WALTERBORO, S.C. — Jury selection started Monday in Walterboro for the double murder trial of disbarred attorney Richard “Alex” Murdaugh, who is charged with killing his wife and son.
Murdaugh, part of a South Carolina legal dynasty, was charged with murder in connection to the 2021 shooting deaths of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul. Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty.
Public officials are preparing for crowds of journalists, legal personnel, and spectators to descend on the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro.
Jury selection will likely take nearly two days and the trial is set to end Feb. 10, according to court officials.
Murdaugh, 54, is also facing more than 100 other charges related to alleged financial and drug crimes, as well as a dozen lawsuits. After jury selection, Judge Clifton Newman is expected to decide if evidence related to Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes or other “bad acts” is admissible in his murder trial.
State prosecutors are seeking life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Alex Murdaugh murder trial begins:What could happen in this historic case?
What we know about the killings of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh
Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh and her younger son Paul were killed by rifle and shotgun blasts at their family estate, Moselle, on June 7, 2021. Alex Murdaugh called 911 at 10:07 p.m. and told operators that he wasn’t home at the time of the killings. Colleton County Coroner Richard Harvey said both died of multiple gunshot wounds and estimated the time of death was between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Based on information gathered during the homicide investigation, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division opened another investigation into the 2015 death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith, which was controversially ruled a hit-and-run.
For more than a year, SLED released little information about the Murdaugh family’s deaths as Murdaugh was investigated, arrested and charged in connection with numerous other crimes. In July 2022, the Colleton County Grand Jury indicted Murdaugh on two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime in their deaths.
Prosecutors alleged in December that Murdaugh killed his family to gain sympathy and distract from his alleged financial crimes. Murdaugh’s attorneys claimed in court documents he was visiting his ailing mother in Almeda at the time of the killings.
Who is Alex Murdaugh?
Murdaugh worked at his family’s personal injury law firm in Hampton, South Carolina. He announced he would resign and enter rehab in September 2021 and a week later SLED opened an investigation into accusations he misappropriated funds.
For three generations, Murdaugh’s family developed legal and political power as back-to-back solicitors of the 14th Judicial Circuit. A portrait of Murdaugh’s grandfather, Randolph “Buster” Murdaugh Jr., who served as 14th Circuit solicitor for 46 years, will be removed from the courthouse before the trial begins, according to court officials.
Who is the real Alex Murdaugh:The man who wrecked a South Carolina legal dynasty
Murdaugh’s other legal troubles
Murdaugh has been indictedondozensof other charges related to alleged crimes including drug trafficking, tax evasion and stealing more than $8.7 million from clients and fellow attorneys. The allegations involve more than a decade of criminal acts and numerous alleged victims.
Investigators said Murdaugh tried to get a former client to kill him so his surviving son would get a $10 million life insurance payment and charged him with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and filing a police report. He was shot and suffered a skull fracture but survived the incident.
Murdaugh is also facing two felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses for allegedly misappropriating settlement funds after the death of his housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield.
He is also facing multiple lawsuits. Murdaugh has agreed to sign a $4.3 million confession of judgment in a lawsuit involved Satterfield’s family. A tentative settlement has been reached in a lawsuit over the death of Mallory Beach, 19, who died after Paul Murdaugh allegedly crashed his family’s boat in 2019, The State reported.
Murdaugh murder trial sparks cottage industry in small town
In anticipation of the major influx of journalists, attorneys and spectators, Walterboro city officials invited local entrepreneurs to set up food trucks nearby.
Meanwhile, residents in the area looked for ways to either accommodate the crowds or capitalize on the situation. The Colleton County Clerk of Court website advertised office space for rent. City residents turned their homes into Airbnbs, and nearby businesses sold parking spaces for as much as $40 a day.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Contact Breaking News Reporter N’dea Yancey-Bragg at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @NdeaYanceyBragg
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