COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Two separate rounds of testimony took place Friday in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial.
Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife Margaret and youngest son Paul at their family property in June of 2021.
Prosecutors brought in three witnesses to testify about Alex Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes as they try to establish their theory of motive.
Palmetto State Bank CEO Jan Malinowski testified to Murdaugh’s dire financial situation and unusual banking habits, saying he was over $4 million in debt in August of 2021. Murdaugh’s attorneys countered, saying Murdaugh had never been denied a loan or line of credit at the bank.
Tony Satterifeild — the son of Murdaugh’s late housekeeper who died at Moselle in 2018 — described how Murdaugh swindled him out of over $4 million in his mother’s wrongful death settlement.
A forensic accountant described how that money and other money Murdaugh diverted was moved around through different bank accounts.
After the jury returned, they heard from a SLED fingerprint analyst who said he did not recover any meaningful evidence from the scene as well as several SLED agents who collected DNA swabs from people in the Murdaugh’s orbit.
The last witness, SLED firearms expert Paul Greer, gave lengthy testimony. He was able to determine that several shell casings found near Maggie’s body matched other shell casings found near the home and at the shooting range on the property. Prosecutors took that as a win, but the defense emphasized that even if those shell casings had been fired from the same weapon, Greer was unable to conclude that the weapon was one of the rifles seized from the property.
Court is expected to resume Monday at 9:30 a.m., with the jury expected around 11:30 a.m.
ALEX MURDAUGH MURDER TRIAL LIVE BLOG:
5:28 p.m. – Court is in recess. The jury will return at 11:30 a.m. Monday. Waters indicates that defense attorney Jim Griffin and Murdaugh, along with others, met days after the murders and Murduagh made “some statements.” Waters wants to find out what was said and says he believes the statements would not be attorney-client privileged because third parties were present.
Griffin explains it was June 10 when SLED came to a family property to interview family members. Griffin says he was there to represent Murdaugh.
Mark Tinsley, the attorney for several victims of the boat crash case, will testify Monday as well without the jury present.
5:15 p.m. – Prosecution follows up with Greer.
4:10 p.m. – Defense begins cross-examination of Greer. Griffin asks if Greer is telling the jury that any of the firearms in evidence definitively murdered Maggie and Paul. Greer says that he found matching mechanism marks on many of the shell casings. Griffin asks for clarification. Greer says it is inconclusive. One of the weapons could be the murder weapon, but he can’t say for sure.
Griffin asks about a malfunction Greer experienced while test-firing the seized 300-blackout. Greer says that while firing it, one of the rounds did not automatically cycle so he had to manually feed it to the chamber. He had to do that every time he fired the weapon. The weapon did not rapid-fire.
Griffin asks if Greer can confirm that the shells found near Maggie’s body, near the door of the house, and near the firing range were fired from one of the guns seized from the home. Greer says the results were inconclusive.
Griffin asks if Greer’s opinion is based on the assumption that each 300-blackout should produce unique markings on the ammunition it cycles. Greer is hesitant to answer yes or no. He insists an explanation is necessary. He says he hasn’t inspected every 300-blackout in the world but the ones he has analyzed do usually produce unique markings.
Griffin asks if Greer is able to tell when casings were fired. Greer says no.
Griffin points out that the buckshot pellets found in the feed room were steel. Greer agrees. Griffin asks if any of the Winchester bullets seized in September were analyzed to determine whether they were steel. Greer says no.
Griffin questions Greer about whether ballistics analysis is entirely accurate. Griffin refers to it as a sort of art. Greer contends that it is scientific and results are peer-reviewed for accuracy.
Greer is asked if the inside of the shotgun barrel was swabbed to check for residue. Greer says he is not sure if it was swabbed, but when he looked down the barrel of the shotgun he noticed some residue. Griffin asks if Greer can tell if it was new or old. Greer says he can’t tell. The same is true for the 300-blackout.
2:50 p.m. – Testimony resumes with SLED firearms expert Paul Greer.
Greer reviewed several pieces of evidence in the Murdaugh case, including, but not limited to:
- Six fired 300-blackout rounds found near Maggie’s body
- Two shotgun shells located near the feed room
- A camo Bennelli 12-gauge shotgun seized from the scene accompanied by a sling, a 16-gauge shotgun shell which was loaded into the gun when it was seized, and an unfired 12-gauge shotgun shell.
- One fired bullet found near a tire impression. The bullet did not have a casing.
- 24 birdshot pellets found in the feed room
- One fired bullet found in the bedding in one of the kennels
- One fired bullet jacket fragment, three fired bullet jacket fragments, and one piece of lead found in the gravel
- One piece of lead from hair
- 48 birdshot pellets from left shoulder and head of Paul, one piece of plastic from left shoulder and head of Paul
- Three fired bullet jacket fragments and seven pieces of lead from Maggie’s body
- One combination wad from Paul’s body
- One birdshot pellet found with Paul’s clothing
- One browning semi-automatic 12-gauge shotgun
- One 300-blackout rifle
- One magazine and 26 unfired 300-blackout cartridges
- Four 12-gauge federal shot shells located in a red bin on the workshop bench
- A box of S&B 300-blackout ammunition
- Four fired S&B 300-blackout cartridge cases
- 300-blackout cartridge and 12-gauge shot shells
- Two swabs of reddish-brown debris taken from the camo Bennelli shotgun
- Unfired 12-gauge shotshell submitted with the camo Bennelli shotgun used by SLED to test fire the weapon
In his analysis, Greer found that two of the shotgun shells located in the feed room had been fired by the same firearm. Greer tested the firearms seized from the property. He was able to rule out several of the guns, but results were inconclusive for the camo Bennelli shotgun. He was unable to determine whether they were fired by that gun or by a gun with similar characteristics.
Greer tested several 300-blackout rounds as well. He compared the collected shells to the 300-blackout seized from the property. Greer test-fired the weapon using unshot shells from the magazine submitted with the rifle. Greer said he was able to conclude some of the 300-blackout shells collected from the property were fired from that weapon. However, there were some shells collected that yielded inconclusive results, meaning Greer could not determine whether those rounds had been fired by that weapon or a similar weapon.
300-blackout casings found near Maggie’s body and 300-blackout casings collected from near the gun room at the house were compared. The casings found near the door were tarnished/weathered, according to Greer. However, Greer did find that the shells had matching mechanism marks. He concluded that the casings had been loaded into, extracted, and ejected from the same firearm at some point in time. 300-blackout casings and 12-gauge shotgun shells collected near the shooting range on the property also had matching mechanism marks to shells collected around Maggie’s body and the shells collected around the home. However, he could not determine whether it was from the 300-blackout rifle seized from the property or a similar firearm.
1:29 p.m. – Court breaks for lunch with testimony set to resume at 2:45 p.m.
12:41 p.m. – SLED firearms expert Paul Greer is called to the stand. Greer testified on day two of the trial without the jury present and Judge Newman determined that his expertise would assist the jury in understanding ballistics evidence.
12:24 p.m. – SLED agent Jomar Albayalde is called to the stand. He collected buccal swabs from Randy Murdaugh, (?) Torres, and Alan Gonzales as part of the investigation. The swabs are admitted into evidence.
12:21 p.m. – SLED agent Chandler Horney is called to the stand. She was present for buccal swab collection from Morgan Doughty and Miley Altman as part of the murder investigation. The swabs are admitted into evidence.
12:18 p.m. – Lawrence Wiggins is called to the stand. He is currently the Chief of Police in Allendale. In June of 2021, he was a SLED agent. He took buccal swabs from Roger Davis and Anthony Cook as part of the murder investigation. The swabs are admitted into evidence.
12:15 p.m. – SLED agent Blake Johnson is called to the stand. He took buccal swabs from C.B. Rowe and Connor Cook as part of the murder investigation. The swabs are admitted into evidence.
11:57 a.m. – Defense cross-examines Darnell. Dick Harpootlian asks if the guns were loaded when Darnell received them. Darnell says he does not think so.
Harpootlian confirms the evidence was processed on June 9, 2021. Darnell agrees.
Harpootlian asks Darnell to explain why it may be uncommon to get fingerprints off unspent bullets. Darnell says friction and moisture make it difficult.
Darnell says typically smooth clean surfaces like brass are conducive to prints, and he has found prints on cartridges before, but it doesn’t happen all the time.
Harpootlian asks if Darnell is aware of investigators who were on scene the night of the murders doing anything to try and collect prints. Darnell says he is not sure. Harpootlian asks if he were on scene, would he have done more to check? Darnell says if he had reason to believe an area likely had relevant prints, he would have checked.
Harpootlian hones in on the feed room and asks if Darnell would want to check the small room, the scene of a brutal crime, for prints. Darnell says he can’t speak for the people on scene, but he would have wanted to process the room in detail.
Darnell says latent prints are extremely fragile and it does not take much to obliterate a print.
Harpootlian points out that when first responders arrived, Murdaugh was holding one of the guns that Darnell examined and found no prints on. Darnell says that every time you touch something, you are not necessarily going to leave a print. He says there are many factors.
11:38 a.m. – The jury returns. SLED fingerprint examiner Tom Darnell is called to the stand. He is an expert in fingerprint evidence.
Prosecution introduces several shell casings that Darnell processed for evidence. He said he didn’t find any fingerprint evidence on the casings, but that it is not common to find developed prints on fired cartridge cases.
He also examined some of the firearms seized at the crime scene. He said he found no usable evidence on any of the guns.
Darnell examined Paul’s cell phone as well. He found a very small amount of fingerprint evidence on the phone, but there was not enough detail for him to get a print.
11:10 a.m. – Carson Burney with the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office is called to the stand. He is a forensic accountant for the state Grand Jury.
Burney says he was tasked with tracing funds allegedly stolen by Murdaugh from 2011 to 2021. He says that Murduagh primarily stole money using the fake Forge account. He also looked at how Murdaugh spent the money.
He used the “first in, first out” method, assuming the first money into an account would be the first money out of the account.
He traced the $792,000 associated with the Farris case, which he said came from Wilson Law Group and was deposited into Murdaugh’s bank accounts.
He also traced some of the Satterfield money.
Burney says that Murdaugh had a few Bank of America accounts, including the fake Forge account, and accounts at PSB. He would move money between the accounts. Some of the money was used to pay off outstanding loans.
On May 15, 2019, roughly $2.9 million of Satterfield money was deposited into the fake Forge account and then moved around into the other accounts.
Several checks were made out to Curtis Smith (under a variety of names). In total, Murdaugh paid him over $200,000.
Randolph Murdaugh III was paid $385,000.
10:53 a.m. – Griffin confirms with Satterfield that he found out about the settlement through the media. He says he can’t recall if it was before or after Maggie and Paul were murdered.
10:41 a.m. – Tony Satterfield is called to the stand. Satterfield is the son of the Murdaugh’s former housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield. Gloria died after allegedly falling down the stairs of the Murdaugh’s home in 2018. After her death, Murduagh helped secure her sons over $4 million in a wrongful death settlement. Murdaugh kept the money for himself.
Waters points out that Gloria did not die instantly, but remained in the hospital for several weeks. Waters asks if Gloria was ever able to tell her sons exactly how she died. Satterfield says no.
Satterfield explains that after the death, Murdaugh told him he was going to go after his insurance company and get money to pay the outstanding medical bills. He also encouraged Satterfield to file a lawsuit but said he couldn’t represent them himself because of a conflict of interest. He brought in his longtime friend Cory Fleming to represent them, but Satterfield said that Murdaugh was the only one he ever had contact with about the case. Murdaugh also recommended his friend Chad Westendorf serve as their personal representative.
Satterfield says that he was unaware Murdaugh secured a multi-million dollar settlement until media began reporting on it. He spoke to Murdaugh in June of 2021 and said Murdaugh told him they were still working on it, but would be ready to settle soon.
Murdaugh later admitted to stealing the funds and agreed to pay the money back.
10:35 a.m. – Prosecution asks what Murdaugh’s $750,000 loan was supposed to be for. Malinowski says rennovations to the house. Waters asks if there was anything about $350 to Chris Wilson and $400 to his checking account in the loan. Malinowski says no.
Prosecution asks if, after June 7, 2021, Murdaugh’s accounts plummeted. Malinowski says yes. Waters asks if bank kept paying. Malinowski says yes. Waters calls it the most generous overdraft fee in history.
10:22 a.m. – Defense attorney Jim Griffin points out that on June 7, 2021, Murdaugh was not overdrawn on all his accounts.
Griffin also points out that they discussed Murdaugh’s loan in a meeting and that it was noted the bank had mortgages on the Murdaugh properties that superseded the transfer to Maggie’s name.
Griffin references a memo that shows collateral for Murdaugh’s loans. He asks if Murdaugh always paid the bank money and interest he owed and if he ever went into default on any loans. Malinowski lists two loans in which he says Murdaugh went into default. Griffin says those loans were written off and asks if Murdaugh still made payments on them. Malinowski says yes, periodically.
Griffin asks if Malinowski was aware Maggie was supposed to meet the bank’s appraiser at the Editso house on June 8, 2021. Malinowski says he was not.
Griffin asks if the PFB underwent routine FDIC audits. Malinowski says yes. Griffin asks if Murdaugh’s accounts had ever been flagged. Malinowski says not that he knows of.
9:40 a.m. – Court is in session. Palmetto State Bank president and CEO Jan Malinowski takes the stand without a jury present. He took over after Russell Laffitte was ousted as president and CEO. Before taking that role, Malinowski served as Executive Vice President and oversaw operations at branches in the Beaufort area.
Malinowski was the secretary of the Executive Committee in June of 2021.
Prosecution presents wire transfer records from July 15, 2021 in which PSB agrees to wire $350,000 to Wilson Law Group, Chris Wilson’s law firm. Malinowski says there was no loan paperwork or justification. The money was sent for Murdaugh’s benefit, according to Malinowski.
There is also paperwork from that day showing a cashier’s check to Murdaugh for $400,000.
Malinowski says Norris Laffitte sent an email on August 9, 2021 asking for a full accounting of Murdaugh’s relationship with the bank.
Shortly after, a deposit of $400,000 was made into Murdaugh’s account by Russell Laffitte. Waters described the transaction as “off the books” and that there was no loan paperwork at the time. Murdaugh’s account had been nearly $350,000 in overdraft. $20,000 of that was transferred to checking. A record of a checking deposit for $400,000 to Murdaugh is also presented.
State prosecutor Creigton Waters presents a copy of minutes from an August 12, 2021 Executive Committee meeting during which the main topic of discussion was Murdaugh’s relationship with the bank. Murdaugh owed the bank $4.2 million as of that date.
A copy of minutes from a Board of Directors meeting from August 17, 2021 is presented. Malinowski says they discussed a $750,000 loan to Murdaugh and that Murdaugh intended to sell the farm. They discussed his liability in total loans, which was over $3 million at the time.
Murdaugh had allegedly intended to use his the mortgage on the Edisto house and a share of Green Swamp stock as collateral for the loans, but Malinowski says that wouldn’t have been possible because there was no second mortgage on the Edisto house and all of the property was in Maggie’s name.
They go through a list of money owed by Murdaugh on loans, including one that was a $1 million line of credit.
On June 7, 2021, Murdaugh’s account balances were as follows:
- Alex Murdaugh farm account: -$2,458
- Alex Murdaugh checking account: $2,185
- Alex Murdaugh Health Savings Account: $7,540 (HSA can only be used for medical purposes)
- Alex and Maggie Murdaugh interest checking account: $3,009
- Alex Murdaugh account: $62,115