Alex Murdaugh’s calls to wife on night of murders were mysteriously ‘deleted’ from his cellphone
Calls Alex Murdaugh made to his wife on the night he allegedly murdered her and their son were mysteriously later deleted from his cellphone, according to dramatic courtroom testimony.
SLED Lt. Britt Dove, who works in the computer crimes centre at the state agency, testified in Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, on Wednesday that he had processed the three cellphones belonging to Mr Murdaugh, his wife Maggie and son Paul in the aftermath of the brutal murders.
Lt Dove told the court that a trove of phone calls Mr Murdaugh made to his wife’s cellphone after he allegedly shot her and Paul dead were missing from the suspect’s call log.
The only explanation for this is that they were manually deleted from the cellphone sometime between the 7 June 2021 murders and his phone being seized by authorities in September 2021.
“A gap like that would indicate that it was actually removed from there,” the agent testified
According to the call log on his cellphone, Mr Murdaugh placed two outgoing calls on FaceTime on 4 June 2021 – one at 3.41pm and the second at 4.35pm. Both calls were uanswered.
Those were the last calls recorded in the call log until 10.25pm on 7 June 2021, when Mr Murdaugh appeared to place another outgoing FaceTime call.
This call – also unanswered – came roughly 90 minutes after Mr Murdaugh is accused of gunning down Maggie, 52, and Paul, 22, at the dog kennels at the family property in Islandton.
However, the call log in Mr Murdaugh’s cellphone has glaring discrepancies to the data collected from Maggie’s – something that can only be explained by someone deleting the call log from Mr Murdaugh’s phone, jurors learned.
In court on Tuesday, Lt Dove testified that Mr Murdaugh had called Maggie five times between 9.04pm and 10.03pm on the night of 7 June 2021 after he had allegedly killed her and Paul. None of the calls were answered.
As well as Maggie, Mr Murdaugh also made several calls to other numbers.
Minutes after the final call to Maggie at 10.03pm, Mr Murdaugh called 911 at 10.07pm claiming to have found their bodies.
Lt Dove testified that the gap in the call log cannot be explained by the phone overwriting old data.
Instead, the only way to explain why the calls he made to Maggie’s cellphone are missing is that someone intentionally deleted them, he said.
“You can go in and delete your call log easily,” he said, explaining that it is as simple as swiping to the right and selecting delete on the handset.
The SLED agent was asked if there was any other way to explain the gap in the call log, to which he testified: “No.”
“So those calls were deleted, correct?” the prosecutor asked.
Lt Dove confirmed: “It would appear that way.”
Lt Dove testified that he was unable to determine who had deleted the call logs but confirmed that it had been done sometime in the three months between the night of 7 June and Mr Murdaugh’s phone being seized in September.
Prosecutors also scrutinised other activity on Mr Murdaugh’s cellphone on the night of the murders, including an almost one-hour gap in health data where the phone was not moving and recorded zero steps.
The gap – between 8.09pm and 9.02pm – where no steps were recorded shows that no one was moving round with or walking with the phone at that time, Lt Dove said.
The lack of movement was contrasted to the movements on either side of the gap, with 74 steps recorded between 8.05pm from 8.09pm and 283 steps between 9.02pm and 9.06pm. At 9.08pm, six minutes after movement resumed, Mr Murdaugh sent Maggie a text claiming he was going to visit his mother.
Mr Murdaugh’s habits of reading messages was also under the spotlight.
Jurors heard how he received a message about his ailing father from his sister Lynn Murdaugh in a family group chat at 8.31pm but didn’t read it until 1.44pm the next day – despite sending the text to Maggie at 9.08pm.
Typically, cellphone data shows Mr Murdaugh usually read texts between 5 and 40 minutes of receiving them.
Prosecutors also narrowed down a precise timeline for the murders of Maggie and Paul to an eight-second window based on unread messages on their cellphones.
Jurors heard how Paul FaceTime called his friend Rogan Gibson at 8.40pm and then again at 8.44.33pm, with the last call lasting 11 seconds.
After that brief call, Lt Dove testified Paul sent his final text message to Megan Kimbrell 8.48.05pm. The pair were messaging back and forth at the time. She messaged him back and Paul read the text message at 8:48:59pm.
This was the last activity on his phone.
Maggie last read a message on her cellphone at 8:49:27pm – the same group message from Mr Murdaugh’s siste.
Eight seconds later at 8.49.35pm, Mr Gibson sent Paul a text message but it went unread.
After 8.49pm, Maggie didn’t open or respond to messages or calls from several people including her husband, oldest son Buster and Mr Murdaugh’s brother John Marvin Murdaugh.
Among the unread messages were come from Mr Murdaugh, including a chilling final text at 9.47pm simply reading: “Call me babe.”
Prosecutors have previously said that Mr Murdaugh shot Paul dead first at around 8.50pm, followed by Maggie.
Cellphone evidence is expected to be key to the state’s case, with prosecutors telling jurors in opening statements that the data from the victims phones and a Snapchat video made by Paul minutes before their murders are “critical”.
During testimony on Tuesday, jurors heard how Maggie’s phone orientation changed from portrait to landscape at 8.54pm and then again at 9.06pm, indicating that it was in someone’s hands. One minute later, at 9.07pm the screen went on and off as though someone tried – but failed – to unlock it.
Health app data also tracked 59 steps on Maggie’s cellphone in the two minutes after 8.53pm – after prosecutors allege Maggie and Paul were already dead.
“It tells me someone was holding this phone and took steps, and it recorded those steps,” said Lt Dove.
Maggie’s phone was locked between 8.49pm on 7 June 2021 and 1.10pm the following day when it was found dumped by the side of a road around a quarter of a mile from the Murdaugh property.
Mr Murdaugh, 54, is facing life in prison for the murders of his wife and son.
Prosecutors claim he shot dead his family members in an attempt to distract from a string of other scandals and crimes encircling him. He denies the allegations, insisting that their killer or killers is still at large.
At the time of the murders, Mr Murdaugh was believed to be facing financial ruin from a 20-year opioid addiction and – one day earlier – had been confronted by his law firm PMPED over an alleged multi-million-dollar fraud scheme.
Now, Mr Murdaugh is charged with more than 100 counts from multiple indictments alleging he stole nearly $8.5m from clients at his law firm in fraud schemes going back a decade.
The attorney, who has since been disbarred, allegedly represented the clients in wrongful death settlements before pocketing the money for himself.
Alleged victims include family members of Gloria Satterfield family, the Murdaugh’s longtime housekeeper who died in a mysterious trip and fall accident at the family home in 2018.
At the time, her death was regarded as an accidental fall – though the investigation was reopened after Maggie and Paul’s murders.
Three months on from the murders – on 4 September 2021 – Mr Murdaugh allegedly conspired to pay a hitman to shoot him dead so that Buster would inherit a $10m life insurance windfall.
The now-disbarred attorney initially claimed he was ambushed in a drive-by shooting while changing a tyre on his vehicle, but his story quickly unravelled and he confessed to orchestrating the plot.
Mr Murdaugh and his alleged co-conspirator Curtis Smith were arrested and charged over the incident.
As well as the deaths of Beach and Satterfield, questions have also surfaced about other mystery deaths surrounding the Murdaughs.
Stephen Smith, 19, was found dead in the middle of the road in Hampton County, South Carolina.
The openly gay teenager had suffered blunt force trauma to the head and his death was officially ruled a hit-and-run. But the victim’s family have long doubted this version of events, with the Murdaugh name cropping up in several police tips and community rumours.
An investigation was reopened into his death after Maggie and Paul’s murders.