A state agent insisted Tuesday he heard a possible confession from Alex Murdaugh even after defense attorneys for the disgraced South Carolina lawyer slowed the audio down during Murdaugh's double murder trial.
At question is whether Murdaugh said “I did him so bad” or “They did him so bad” as he sobbed and spoke to state agents during a recorded interview three days after Murdaugh’s wife and son were killed.
State Law Enforcement Division Senior Special Agent Jeff Croft testified he was “100% confident” Murdaugh said “I.” That could be interpreted as a confession from Murdaugh that he fatally shot his son Paul with a shotgun near kennels at their Colleton County home and hunting lodge on June 7, 2021. Murdaugh's wife, Maggie, was shot several times with a rifle and her body was found nearby.
Prosecutors haven't explained why they have emphasized the comment.
“What were the things going through your mind when you heard, or misheard, ‘I did him so bad?’” defense attorney Jim Griffin asked Croft during cross-examination. “I wasn’t a good dad? I spoiled him? Or, I killed him?”
“It was definitely something we needed to follow up on,” Croft said.
The agent said he didn't ask for clarification that day because he thought it was too early in the investigation to confront Murdaugh and lose his cooperation. Griffin asked about an interview three months later and Croft said the agents didn't get to asking about that but did ask Murdaugh point-blank if he killed his wife and son.
Griffin asked if it would be up to the jury to decide the truth.
“They get to hear the tape and make their own mind up on what he said, yes sir,” Croft responded.
Murdaugh, 54, is standing trial on two counts of murder in the shootings of his 52-year-old wife and 22-year-old son. Murdaugh faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted.
Croft's testimony wasn't only about Murdaugh's statement. He assisted the chief agent investigating the killings and dealt with a wide range of evidence.
Prosecutors suggested in pretrial motions that Murdaugh killed his wife and son to buy time to cover up the theft of millions of dollars from his law firm and clients, which he feared was about to be discovered. Murdaugh’s lawyers said it was absurd to suggest an attorney would think the brutal killings of most of his family would lessen the scrutiny into his life. A judge said he will hear arguments whether that evidence is admissible later in the trial.
As with much of the first four days of testimony, there were interesting bits and pieces from prosecutors, often provided without further explanation, such as a $1,021.10 receipt from a Gucci store with an item circled.
The defense used their cross-examination of Croft to try to poke holes in how the investigation unfolded. Croft was asked if he knew why state agents didn't search Murdaugh's home in the hours after the killings for dirty clothes, possible blood in drains or other evidence. Croft said he didn't know what other agents did.
Griffin also asked Croft why agents didn't search Murdaugh's mother's home until September — three months after the killings — even though that was the only place Murdaugh said he went before finding the bodies.
“I know I did not go and I’m not sure what any of the other agents in the investigative circle had done,” Croft said.
Prosecutors then called several witnesses to talk about how they collected data from cellphones belonging to Murdaugh, his son and wife.
The main witness who reviewed the data only got to Maggie Murdaugh's cellphone before court ended. State Law Enforcement Division Lt. Britt Dove went over a trove of information her cellphone kept, from each text and call received to being unplugged at 8:17:51 p.m. on the night of the killings.
Dove detailed for prosecutors a flurry of activity starting at 8:49 p.m. on Maggie Murdaugh's phone. The orientation changed from portrait to landscape and back several times. The camera turned on for one second, likely her face ID checking to see if she was logging in. Her health app recorded 59 steps — all until 9:06 p.m. when that activity ended.
Prosecutors didn't have Dove explain in detail what might have happened.
But investigators have said they think the killings happened at roughly 8:50 p.m. Maggie Murdaugh's cellphone was found the next day, after help from her family, just off the road about a half mile (800 meters) from the family property. Alex Murdaugh left around that time to visit his ailing mother, prosecutors have said.
Dove will be back on the stand Wednesday morning, and that may lead to another piece of key testimony prosecutors mentioned in their opening statement — a video made by Paul Murdaugh at the kennels about four minutes before he stopped using his cellphone where his father's voice can be heard.
Alex Murdaugh told police hours after the killings and repeated in Croft's interview three days later that he wasn't at the kennels that night.
Murdaugh also faces about 100 charges related to accusations of money laundering, stealing millions from clients and the family law firm, tax evasion and trying to get a man to fatally shoot him so his surviving son could collect a $10 million life insurance policy. He was being held in jail without bail on those counts before he was charged with murder.
Since the killings, Murdaugh’s life has seen a stunningly fast downfall. His family dominated the legal system in tiny neighboring Hampton County for generations, both as prosecutors and private attorneys known for getting life-changing settlements for accidents and negligence cases.