Paul and Maggie Murdaugh’s last texts and calls revealed as new bloody crime scene photos shown at trial
The final text messages and phone calls made by Paul and Maggie Murdaugh before their brutal shooting murders were revealed in court for the first time at the homicide trial of their father and husband Alex Murdaugh.
In Colleton County Court in Walterboro, South Carolina, on Monday, jurors heard how Paul, 22, placed a call on his cellphone to friend Rogan Gibson at 8.44pm on the night of 7 June 2021.
Five minutes later, at 8.49pm, Mr Gibson sent Paul a text message: “See if you can get a good picture of it. Marion wants to send it to a girl we know that’s a vet. Get him to sit and stay. He shouldn’t move around too much.”
The message – believed to be about a dog Paul was taking care of for him – went unanswered.
From that point onward, neither Paul nor his mother Maggie responded to any messages or calls on their cellphones.
At that time, the mother and son were being brutally gunned down at the dog kennels of the family’s sprawling estate in Islandton – with Mr Murdaugh not on trial for their murders.
In opening statements, prosecutor Creighton Waters said that Paul was shot dead first at 8.50pm and Maggie minutes later. Their cellphones had no activity from 8.49pm onward.
Details about the two victims’ final communications were revealed in court as SLED Senior Special Agent Jeff Croft took the stand.
Agent Croft testified that he responded to the scene of the murders at around 5am on 8 June – the morning after the murders – and went to interview Mr Gibson.
He told the court how Mr Gibson shared communications he had with Paul, Maggie and Alex Murdaugh on the night of the shootings.
At 8.40pm, he had received an incoming call from Paul which lasted for four minutes.
Then, Paul called him again at 8.44pm – the last incoming communication he received from Paul’s cellphone.
After sending the text message at 8.49pm and receiving no response from his friend, Mr Gibson sent a follow-up text at 9.58pm, which simply read: “Yo.”
Mr Gibson also tried calling Paul multiple times at 9.10pm, 9.29pm, 9.42pm, 9.57pm and 10.08pm.
Getting no response from his friend, jurors heard that he also texted Paul’s mother Maggie at 9.34pm, saying: “Tell Paul to call me.”
Shortly after, Mr Gibson had four missed calls from Alex Murdaugh at 10.21pm, 10.24pm, 10.25pm and 10.30pm.
After interviewing Mr Gibson, Agent Croft told jurors how he seized firearms and ammunition from the Murdaugh home – including a semiautomatic weapon and ammo which both matched the type used to kill Maggie.
The .300 Blackout rifle as well as a 12-gauge Browning shotgun, a Benelli shotgun and a 12-gauge pump shotgun which were seized from the family home were all brought into the courtroom and shown to jurors.
The agent testified that several empty boxes of ammunition were also found during searches of the Murdaugh home on 8 June and 13 June. Also seized as evidence was a credit card receipt for an $1,021.10 item from Gucci – the item had been circled.
Maggie and Paul were shot with two different guns.
Paul was shot twice – once in the head and once in the chest – with a shotgun while Maggie was shot five times with a semiautomatic rifle – with some of the bullets striking her when she had already fallen to the ground.
First responders have revealed how the scene was especially violent, with Paul’s brain shot out of his skull and both victims found lying in pools of their own blood.
New crime scene photos, released on Monday, show blood spatters on the floor of the dog feed house and shell casings around the murder scene. A diagram also reveals where Maggie and Paul’s bodies were found yards apart around the dog kennels on the 1,700-acre family estate.
In court on Monday, Mr Murdaugh’s legal team sought to push their theory that there could have been two shooters separately responsible for killing the mother and son.
Under cross-examination by defence attorney Dick Harpootlian, SLED special agent Melinda Worley admitted that the theory is “possible” but said that it is only one possible explanation for the evidence.
Jurors were shown photos and diagrams of the crime scene from both the night of the murders and more than one month later on 16 July, with Mr Harpootlian honing in on two bullet projectiles in particular – one that travelled through the dog house and one through the quail pen.
He pushed the idea that, because the bullet projectiles were shot at different angles, it is a “reasonable” possibility that there was two killers.
“One reasonable explanation is there are two people there: one with a shotgun, one with an AR. Could someone have been a lookout, they went there to kill Paul and Maggie surprised them?” Mr Harpootlian pressed.
Agent Worley admitted that it was “possible” but insisted that it was only “one explanation” as to what may have taken place that fateful night.
During much of his cross-examination, Mr Harpootlian sought to pick holes in the evidence gathered from the bloody crime scene, raising doubts about a potential footprint found on Maggie’s calf.
Jurors heard that a “mark” was spotted on the victim’s leg on the night of the murders.
While Mr Harpootlian suggested it was a “footwear impression”, Agent Worley said she “couldn’t say” that was what the mark was but that it “could be”.
The mark was not examined on the scene and no impression of the imprint was taken, she testified.
She also confirmed that a bloody footprint found in the feeding room was later determined to be that of a law enforcement officer – something that supported the defence’s line of questioning that some evidence was not preserved correctly and was even “destroyed”.
“Do you know what other evidence they may have destroyed?” asked Mr Harpootlian.
“I have no idea,” the agent said, to which he responded: “That’s right you don’t.”
Agent Worley also testified about testing that was carried out on the clothes that Mr Murdaugh was wearing on the night of the murders – including the “clean” white shirt which several law enforcement officers previously testified had no visible signs of blood.
The tests found possible blood stains on the shirt – however the positive test could instead indicate bleach or rust.
Mr Murdaugh’s “clean” presentation was a key focus in courtroom testimony last week where the legal scion was heard in both his first police interview and his 911 call claiming he touched his wife and son’s bloodied bodies.
In his first police interview, which was heard for the first time, he described attempts to check the pulses of Maggie and Paul and to move his son’s lifeless body.
This account was contradicted by law enforcement testimony and images of his “clean” hands and clothing.
Crime scene photos of the dog kennels, the 911 call made by Mr Murdaugh and dramatic bodycam footage from the scene of the grisly murders were also shown to jurors. In the bodycam, the suspect was seen “immediately” telling the first officer on the scene that the killings were connected to a fatal 2019 boat crash.
During some of the most gruesome testimony, Mr Murdaugh was seen sobbing in court – while jurors heard that he shed “no tears” on the night of the murders.
Mr Murdaugh, 54, is facing life in prison for the murders of his wife and son.
Prosecutors claim he shot dead his family members in an attempt to distract from a string of other scandals and crimes encircling him. He denies the allegations, insisting that their killer or killers is still at large.
At the time of the murders, Mr Murdaugh was believed to be facing financial ruin from a 20-year opioid addiction and – one day earlier – had been confronted by his law firm PMPED over an alleged multi-million-dollar fraud scheme.
Now, Mr Murdaugh is charged with more than 100 counts from multiple indictments alleging he stole nearly $8.5m from clients at his law firm in fraud schemes going back a decade.
The attorney, who has since been disbarred, allegedly represented the clients in wrongful death settlements before pocketing the money for himself.
Alleged victims include family members of Gloria Satterfield family, the Murdaugh’s longtime housekeeper who died in a mysterious trip and fall accident at the family home in 2018.
At the time, her death was regarded as an accidental fall – though the investigation was reopened after Maggie and Paul’s murders.
Three months on from the murders – on 4 September 2021 – Mr Murdaugh allegedly conspired to pay a hitman to shoot him dead so that Buster would inherit a $10m life insurance windfall.
The now-disbarred attorney initially claimed he was ambushed in a drive-by shooting while changing a tyre on his vehicle, but his story quickly unravelled and he confessed to orchestrating the plot.
Mr Murdaugh and his alleged co-conspirator Curtis Smith were arrested and charged over the incident.
As well as the deaths of Beach and Satterfield, questions have also surfaced about other mystery deaths surrounding the Murdaughs.
Stephen Smith, 19, was found dead in the middle of the road in Hampton County, South Carolina. The openly gay teenager had suffered blunt force trauma to the head and his death was officially ruled a hit-and-run. But the victim’s family have long doubted this version of events, with the Murdaugh name cropping up in several police tips and community rumours.
An investigation was reopened into his death after Maggie and Paul’s murders.