Alex Murdaugh’s sister-in-law testified Tuesday in his double murder trial that she thought it was odd that he didn’t seem scared in the weeks after his son Paul and wife Maggie were killed at their South Carolina home.
Marian Proctor told jurors her family was distraught after the killings. She said Alex Murdaugh was devastated too, but that he said a few odd things about the deaths of his wife and son.
“He did not know who it was, but he thought whoever had done it had thought about it a really long time,” Proctor said.
Alex Murdaugh, 54, faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted of killing his 52-year-old wife and their 22-year-old son, whose bodies were found June 7, 2021, near the kennels at the hunting lodge where the disgraced attorney lived with his family.
Proctor said Tuesday she had a great relationship with her nephew and her brother-in-law. Alex Murdaugh spent time with his in-laws after the killings as they all sorted through their grief.
But Proctor said that as time went on, there were some nagging doubts that entered her mind, especially Alex Murdaugh’s focus on Paul Murdaugh’s role in a 2019 boat crash where a teenager died. Investigators said Paul Murdaugh was driving the boat and charged him with boating under the influence.
“He said that his number one goal was clearing Paul’s name,” Proctor said. “And I thought that was so strange because my number one goal was to find out who killed my sister and Paul.”
During cross-examination, Proctor said Maggie Murdaugh was adamant that her son wasn’t driving the boat and wanted to clear his name too.
Proctor testified that Alex and Maggie Murdaugh had a special relationship with only occasional and typical disagreements.
“It was good,” Proctor said. “It wasn’t perfect. But Maggie was happy.”
Prosecutors wanted to ask Proctor about Maggie Murdaugh’s suspicions 15 years ago that her husband was having an affair, but the judge ruled that was too far in the past to be relevant.
Proctor testified her opinion of her brother-in-law started to change in September 2021 when police said Alex Murdaugh asked a friend to kill him on the side of the road so his surviving son could get a $10 million life insurance policy, but the shot just grazed his head.
At the same time, news started to emerge the investigators thought Alex Murdaugh stole from his family law firm and clients. Murdaugh is facing about 100 other charges outside of murder.
Prosecutors have said Murdaugh killed his family to gain sympathy and then stall to try to cover up most of those crimes. The defense has said it is absurd to think a seasoned attorney like Murdaugh would believe scrutiny about his life would diminish if his wife and son were brutally killed.
Earlier Tuesday, prosecutors called their 53rd witness of their case. Dale Davis lived down the road and fed and took care of the family dogs at their kennels.
Davis detailed where he kept each dog in the kennel, how and where water would pool when he washed out the kennels, and how he made sure the water didn’t pool near the feed room, because it was rotting the wood.
“I’m very particular about how I roll that hose up,” Davis testified as he examined a picture taken by police after the killings. “It’s kinked up. There’s pressure on that hose … somebody used that hose after I did.”
Prosecutors have suggested, but haven’t directly said or presented evidence, that the lack of items connecting Alex Murdaugh to the killings — such as weapons that haven’t been found and blood found only near the bodies and not on clothes — indicate Murdaugh cleaned up the crime scene before heading to visit his ailing mother that night. Murdaugh called 911 saying he found the bodies after returning home from that trip.
In cross examination, defense attorney Jim Griffin showed Davis a video from the kennels that prosecutors have said Paul Murdaugh took minutes before the killings. Prosecutors have used it with other witnesses to identify Alex Murdaugh’s voice along with the voices of his son and wife, to show he was at the kennels even though he told police he wasn’t there.
Griffin stopped the video about two-thirds of the way in and asked Davis what he could see in the background. It was the hose, in a haphazard pile.
Griffin also asked Davis about a time a hunting dog got gravely injured in a kennel and needed to be put out of its misery.
“Mr. Alex couldn’t shoot that dog; he asked you to do it, didn’t he?” Griffin asked.
“Yup,” Davis said.
Later, prosecutor David Fernandez asked, “Did Alex do a lot of hunting?” and Davis agreed.
Court began Tuesday with a pathologist sticking to her findings that Maggie Murdaugh was shot four or five times with a rifle while Paul Murdaugh was shot twice with a shotgun.
Dr. Ellen Riemer said the last shots on each victim appeared to be to their heads. She said both victims appeared to have their arms and hands by their sides, with no injuries indicating they tried to protect themselves, Riemer said.
As he did Monday, Alex Murdaugh cried during much of Riemer’s testimony, especially as she detailed the injuries to his wife and son. Murdaugh smiled and laughed when Davis testified that he went home after caring for the dogs, took a shower and “was in my recliner the rest of the night.”
There was no mention of COVID-19 in court Tuesday. On Monday, two jurors were dismissed after testing positive for the virus and the clerk of court also has COVID, leading to worries that the virus has been spreading through the courtroom and could cause a delay or a mistrial.