Prosecutors claim that South Carolina lawyer Richard “Alex” Murdaugh was scheduled for “a day of reckoning” on June 7, 2021.
According to them, his law firm gave him that deadline to provide an explanation for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs that are reportedly missing from the company’s bank account.
Instead, Murdaugh claimed he discovered his wife and son shot dead outside the family’s sizable hunting lodge, turning that Monday into a tragic day.
It took months for investigators to make an arrest in the case, and it took even longer for them to explain why they think the legal scion killed Paul Murdaugh, 22, and Maggie Murdaugh, 52, with a shotgun and a rifle, respectively. Murdaugh was charged with two counts of murder in July 2022. But on Thursday, the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office submitted a motion outlining the prosecution’s theory.
State grand jury chief prosecutor Creighton Waters stated in the motion that “the murders served as Murdaugh’s means to shift focus away from himself and buy himself some additional time to try and prevent his financial crimes from being uncovered, which — if uncovered — would have resulted in personal, legal, and financial ruin.”
The new file was made in response to prosecutors’ request for information regarding the reason they intend to present during Murdaugh’s upcoming murder trial in January. It asks for authorization to use the alleged financial crimes of Murdaugh as evidence.
Defense attorney for accused killer #AlexMurdaugh just told him to “stay safe” [in jail] before he left the courtroom. @CourtTV pic.twitter.com/cjzEwFY3yQ
— Matt Johnson (@MattJohnsonNEWS) December 9, 2022
Murdaugh entered a not-guilty plea in the case of the two killings. In addition, he is accused of 80 other crimes by a state grand jury, including forgery, money laundering, and computer crimes.
Dick Harpootlian, Murdaugh’s attorney, declined on Thursday to respond to the state’s most recent submission. Murdaugh, according to the defense team, was taking care of his dying father when his son and wife were killed.
The Washington Post previously reported that that evening, Murdaugh contacted 911 to say that he had discovered their deaths next to the family’s 1,700-acre property’s dog kennels.
How the once-prominent leader of a South Carolina legal dynasty became enmeshed in a range of alleged crimes is a question that has garnered international attention. The twists and turns in the drama — including suspicions of a botched suicide-for-hire and doubts regarding the death of the Murdaugh family’s housekeeper — have already inspired podcasts, a TV series, and a documentary.
Prosecutors have now cast additional light on what caused Paul and Maggie’s deaths, asserting that “a sequence of disastrous land dealings made worse by the recession” irreversibly altered Murdaugh’s fortunes.
The motion claims that the mid-2000s economic crisis not only sparked a cycle of borrowing and spending but also a 15-year plot to defraud Murdaugh’s legal associates and clients of approximately $9 million.
On February 23, 2019, the day Murdaugh’s son Paul is believed to have crashed a boat while under the influence, killing Mallory Beach, 19, the “incessant financial rollercoaster” only got worse.
Murdaugh was sued by the Beach family. Although Murdaugh’s lawyer informed the family that he “had no money to personally pay any payment,” the Beaches’ counsel didn’t agree and asked the court to issue an order requiring Murdaugh to reveal his financial information.
That hearing — which prosecutors say would’ve disclosed “the actual picture of [Murdaugh’s] finances and his years of alleged thievery” — was set for June 10, 2021, three days after the double homicide of Paul and Maggie.
When Murdaugh’s law company, PMPED, learned that $792,000 in legal fees were missing after Murdaugh worked on a profitable case, the prosecution’s petition claims, the walls around Murdaugh were already closing in.
A law firm employee entered Murdaugh’s office on June 7, 2021, as he was getting ready for the hearing and demanded an explanation for the missing monies, according to the motion. The petition states that after that, Murdaugh learned that his father, a dependable lender, was in the hospital and had “a terrible outlook.”