A grand jury indicted embattled South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh on murder charges in the slayings of his wife and son last year, authorities announced Thursday.
“Over the last 13 months, SLED agents and our partners have worked day in and day out to build a case against the person responsible for the murders of Maggie and Paul and to exclude those who were not," said Mark Keel, the chief of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, or SLED. "At no point did agents lose focus on this investigation. From the beginning, I have been clear the priority was to ensure justice was served. Today is one more step in a long process for justice for Maggie and Paul.”
The disclosure of the charges is a major development in the saga of the Murdaugh family — a South Carolina legal dynasty — in which Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, and the couple's younger son, Paul, 22, were found shot to death on the night of June 7, 2021, at their rural estate and hunting lodge in Colleton County, near Charleston.
NBC News reported Tuesday that part of the indictment was based on new evidence.
Two sources close to the investigation said authorities have cellphone video that they believe not only puts Alex Murdaugh at the scene of the slayings shortly before they took place, but also contradicts a previous timeline of events provided on the day of the slayings.
Lawyers for Murdaugh have previously said that he had an alibi on the night of the killings and that he was spending time with his mother, who has dementia, and her caregiver. The lawyers steadfastly denied he was involved in the deaths.
"Alex wants his family, friends and everyone to know that he did not have anything to do with the murders of Maggie and Paul. He loved them more than anything in the world," Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, lawyers representing Murdaugh, said in a statement.
The statement continued: "It was very clear from day one that law enforcement and the Attorney General prematurely concluded that Alex was responsible for the murder of his wife and son. But we know that Alex did not have any motive whatsoever to murder them. We are immediately filing a motion for a speedy trial, we are requesting that the Attorney General turn over all evidence within 30 days as required by law and we demand to have a trial within 60 days of receiving that evidence."
The South Carolina Supreme Court also moved this week to disbar Murdaugh, who worked as a personal injury attorney, after having revoked his law license last fall.
The order Tuesday said the court’s decision “in no way” affects any ongoing investigations.
In the wake of the deaths of his wife and their son, Murdaugh’s business dealings came under investigations, and he was indicted on dozens of finance-related charges.
State law enforcement officials said they uncovered a financial scheme involving Murdaugh that began to unravel in September, when he told authorities that he had been randomly attacked in a roadside shooting near the family’s estate.
He survived, but the claim came under scrutiny, and days later, authorities said he had arranged for a man to kill him so his older son, Buster, could collect on a $10 million life insurance policy.
Attorneys for Murdaugh said later that he was trying to get off a 20-year opioid addiction and that his poor decisions at the time were the result of suffering from mental anguish over the deaths of his wife and their younger son.
A state grand jury indicted him this year on 21 counts of breach of trust with fraudulent intent and six counts of computer crimes, the state attorney general announced in January.
The indictments allege that he stole more than $2.6 million from clients Natarsha Thomas, Arthur Badger and Deon Martin and the family of Hakeem Pinckney.
In all four cases, Murdaugh is alleged to have used funds meant for his clients for his personal use, those indictments state.
A state grand jury also indicted Murdaugh in November and December on 48 counts, including breach of trust with fraudulent intent, forgery, money laundering, computer crimes and obtaining property by false pretenses.
Curtis Edwards Smith, then 61, who is accused of assisting Murdaugh in the failed suicide plot to collect life insurance money, was arrested last month, according to SLED. The charges include four counts of money laundering, three counts of forgery and criminal conspiracy, NBC affiliate WCBD of Charleston reported.
Smith was arrested in September after investigators said Murdaugh gave him a gun and directed Smith to kill him. Smith was charged with assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and drug offenses.
Murdaugh’s father, a grandfather and a great-grandfather were all elected to the top prosecutor’s position in South Carolina’s 14th Circuit, which covers a coastal region of the state known as the Lowcountry, totaling almost 90 years of the family’s holding a prominent role in the region.