Richard “Alex” Murdaugh, the disbarred South Carolina lawyer on trial for the murder of his wife and youngest son, testified on Friday that he had a theory someone angry at his son about a deadly boating accident had committed the crimes.
Murdaugh offered the theory, for which he acknowledged he had no evidence, after hours of cross examination during which a prosecutor laid out a string of lies told by the defendant, including about his alibi on the night of the killings.
Murdaugh, 54, has denied any involvement in the murders of his wife Maggie, 52, and 22-year-old son Paul, who were gunned down at close range at dog kennels on the family’s estate on the evening of June 7, 2021.
From the stand, Murdaugh said he believed that someone upset over the death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach in a 2019 boating accident sought revenge on his son, who was charged with boating under the influence and other crimes in the incident.
Murdaugh said a person or group of people were spurred to action by a barrage of social media posts that made Paul out to be a villain.
“The person or people who did what I saw on June the 7th – they hated Paul and they had anger in their heart,” he said, alternately using the nickname Paw Paw to refer to his son. “I believe that boat wreck is the reason Paw Paw and Maggie were killed.”
Since the cross examination started on Thursday afternoon, state prosecutor Creighton Waters has sought to portray Murdaugh as caught up in a pattern of deceit, while detailing his mounting financial troubles and drug use in the run-up to the murders.
On Thursday during questioning from his lawyer, Murdaugh admitted to lying by telling investigators that he was not at the kennels minutes before his wife and son were killed. He changed his account after the jury saw cellphone video showing that he was in fact at the scene.
Murdaugh said he lied to investigators about his whereabouts due to his distrust of the police and “paranoid thoughts” tied to a years-long addiction to opioids.
“The second you’re confronted with facts you can’t deny, you immediately come up with a new lie,” Waters said.
Murdaugh, the scion of an influential South Carolina legal family, was indicted by a grand jury in July on two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon. From the start, the case has been subject to intense media coverage given the political influence of the Murdaugh family in South Carolina.
Prosecutors have said Murdaugh killed his wife and child to generate sympathy and distract from an array of financial crimes for which he is also facing criminal charges. Murdaugh’s lawyers have argued that motive does not make sense.
Murdaugh has acknowledged stealing huge sums of money from his law partners and clients, partly to fund his drug habit.
On Friday, Murdaugh said he was taking more than 2,000 milligrams of oxycodone on some days in the months leading up to the murders, or more than 60 pills of 30 mg each.
“Opiates gave me energy. Whatever I was doing it made it more interesting. It made me want to do it longer,” Murdaugh said.
On Friday, Murdaugh testified that he has sought to cooperate with the investigation, with the exception of lying about being at the kennels on the night of the shootings.
“Very cooperative except for maybe the most important fact of all: that you were at the murder scene with the victims just minutes before they died,” prosecutor Waters said.