South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh killed his family to distract from his own damning financial crimes, prosecutors allege.
Murdaugh allegedly shot his wife Maggie and their son Paul to death last June to gain sympathy and deter people from figuring out he stole nearly $9 million from clients, according to a motion filed by prosecutors Thursday.
“The evidence will show Murdaugh accrued substantial debts over a period of years and to uncover those debts began engaging in illicit financial crimes,” state grand jury chief prosecutor Creighton Waters wrote in the filing obtained by CNN. “The evidence will further show these financial crimes were about to come to light at the time of the killings, more specifically on the date of the killings.”
“Ultimately, the murders served as Murdaugh’s means to shift the focus away from himself and buy himself some additional time to try and prevent his financial crimes from being uncovered, which, if revealed, would have resulted in personal legal and financial ruin for Murdaugh.”
Prosecutors argued that Murdaugh’s alleged financial schemes are relevant to the murder case and should be admissible in the trial. In addition to the double murder, he faces nearly 100 other charges ranging from money laundering to drug offenses to stealing from clients and trying to arrange his own death to get his surviving son a $10 million life insurance benefit.
Waters claimed that Murdaugh had been living well beyond his means and funded his lifestyle with the alleged financial crimes.
When a high-profile, six-figure case fell through, Murdaugh sought a way to avoid his “day of reckoning” by any means, Waters wrote.
Murdaugh’s former colleagues reportedly confronted him about his financial mismanagement just hours before his wife and son were gunned down.
The former CFO of Murdaugh’s family law firm PMPED testified in a separate case that the firm approached him looking to identify where client settlement cash was on June 7, 2021, but decided to hold back from further investigating after learning about the murders.
Murdaugh spent the days following the murders collecting money to account for missing fees sought by his law firm, Waters said.
“This is a white-collar case that culminated in murders,” Waters told Circuit Judge Clifton Newman on Friday.
Murdaugh’s attorney Jim Griffin rebuked the theory and questioned why Murdaugh would distract from one crime by committing a dramatically more substantial one.
Griffin argued that the financial crime allegations amounted to character evidence, especially since there is no known evidence that his family knew of any crimes, and should not be included in the murder trial.
Murdaugh, who has pleaded not guilty, has repeatedly denied killing Maggie and Paul.
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