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Horrific details uncovered in opening statements of South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh's murder trial

Alex Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife and youngest son, who were found dead with multiple gunshot wounds on their family property in June 2021.
/ Source: TODAY

Prosecutors and defense attorneys laid out their opening arguments in the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh, a prominent South Carolina attorney who is accused of killing his wife and youngest son, with both sides describing a gruesome scene where the two were found dead.

Creighton Waters, the state’s lead prosecutor in the case, alleged in his opening statement Murdaugh, 64, killed Margaret and Paul Murdaugh at close range with guns that belonged to the family.

“It’s going to be gruesome,” Waters told the jury, adding the details of Margaret and Paul's injuries will be tough to hear. He added the two did not have any defensive wounds, "as if they didn’t see a threat coming from their attacker."

Alex Murdaugh
Alex Murdaugh listens during opening statements in his double murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, S.C, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023. Grace Beahm Alford / The State via AP

Waters said Paul Murdaugh, 22, was shot in the chest, shoulder and head with buckshot loads from a 12-gauge shotgun, causing "devastating damage" to his body.

Margaret Murdaugh, 52, was shot with a rifle and had gunshot wounds to her leg, abdomen and head, Waters said.

"Pow! Pow! Two shots in the leg that put her down," Waters said. "After that there were additional shots."

Authorities found Margaret and Paul Murdaugh shot to death on their family’s property about 65 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2021 after Murdaugh called 911.

He was charged with two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon in July 2022. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Murdaugh's attorney, Dick Harpootlian, also revealed horrific details about the state of the victims' bodies in his opening statement.

Harpootlian described the moment Murdaugh found his own son "laying in his own blood with his brain lying at his feet," leading Murdaugh to break down in tears in the courtroom.

Alex Murdaugh
Alex Murdaugh becomes emotional after seeing his family in the courtroom as opening statements begin in his double murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, S.C, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.Grace Beahm Alford / The State via AP

Murdaugh's attorney told jurors Murdaugh was "hysterical and in grief," as he called 911, and alleged there were holes in the prosecution's case, including that there was no blood on Murdaugh when police arrived on the scene.

"You would be covered in blood from head to foot," Harpootlian said. "Head to foot."

Harpootlian argued police quickly decided Murdaugh was guilty shortly after arriving on the scene, and didn't bother to search for other suspects.

"He didn’t do it. He didn’t butcher his son and wife," Harpootlian told jurors. "And you need to put from your mind any suggestion he did."

Murdaugh's surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, was in the courtroom for the opening statements. Murdaugh shared several looks with his son throughout the day, and at one point appeared to tell him, "I love you," according to NBC reporters in the courtroom.

Murdaugh is facing dozens of other fraud and money laundering charges, alleging he stole nearly $8.5 million from clients at his law firm and other people close to his family, like his former housekeeper, according to the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office.

Murdaugh has also been charged with lying to authorities in a botched murder-for-hire plot in which he allegedly asked another man to kill him because wanted to give his son Buster a $10 million insurance payout.

The charges, which total more than 80 counts, represent a stunning downfall for Murdaugh, who comes from a long line of powerful lawyers in South Carolina's lowcountry. Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather have all held positions as top prosecutors in the southern part of the state.