2019, Paul had allegedly been drunk driving the family boat when it crashed, killing his 19-year-old friend Mallory Beach.

While Paul was facing felony charges over the crash, Murdaugh was being sued by the Beach family, and their attorney had filed a motion to compel to gain access to his finances.

Over four weeks and 61 witnesses, prosecutors laid out this alleged motive for the murders as well as presenting the bizarre hitman plot as part of his pattern of making himself a victim when accountability came knocking on his door.

On 4 September 2021 – one day after he was ousted by his law firm for stealing funds – Murdaugh claimed he was the victim of a drive-by shooting.

He kept up the story for days, with jurors being shown a police sketch of an imaginary man he claimed ambushed him.

Moment disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh sentenced to life in jail

Days later, he confessed that he had orchestrated the plot claiming he had asked his alleged drug dealer and distant cousin Curtis Eddie Smith to shoot him in the head so his surviving son Buster would get a $12m life insurance windfall.

Beyond Murdaugh’s other crimes, the state also presented jurors with a trove of circumstantial evidence tying him to the murders and revealing how he manufactured an alibi and covered his tracks in the aftermath.

Key to the prosecution’s case was a damning cellphone video which placed Murdaugh at the scene of the murders.

The video, taken by Paul on his cellphone at 8.44pm, filmed a dog inside the kennels on the grounds of the Moselle estate.

Off-camera, three voices are heard: Paul, Maggie and Alex Murdaugh.

During dramatic testimony, multiple witnesses identified Murdaugh’s voice in the footage.

Minutes later – at around 8.50pm – Maggie and Paul were brutally gunned down.

The bombshell video not only placed Murdaugh at the scene – but also exposed his lies about his alibi that night.

Since the 7 June 2021 murders, he had claimed that he had never gone to the dog kennels with his wife and son that night.

He claimed that he had stayed at the family home, napped on the couch and then driven to visit his mother at his parents’ home in Almeda.

When he drove home, he claimed he went down to the kennels, placing a dramatic 911 call claiming to have discovered the bodies of the two victims.

In a dramatic two days in the courtroom, Murdaugh finally confessed that he had spent the last 20 months lying about his alibi that night.

The convicted killer took the stand in his own defence and admitted for the first time that he was there at the kennels with the two victims that night – and that he had lied to law enforcement officials investigating the case, his family members and close friends and colleagues for the best part of two years.

Despite confessing to lying, Murdaugh continued to plead his innocence in Maggie and Paul’s murders.

Prosecutors said that he killed Maggie and Paul with “family guns”, trying to throw investigators off the scent by using two different guns.

After carrying out the attack, they believe he changed out of his bloody clothing – with jurors seeing a Snapchat video taken by Paul showing Murdaugh in one outfit just one hour before the killings. In bodycam footage when the first officer arrived on the scene, he was in a new outfit.

He is also believed to have taken the guns to his parents’ home to hide them.

A blue raincoat was later found in his parents’ home covered in gunshot residue. The state claims Murdaugh used the coat to move and hide the firearms used in the slayings.

Throughout the defence’s case, they sought to paint Murdaugh as a flawed character and an opioid addict – but one who loved his family and could never have carried out the murders.

Buster, Maggie, Paul and Alex Murdaugh left to right (Maggie Murdaugh/Facebook)

While Murdaugh confessed on the witness stand about lying about his alibi, he sought to convince jurors that he was not the “family annihilator” the prosecution painted him to be.

He also admitted to stealing millions of dollars from his law firm and to orchestrating a bizarre botched hitman plot three months after the murders. He is awaiting separate trials in both of those cases.

Among the 14 witnesses called to try to convince jurors of his innocence was Murdaugh’s surviving son Buster and brother John Marvin, who said that he was left “heartbroken” by the murders.

Murdaugh’s conviction marks the latest twist in the saga of the man who was once the powerful heir to a South Carolina legal dynasty.

His family had reigned over the local justice system for almost a century, with three generations of the family all serving as the solicitor in the 14th Judicial Circuit solicitor’s office.

Murdaugh continued with the family tradition working in the local prosecutor’s office and also at the law firm PMPED, which was founded by his grandfather.

The murders of Maggie and Paul shocked the Hampton County community but also brought to light a series of scandals surrounding Murdaugh.

As well as the boat crash case, the fraud scheme and the botched hitman plot, there are at least two other unexplained deaths with some tie to Murdaugh.

Days on from the murders, an investigation was reopened into the 2015 death of Stephen Smith, who was found dead in the middle of the road in Hampton County.

The openly gay 19-year-old 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 also reopened into another mystery death connected to the Murdaugh family – that of their longtime housekeeper Gloria Satterfield.

She died in 2018 in a mystery trip and fall accident at the family home. Murdaugh then allegedly stole around $4m in a wrongful death settlement from her sons.

Murdaugh is now also facing around 100 charges over the multi-million-dollar fraud scheme and roadside shooting cases.

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