WALTERBORO, SC (AP) – Alex Murdaugh, a once-prominent and now disbarred South Carolina attorney, briefly leaves jail Wednesday for a bail hearing on murder charges in the shooting of his wife and son a while ago. 13 months.
Murdaugh has been behind bars since October, charged with financial crimes and several other wrongdoings uncovered after the murder of his wife Maggie, 52, and their 22-year-old son, Paul, at the family’s Colleton County hunting estate in June 2021. .
Murdaugh, 54, was charged last week with two counts of murder and two counts of possessing a weapon in a violent crime. Court documents do not indicate how police linked Murdaugh to the deaths after 13 months of investigation. Nor do they contain any clues as to why a man who had no criminal history and was part of a wealthy, well-connected family that dominated the small-town Hampton legal community might have wanted kill his own family members.
The authorities have been discreet since the start of the investigation. Last year, they released the late-night 911 call in which Murdaugh reported finding the bodies of his wife and son outside near the kennels at his estate. The coroner said both victims were shot multiple times. The indictments add a new detail: an allegation that Murdaugh killed his wife with a gun and his son with a shotgun.
Murdaugh’s lawyers have hinted they may pressure prosecutors to reveal what information they have at Wednesday’s hearing. In a statement released after the grand jury returned the murder indictments on Thursday, they also said they wanted to have his trial within the next three months.
“It was abundantly 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,” defense attorneys Jim Griffin and Dick wrote. Harpootlian. “But we know Alex had no motive to murder them.”
Wednesday’s hearing at the Colleton County Courthouse will be presided over by Circuit Judge Clifton Newman, the same judge who denied Murdaugh bail on the financial crimes charges. Another judge then set bail at $7 million, but Murdaugh was unable to pay it and remained in jail. His lawyers repeatedly complained that the bond was too high and said that because of the lawsuits and frozen assets, Murdaugh could not even afford to buy underwear from the prison store.
If convicted of murder, Murdaugh faces 30 years to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Under state law, prosecutors could also choose to seek the death penalty because more than one person was killed.
The four new indictments related to the murders add to a pile of 80 other charges brought against Murdaugh by investigators who have examined every part of his life over the past year. No trial date has been set for any of the cases.
Prosecutors say the once-prominent lawyer stole more than $8 million in settlements and other funds from clients, committed fraud and lied to police while trying to stage his own death so his surviving son could collect a $10 million life insurance policy. Murdaugh was also accused last month of co-running a $2 million drug and money laundering ring.
The murder charges and other cases are being prosecuted by the South Carolina Attorney General’s office due to ties Murdaugh has with the local 14th Circuit District Attorney’s office. The bureau’s jurisdiction includes Colleton County and Hampton County, where Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather served as elected prosecutors for 87 consecutive years.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.