NATIONAL NEWS

Alex Murdaugh gets life in prison in murder of wife, son

Mar 3, 2023, 6:22 AM | Updated: 8:11 am

Alex Murdaugh cries while listening to testimony during his double murder trial at the Colleton Cou...

Alex Murdaugh cries while listening to testimony during his double murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, S.C., Monday, Feb. 27, 2023. The 54-year-old attorney is standing trial on two counts of murder in the shootings of his wife and son at their Colleton County, S.C., home and hunting lodge on June 7, 2021. (Jeff Blake/The State via AP, Pool)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Jeff Blake/The State via AP, Pool)

WALTERBORO, S.C. (AP) — A judge sentenced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh to life without parole Friday, a day after he was convicted of murder in the shooting deaths of his wife and son.

The Colleton County jury deliberated for less than three hours Thursday before finding Murdaugh guilty of killing his 22-year-old son, Paul, with a shotgun and his 52-year-old wife, Maggie, with a rifle on June 7, 2021.

Murdaugh soon will be taken to a state prison where he will be held in the highest security.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

WALTERBORO, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh was back in a courtroom Friday, this time facing the judge as a convicted murderer looking at 30 years to life in prison for killing his wife and son.

Prosecutors indicated in earlier court filings that they will ask for a life sentence to hold Murdaugh responsible for what they say are decades of lying, stealing and using his family’s considerable clout in their tiny county to his advantage. Any sentence would have no chance of parole.

Murdaugh maintained his innocence when addressing the judge before sentencing.

“I would never hurt my wife Maggie and I would never hurt my son Paul Paul,” he said.

Prosecutor Creighton Waters said none of the victims of the crime — members of Murdaugh’s family and the parents and relatives of his wife — wished to speak on behalf of the prosecution before sentencing. He asked for back-to-back life sentences for Murdaugh.

“The depravity, the callousness, the selfishness of these crimes are stunning. The lack of remorse and the effortless way in which he is, including here, sitting right over there in this witness stand — your honor, a man like that, a man like this man, should never be allowed to be among free, law abiding citizens,” Waters said.

As Murdaugh stood before the judge to learn his fate, he was in the same courtroom on the circuit where his father, grandfather and great-grandfather tried cases as the elected prosecutor for more than 80 years. His grandfather’s portrait hung in the back of the room until the judge ordered it taken down for the trial.

Instead of the dress shirt and sport coat he wore through the six-week trial, the attorney who made millions suing big companies on behalf of people injured in wrecks arrived at court in a jail jumpsuit the day after he was convicted of two counts of murder.

The Colleton County jury deliberated for less than three hours before finding Murdaugh guilty of killing his 22-year-old son, Paul, with a shotgun and his 52-year-old wife, Maggie, with a rifle on June 7, 2021.

Juror Craig Moyer told ABC News that when deliberations began, the jury immediately took a poll that came back with nine guilty votes. It didn’t take long to convince the other three.

The juror agreed with prosecutors that the key piece of evidence was a video locked on his son’s cellphone for a year — video shot minutes before the killings at the same kennels near where the bodies would be found.

The voices of all three Murdaughs can be heard on the video, though Alex Murdaugh had insisted for 20 months that he hadn’t been at the kennels that night. When he took the stand in his own defense, the first thing he did was admit he had lied to investigators about being at the kennels, saying he was paranoid of law enforcement because he was an opioid addict with pills in his pocket the night of the killings.

“A good liar. But not good enough,” Moyer said.

Prosecutors didn’t have the weapons used to kill the Murdaughs or other direct evidence like confessions or blood spatter. But they had a mountain of circumstantial evidence, including the video putting Murdaugh at the scene of the killings five minutes before his wife and son stopped using their cellphones forever.

It’s unclear who will speak at Friday’s sentencing hearing. Murdaugh’s surviving son, Buster, and one of his brothers testified for the defense and have been behind him every day of the trial.

Murdaugh’s sister-in-law testified they were all close. Alex Murdaugh went on vacation with them in the months after the killings.

Through more than 75 witnesses and nearly 800 pieces of evidence, jurors heard about betrayed friends and clients, Murdaugh’s failed attempt to stage his own death in an insurance fraud scheme, a fatal boat crash in which his son was implicated, the housekeeper who died in a fall in the Murdaugh home and the grisly scene of the killings.

The now-disbarred attorney admitted stealing millions of dollars from the family firm and clients, saying he needed the money to fund his drug habit. Before he was charged with murder, Murdaugh was in jail awaiting trial on about 100 other charges ranging from insurance fraud to tax evasion.

When he took the stand last week, Murdaugh appeared to cry as he denied again and again that he killed his wife. But juror Moyer said he saw through yet another lie.

“He never cried. All he did was blow snot,” Moyer said. “No tears. I saw his eyes. I was this close to him.”

___

Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina.

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Alex Murdaugh gets life in prison in murder of wife, son