Alex Murdaugh trial - live: Jury hears crucial data from Maggie’s cellphone after focus on family’s guns

Alex Murdaugh’s words in the aftermath of the murders of his wife and son continued to be a focus on Tuesday in Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina.

In his second interview with law enforcement officers — three days after he is accused of shooting dead Maggie, 52, and Paul, 22, at the family’s estate in Islandton — he appeared to say: “I did him so bad” in reference to his son.

While prosecutors sought to suggest that he slipped up, others raised doubts, with some believing he says: “They did him so bad.”

The jury was also presented with more information about the wide variety of ammunition found at the property matching that used in the murders, as well as details of the Murdaugh sons’ guns. Intriguingly, twice prosecutors have referred to a credit card statement found in the garbage with a purchase from Gucci circled.

Some of the most riveting evidence of the day came from detailed analysis of Maggie’s cellphone data from which prosecutors are trying to pinpoint an accurate time of death from the phone’s event log.

The trial is only one of Mr Murdaugh’s troubles in a saga spanning a botched hitman plot, multi-million-dollar fraud schemes, and unexplained deaths.

Alex Murdaugh murder trial

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  • Murdaugh had ‘clean’ shirt despite his claims he touched wife and son’s bloodied bodies

  • Sobbing Murdaugh tells police he ‘tried to turn over’ son’s body in first interview after murders

  • Jurors listen to 911 call made by Alex Murdaugh on night of murders

  • Alex Murdaugh cries as bodycam video shown at trial

Alex Murdaugh’s chilling final text to his wife after murders revealed

12:00 , Rachel Sharp

Alex Murdaugh’s chilling final text to his wife moments after he allegedly killed her and their son was revealed in court during his murder trial on Tuesday.

Mr Murdaugh, the powerful heir to a prominent South Carolina legal dynasty, is accused of shooting dead Maggie, 52, and Paul, 22, at the family’s estate in Islandton on 7 June 2021. He has pleaded not guilty.

In court on Tuesday, jurors were shown data from the cellphones of Maggie, Paul and Mr Murdaugh on the night of the murders.

Prosecutors say that Mr Murdaugh shot Paul first at 8.50pm and Maggie after.

Almost immediately after, cellphone data shows Mr Murdaugh made several calls to Maggie and other family members. His last text message to his wife came at 9.47pm, writing: “Call me babe.”

Minutes later, he called 911 claiming to have found their bodies.

The story of Alex Murdaugh’s spectacular fall from grace

11:40 , Oliver O'Connell

On the surface, Alex Murdaugh had it all.

He was a high-powered attorney who ran both his own law firm and worked in the local prosecutor’s office.

He was the son of a powerful legal dynasty that dominated the local South Carolina community for almost a century.

And he was a family man who lived with his wife and two adult sons on their sprawling country estate.

But over the last 19 months, Mr Murdaugh has experienced a spectacular fall from grace, culminating in what has been described as the “trial of the century” now taking place in a courtroom in Walterboro, South Carolina.

Alex Murdaugh trial: Story of the legal scion’s spectacular fall from grace

Profile: Alex Murdaugh

10:40 , Oliver O'Connell

The 54-year-old heir to a prominent legal dynasty is accused of gunning down wife Maggie, 52, and their son Paul, 22, on the grounds of the sprawling family estate in Islandton back on 7 June 2021.

He was arrested in July 2022 and charged with two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.

Who is Alex Murdaugh? The legal scion on trial for the murders of his wife and son

Is it possible two shooters killed Maggie and Paul Murdaugh as defence claims?

09:40 , Oliver O'Connell

An investigator has admitted “it’s possible” that two shooters killed Alex Murdaugh’s wife and son as the legal scion’s attorneys sought to pick holes in the evidence gathered from the bloody crime scene.

SLED special agent Melinda Worley returned to the stand in Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, on Monday morning as Mr Murdaugh’s high-profile murder trial entered its second week.

Under cross-examination by defence attorney Dick Harpootlian, Agent Morley was grilled about what she observed at the crime scene and what the direction and angle of the fatal bullets could suggest about how Maggie and Paul were shot dead.

Alex Murdaugh lawyers tell trial ‘it’s possible’ two shooters killed wife and son

Final texts revealed as bloody crime scene photos shown

08:40 , Oliver O'Connell

The final text messages and phone calls made by Paul and Maggie Murdaugh before their brutal shooting murders were revealed in court for the first time at the homicide trial of their father and husband Alex Murdaugh.

In Colleton County Court in Walterboro, South Carolina, on Monday, jurors heard how Paul, 22, placed a call on his cellphone to friend Rogan Gibson at 8.44pm on the night of 7 June 2021.

Five minutes later, at 8.49pm, Mr Gibson sent Paul a text message: “See if you can get a good picture of it. Marion wants to send it to a girl we know that’s a vet. Get him to sit and stay. He shouldn’t move around too much.”

The message – believed to be about a dog Paul was taking care of for him – went unanswered.

Rachel Sharp reports.

Paul and Maggie Murdaugh’s final texts before murders revealed

Watch: The shocking five-word statement after wife and son killed

06:40 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Murdaugh: Lawyer’s shocking five-word statement after wife and son killed

A timeline of murders, financial fraud, unexplained deaths and arrest

04:40 , Oliver O'Connell

Disgraced legal dynasty heir Alex Murdaugh is currently on trial in a South Carolina courthouse for the murders of his wife and son.

Mr Murdaugh, 54, is accused of shooting Paul, 22, twice with a shotgun and Maggie, 52, five times with a rifle on the family’s sprawling hunting lodge in Islandton on 7 June 2021.

He was arrested more than a year later in July 2022 and charged with their murders.

In the 19 months since the brutal double murders propelled the Murdaughs onto national headlines, a series of other scandals, allegations and alleged crimes have also come to light.

Here’s a timeline of the key moments in the case:

When was Alex Murdaugh arrested? A timeline of murders and fraud

The big question in court: Did Murdaugh accidentally confess to murder?

02:40 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Murdaugh’s high-profile trial took a dramatic turn on Monday when jurors heard that the legal scion may have unwittingly slipped up and confessed to the murders of his wife and son.

Audio from Mr Murdaugh’s second interview with law enforcement was played in Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, on Monday, revealing the disgraced legal dynasty heir’s shocking five-word statement for the first time.

“I did him so bad,” he appeared to say about his son.

Rachel Sharp reports.

Did Alex Murdaugh accidentally confess to murder?

Key revelations from the Alex Murdaugh murder trial so far

01:40 , Oliver O'Connell

Rachel Sharp catalogues the most crucial moments so far in the high-profile trial underway in Colleton County, South Carolina.

‘Confession’, bloody scene and ‘clean’ shirt: Key moments from Alex Murdaugh trial

Agent insists Murdaugh suggested he killed his son

00:40 , Oliver O'Connell

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.”

Read on:

Agent insists Alex Murdaugh suggested he killed his son

Murdaugh cellphone data revealed as trial hears detail on ammo found at house

Tuesday 31 January 2023 23:40 , Oliver O'Connell

Cellphone data has revealed Alex Murdaugh called his wife’s phone in the minutes after she was brutally shot dead – while ammunition matching that used to kill her and their son was located on the family’s property.

The trial of the heir to a powerful legal empire continued in Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, on Tuesday, with cyber experts and a Verizon employee delving into the final communications made on Maggie and Paul’s cellphones on the night they were killed.

Rachel Sharp reports.

Alex Murdaugh cellphone data revealed as trial hears about ammo found in family home

Court goes into recess

Tuesday 31 January 2023 22:40 , Oliver O'Connell

Court has gone into recess until 9.30am on Wednesday when Lt Dove’s testimony will continue.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 22:39 , Oliver O'Connell

We now move on to steps recorded by the iPhone’s health app.

Lt Dove explains that it is not the most accurate data, but provides an indication of movement. Maggie’s phone moved 38 steps from 8.17pm after the phone was unplugged.

Another 43 steps were recorded between 8.30pm and 8.33pm.

Another 59 steps were taken between 8.53pm at 8.55pm during which there were orientation changes and the camera came on for a second but the phone did not unlock.

No further steps were recorded until the next day when the phone was collected.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 22:31 , Oliver O'Connell

There is then a gap of 22 minutes before the next event log at 9.31pm when the display comes on and off a few times — possibly as the phone was moved.

At 9.34pm Rogan Gibson’s unread text comes in.

At 9.47pm Alex texts “Call me, babe.” That text goes unread.

There was no further activity.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 22:26 , Oliver O'Connell

At 9.04pm Maggie’s phone receives the first call from Alex’s phone which goes unanswered.

At 9.06pm there is an orientation change to portrait indicating the phone was in someone’s hand. Two seconds later, another call comes into her phone from Alex’s phone and goes unanswered.

There are no orientation changes after that.

Approximately 30 seconds later the third phone call from Alex comes in.

At 9.07pm the screen goes on and off.

At 9.08pm Alex texts that he is going to see his mother. The text is never read.

There is a gap of 2 minutes and seven seconds between the call from Alex and the text from him.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 22:18 , Oliver O'Connell

The phone remained locked between 8.49pm on 7 June 2021 and 1.10pm the following day.

At 8.53pm the display went off.

There is an orientation change from landscape to portrait and later a change back again. There are corresponding registrations for the screen going on and off.

At 8.54pm the camera activates for one second, possibly indicating an attempt to unlock the phone with facial recognition.

There is no record of what the camera shows, but if it were Maggie’s face it would have unlocked. It could however be pointed at anything.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 22:09 , Oliver O'Connell

Lt Gove discusses “event history” on the phone — its location data, whether it was locked or unlocked, screen orientation etc.

At 8.17pm the phone was unplugged from a charger.

At 8.30pm she visited the fashion website “Poshmark”.

At 8.49pm the screen lit up. This could either be a notification or someone moving the phone, e.g. picking it up. The data shows that the phone was unlocked and then relocked. This was the same time the text message from Lynn G came in and was read. We learn that the text came in at 8.41pm.

At 8. pm the phone registers a change in orientation. Lt Dove says an orientation change is caused by someone picking up a phone or purposefully rotating it. Asked if a phone could register a change in orientation by being dropped, he says nothing would register unless the screen was on.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 21:55 , Oliver O'Connell

Next Lt Gove is asked to look at text messages from Alex.

The first is at 9.04pm and it is unread.

The state asks Lt Gove to confirm that no messages were read on Maggie’s phone after 8.49pm on 7 June 2021.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 21:53 , Oliver O'Connell

Lt Dove clarifies that the data does not show who reads a text, answers a call, or touches the screen, but you have to know the passcode or use facial recognition technology to use the phone for anything other than an emergency call.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 21:50 , Oliver O'Connell

The prosecution now moves on to Maggie’s text messages. A point is made that this report also shows whether a message was read or not.

It also shows messages from chats as well as texts, but the texts will be in chronological order in the report.

There is a group text between John Marvin, Maggie, Alex, and other family members received at 8.31pm. The message was read at 8.31pm, about 16 seconds after it was sent and is John Marvin saying he plans to visit his father (who was gravely ill in hospital) and asking if anyone else would like to join him.

The next text is from Lynn G (Alex’s sister) which was read at 8.49pm. She says she is in court all week.

Another text comes through at 9.34pm, this time from Rogan Gibson. It remains unread.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 21:40 , Oliver O'Connell

Maggie made a call to “Barbara” that evening at 7.50pm for 2 minutes and 46 seconds.

This was the last call made or received by Maggie.

Alex called the phone at 9.04pm and twice at 9.06pm and none of the calls were answered.

Lt Dove confirms he has also examined Alex’s phone.

Alex called Maggie’s phone again at 9.45pm and for a final time at 10.03pm. They were not answered either.

Alex’s call to 911 came at 10.06pm.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 21:27 , Oliver O'Connell

Court resumes and the jury is brought back in.

Direct examination of Lt Dove continues relating to the call log on Maggie Murdaugh’s phone from the night of 7 June 2021.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 21:06 , Oliver O'Connell

The prosecution introduces the next piece of evidence — a full copy of the hard drive contents of Maggie’s phone.

The court is now taking a 15-minute break.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 20:59 , Oliver O'Connell

Lt Dove examines Maggie’s phone and images taken of her phone including screenshots of her home screen, notification settings, and location services settings.

He then talks about her call log. She has five missed calls from Alex, one from Buster, and two from John Marvin. They show the day of the week on which the calls were made.

Lt Dove also took a photo of Maggie’s messages. There are unread text messages.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 20:44 , Oliver O'Connell

In an important moment for the phone testimony, Lt Dove says that the phones store cell tower info and GPS info.

The GPS info is more accurate than the cell tower for showing the exact location of the device.

Lt Dove is asked to clarify that there is no alteration to any of the data from the phones when they copy it with industry software.

As with earlier witnesses, Lt Dove is asked about Faraday bags, how they protect phones, and what alternatives there are — i.e. putting the phone in airplane mode or removing the SIM card. There is no SLED policy of using Faraday bags. SLED policy is to put phones in airplane mode or remove the SIM card.

He also explains that there is no way of remotely altering specific data on a phone remotely.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 20:37 , Oliver O'Connell

Lt Dove assessed the phones from Alex, Maggie, and Paul Murdaugh.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 20:27 , Oliver O'Connell

Having been recognised as an expert witness in cell phone data extraction and forensics, Lt Dove begins his testimony.

It is established that when a phone is locked its data cannot be extracted. As we learned earlier, Paul’s phone was unlocked and its data was extracted in March 2022.

Lt Dove explains the different types of phone data extraction.

New Witness: Lt Britt Dove, SLED Computer Crimes

Tuesday 31 January 2023 20:20 , Oliver O'Connell

The next witness is Lt Britt Dove of the computer crimes division of SLED who has experience in computer and phone forensics.

He explains that their process is to make a copy of the content of the hard drive of any equipment so as to preserve the original data.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 20:15 , Oliver O'Connell

There is a brief redirect about different calibers of firearms before the witness is excused.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 20:13 , Oliver O'Connell

Attorney Jim Griffin for the defence begins his questioning of Mr Bedingfield.

He reveals he’s better friends with John Marvin Murdaugh but has known Alex Murdaugh his whole life. They have been camping.

Mr Bedingfield says Murdaugh had a good relationship with his sons and was excited to get them the guns.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 20:01 , Oliver O'Connell

Mr Bedingfield was contacted by Special Agent Jeff Croft after the murders. He knew him through law enforcement and socially.

He provided Agent Croft with the paperwork for the first two guns. Later he provided the paperwork for the third gun, but part of the paperwork was missing. He was able to backtrack and establish which Blackout firearm it was that he sold the Murdaughs in 2018.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 19:55 , Oliver O'Connell

In April 2018 Mr Murdaugh approached him for a third weapon of the same type as Paul had lost his. This one would not have an optic on it like the previous two as those were an additional $1,500.

The new weapon was picked up by Maggie who paid for it by check and filled in the necessary paperwork.

The original pair were $9,188 and the replacement was $875 (as it had no suppressor or thermal optic).

Tuesday 31 January 2023 19:53 , Oliver O'Connell

The suppressors were never delivered as that would require additional paperwork which was never completed. He wanted to set up a trust to own the suppressors but that was never done and the suppressors remain in Mr Bedingfield’s inventory despite Mr Murdaugh having paid for them.

New Witness: John Bedingfield, Dept of Natural Resources

Tuesday 31 January 2023 19:50 , Oliver O'Connell

The jury is brought in and the state calls its next witness, John Bedingfield.

Mr Bedingfield works for the Department of Natural Resources and has a side business making and selling firearms under a federal licence.

He notes that the AR-15-type weapons he deals in can be used with multiple types of bullets.

Mr Bedingfield is a cousin of Alex Murdaugh.

Around Christmas 2016 Mr Murdaugh approached him to get rifles for his sons to hunt hogs. He recommended the subsonic 300 BlackOut that can be used with a suppressor (silencer). One was configured in all black and the other was a tan colour — as we heard in testimony yesterday.

Having a silencer would allow for night hunting which is permitted in South Carolina.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 19:41 , Oliver O'Connell

Judge Newman rules against defence’s motion and says the state has sufficiently established a perfect chain of custody to the degree necessary that the next witness can testify about the contents of the phone.

Tuesday 31 January 2023 19:35 , Oliver O'Connell

Mr Harpootlian is arguing that everyone on the chain of custody list should be made to testify to ensure that the contents of the phone have not been tampered with. There are a number of people on the chain of custody list who have not been listed as witnesses.

Defence argues that it could be any iPhone 11, not necessarily Paul’s. The prosecution argues that there is case precedent that you do not have to do that as the phone has distinct serial numbers etc to identify it.

Mr Harpootlian notes that none of these identifiers are listed on the chain of custody documentation.

Court resuming

Tuesday 31 January 2023 19:29 , Oliver O'Connell

Judge Clifton Newman has returned to the bench, but before the jury is brought in, defence lawyer Dick Harpootlian brings up an issue regarding the chain of custody of Paul Murdaugh’s phone.

Key revelations from the Alex Murdaugh murder trial so far

Tuesday 31 January 2023 18:35 , Oliver O'Connell

With an at times bewildering array of technical evidence covering ammunition, firearms, and cell phone data presented before the jury Rachel Sharp catalogues the most crucial moments so far.

‘Confession’, bloody scene and ‘clean’ shirt: Key moments from Alex Murdaugh trial