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Alex Murdaugh had gunshot residue on his shirt and shorts on the night of the murders of his wife and son – but not on his shoes, a forensic expert told court.
Megan Fletcher said tests the day after the killings showed he had particles on his white T-shirt and khaki shorts, as well as on his left hand and car seatbelt – but not on the Nike sneakers he was wearing when cops arrived.
It comes after Murdaugh’s mother’s carer earlier said he was wearing Sperry-like, cloth shoes when he visited his parents’ house on the night Maggie and Paul were killed at the family’s hunting estate in South Carolina’s Lowcountry on June 7, 2021.
Fletcher said there was a ‘strong odor of laundry detergent’ when she first started examining Murdaugh’s white T-shirt. First responders noted that the alleged killer was clean when they arrived and appeared to have changed clothes.
The forensic expert later examined a blue jacket which was discovered at Murdaugh’s parents home months later. This was coated in a ‘significant number’ of gunshot residue particles – enough that a firearm may have been wrapped inside.
Megan Fletcher said tests the day after the killings showed Murdaugh had gunshot residue particles on his white T-shirt (pictured: Murdaugh when police arrived, and tests on the shirt, right)
Alex Murdaugh’s sneakers from the night of the slayings. Fletcher found no gunshot residue on the shoes
The defense were unable to cross-examine Fletcher before the court session ended Tuesday, but they may question the relevance of gunshot residue given that the family lived on a hunting estate and frequently went shooting.
Indeed, Murdaugh was holding a shotgun when cops arrived because he feared the killers might still be out there.
Fletcher, a forensic expert for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), said she tested the attorney’s clothing on June 8, 2021.
She found gunshot residue on his t-shirt, shorts, the seatbelt of his Chevrolet Suburban and a sample from his hand.
This was gunshot primer residue which can either come from the garment being in the vicinity of a firearm discharge or be transferred to it from another object.
She found three particles across the right and left sleeves of the t-shirt as well as on the chest.
Fletcher told the court there were three particles on Murdaugh’s shorts from the right and left groin area.
There was also a particle found in a sample taken from Murdaugh’s left hand.
She was later tasked with examining the blue jacket stashed in a closet at Murdaugh’s parents home.
Fletcher said she found 38 gunshot residue particles across the interior and exterior of the coat. There were so many, in fact, that she stopped searching the jacket because she found so many.
John Meadors for the State asked if a firearm could have been wrapped inside the coat.
She confirmed that was a possibility.
The raincoat the prosecution say Smith saw Murdaugh with nine days after the killings. The jacket was found to be covered in gun residue. It was presented on Monday at Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina
Alex Murdaugh’s former colleague says legal heir specifically said he did NOT go to the dog kennels before finding his wife and son’s bodies – but is 100% sure it’s his voice in video taken there minutes before murders
Alex Murdaugh’s former colleague said the legal heir specifically stated he did not go to the dog kennels before finding his wife and son’s bodies.
Ronnie Crosby, who worked with Murdaugh at PMPED, said that in the early hours of June 8, 2021 – the day after the murders – the alleged killer told him he was only ever at the crime scene after visiting his mother in Almeda, South Carolina.
However, in video played to the court taken by Paul Murdaugh, 22, just minutes before prosecutors say he was killed, Crosby told jurors he could ‘100 percent’ hear Alex’s voice. Other witnesses earlier identified Alex’s and Maggie’s voices off-camera in the footage taken at the kennels of the family’s hunting lodge at 8.45pm on June 7.
Asked by prosecutor Creighton Waters if Murdaugh said whether or not he went down to the kennels before leaving for his mother’s, Crosby replied: ‘That came up in one of the conversations, and he specifically said that he did not.’
Ronnie Crosby, who worked with Murdaugh at PMPED, said that in the early hours of June 8, 2021 – the day after the murders – the alleged killer told him he was only ever at the crime scene after getting back from his mother’s in Almeda, South Carolina. However, in video played to the court taken by Paul just minutes before prosecutors say he was killed, Crosby told jurors he could ‘100 percent’ hear Murdaugh’s voice
Murdaugh listens to the testimony of Ronnie Crosby, his former colleague at his law firm and a close family friend who has known him for 25 years. Crosby’s son and Paul would often go shooting deer and hogs together on his land
He described Murdaugh’s demeanor that night as upset and that he told his colleague how much Paul loved him.
Crosby had a house across the street from the Murdaughs in town and had known Alex for 25 years. Crosby’s son and Paul would often go shooting deer and hogs together on his land.
Paul would often go hunting on Crosby’s land with his son.
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.
Asked by defense attorney Jim Griffin about whether Murdaugh was upset that night, Crosby said: ‘We cried together, he kept telling me how much Paul loved me.’
Crosby testified that the law firm, which has been described as a ‘brotherhood’, rallied around Murdaugh after the murders.
‘We were there every day for the rest of the week,’ he said.
He added that the firm stopped asking questions about $792,000 that had gone missing from a case Murdaugh had been working on. It was later found he stole the funds.
‘I said, let’s just leave it be,’ Crosby said, adding that nobody wanted to discuss money in the wake of the tragedy.
He described an evening when he was later summoned by law partner Danny Henderson to review records that uncovered the millions Murdaugh had stolen.
Waters asked: ‘Did you have a drink?’
The lawyer told the court: ‘Yeah, ultimately more than one.’
Waters asked him what was done in the aftermath and Crosby told how it was passed to law enforcement and reported to the South Carolina Bar.
Earlier the court heard from another of Murdaugh’s colleagues, the chief executive officer at the firm, Jeanne Seckinger, who said that in early September Murdaugh was fired by Peters Murdaugh Parker Eltzroth and Detrick (PMPED).
It was Seckinger who had confronted Murdaugh on the afternoon of June 7 – hours before Maggie and Paul were murdered – about the missing $792,000.
She said Murdaugh was attempting to ‘hide assets’ in Maggie’s account to shield money from the lawsuit he was facing over a fatal boat crash in which Paul was driving under the influence.
The CFO described how, in addition to the $792,000, she would go on to uncover more than $2.8million that Murdaugh stole from his firm.
It cost PMPED more than $5million to reimburse clients.
Alex Murdaugh pictured with his wife Maggie and their two sons Paul (left) and Buster
Seckinger, who has known Murdaugh since high school, said he was equipped with ‘the gift of the gab’ – making him a successful personal injury lawyer – but that he also deployed this skill to mastermind massive fraud.
‘I think Alec was a successful lawyer more from his ability to establish a relationship and to manipulate people into settlements,’ she told jurors. ‘He did it through the art of bull**** basically.’
Seckinger described how he would ‘use the emotions of his case and the emotion of his clients’ to secure higher settlements.
‘Things were manipulated and set up and I believe he did that with his clients as well,’ she told the court.
Seckinger told the court: ‘I don’t think I ever really knew [Murdaugh]. I don’t think anybody really did.’
Prosecution shows blue raincoat ‘covered with gun residue’ to jury in Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial
Yesterday, jurors heard argument about a mystery blue raincoat prosecutors say Murdaugh took to his parents’ home nine days after murdering his wife and son.
Prosecutors say the coat was covered in gun residue and spotted by his mother’s carer when he arrived at the house in Almeda at 6.30am.
But the defense claims Shelley Smith actually saw a blue tarp and, under cross-examination, she confirmed she could never have mistaken a tarp for a jacket.
She initially told jurors she saw Murdaugh carrying a ‘blue something’ and later told the court that she saw a tarp laid out on a chair the following day.
Although Smith failed to state emphatically what she saw, the State asserts that a blue jacket found coated in gunshot residue bundled up in a closet at Murdaugh’s parents’ house is relevant to their case.
Defense attorney Jim Griffin holds up a blue tarp, purchased by the defense to illustrate the item which Shelley said she saw. The defense dispute that Murdaugh’s mother’s carer saw him with the blue jacket (right) and instead say it was the tarp. The jacket is seen with tape markings applied by investigators
Alex Murdaugh, center, is escorted into the Colleton County Courthouse before his double murder trial in Walterboro, S.C., on Monday
Smith yesterday described seeing Murdaugh on the night of the killings and how he appeared ‘fidgety’ as he lay with his mother, who is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s.
Murdaugh stayed about 20 minutes, laying beside his mother and holding her hand, Smith said. She also noted that he was periodically checking his phone that night, June 7, 2021.
He arrived at his mother’s wearing a T-shirt and shorts, Smith testified, adding that she saw no blood on him and that he left no blood in his mother’s room.
When cops arrived at the murder scene later that night he was also wearing a clean T-shirt and shorts.
Smith testified that nine days after the slayings, Murdaugh visited his parents’ house at 6.30am, which she said was ‘unusually’ early.
She said Murdaugh was carrying a ‘blue something’ in his hand that looked like a tarp or jacket. A blue jacket was later found at Murdaugh’s parents’ home coated with gun residue.
The caregiver wept as she described how he pointedly told her that he was with his mother for 30 to 40 minutes on the night of the killings.
Smith said this made her ‘nervous’ because she recalled he had only been there for 15 or 20 minutes. She was so concerned by the contradiction that she later told her police officer brother about the conversation.
During the visit, Murdaugh asked her about her upcoming wedding and mentioned that he could help her with the bill.
The defense grilled Smith over whether she had seen a tarp or a jacket.
Defense Attorney Jim Griffin picked up the blue tarp seized from Murdaugh’s parents’ home and asked whether this was what she had seen.
Smith confirmed it was and also agreed with him that she could not confuse it with a rain jacket.
Griffin spent several minutes getting Smith to say the item was big, like a tarp, not a raincoat.
Prosecutor John Meadors shows a tarp, purchased by the defense, to witness Shelley Smith
SLED agent Kristin Moore, right, displays a rain jacket during the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro on Monday
Establishing whether it was a tarp or rain jacket is crucial because the latter was covered in gun residue.
The defense then asked Judge Clifton Newman to prevent any other witnesses from testifying about the raincoat, but Newman initially refused.
A state agent testified that the blue jacket was found in Murdaugh’s mother’s home by agents looking for a blue tarp three months after the killings.
Before a state agent could testify about whether anything was found on the garment, the defense asked again for the judge to prevent the witness from testifying further.
‘They have no evidence connecting Mr. Murdaugh to that rain jacket,’ Griffin said.
Newman on Tuesday ruled against the defense and refused to strike Smith’s evidence from the record.
Muschelle ‘Shelly’ Smith (left) – the caregiver of Murdaugh’s elderly mother Elizabeth ‘Libby’ Alexander Murdaugh (right) – told how she spoke to the alleged killer on the night of the murders
The defense and prosecution teams yesterday battled over whether Smith saw a blue jacket (left and right) or a tarp of the same color
‘I find that it is relevant and that it creates, through inference, facts that are in dispute in this case. I deny the motion to strike her testimony, if that’s what the motion is. I deny the motion to declare her testimony as being irrelevant,’ he said.
The judge also denied that the gun residue evidence is prejudicial before going on to state that what Smith said was clearly inconclusive.
‘The witness was so all over the place with her testimony and continued to be confused,’ he said.
The judge added that she was ‘unable to articulate her thoughts’ because of her emotion and the weight of the setting.
Judge rules evidence of financial crimes ARE admissible after prosecutors argued they are essential to proving Murdaugh murdered his wife and son
Jurors are today hearing evidence of Murdaugh’s financial crimes after the judge ruled they are admissible – a major blow to the defense.
Judge Newman on Monday granted the prosecution’s motion because the crimes ‘are so intimately connected and explanatory, it’s vital for context and essential for telling the complete story.’
Judge Clifton Newman granted the prosecution motion because the ‘financial crimes are so intimately connected and explanatory, it’s vital for context and essential for telling the complete story’
The State called seven witnesses in the absence of the jury over the last three days of the trial to provide explosive evidence about how Murdaugh’s life was spiraling out of control and ‘Hannibal was at the gate.’
The defense fought to keep that evidence from the jury, arguing that there is ‘no logical connection’ between the financial impropriety and the killings.
But Judge Newman said: ‘I find that the jury is entitled to consider whether the apparent desperation of Mr. Murdaugh because of his dire financial situation, the threat of being exposed for committing the crimes for which he was later charged, resulted in the commission of the alleged crimes.’
The decision means jurors over the next several days will hear from witnesses who testified previously before a judge about how Murdaugh secured $4 million in settlements for the family of the longtime Murdaugh housekeeper who died in a fall. He allegedly kept the money for himself.
Other testimony includes the office manager confronting Murdaugh over $792,000 in missing law firm fees the day of the killings and how a key hearing in a wrongful death lawsuit that might reveal the true condition of Murdaugh’s finances was scheduled for three days after his wife and son were shot. The hearing was cancelled.
Newman’s decision to allow evidence of Alex Murdaugh’s possible financial crimes came after hearing from a potential witness Monday – a lawyer representing a family suing Murdaugh over a boat crash killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach in 2019.
At the time of Paul’s death, Murdaugh was facing a lawsuit over allowing his son to drive his boat under the influence of alcohol when 19-year-old Mallory (left and right) was killed in February 2019. Murdaugh told cops Paul and Maggie had been killed in revenge for the accident
Beach family attorney Mark Tinsley (left) recalled being confronted by Murdaugh (right) who tried to ‘intimidate’ him at a fundraising event attended by trial lawyers – either for state senator Dick Harpootlian or US senator Lindsey Graham in 2019. Harpootlian is also Murdaugh’s defense attorney in the murder trial
Alex’s son Paul Murdaugh was driving the boat and faced a felony charge of boating under the influence at the time of his death.
When Alex Murdaugh called 911 and first spoke to investigators after his wife and son were killed, he mentioned people who knew Beach being angry with his son.
Beach family attorney Mark Tinsley said Alex Murdaugh and his lawyer were working hard to keep his financial information out of Tinsley’s hands when the killings happened.
‘Pretty quickly I recognized, the case against Alex, if he was the victim of some vigilante, would in fact be over,’ Tinsley said.
He said Murdaugh’s lawyer told him Alex Murdaugh was broke, but Tinsley didn’t believe it given what appeared to be a successful law practice and his family’s generational wealth. He said justice called for damages from Murdaugh because they could not bring Beach back.
‘The Beach family stood on the causeway for eight days while their daughter’s body was in the water,’ Tinsley said. ‘I don´t know there is any amount of money somebody would willingly take to go through what they went through.’
Source: DailyMail UK