South Carolina prosecutors delivered a scathing response Thursday to Alex Murdugh’s attorney’s request they provide a motive suggesting why the since-disgraced legal scion would murder his wife and their 22-year-old son on the family’s sprawling hunting estate.
“To properly evaluate motive, the jury will need to understand the distinction between who Alex Murdaugh appeared to be on the outside world – a successful lawyer and scion of the most prominent family in the region – and who he was in the real life only he fully knew – an allegedly crooked lawyer and drug user who borrowed and stole wherever he could to stay afloat and one step ahead of detection,” according to the motion filed Thursday by the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office.
Murdaugh’s attorneys asked the court Monday to require the state to file a “bill of particulars” stating the alleged motive it intends to present at the upcoming murder trial in January.
In response Thursday, prosecutors ripped the request for such an “antiquated concept,” but for the first time offered insight that they planned to argue Murdaugh brutally shot his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and their younger son, Paul Murdaugh, with a rifle and shotgun respectively, due to spiraling debts and looming exposure.
The filing revealed that on the night of the double homicide, the 54-year-old Murdaugh “within just thirty seconds of beginning to speak to the first officer to arrive at the crime scene on June 7, 2021 – suggested law enforcement’s the killer’s motive stemmed from the February 2019 boat wreck that resulted in the tragic death of Mallory Beach.”
Beach’s family filed a lawsuit against the Murdaugh family for the boat accident that killed the 19-year-old. Paul Murdaugh was behind the wheel and was facing boating under the influence charges for allegedly drunkenly slamming the boat into a bridge, ejecting all six teenagers aboard.
“This case is unique in South Carolina history for many reasons,” prosecutors wrote Thursday. “One of those is that exposing what happened to Maggie and Paul necessarily has its roots in a corruption that began years ago and festered until June 7 was the result. The evidence should be admitted to the jury so the jury can fairly assess why a man might murder his wife and son.”
On the date of the killings, prosecutors noted how Murdaugh’s law firm had demanded Murdaugh provide an explanation no later than that day as to where hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees owed to the firm but stolen by Murdaugh had gone, “and Murdaugh had neither the money nor a plausible legal explanation with which to respond to the demand.”
“Meanwhile, a motion to compel the production of Murdaugh’s personal financial records was at the same time pending in the civil litigation stemming from the fatal boat wreck, and a hearing on that motion was going to be held within a few days,” the filing says. “If granted as expected, that motion would have resulted in the exposure of Murdaugh’s financial records, which would itself have led to his misdeeds becoming known to others.”
The hearing was scheduled for June 10, 2021, but that hearing was delayed after the homicides.
“Ultimately, the murders served as Murdaugh’s means to shift the focus away from himself and buy himself some additional time to try and prevent his financial crimes from being uncovered, which – if revealed – would have resulted in personal, legal and financial ruin for Murdaugh,” the filing adds.
Prosecutors noted a drastic shift in perception after the double homicide. “Immediately everything changed. People immediately treated Defendant as the victim of an unspeakable tragedy. Everyone backed off their inquiries and rallied around him,” the filing says. “The day of reckoning vanished.”
In the aftermath of the murders, prosecutors said Murdaugh, “set about covering his tracks.”
In addition to Murdaugh’s “financial wrongdoings committed over the course of fifteen years leading to his murder of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh,” prosecutors said they would also present “evidence of the events on the side of Old Salkahatchie Road on September 4, 2021.”
That’s when Murdaugh allegedly arranged for Curtis Eddie Smith to shoot and kill him so that his surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, could collect on a $10 million life insurance policy.
The alleged suicide for hire plot was botched, and Murdaugh survived. “People initially rallied to his aid again. Only this time, the facts came to light a lot quicker,” prosecutors said Thursday.
Prosecutors offered a reason for Murdaugh’s financial spiral, blaming “a series of bad land deals[s] exacerbated by the recession permanently changed his finances” and that started him down an “incessant financial roller coaster.”
Murdaugh is facing more than 80 state grand jury charges for allegedly defrauding friends, family, legal clients and his law firm of $8.7 million.
“As Murdaugh complains, he has been provided more than a million pages of documentary evidence, to include access to transcripts of testimony before the State Grand Jury, which detail his many thefts to cover bad debts and the ever growing likelihood of his exposure as a fraud non pareil in his community, culminating in the confrontations and immediate certainty of exposure he faced on June 7, 2021,” prosecutors wrote. “That is not the State’s fault there is so much of it out there that had to be gathered. If anything, it is the Defendant’s fault.”
The filing came ahead of a motions hearing before Circuit Judge Clifton Newman in Colleton County on Friday.