Day 11: Judge allows admission of financial evidence in Murdaugh murder trial

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 3:00 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 6, 2023 at 5:17 PM EST
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WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC) - The judge in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial will allow the jury to hear evidence of Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes.

The disbarred Lowcountry attorney is charged in the June 7, 2021, killings of his wife, Maggie; and their youngest son, Paul.

Judge Clifton Newman ruled just before noon Monday that he would allow the testimony to be heard by the jury.

The state has called more than 25 witnesses who have provided more than 100 hours of testimony. But the testimony is far from over.

Several witnesses testified last week without the jury present as Newman weighed the evidence and if it could be linked to a motive in the killings.

The state has argued that the looming exposure of Murdaugh’s misdeeds represents a motive for the killings.

SPECIAL SECTION: The Murdaugh Cases

Prosecutors said the evidence is key to their case. They said Murdaugh killed his wife and son because Murdaugh was confronted earlier in the day about $782,000 in fees that should be in his law firm’s account but could not be found.

Murdaugh planned the killings to gain sympathy and buy time so he could find a way to cover up the missing money as he had numerous times before in the past decade or so, prosecutors said.

Murdaugh’s lawyers said prosecutors are trying to smear Murdaugh with bad behavior not related to the killings to bolster their weak case.

The last financial witness called before the decision was made was Mark Tinsley.

Tinsley represented the family of Mallory Beach after the 2019 boating accident in Beaufort County.

“Are you familiar with the boat case?” Prosecutor Creighton Waters said.

“Unfortunately,” Tinsley said.

Tinsley testified he had been told Murdaugh was broke and might be able to “cobble together” $1 million as a settlement to the Beach family.

Tinsley filed a motion for Murdaugh’s financial records to prove he was broke.

Tinsley said he always believed the case would settle and was seeking personal recovery from Murdaugh though in cross examination he would say they were ready to go to trial.

“The Beach family stood on a causeway for eight days while their daughter’s body was in the water,” Tinsley says “I don’t know that there’s any amount of money somebody would willingly take to go through what they’ve gone through.”

The motion to compel was met with a lot of grumbling from Murdaugh’s side, Tinsley said.

Tinsley said Murdaugh had been handling and settling a lot of cases and had a steady workload.

“The only way that he could be broke was that money was hidden,” Tinsley said.

A hearing on the motion was scheduled to take place on June 10, 2021.

Tinsley said the financial discovery on that day would expose Murdaugh’s financial misdeeds and

Murdaugh had likened it to a judgment day.

The former CFO of Murdaugh’s former law firm testified last week that he mentioned getting records together for the discovery hearing on the day of the murders.

The jury returned to the room to hear from Murdaugh’s mother’s caretaker.

Mushelle “Shelley” Smith worked the overnight shift at the Almeda home that Murdaugh’s parents lived in.

Smith testified that she would work from 8:30 p.m. until 8:30 a.m. taking care of Murdaugh’s mother.

Smith said it was uncharacteristic of Murdaugh to visit late at night and early in the morning but he was the most frequent visitor to the home.

Smith said Murdaugh came to the house on the night of the murders and stayed between 15 and 20 minutes. She said he was wearing a t-shirt, shorts and boat shoes and that she couldn’t see any blood on him or left on the bed when he was next to his mother.

After the funeral for Murdaugh’s father Randolph, Smith said Murdaugh came into the room and told her he was at Almeda for 30 or 40 minutes on the night of the murders.

Murdaugh later mentioned helping her with an upcoming wedding and finding her a new position with the school system where she worked, Smith said.

Smith said Murdaugh had brought a blue tarp into the home cradled it like he was holding something and took it upstairs.

Smith said she didn’t initially bring up the tarp, but mentioned it while talking to an Allendale police officer and later spoke to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division about the tarp on several occasions.