How Alex Murdaugh’s son helped seal his guilty verdict from beyond the grave with a 50-second video of a dog
Since birth, he enjoyed the privileges that came from being the heir to a local legal dynasty.
For a decade he got away with stealing millions of dollars from his law firm, legal clients and friends.
And for 13 months he evaded justice after murdering his wife and adult son in a brutal fashion on the family’s estate.
But, in the end, Alex Murdaugh’s crimes caught up with him.
And it was his own son who unknowingly helped cement his downfall from beyond the grave with a damning 50-second cellphone video of a dog.
As prosecutor Creighton Waters said in his closing argument for the state, this video “changed everything”.
The video, taken by Paul on the night of 7 June 2021, captured his father, mother Maggie and himself altogether at the dog kennels of the family’s 1,700-acre Moselle estate just minutes before Maggie and Paul were murdered.
This video placed Murdaugh – and only him – at the crime scene around the time his wife and son were killed.
But not only that, it destroyed his alibi and proved that he had lied about the last time he claimed to have seen his wife and son alive.
It was 8.44pm on the night of 7 June 2021.
Paul was looking after a brown labrador named Cash for his friend Rogan Gibson.
The two friends had spoken on the phone minutes earlier about the dog and Paul had promised to send Mr Gibson a video of its tail.
Mr Gibson never got the video.
But Paul did film it – and his video ultimately caught his killer.
Captured on Paul’s cell phone at 8.44pm, the video shows Cash the dog inside the kennels on the Moselle estate.
Off-camera, three distinct voices can be heard: Paul, Maggie and Alex Murdaugh.
Maggie and her husband are heard shouting about their dog Bubba catching a chicken in its mouth.
Cellphone data shows that the video lasted 58 seconds from 8.44.49pm to 8.45.47pm.
Just minutes later, at 8.49pm, Maggie and Paul each appeared to use their cellphones for the very last time.
This was the last sign of life for both the mother and son.
Prosecutors believe that it was at around 8.50pm that Murdaugh first took a 12-gauge shotgun and ambushed Paul as he stood in the feed room, close to the kennels where he had been playing with Cash moments earlier.
He shot him once in the chest but this didn’t kill him.
As the 22-year-old staggered towards his father in the door of the feed room, Murdaugh shot him again – a brutal shot that blew his entire brain out of his skull and onto the ground.
On hearing the shots, Maggie, 52, “ran towards her baby”.
Her husband – whom she had been with since they met in college – picked up a .300 Blackout semiautomatic rifle and opened fire on her.
She was struck five times before falling to the ground near the shed.
After killing his wife and son, Murdaugh sought to construct an alibi – rushing back to the family home, making numerous phone calls to friends and family members, and making a speedy visit to his ailing mother.
He then returned home and drove down to the kennels, calling 911 at 10.06pm to claim he had just found his wife and son’s bodies.
For the next 20 months, Mr Murdaugh kept up this lie.
And for many months he got away with it.
Then, in April 2022, after months of experts trying – and failing – to access Paul’s phone, they finally unlocked it.
There, they found the damning video that was proof of Murdaugh’s lies.
In the prosecution’s closing arguments, Mr Waters acknowledged how Paul’s video changed the entire case against Murdaugh.
“Getting access to the phone changed everything,” he said. “It showed opportunity... but more importantly it exposed the defendant’s lies.
“Why in the world would an innocent reasonable father and husband lie about that?”
For all Murdaugh’s attempts to cover his own steps, “here was one mistake he didn’t expect”, said Mr Waters.
“He didn’t know that was there,” he said of the video.
The criticality of the kennel video was not lost on Murdaugh either, as he defiantly took the stand and recanted his entire alibi because of it.
Murdaugh blamed several reasons for why he lied: his opioid addiction, his distrust of SLED, his lawyer friends telling him not to speak to anyone without a lawyer present and officers carrying out gunshot residue testing on him at the murder scene.
This, he claimed, made him “paranoid”. And so he lied.
“Oh what a tangled web we weave. Once I told the lie, and I told my family, I had to keep lying,” he testified.
But, during a fraught cross-examination, this too fell apart before the eyes of jurors – as Mr Waters confronted him about his new story.
“You, like you have done so many times in your life, had to back up and make a new story to fit with the facts of your life,” Mr Waters said.
A bombshell moment then unfolded when Murdaugh was accused of lying on the stand – about the very reason he had lied about his alibi.
A second video – this one Murdaugh did know about – showed him being asked by the first officer on the scene when he had last seen his wife and son.
And the lies began then – well before SLED arrived, or his lawyer friends told him to get representation or he was tested for gunshot residue.
Of course there was plenty of other circumstantial evidence in the case – from cellphone data, car data, clothing that didn’t match, missing guns, attempts to get stories straight with witnesses... the list goes on.
But that’s all it was: circumstantial.
Whereas the video Paul took caught his father red-handed mere minutes before he became, as the prosecution said, a “family annihilator”.
Of course, Paul didn’t know that.
To him, he was just filming a dog on his cellphone to send to a friend.
He had no idea he was about to be shot dead by his own father.
And he also had no idea that that 58-second video of a brown labrador would be the key to getting him and his mother justice 21 months on.