Two witnesses in Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial told the court Wednesday they were “100%” certain Murdaugh’s voice was on footage, which prosecutors say undermines the disgraced former South Carolina attorney’s claim that he wasn’t was present at the scene of the murders when his wife Maggie and 22-year-old son Paul were fatally shot.
The video, just under a minute long, was filmed on Paul’s phone starting at 8:44 p.m. on the night of the 2021 killings, according to Lt. David Britton Dove, a supervisor at the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s Computer Crime Center, who extracted forensic data from the phones of Murdaugh, his son and his wife. In his review of the trio’s phones, the footage was the only video or photo Dove found relevant to the investigation, he said, telling the court it appeared to have been taken in the area of the Murdaugh family kennels.
Three different voices could be heard in the recordings, Dove said on Wednesday. And while Dove didn’t know the voices personally, he said, “You can tell they’re different voices.”
Prosecutors believe one of those voices belongs to Murdaugh, and that voice is the only other one on the video aside from the victims, placing it at the scene at the time of the murders. Two witnesses confirmed this claim on Wednesday.
Rogan Gibson, who described himself as a close friend of Paul’s and who described the Murdaughs as a second family, told investigators shortly after the murders that, along with the voices of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, he was “99% sure” that the third Person they heard was Alex Murdaugh. Last November, he told investigators he was 100% sure and reiterated that in court on Wednesday.
When asked by District Attorney Creighton Waters if he recognized Alex’s voice, Gibson said, “Yes sir.”
“100%?” Waters asked. “Yes sir,” Gibson replied.
Will Loving, another witness who was friends with Paul, also testified that he was “100%” sure it was Alex’s voice on the video.
Prosecutors have said cell phone evidence is vital in their case against Murdaugh, who has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and possession of a weapon while committing a violent crime in the murder of his wife, Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh hat and his 22-year-old son Paul on June 7, 2021.
Murdaugh called 911 on the night of the killings to report that he had found his wife and son shot dead at the family home in Islandton, South Carolina – a property known as Moselle.
However, prosecutors charge that Murdaugh committed the murders to divert attention from a series of alleged illegal schemes he was enacting to avoid “personal legal and financial ruin,” according to court filings. Aside from the murder charges, the Attorney General also faces 99 charges of alleged financial crimes.
The state has claimed evidence will show Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes “were about to come to light” when his wife and son were killed.
Gibson said he’s known the Murdochs practically his entire life, and testified that it was Alex Murdaugh’s voice, heard in the video, that asked the family’s yellow lab, Bubba, to drop a chicken out of his mouth to permit.
Paul Murdaugh called Gibson at 8:40 p.m. the night of the shooting to ask if there was anything wrong with Gibson’s dog, Cash, who was in a kennel on Murdaugh’s property. The two tried to make a video call so Gibson could see the dog, but the reception wasn’t good enough, Gibson testified. Paul told him he would take a video of the dog and send it to him if the FaceTime call didn’t work, Gibson said, but he never received the footage.
Gibson testified that he tried to call and text Paul after the failed video call, but his friend never replied.
Murdaugh appeared to sob when the video first played in court.
Prosecutor Waters of the South Carolina Attorney’s Office – which is prosecuting the case due to the Murdaugh family’s decades-long ties with the local law firm – teased the video in his opening statement last week, saying Alex claimed to investigators that he was napping at the house would video evidence show that he was present at the family kennels where the bodies of his son and wife were found.
“You will see this video and hear from witnesses who identify Paul’s voice, Maggie’s voice and Alex’s voice,” Waters said, telling the court that Paul was filming a dog that belonged to his friend because they were concerned about the dog’s tail animal made . Murdaugh “told anyone who would listen that he was never there… Evidence will show he was there. He was at the scene with the two victims “minutes before Paul’s phone “locked forever.”
In his own opening statement, defense attorney Dick Harpootlian said the audio of the video obtained by prosecutors simply showed Murdaugh and his wife having a “normal discussion” without “animosity.” Paul is “very happy,” Harpootlian claimed. “There’s no one down there to threaten him. Daddy doesn’t pull out a shotgun and kill him.”
During Wednesday’s defense cross-examination, Gibson said that Alex and Paul Murdaugh had a great relationship and spoke of Alex as a loving and loving father who was devoted to his sons. Alex is like a second father to him, Gibson said.
Murdaugh cried a lot and was “just really upset, sad, just torn apart” by the deaths, Gibson said.
“Can you think of any circumstances that you can imagine, knowing them as you know them, where Alex would brutally murder Paul and Maggie?” Defense Attorney Jim Griffin asked.
“Not that I can think of,” Gibson replied.
The defense attorney also questioned Gibson about the sheds, workshops and vehicles that were often left unlocked on Murdaugh’s property, and guns that were often left unprotected or just lying around. Gibson acknowledged that it would be easy for someone to sneak onto the property and steal something. When redirected by prosecutors, Gibson admitted he had never heard Paul complain about people doing such a thing.
In his testimony Tuesday, Dove, the 15th witness summoned by prosecutors, described communications from Maggie’s phone on the night of the murders, including a text message from Alex at 9:47 p.m. that said “Call me Babe.” It has never been read.
In his opening statement last week, Waters told jurors Murdaugh called his wife repeatedly that night before texting her that he was visiting his mother and going to Almeda, South Carolina.
“It’s up to you,” Waters said, “to decide whether or not he’s trying to establish an alibi.”
According to Dove’s testimony on Tuesday, the night she was killed, Maggie read two text messages — at 8:31 p.m. and 8:49 p.m. — in a group chat with the family about Murdaugh’s father, who was in failing health. Seconds before her phone was locked for the last time.
Maggie’s phone screen went blank minutes later at 8:53 p.m. At 8:54 p.m., the orientation switched to landscape and the camera activated – an indication, Dove said, that the phone was being moved and the camera was trying to locate Maggie’s face in an unsuccessful unlock attempt.
Maggie’s phone repeatedly showed her husband’s missed calls over the next hour, Dove testified, along with evidence it had switched to portrait mode. That, the expert said, is another indication that the phone was likely hand-held. A final call from Murdaugh was missed just before 10:04 p.m
But those calls appeared to be missing from Murdaugh’s phone, Dove said Wednesday, testifying that the call logs showed a gap in the calls between June 4 and 10:25 p.m. on the night of June 7.
“Such a gap would indicate” that calls “were actually removed from there,” Dove said, adding that the only way to remove the calls from the log is to do it manually.
When asked if the calls were erased from the log, Dove said “it would appear so,” noting that there was no way of knowing when they were erased or who was responsible.
Additionally, Murdaugh was in the same group chat as his wife when relatives texted about his dying father, Dove said Wednesday. And while evidence shows Maggie read both messages, Murdaugh didn’t read them until the next day, Dove said, despite telling state investigators about his concern for his father’s health.
This behavior seemed outside of Murdaugh’s typical texting habits, Dove testified, saying Murdaugh usually has a habit of checking texts within 5 minutes, or sometimes 30 to 40 minutes.