A South Carolina jury found former attorney Richard “Alex” Murdaugh guilty of killing his wife and son on Thursday after merely three hours of deliberation, closing the six-week trial and one of the most high-profile criminal cases in the history of South Carolina.
The 12-person jury declared Murdaugh, 54, guilty on two counts of murdering his wife, Maggie, 52, and their youngest son, Paul, 22. Murdaugh had pleaded not guilty.
“The circumstantial evidence, direct evidence—all of the evidence pointed to one conclusion, and that’s the conclusion that you all reached,” Clifton Newman, the judge overseeing the case, told jurors after the verdict was announced.
Prosecutors said Maggie and Paul were executed at close range near the dog kennels on their family estate on the evening of June 7, 2021. Murdaugh was also convicted of two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
With the guilty verdict, Murdaugh, the scion of an influential legal family in an area west of Charleston, faces a minimum of 30 years and up to life without parole in prison for each murder charge. He also faces more than 100 charges for financial crimes he admitted to during the trial.
Murdaugh’s sentencing will be announced Friday at 9:30 a.m.
“What a great day for the state of South Carolina,” Alan Wilson, the state’s attorney general, told reporters and onlookers outside of the Colleton County courthouse after the verdict was announced.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors sought to portray Murdaugh as a serial liar and argued that only he had the means and the opportunity to commit the murders. They said he gunned down his wife and son to distract from a litany of financial crimes, including the theft of millions of dollars from his law partners and clients—money used to feed a years-long addiction to opioids and support an expensive lifestyle.
Across the aisle, the defense portrayed Murdaugh as an endearing husband who would not have committed such an atrocity and said law enforcement overlooked key evidence that could have led them to another suspect.
In his alibi, Murdaugh claimed that he was visiting his mother in Almeda around 9 p.m. and, when he returned to the house, found his wife and son’s dead bodies, and called 911 thereafter.
Two pieces of evidence pointed against this alibi, namely a cellphone video recovered from the deceased son’s phone showing Murdaugh to be at the dog kennels minutes before the alleged time of the murder, and GPS data from Murdaugh’s car showing that he phoned emergency services soon after arriving at the kennels.
“Nineteen seconds. Is that enough time for a surprised human being to come across that scene, process what they are seeing, get out of the car, go over there, check both their bodies, then call 911?” Assistant Attorney General Creighton Waters, the lead prosecutor of the case, said in closing arguments on Wednesday. “The reason why it’s so quick is because he knew exactly what scene he was going to find.”
Murdaugh’s defense attorney, Jim Griffin, said in closing arguments that investigators never gathered evidence at the crime scene that would link to Murdaugh, such as DNA samples.
“How could he have butchered Maggie and Paul without leaving a trace of evidence within a matter of minutes?” Griffin said.
“You can’t answer every question, and the law doesn’t require it,” prosecutor John Meadors said in response.
The case has drawn intense media coverage given the family’s immense political power in and around Colleton County, where the trial took place. For decades until 2006, family members served as the leading prosecutor in the area, and Murdaugh was a prominent personal injury attorney in the Southern state.
Reuters contributed to this report.