Alex Murdaugh case detective explains key mystery from trial
An investigator with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has explained a key mystery in Alex Murdaugh’s double murder trial.
Colleton County Sheriff’s Office Detective Laura Rutland was among more than 70 witnesses who testified in the disgraced attorney’s bombshell six-week trial. Ms Rutland, the first state witness to take the stand, was chosen to work the case because she was one of the few law enforcement agents in the area who didn’t have connections with the powerful legal dynasty.
Members of the jury only needed three hours of deliberation earlier this month to find Murdaugh guilty of his wife Maggie and son Paul’s June 2021 murders. Murdaugh, sentenced to two life sentences without parole, has already appealed the conviction.
In an interview with Fox News, Ms Rutland elaborated on a detail that came up during her cross-examination by the defence but largely faded out of the trial after she was unable to offer an explanation. A week on from Murdaugh’s conviction, the veteran detective described the gruesome crime scene at the family’s Moselle hunting property and explained why hair strands were found in Maggie’s hand.
“I just wanted to clarify that when she had suffered her injuries, and the bullet exited the back of her head, it created a large hole, which displaced that part of her skull, including her scalp and her hair,” Ms Rutland said.
“So, all around her body, there were small clumps of the back of her hair in the grass around her body. Some had fallen near her hands and her arms. And when we removed her body, some of the hair that was on her fingers, it was just a few strands went with her.”
Prosecutors said Murdaugh shot Paul twice with a 12-gauge shotgun while he stood in the feed room of the dog kennels.
After killing Paul, prosecutors said Murdaugh then grabbed a .300 Blackout semiautomatic rifle and opened fire on Maggie as she tried to flee from her husband. Maggie was shot five times including twice in the head after she had fallen to her knees.
Ms Rutland also spoke about Murdaugh’s bizarrely clean clothes when law enforcement arrived at the scene, despite his claims that he had tried to turn Paul’s body over to check his pulse.
“In addition to the biological matter around his body, there was also a lot of water,” Ms Rutland told Fox. “And [the jury was] able to see that on Sergeant Green’s body cam. It was just so odd that even Alex’s shoes were as clean as they were, including the soles of the shoes.”
She added: “Anybody walking around Paul’s body would have had that watery, bloody mixture on their shoes.”
Ms Rutland said she was glad the jury was able to come to terms with a decision after reviewing weeks of complicated evidence.
“My captain and I just happened to come out of a side door where the jury was being escorted... and they wanted to shake our hands,” she said. “I’ll never forget that moment. I was very impressed with the jury and appreciative of their service to Colleton County.”
On Thursday, Murdaugh’s legal team announced that they had filed an appeal. The double murderer had 10 days to send a notice of appeal following his conviction.
“Today Jim Griffin and I filed our notice of appeal for Alex Murdaugh,” Dick Harpootlian, one of Murdaugh’s attorneys, tweeted. “This is the next step in the legal process to fight for Alex’s constitutional right to a fair trial.”
However, prominent legal expert Duncan Levy told The Independent that even if Murdaugh’s appeal is successful, he’s still destined to spend his life behind bars after he admitted to a string of financial crimes under oath at his trial.
“I don’t see any basis for an appeal. When he took the stand he erased any real chance of error as he said it in his own words,” said the former assistant district attorney in the Manhattan DA’s office.
“He will spend the rest of his life in prison – there’s no getting out of this at this point.”