- South Carolina legal mogul Alex Murdaugh is standing trial on charges of murdering his wife and son.
- As the trial kicked off, a judge removed a portrait of Murdaugh’s grandfather from the courtroom.
- Prosecutors allege that Murdaugh tried to kill himself shortly after, and also defrauded people.
At the outset of South Carolina legal mogul Alex Murdaugh’s trial on charges of murdering his son and wife, a different family member took center stage.
During opening statements for the trial, Judge Clifton Newman ordered a stately portrait of Alex Murdaugh’s grandfather from the courtroom to be removed, according to The New York Times. The order signified the possible end to a legal dynasty after the lawyer’s spectacular fall from grace, which landed him on the other side of a courtroom that his family commanded for generations.
Alex Murdaugh’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had served as prosecutors in Colleton County, South Carolina, but in court on Wednesday jurors heard allegations that Alex Murdaugh defrauded investors and killed his wife and son with two different guns next to the family’s dog kennel.
Prosecutors in South Carolina brought two murder charges against Alex Murdaugh in July 2022, alleging that he shot and killed his son Paul Murdaugh, 22, and his wife Maggie Murdaugh, 52, at their hunting estate in Islandton, South Carolina, on June 7, 2021. They claimed in court that Alex Murdaugh wanted to gain sympathy as his legal and financial woes piled up, so he portrayed that a stranger had killed his family members.
Opening statements kicked off on Wednesday
Alex Murdaugh, who called 911 on the night of the killings, has alleged that he returned to find the two dead near the family’s dog kennel, but prosecutors claim that he killed his son with a shotgun and his wife with a rifle.
Prosecutors are seeking to introduce evidence like the shirt that Alex Murdaugh wore on the night of the killings, and cell phone records, according to The Times. His lawyers claimed that prosecutors prematurely pinned the murders on their client without investigating other suspects.
Additionally, prosecutors have brought 99 counts of fraud against Alex Murdaugh, claiming he defrauded investors and that he used his law firm to wrongly enrich himself. Murdaugh has been in jail since October 2022, unable to make bail, The Times reported.
Several years of lawsuits and investigations followed Murdaugh before trial
Leading up to the murder trial, Alex Murdaugh and his family were the subjects of scrutiny in connection with several incidents.
In 2019, the youngest Murdaugh son, Paul, was charged in connection to a boating crash that resulted in the death of a 19-year-old woman named Mallory Beach. Authorities said Paul Murdaugh, who was driving, and the boaters, were “grossly intoxicated,” per Bluffton Today. Paul Murdaugh was charged with three felony counts of boating under the influence and pleaded not guilty to all charges.
While awaiting his trial, Paul Murdaugh was killed.
And on September 4, 2021, Alex Murdaugh was shot in the head and survived, his lawyer told The New York Times at the time. Prosecutors allege that Murdaugh hired a hitman — a distant cousin — to shoot him so his surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, could receive a $10 million life insurance payment.
Alex Murdaugh was also at the center of an investigation into the death of his housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who fell to her death in his house in 2018.