The life and times of Paul Murdaugh, the darkest and the bright were substantially drawn out and explored during testimony Thursday in Alex Murdaugh’s trial for the alleged murders of his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and his 22-year-old son Paul.
Taking the stand in his defense, parts of the 911 call were played in court. Murdaugh described to the dispatcher the horrific injuries his wife and son suffered.
“I should have known,” Murdaugh can be heard saying on the 911 call after finding his wife and youngest son dead. When asked what he meant by that statement, Murdaugh said his son had received numerous threats after a drunken 2019 boat crash that left 19-year-old Mallory Beach dead.
“Paul got the most vile threats — the stuff that was on social media — you couldn’t believe it,” Murdaugh testified. “You couldn’t believe it. It was so over the top. Truthfully we didn’t think anything about it, it was so crazy. People talking about what he was going to get. We disregarded it. It was so over the top.”
In the early morning of Feb. 24, 2019, then-19-year-old Paul Murdaugh’s blood alcohol content was three times over the legal limit when he crashed a boat with five passengers into the pilings of Archer’s Creek Bridge near Parris Island.
Beach was thrown from the wreck. Her body was discovered over a week later, having drifted about five miles downriver from the crash scene.
Paul Murdaugh pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of boating under the influence but was killed before his trial was scheduled to begin.
That crash took center stage during Murdaugh’s Thursday testimony, four years to the day Beach was killed.
Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters addressed the boat crash during cross-examination in the context of the defendant’s alleged untoward use of a deputy solicitor’s badge. He got the law enforcement badge from volunteering in the prosecutor’s office, where his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather built a legacy around the Murdaugh name in elected positions for nearly 100 years.
Waters then suggested the defendant had improperly used that badge to curry favor with law enforcement at the hospital or to access areas he was not supposed to have accessed the night of the crash. Murdaugh ambivalently seemed to confirm the prosecutor’s suggestion, responding that he “may have” been using the badge to his advantage.
“What advantage did you want?” Waters asked.
“If I was wanting some advantage, as you say, I guess — and I don’t remember this — but I guess … a badge has a warming effect with other law enforcement.”
Murdaugh also claimed that he never told the individuals involved in his son’s boating crash not to cooperate with law enforcement.
Murdaugh on Thursday also testified that he lied to law enforcement about not being with Paul and Maggie at the dog kennels on their family estate before they were both shot dead. He maintained that he did not harm them, claiming he lied to investigators because his drug addiction had made him paranoid.
Jerry Lambe contributed to this report.
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