Former South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh found guilty of murder in killings of wife, son

Written by on March 2, 2023

A South Carolina jury found disbarred attorney Richard “Alex” Murdaugh guilty of murder Thursday in the 2021 killings of his wife and son.

The jury deliberated less than three hours before Murdaugh, 54, was found guilty of two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.

Murdaugh’s wife Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22, were found fatally shot near dog kennels at the family’s home on June 7, 2021. Murdaugh admitted in court that he lied to investigators when he told them he was not at the kennels before finding their bodies.

After the verdict was read, Judge Clifton Newman scheduled Murdaugh’s sentencing at 9:30 a.m. Friday and thanked the jurors for their service. The minimum sentence for murder is 30 years in prison. The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office is seeking life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Murdaugh comes from a family that dominated the local legal scene for decades. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were the area’s elected prosecutors for more than 80 years and his family law firm grew to dozens of lawyers by suing railroads, corporations and other big businesses.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson thanked his legal team led by lead prosecutor Creighton Waters, court staff and law enforcement for what he called their “Herculean effort” on the case during a brief press conference outside the courthouse.

“We had no doubt that if we had a chance to present our case in a court of law they would see through the one last con that Alex Murdaugh was trying to pull,” Waters said. “Justice was done today.”

Throughout the trial, prosecutors presented circumstantial evidence of Murdaugh’s guilt to support their claim Murdaugh killed his family to gain sympathy and buy time to cover up alleged financial crimes that were about to be discovered. The defense criticized the state’s circumstantial evidence and argued law enforcement failed to collect key evidence because they were too narrowly focused on Murdaugh as a suspect

After listening to more than five weeks of testimony from over 75 witnesses — including Murdaugh himself — the jury traveled Wednesday to the house where Murdaugh’s family was fatally shot.

Murdaugh took the stand in his own defense last week. He repeatedly denied killing his family and suggested that a 2019 boat crash that Paul was involved in is the reason his family was killed. 

“I didn’t shoot my wife or my son anytime, ever,” he said. “I would never intentionally do anything to hurt either one of them. Ever.”

But Murdaugh admitted to repeatedly lying to investigators about his whereabouts the night of the murders, citing his distrust for local law enforcement and paranoia induced by drug addiction, stealing millions from clients and law firm and attempting to orchestrate his own death in what investigators have called a botched life insurance fraud scheme.

During his closing argument, Waters argued that Murdaugh killed his family to stop a “gathering storm” from ruining his family’s legacy and successful law practice. For three generations, members of Murdaugh’s family served as back-to-back solicitors of the 14th Judicial Circuit.

Murdaugh will later stand trial for more than 100 other criminal charges related to alleged crimes including money laundering, tax evasion, and drug trafficking.

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Contact Breaking News Reporter N’dea Yancey-Bragg at or follow her on Twitter @NdeaYanceyBragg

Contributing: Associated Press

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