COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Witness testimony began Thursday in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial.
Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife Margaret and son Paul at their family property in June of 2021.
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Six witnesses were called to the stand — four first responders on scene the night of the murders and two 911 operators — giving what was at times extremely graphic testimony.
Murdaugh broke down in tears several times, particularly when photos or videos depicting Paul’s body were shown.
Hours of body camera footage from the night showed the witnesses interacting with Murdaugh, who they all agreed was extremely emotional.
A major point for Murdaugh’s defense was the processing of the crime scene. They pointed out several areas they saw as shortcomings, which could have led to evidence being contaminated or erased by the oncoming storms. Specifically, they focused on a set of tire tracks and a set of footprints that they say were not properly documented or secured.
State prosecutors worked to dismantle that theory, asking witnesses questions about the extensive protocols that they follow. They also pointed out steps taken from the beginning to ensure a fair investigation, like requesting SLED take over the case because of a “conflict of interest with the family.”
Prosecutors also asked questions focusing on Murdaugh’s demeanor that night and pointed out the number of times he brought up other legal entanglements, such as the boat crash, which the state believes drove him to kill Maggie and Paul.
Witness testimony is set to resume Thursday at 9:30 a.m.
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5:33 p.m. – Testimony concluded and Judge Newman dismissed the jury until 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
4:20 p.m. – The jury returned. Chapman presented drone footage of the property to the jury to give them a better idea of the layout. Defense then began questioning Chapman, bringing up the tire tracks. Chapman said that Greene never notified him of any possible evidence that needed to be preserved or investigated.
Harpootlian continued questioning Chapman about the integrity of the crime scene, asking if best practices were followed. Chapman said that he believes his deputies followed protocol, but he couldn’t speak for other agencies on scene.
Chapman said that on the night of the murders, they had not identified a suspect. Harpootlian asked if Chapman was aware that the next morning, Colleton County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement saying there was no threat to the public. Chapman said he wasn’t aware. He said that he didn’t think CCSO issued the statement because they weren’t the primary investigating agency.
Editor’s note: News 2’s records indicate SLED, which was the lead agency, issued the statement.
4:00 p.m. – Court is in recess.
3:10 p.m. – Jason Chapman with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office was called as the sixth witness. He is a Walterboro native and law enforcement veteran. He has testified as an expert witness in other trials.
As Chapman was en route to the scene, he said the sheriff told him if the crime involved the Murdaughs, he would likely notify SLED due to a “conflict of interest with the family.” Chapman said working with SLED is common.
Chapman said that they began working on a search warrant request almost immediately.
He also noted that they began working to get a tent to the scene because a storm was on the way and they wanted to do what they could to preserve evidence. However, they only had one tent. The tent was placed over Maggie’s body.
Chapman said that the scene was secure when he arrived but acknowledged they still didn’t know if there was an active shooter, a murder suicide, etc.
Chapman said that on the 911 call, Murdaugh said that he touched the bodies to check for signs of life, which Chapman said was understandable. He said that he talked to Murdaugh and did not see any blood on his hands or body.
Chapman also sympathized with Murdaugh arming himself before law enforcement arrived, saying that Murdaugh seemed scared, and anyone in his position would be scared.
The only thing that struck Chapman as odd, he said, was that Murdaugh at one point wanted to hang up on the 911 dispatcher to call his family.
Something that bothered Chapman as he processed the scene was that there was no vehicle with Maggie and Paul. The kennels are a “substantial” distance from their house, but there didn’t appear to be a car that Maggie and Paul drove. There were vehicles in the area, but they did not line up with any of the tracks in the area, according to Chapman.
3:00 p.m. – Defense began cross-examining McRoy. McRoy knew Murdaugh on a professional level. Harpootlian asked McRoy if he recognized Murdaugh that night, and McRoy said yes. When asked about Murdaugh’s demeanor, McRoy said he seemed distraught and upset.
McRoy was the one who pointed out a set of tire tracks he found interesting. He said that there was a shed and there was one set of tire tracks in front of it, but no equipment in it. He told a Colleton County deputy, but no tape was put up around the tracks.
McRoy said that they tried to block off the main driveway, but first responder and civilian vehicles were driving around the property.
2:49 p.m. – Colleton County Fire Rescue Chief Barry McRoy was called to the stand as the fifth witness. He was second on the scene.
Prosecutors showed him photos of the crime scene and described in detail Paul and Maggie’s conditions. Murdaugh appeared to break down as McRoy described the scene.
2:31 p.m. – The fourth witness, Angela Stallings with Colleton County Dispatch, took the stand.
State prosecutors questioned her about how the call came in. She said it was routed from Hampton County because of automatic geolocation.
That call was played as well.
2:30 p.m. – Defense cross-examined the witness about why a call from Colleton County went to Hampton County dispatch. She said calls are automatically routed based on the closest cell phone tower, and that tower was in Hampton.
2:23 p.m. – Tinish Bryson-Smith, Hampton County E-911 dispatcher, is the third witness. Prosecution is asking about the initial 911 call from the night of the murders.
The infamous 911 call was played for the jury.
The state had no further questions for the witness.
2:20 p.m. – The jury returned from lunch and court resumed.
12:53 p.m. – Court is in recess until 2:15 p.m.
12:51 p.m. – Defense finished questioning McDowell. Prosecution followed up with questions about what McDowell’s role is as a first responder and what standard operating procedure is for marking evidence.
12:39 p.m. – Defense began questioning the witness. They asked what McDowell was there to do, and he said he was just there to assist.
Harpootlian pointed out that McDowell was in the feed room at one point, which could’ve contaminated the scene. McDowell said that he was looking around the scene and that to his knowledge, he did not disturb the scene. However, he conceded there could’ve been microscopic evidence that was disturbed.
Harpootlian asked McDowell if Murdaugh seemed distraught, to which McDowell replied yes. He asked if McDowell saw any blood on Murdaugh. McDowell said no.
12:09 p.m. – The second witness, Corporal Chad McDowell with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office, was called to the stand. McDowell grew up in Colleton County. McDowell is a K-9 handler. He and his dog, Evo, were on scene the night of the murders.
Prosecutors played McDowell’s body camera video from the night of the murders. He began marking shell casings in the area with crime scene tape.
At one point, he asked why there were so many casings.
McDowell asks “are y’all familiar with this family?” Someone responds “I wasn’t until someone told me the name.” McDowell says “I’ll fill you in later.”
12:02 p.m. – Defense concluded questioning. Prosecutors again questioned Greene asking if he knew of any evidence that was contaminated. Greene said no. Greene said that his team did what they were supposed to preserve evidence.
11:21 a.m. – The jury returned. Defense began questioning the witness.
Attorney Dick Harpootlian told Greene he had been calling him for several weeks, leaving him voicemails. Greene said he did not get the messages. Harpootlian asked Greene how many times he had met with prosecution about testimony. Greene said at least three or four.
Harpootlian began asking Greene about the water around Paul’s body.
He then moved on to asking Greene about the preservation of the scene, including the tire tracks Greene mentioned earlier that he found odd, and a set of footprints a fire and rescue official pointed out behind a trailer. Greene said that he did not document the evidence or point it out to SLED, nor did he take steps to preserve the evidence. He said that was not in his job description.
Harpootlian then showed Greene graphic photos of Paul and Maggie’s bodies at the scene. He asked Greene about preservation of those crime scenes as well. He asked if a crime scene expert was there that night. Greene said that investigators process crime scenes.
He asked Greene if anyone should have walked inside the feed room where Paul was found. Greene said preserving the crime scene was key. Harpootlian then played video that showed investigators standing inside the feed room. Greene acknowledged that they were all standing at the crime scene. Harpootlian asked why steps were not taken to prevent contaminating the crime scene.
Harpootlian said that evidence could’ve been destroyed that night because the crime scene was not properly preserved and was contaminated. Evidence he said could be inculpatory or exculpatory. Greene agreed evidence should not be contaminated, but said that he and his team followed standard operating procedure that night.
Greene said that he turned his body camera off after his specific job was complete.
11:03 a.m. – The jury was sent to the jury room for a brief break while prosecution and defense spoke with Judge Newman.
10:08 a.m. – Defense plays portions of Greene’s body camera footage from the night of the murders.
Greene said that Paul was lying in a pool of blood and there was a significant amount of water around him. Greene said that he did not think the water could have been caused by rain.
Video then showed Greene meeting with Murdaugh for the first time. Murdaugh sounds distraught and begins telling Greene about the boat crash and threats he said the family had been receiving. Murdaugh asks Greene to check the bodies for signs of life.
Murdaugh tells Greene the firearm he has was loaded and that he might want to unload it. He says he doesn’t think there are any more firearms around or in his truck, but he isn’t sure.
Murdaugh again asks Greene “they are dead, aren’t they.” Greene said Murdaugh was on the phone with someone pacing around. Murdaugh later tells Greene he’s talking to his brother.
Greene said that he did not see any blood on Murdaugh.
Greene asks Murdaugh the last time he was here or talked to Maggie and Paul. Murdaugh says earlier, he is not sure the exact time, but probably about 45 minutes before he left to go to his mother’s house.
Greene noted several sets of tire tracks, which he found strange because Murdaugh said that he drove up, drove back to the house once, then returned. Greene questions Murdaugh about the tire tracks and Murdaugh says ony two sets are his.
Murdaugh broke down in tears several times during Greene’s testimony. He seemed particularly disturbed when video of investigators looking under the sheet covering Paul’s body played. Greene said they were checking to see if Paul had a firearm and if it was possibe he shot Maggie then himself.
9:47 a.m. – The state calls Sergeant Daniel Greene of the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office to the stand. Greene is sworn in.
In June of 2021, Greene was a nightshift road patrol supervisor. He described the nature of the role, which he said was mostly supervising other officers and responding to calls with them that require more than one officer.
Greene said that they got a call on the evening of June 7, 2021, for a double shooting at the Murdaugh property. They responded as quickly as possible but said it still took him about 20 minutes to arrive. Once he was nearby, he said he had difficulty finding the home because it was dark and rural.
Greene was the first on scene, but said a responder from Colleton County Fire Rescue got there about the same time.
He said that his first orders of business were securing the scene (ensuring there were no additional threats), preserving evidence, and waiting for investigators.
State prosecutor Creighton Waters asked Greene if he was worried that the shooter, someone other than Murdaugh, may still be out there. “He had already been there for quite a while, whenever he called, it seemed like he had discovered them like that, and that he was the only one there,” Greene said of Murdaugh.
He said he approached and saw Murdaugh standing in the driveway, Paul was lying near the dog kennels lying in a large pool of blood, and Maggie was nearby also lying in a large pool of blood. Greene said it was clear the victims were dead.
Greene said Murdaugh’s immediate reaction was to tell him about the boating accident.
Murdaugh told Greene that he had a shotgun because he was afraid the killer was stil there. Greene said Murdaugh was emtional (but that he did not see him crying), so he secured the shotgun in his truck.
9:45 a.m. – The jury is seated. Judge Clifton Newman gaveled court into session.
9:30 a.m. – Murdaugh is sitting in court surrounded by members of his family, including his son Buster.
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