The Mercury News Weekend

On the stand, Alex Murdaugh denies killings but admits lying

- By Jeffrey Collins

Disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh denied killing his wife and son but admitted lying to investigat­ors about when he last saw them alive as he took the stand in his own defense Thursday.

Murdaugh, 54, is charged with murder in the fatal shootings of his wife, Maggie, 52, and their 22-year-old son, Paul, who were killed near kennels on their property on June 7, 2021. In his testimony, Murdaugh continued to staunchly deny any role in the killings.

“I would never intentiona­lly do anything to hurt either one of them,” Murdaugh said, tears running down his cheeks.

Prosecutor­s spent four weeks of the trial painting Murdaugh as a liar who stole money from clients and decided to kill his wife and son because he wanted sympathy to buy time to cover up his financial crimes that were about to be discovered. They have detailed what they called lie after lie, saying Murdaugh reacts violently when the truth is about to emerge, like trying to arrange his own death after his law firm fired him three months after the killings.

Murdaugh lied about being at the kennels with his wife and son shortly before their killings for 20 months before taking the stand Thursday, day 23 of his trial. Murdaugh blamed the lie — first told to a state law enforcemen­t agent hours after the killings — on his addiction to opioids, which he said clouded his thinking and created a distrust of police.

“As my addiction evolved over time, I would get in these situations, these circumstan­ces where I would get paranoid thinking,” Murdaugh said.

The once-prominent attorney had told police that he was napping and did not go to the kennels before leaving the house to visit his ailing mother in another town. But several witnesses testified that they believed they heard Murdaugh's voice along with his son and wife on cellphone video taken at the kennels about five minutes before the shootings. It took investigat­ors more than a year to hack into Paul Murdaugh's iPhone and find the video.

Once Alex Murdaugh started lying about being at the kennels, he said he felt he had to continue: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave. Once I told a lie — I told my family — I had to keep lying.”

For prosecutor­s, that lie underpins a case where investigat­ors haven't presented the weapons used to kill the victims, a confession, surveillan­ce video or clothes covered in blood. Murdaugh faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted

Murdaugh testified that his wife asked him to go to the kennels the evening of the killings, so he rode down in a golf cart and wrestled a chicken away from a dog before returning to the house and deciding to go visit his ailing mother.

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