‘I was in a very bad place’: Jury hears suicide-for-hire confession during Murdaugh murder trial
WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC) - Alex Murdaugh told state agents that the man he asked to shoot him on the side of a Hampton County road in September 2021 was not involved in the murders of Murdaugh’s wife and youngest son.
In a phone interview with South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Agent Ryan Kelly from Sept. 13, 2021, Murdaugh admitted to lying about the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 4, 2021, shooting on Salkahatchie Road when he told investigators his SUV had a flat on the side of the road and an unknown man stopped and shot him in the head. Murdaugh went as far as to have a composite sketch of the man he claimed shot him.
Murdaugh, a former Lowcountry attorney, is charged with gunning down his wife, Maggie; and their youngest son, Paul at the family’s hunting property on Moselle Road in rural Colleton County back on June 7, 2021.
The defense has fought to keep testimony about the incident from being heard by the jury and was initially granted that motion on Wednesday morning when Judge Clifton Newman called the months-later shooting a “bridge too far.” Jim Griffin opened the door back up for prosecutors to introduce the incident, however, when he cross examined SLED agent David Owen by mentioning Curtis “Eddie” Smith and Murdaugh’s prescription pill habit. The line of questioning caused Newman to reverse the ruling at the end of the day.
A second push from the defense to exclude the incident which included the Sept. 13 interview was also denied Thursday morning.
“Then the defense decided to build a road over that bridge,” Judge Clifton Newman said.
In the phone interview, Murdaugh admits to having an 18-20 year addiction to prescription painkillers and said he thought it would be easier on his family if he was dead.
“I was in a very bad place,” Murdaugh said. “I thought it would be better for me not to be here anymore.”
Murdaugh told investigators he called Smith on the morning of Sept. 4 and asked him to meet him and asked Smith to shoot him.
“I think at first he was a little surprised,” Murdaugh said.
Kelly testified agents had already searched Smith’s home before the phone call and located several deposit receipts for several hundred thousand dollars from Murdaugh. They also found a truck that had been identified by security footage from a church near the shooting and a spiral notebook that contained the names of pills and dollar amounts like a crude ledger book.
In the interview, Murdaugh tells Kelly that he didn’t pay Smith to shoot him and only ever paid him for drugs, at times spending $40,000 or more. Murdaugh was pressed on if he owed any drug dealers money and told Kelly that he did not.
Kelly asks if Smith had any connection to the Moselle murders and Murdaugh tells him no. Kelly testified that no evidence indicated Smith was involved in the shootings.
The state called Kenneth Kinsey to the stand Thursday morning.
Kinsey was asked by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to recreate the crime scene from the night of June 7.
The defense had filed a motion to block Kinsey’s testimony before the trial began on the basis of blood spatter evidence in Kinsey’s report.
Prosecutors never mentioned the blood spatter during their questioning of Kinsey.
Kinsey testified to the locations of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh on the night of the murders as well as the potential location of the shooter.
Kinsey said Paul Murdaugh was standing about five feet inside the feed room when he was shot the first time in the chest. Paul would have then turned and walked toward the door of the feed room when he was shot fatally a second time, Kinsey said.
The breach of the shooter’s shotgun would have been inside the door for the first shot and the shooter would have been located outside and to the right of the feed room door during the second shot, Kinsey said.
The defense would question the angle and distance of the second shot to Paul Murdaugh, arguing that a shot fired at an angle of approximately 135 degrees would require the shooter to be really low to the ground or bent over. They questioned earlier testimony that it was fired from three feet away.
Kinsey testified that he had no way of knowing the exact distance or placement because he did not have the actual shotgun used and instead used blood spatter and damage to the door to draw his conclusions before adding he thought the distance was closer to two feet.
An impression on Maggie Murdaugh’s left calf was brought into question with Kinsey testifying it appeared to be a tire mark from one of the ATVs on the property.
Kinsey said the impression looked more like Maggie Murduagh backed into the tire versus being ran over by the ATV.
“In my opinion either that tire or a tire just like it cause that impression,” Kinsey said.
Court let out early Thursday afternoon before cross examination of Kelly could be heard. Prosecutors are expected to rest their case this week. Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian said Thursday afternoon that he expects the trial to last two more weeks with prosecutors calling one more witness before the defense can begin.
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