BLOG: Day 7: Investigator doubles down on Murdaugh statement, phone records build timeline
WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC) - A South Carolina Law Enforcement Division investigator doubled down on what he believes he heard during an interview with Alex Murdaugh just days after the murders of his wife and youngest son.
Murdaugh, a disbarred Lowcountry attorney, is standing trial for the June 2021 murders of his wife, Maggie, and their youngest son, Paul.
Jeff Croft faced cross-examination from attorney Jim Griffin Tuesday morning.
Croft testified that during an interview with Murdaugh, a video of which was played to the jury Monday, Murdaugh said of Paul, “It was so bad…I did him so bad.”
But some people in the courtroom heard that portion differently, insisting it sounded like Murdaugh said “they did him so bad,” not “I did him so bad.”
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That Murdaugh said “they” instead of “I” was the crux of Griffin’s cross-examination of the interview as he replayed that portion of the interview to the court.
“Did you consider that to be some kind of confession on June 10?” Griffin says.
Croft says it was something they were going to look into.
Griffin would play the clip at regular speed twice before playing the clip slowed down to one-third speed.
“Did you hear ‘they’ then?” Griffin says.
“No sir, I did not,” Croft says.
Griffin also questioned Croft on finding shotgun shells commonly used for hunting waterfowl on the property with Griffin insisting they weren’t found during a search of the property.
In redirect from Prosecutor Creighton Waters, Croft would be handed several evidence bags containing Winchester Drylok 12-gauge shotgun shells similar to one that was used to shoot Paul Murdaugh.
Croft also opened 12-gauge Federal buckshot shells taken from the property. Those are similar to the other shotgun shell used to shoot Paul.
Griffin argued that those shells weren’t collected until a September 2021 search of the property and that Moselle had not been secured from the time of the murders.
Cell phone records from Alex, Paul and Maggie were also entered into the court record Tuesday morning along with the records of C.B. Rowe, Marty Cook, Rogan Gibson and Alex’s oldest son Buster.
Much was made about the effort to get into Paul’s cell phone without having knowledge of his passcode.
Paul McManigle, a digital forensics examiner from the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, testified he was unable to get into the phone.
Subsequently, Paul’s phone was passed to Secret Service Agent Jonathan VanHouten who said he was able to use a “brute force” tactic to crack the passcode on the phone.
VanHouten was first given the phone on March 21, 2022, and it was returned to SLED three days later.
Lt. Britt Dove from SLED’s computer crimes center is the last witness called on Tuesday.
His testimony centers around data extracted and analyzed from Maggie’s phone.
Records taken from Maggie’s phone show the last outgoing call was made at 7:50 p.m. on the night of the murders. Another list with text message data shows the last read text message at 8:49 p.m.
Records then show five missed calls from Alex between 9:06 and 10:03 p.m. and unread texts from Alex at 9:08 p.m. and Gibson at 9:34 p.m.
Event logs taken from Maggie’s phone show her phone was locked at 8:49 p.m. and isn’t unlocked again until June 8, 2021, at 1:10 p.m.
The log does show other activity on Maggie’s phone.
AT 8:53:24 p.m. the orientation of Maggie’s phone changes to portrait, then at 8:54:34 p.m. the camera is activated for one second.
Dove says he believes the phone was trying to use biometrics to unlock.
Another orientation change is made at 8:55:32 p.m. when the phone ends portrait orientation. Dove says he believes the phone was being held.
The final orientation change logged on Maggie’s phone occurs at 9:06:12 p.m. when the orientation changes to portrait. Dove again says he believes the phone was being held.
Two seconds later an incoming call from Alex is recorded, but the call isn’t answered.
Tuesday’s testimony ended with the state going through a health data report that logged steps taken on Maggie’s phone.
Once the initial data was introduced, the court was sent into recess for the night.
On Monday, defense attorneys continued to question the way authorities collected and analyzed evidence in the shooting deaths of Murdaugh’s wife and son, including numerous guns owned by the Murdaugh family now that several are evidence in the case.
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Some of those weapons included the same kind that killed the Murdaugh: a .300 Blackout rifle and shotguns, respectively.
The defense began to object as the firearms were introduced, saying prosecutors had not established any relevance to enter them into evidence.
But lead prosecutor Creighton Waters fought back and the court sided with the state.
“It is very important to show the extensiveness of the investigation it was done particularly as it goes to firearms and there were multiple guns that were tested,” he said. “Admitting these guns as evidence and what was tested is very relevant.”
Croft also testified that he found the same brand and type of shell casings around the house that were found around Maggie Murdaugh’s body. In the trash, he said he found an empty box of 12-gauge shotgun ammunition, the same kind used to kill Paul Murdaugh. Croft said he also found a credit card statement, with a circled charge of more than $1,000 at Gucci.
The state has listed more than 200 potential witnesses, but it is not clear how many they intend to call to the stand.
Prosecutors estimated the trial would take about three weeks to complete.
Murdaugh is facing life in prison without parole if convicted of the crimes at hand.
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