Day 8: Paul Murdaugh’s friends say Alex’s voice heard on video

ATTORNEY

READ MORE


Alex Murdaugh Coverage

The Murdaugh family saga has dominated the news after another shooting, a resignation and criminal accusations — with Alex Murdaugh at the center of it all. Here are the latest updates on Alex Murdaugh.

Expand All


Alex Murdaugh, a once prominent Hampton-based attorney from a well-known politically-connected family, is on trial in the deaths of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul.

Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty. He faces life in prison without parole if found guilty. The trial started last week with jury selection, opening arguments and the initial round of witness testimony. It is expected, for now, to run through Feb. 10 in Walterboro.

5:45 p.m. — Court adjourned, will resume Thursday morning

Will Loving has left the stand and Judge Clifton Newman has released the jury until 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

Before ending the day, Newman announced he will rule Thursday morning on the admissibility of evidence concerning other crimes Alex Murdaugh is accused of.

The prosecution has repeatedly suggested Murdaugh’s alleged financial misdeeds and may have motivated the murder of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh.

In his final line of questioning, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters hammered on Murdaugh’s alleged shady finances.

Waters asked Loving if he had any knowledge of where Murdaugh was spending his money, where the money came from, what his bank account balances looked like, and most pointedly, if Loving was aware that Murdaugh was confronted on the morning of June 7, 2021, regarding some $792,000 in missing fees from his law firm.

“Do you have the facts on any of that?” Waters asked.

“No sir, I do not,” Loving said.

5:25 p.m. — Missing rifle was at Moselle months before murders

A missing .300 Blackout rifle that belonged to Paul Murdaugh was still at the family’s Moselle estate in late March or early April 2021, according to Will Loving, a witness and friend of Paul’s.

Loving said around that time, he and Paul were adjusting a newly purchased scope for the weapon before they took it hog hunting.

That weapon, a tan .300 Blackout rifle that later went missing, is still unaccounted for. It matches the caliber of bullets used to kill Maggie Murdaugh. The prosecution never recovered a murder weapon.

The last time Paul contacted Loving was through video and photo messaging app Snapchat. Loving testified he received a video of Paul and Alex Murdaugh around 7 p.m. on June 7, 2021, looking at a row of trees they’d planted.

Loving also identified Murdaugh’s voice in a video Paul took around 8:40 p.m. at the Moselle kennels the same night. He was the second consecutive witness to state they were “100%” certain the third voice belonged to Murdaugh.

In cross-examination, defense attorney Jim Griffin pressed for details of Paul’s forgetfulness with the family’s weapons.

“Would he (Paul) leave guns around the property and in unlocked trucks?” Griffin asked.

“He did,” Loving confirmed.

Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters asked Loving if he had any knowledge of the Murdaugh family’s financial struggles following a 2019 boat crash that spawned several lawsuits. Loving said he’d heard “through the grapevine” that the family sold a third property to offset the settlement costs.

The defense objected to the testimony on grounds of hearsay, and Judge Clifton Newman sustained the objection.

The use of financial troubles as a motive for the murders was a contentious topic before the trial began.

As the trial progresses, Newman is expected to rule on the admissibility of evidence or testimony related to financial crimes Murdaugh has been accused of, but not convicted or tried for.

4:50 p.m. — Prosecution calls next witness, another friend of Paul’s

Will Loving has taken the stand as the trial’s 18th witness. Loving has known Paul since he was 15 years old, he said.

“We did pretty much everything together down on (Edisto Beach),” Loving said.

They started socializing outside of Edisto after high school, Loving testified. They would hunt and fish together, and he often visited Moselle.

4:25 p.m. — Defense: Guns not secure at Moselle property

Defense attorney Jim Griffin cross-examined Rogan Gibson, a longtime friend of the Murdaugh’s, who described them as a “second family.”

“She was like a second mother to me. Always took care of me. Treated me like one of hers,” Gibson said of Maggie Murdaugh.

“Was there any circumstance that you can think of, knowing them as you do, that would lead (Alex Murdaugh) to brutally murder Paul and Maggie?” Griffin asked.

“Not that I could think of,” Gibson responded.

Griffin repeatedly raised questions about gun security at the Moselle property. Gibson noted that buildings across the property, including the property’s workshop and various sheds, were often left unlocked and housed firearms.

Gibson testified it wouldn’t be difficult for an outside actor to sneak onto the Moselle property and search through the family’s vehicles or buildings, including the kennels and workshop.

“Would it be difficult to walk up onto the property and steal stuff?” Griffin asked.

“Probably not around the sheds. It wouldn’t be too hard,” Gibson confirmed.

However, Gibson did not walk back his certainty that it was Murdaugh’s voice on the video Paul took at the kennels.

The defense seeded doubt that Murdaugh was the murderer by mentioning possible threats Paul received after a 2019 boat crash that killed one passenger. Gibson said he never felt any of the threats were serious, but testified people at bars would “mouth off” to Paul if they recognized him.

Following cross-examination and a short redirect, Judge Clifton Newman sent court into a 10-minute recess.

Gibson is no longer on the stand.

3:35 p.m. — Friend heard more than Paul’s voice at kennels June 7

Rogan Gibson, a friend of Paul Murdaugh’s, said he heard voices besides Paul’s at the kennels around the time Paul was killed on June 7, 2021.

Gibson said his dog, Cash, was staying in the kennels when Paul sent a text asking if there was something wrong with the dog’s tail. Paul called Gibson around 8:40 p.m. on June 7, he testified. Gibson said and he knew Paul was in the kennels because he heard dogs barking in the background.

When lead prosecutor Creighton Waters asked if he heard other voices on the phone, Gibson testified he heard Maggie Murdaugh and, also, who he thought was Alex Murdaugh.

Paul tried to FaceTime Gibson, Gibson said, but the video was lagging. Gibson then asked Paul to send a video or photo.

After that text, Gibson said he never heard from Paul again before learning he’d been murdered, his voice breaking up.

In a later interview Gibson gave to SLED agent Jeff Croft, Croft asked if he was certain the third voice at the kennels was Alex Murdaugh. At the time, Gibson said he was “99%” certain.

Murdaugh was present for that interview, Gibson testified.

“When you said that, did he (Alex Murdaugh) jump up and say, ‘No, I wasn’t there!’” Creighton questioned.

“He did not,” Gibson confirmed.

After Gibson listened to audio from a video of his dog recovered from Paul’s phone, Gibson said he was “100%” certain the third voice in the kennels was Alex Murdaugh.

Gibson first heard the audio in November 2022.

3:20 p.m. — State calls close friend of Paul Murdaugh as witness

Rogan Gibson has taken the stand as the state’s 17th witness.

Gibson was friends with Paul Murdaugh “all his life,” he said, up until the night he was killed.

Just before Paul was murdered, Gibson was texting him asking for a video or photo of his dog. Gibson’s dog was housed at the Moselle kennels at the time of the murders.

Gibson also texted Paul Murdaugh’s mother, Maggie Murdaugh, around 10 p.m. the same night. He asked if she could tell Paul to call him.

3 p.m. — Alex’s hands were ‘clean’ after Paul, Maggie’s deaths

Colleton County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Dathan Varnadoe testified he administered a gunshot residue test to Alex Murdaugh’s hands the night of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh’s murders.

The test involved taking swabs of Murdaugh’s hands, Varnadoe confirmed.

“When you were looking at his hands, did you see any debris or blood on the subject’s hands?” prosecutor John Meadors asked.

“No,” Varnadoe answered, adding he’d describe them as “clean” at the time.

The prosecution previously questioned why Murdaugh’s hands and clothes had no signs of blood despite Murdaugh saying he tried to turn over Paul’s body after discovering him in the kennels.

The gory nature of Paul’s death, prosecutors suggested, would have made turning the body without getting bloody extremely difficult.

On cross-examination, prosecutor Jim Griffin asked Varnadoe about Murdaugh’s emotional state the night of the murders.

“He was shook up,” Varnadoe confirmed.

Griffin also asked if Murdaugh complied with the testing and treated officers respectfully at the scene, which Varnadoe confirmed.

2:50 p.m. — Colleton County Sheriff’s sergeant takes stand

Sgt. Dathan Varnadoe of the Colleton County Sheriff’s office has taken the stand as the state’s 16th witness.

Varnadoe was an investigator for the sheriff’s office on June 7, 2021, when Paul and Maggie Murdaugh were killed.

1:20 p.m. — Court in lunch recess

SLED expert Lt. Britt Dove has stepped down from the witness stand and Judge Newman sent the court into recess until 2:35 p.m.

1:10 p.m. — Did Murdaugh have phone during murders?

On redirect, prosecutor John Conrad rebutted defense attorney Phillip Barber’s suggestion that Alex Murdaugh’s lack of recorded movement from 8:09 p.m. to 9:02 p.m. places him away from the crime scene and Maggie’s cellphone.

Conrad pointed to a video shown Wednesday, taken on Paul’s cellphone in the Moselle kennels. The state contends Murdaugh’s voice is one of three heard in the background. The video was taken at 8:44 p.m., Conrad said, during the apparently inactive period on Murdaugh’s phone.

If Murdaugh was one of the three voices, Conrad suggested, his presence at the kennels despite no recorded movement until after 9 p.m. would mean he was moving without his phone in that time span.

Conrad also said Maggie’s phone screen was off between 9:07 p.m. to 9:31 p.m. Maggie’s phone could have been relocated during that time frame, prosecution said, without recording an orientation change or other data that would indicate it was thrown from a vehicle.

Murdaugh’s phone recorded steps around 9:06 p.m., around the time he said he’d entered his car to leave Moselle and visit his mother.

“If that (Maggie’s) phone had been thrown after 9:07 p.m. with the screen off, would you expect to see an orientation change?” Conrad asked.

“No, sir,” Dove said.

12:30 p.m. — Timeline of Alex, Maggie’s phone movement out of sync

In Lt. Dove’s cross-examination, defense lawyer Phillip Barber hit back at the prosecution’s suggestion that Alex Murdaugh’s phone inactivity and strange data from Maggie’s cellphone might link Murdaugh to the crime scene.

Both Maggie and Murdaugh’s phones recorded steps in the hours leading up to and during the crime.

Steps were recorded on Maggie’s phone at 8:53:15 p.m., Dove testified. That period recorded 59 steps.

More steps were recorded around 9:06 p.m. on Alex Murdaugh’s cellphone.

During that same time, Barber noted Maggie Murdaugh’s phone was not recording steps. Prosecutors previously suggested Maggie’s phone may have been moved away from the crime scene by Murdaugh after her murder, at which point he began making phone calls to his slain wife to “manufacture” an alibi.

Barber asked Dove what the different times of recorded steps could indicate.

“It appears the phones were not together, or being moved by the same person because they were not recording steps,” Dove said.

12 p.m. — Witness says 3 voices heard in video before Maggie, Paul killed

In a brief video from Paul Murdaugh’s showed in court Wednesday, Lt. Dove said three voices can be heard at the Moselle kennels just minutes before Maggie and Paul’s phone activity stopped on June 7, 2021, the night of their deaths.

“The video looks like the inside of a kennel area with a fence around it,” Dove testified. “A dog, I believe to be a lab, (Paul) is trying to take a video of the tail of the dog.”

Dove added, “You hear three different voices in the video … because they’re so different, you can tell it’s three different voices.”

The video was taken from 8:44 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., roughly 50 seconds, Dove said. Three voices can be heard in the footage, though what the two voices in addition to Paul are saying is unclear. It was not immediately said whether one of the voices was Alex Murdaugh.

Murdaugh told investigators he last saw his family at dinner that night and was not near the kennels.

Dove is currently under cross-examination.

AlexMurdaughtrial.jpg
Britt Dove, SLED agent specialist in computer forensics, demonstrates what may cause a cellphone to register that it has changed orientation during Alex Murdaugh’s trial for murder at the Colleton County Courthouse on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. Joshua Boucher/The State/Pool Joshua Boucher [email protected]

11:40 a.m. — Paul Murdaugh took 1-minute video just before death

Dove testified the activity report pulled from Paul Murdaugh’s phone shows the camera was active near the Moselle kennels from 8:44:49 to 8:45:47 p.m. the night he was killed.

Prosecutors said they have evidence that will place Alex Murdaugh at the scene of the crime minutes before the state’s timeline shows Paul and Maggie Murdaugh’s cellphone activity ended.

In opening statements, Waters said a video was taken at 8:44 p.m. and features Maggie and Murdaugh’s voices in the background.

11 a.m. — Witness talks timeline of phone activity from Paul, Alex

In an attempt to link Alex Murdaugh to the scene of his wife and son’s murders and establish a time of death, the state has presented timelines detailing phone activity from Paul’s and Alex Murdaugh’s cellphones on June 7, 2021.

In opening statements, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters described the Murdaughs as “prolific” phone users, particularly Paul Murdaugh. In interviews with investigators after Paul and Maggie Murdaugh were killed, Alex Murdaugh said Paul usually had his phone “in his hand,” or at least on his person.

Dove testified that the last activity from Paul Murdaugh’s phone occurred between 8:48 p.m. and 8:48 p.m. the night of his death. He received two separate text messages at 8:48 p.m. and 8:48 p.m., and both were read at 8:48 p.m., according to an activity report SLED pulled from the device.

Just seconds later, Paul Murdaugh received another text at 8:49 p.m. that was never read.

Dove testified Paul’s phone battery was around 2% at that time, but wasn’t drained fully until 10:34 p.m. the night of his death. Under normal use, the battery would only have lasted 10 or 15 more minutes, Dove said, indicating it lay unused for that time.

Prosecutors also highlighted activity on Alex Murdaugh’s phone they suggested was unusual based on Murdaugh’s habits.

Murdaugh’s phone didn’t record any steps from 8:09 p.m. to 9:02 p.m. the night of the murders, Dove testified. At 9:02 p.m., the phone began recording 283 steps.

Murdaugh also received a text in a family group chat that night that wasn’t read until the following day. Prosecutors previously suggested it would be unusual for Murdaugh to be without his phone for extended periods of time.

Conrad asked how quickly Murdaugh tended to read text messages on average based on the report, and Dove testified messages were usually read at least “within an hour’s time” but were often read earlier.

Prosecution also cast suspicion that given the text’s subject matter, Murdaugh’s father’s declining health, it should have been read sooner.

Murdaugh has maintained he last saw his family at dinner before taking a nap and leaving to visit his mother the night of the murders.

9:55 a.m. — Calls deleted from Alex Murdaugh’s phone

Although Maggie Murdaugh’s cellphone shows five missed calls from Alex Murdaugh on the night of June 7, 2021, data pulled from Alex Murdaugh’s cellphone shows calls made around that time were deleted.

Dove testified that when data was pulled from Alex Murdaugh’s phone in September 2021, the extraction showed Alex Murdaugh placed outgoing, unanswered Facetime calls on June 4, 2021 at 3:31 p.m. and 4:35 p.m.

The report showed a gap until June 7, 2021, at 10:25:49 p.m., — after the murders took place — when Alex Murdaugh placed an outgoing call to Maggie Murdaugh.

However, Maggie Murdaugh’s phone recorded several missed calls from Alex Murdaugh placed at 9:04, 9:06, 9:06, 9:45 and 10:03 p.m. the night of her death.

“Are those calls on Alex Murdaugh’s phone?” prosecutor John Conrad asked.

“No sir, they are not,” Dove answered.

“How could those calls be removed to create such a gap?” Conrad continued.

“A gap like that would indicate that it was actually removed from there. You can go in and very easily go into the call log. If you chose … to delete that call, you could do that,” Dove confirmed.

9:45 a.m. — State presents data from Alex Murdaugh’s cellphone

Prosecutors presented Alex Murdaugh’s cellphone early on Day 8 in the disbarred lawyer’s double murder trial.

Dove confirmed some data from the phone was redacted by a SLED attorney due to information subject to client-attorney privilege. No call records were deleted, Dove testified.

Prosecutors have said GPS data and a snapchat video taken by Paul Murdaugh minutes before his death will be key components in placing Alex Murdaugh at the murder scene around the time of the killings.

9:30 a.m. — Judge to resume court with forensics expert

Lt. Britt Dove, an agent with the State Law Enforcement Division who specializes in internet and computer crimes analysis, will be back on the stand at 9:30 a.m.

Dove, the 15th witness to be called by the state, is one of numerous names listed in the chain of custody for Paul Murdaugh’s cellphone. The locations of Paul and Maggie’s phones — particularly Maggie Murdaugh’s, which one SLED witness testified was found hundreds of meters from her body — have been long-standing mysteries surrounding the killings.

AlexMurdaughTrial.jpg
Texts on Maggie Murdaugh’s cellphone is show as evidence during Alex Murdaugh’s trial for murder at the Colleton County Courthouse on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023.

On Tuesday, prosecutors presented a report pulled from Maggie’s phone detailing the final text messages and phone calls she received before her death, using the data to support prosecution’s timeline of Maggie and Paul’s murders.

Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters claimed in his opening statements that Maggie’s phone “went silent forever” at 8:49 p.m. on June 7, 2021, placing her time of death around then. At 8:31 p.m. the night of her death, Maggie received a text message from Alex Murdaugh’s brother, John Marvin, which read, “I plan on going over to visit dad tomorrow afternoon, is anyone else planning to go?”

Maggie read the message at 8:31 p.m., Dove said Tuesday.

At 9:08 p.m., she a text message from Murdaugh that was never read.

Maggie received another text message at 9:34 p.m. from Rogan Gibson, a friend of Paul’s, who was attempting to contact Paul. It was left unread.

Roughly an hour before prosecution says she was killed, Maggie had a phone call with a contact, “Barbara,” that lasted nearly three minutes. That was the final phone call that Maggie answered.

She later missed five phone calls from Murdaugh that night.

Meanwhile, Dove also testified that phone activity consistent with someone picking the phone up and attempting to unlock it occurred after the last time Maggie’s cellphone was unlocked. Dove said the camera activated itself at 8:54 p.m. the night of her death. It was on for one second, which Dove said is similar to a phone attempting to recognize someone’s face for facial recognition unlock.

One orientation change occurred at 9:06 p.m. — the same time Murdaugh made one of several phone calls to Maggie’s phone.

This story was originally published February 1, 2023 9:23 AM.

Profile Image of Blake Douglas

Blake is the Hilton Head Island reporter for the Island Packet. A Tulsa, Oklahoma native, Blake has written for his hometown Tulsa World, as well as the Charlotte Observer. He graduated in May 2022 from the University of Oklahoma with a journalism degree.

Related Posts