Updated Mar 3, 2023, 10:09am EST
North America

Alex Murdaugh sentenced to life in prison for killing his wife and son

Alex Murdaugh
Grace Beahm Alford/Pool via USA TODAY NETWORK via REUTERS

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The News

Alex Murdaugh, a once-prominent lawyer belonging to a powerful legal family in South Carolina, was found guilty Thursday of murdering his wife and son.

He received two consecutive life sentences.

After a nearly monthlong trial, the jury determined that Murdaugh was guilty on all counts in the killing of Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and their younger son, Paul Murdaugh, 22, to cover up his financial crimes. The jury deliberated for three hours before the verdict was announced Thursday evening.

“We’ve been here now 28 days” and heard “an overwhelming amount of testimony and evidence,” Judge Clifton Newman said following the verdict. He rejected an attempt from Murdaugh’s lawyer to declare a mistrial. “The evidence of guilt is overwhelming.”

The case attracted national attention with its twists and turns involving corruption, opioid abuse, and a failed hitman suicide plot.

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Murdaugh first reported the death of his son and wife on June 7, 2021, telling authorities he had found them shot to death outside on his family's estate.

Although he was immediately a person of interest, it was not until a year later that Murdaugh was arrested and charged with murder.

Prosecutors argued that he killed his family in an effort to distract from a myriad of financial misdeeds including embezzlement from his family's law firm, for which he is also now facing separate charges.

"The pressures on this man were unbearable and they were reaching a crescendo the day his wife and son were murdered by him,” Prosecutor Waters told the jury during his closing arguments.

According to prosecutors, Murdaugh had been swindling clients for years and he used the money, in part, to feed an addiction to pain pills. He faces separate charges for allegedly hiring a hitman to kill him and give his family a $10 million life insurance policy, but the plot failed.

Murdaugh's claims that he was visiting his mother when the murders took place was disputed during the trial by video evidence placing him at the scene minutes before his family was fatally shot.

He claimed that they were killed by someone taking revenge for Paul Murdaugh's involvement in a drunken boat crash that resulted in a 19-year-old woman's death in 2019. At the time of his death, Paul Murdaugh had been charged with drunk driving in the incident and was awaiting trial.

His defense team acknowledged that their client had been untruthful about his whereabouts on the night of the murder and other financial problems, which they blamed on the behavior of an addict, but stood firm that he had not actually committed the murders.

"He lied because he had a closet full of skeletons," Murdaugh's attorney Jim Griffin told the jury, adding his client "didn't want any more ... scrutiny on him."