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Judge decries Alex Murdaugh’s continued lies about wife and son’s murders in scathing sentencing remarks

Judge Clifton Newman said that the evidence against Murdaugh was “overwhelming”

Andrea Blanco,Rachel Sharp
Friday 03 March 2023 17:08 GMT
Judge tells Alex Murdaugh murdered son and wife ‘visit him at night’

A South Carolina judge harshly condemned Alex Murdaugh for continuing to lie about his guilt in the murders of his wife and son as he was sentenced to life in prison.

The disgraced legal scion was given two consecutive life sentences by Colleton County Court Judge Clifton Newman on Friday morning, hours after a jury found him guilty of shooting dead his wife Maggie and son Paul in June 2021.

Murdaugh addressed the court briefly, once again professing his innocence and insisting: “I would never hurt Maggie and Paul.”

Judge Newman seized on Murdaugh’s continued denials as they faced each other directly in front of the court.

In a scathing statement, the judge noted how the murder trial had shed light on the many victims associated with Murdaugh, including former clients who he admitted deceiving and stealing millions of dollars from when he took the stand in his defence last week.

“But amazingly, to have you come and testify that it was just another ordinary day, that, ‘My wife and son and I were just enjoying life.’ Not credible, not believable,” he said.

“You can convince yourself about it, but obviously, you are unable to convince anyone else.

Calling the evidence in the murder case “overwhelming”, the judge added: “It might not have been you. It might have been the monster you’ve become. If you take 20, 40, 50, 60 opioid pills, you become a different person.”

The sentencing hearing began with prosecutor Creighton Waters offering his condolences to the Murdaugh family for the deaths of Maggie and Paul and asking the judge to hand down the harshest possible penalty of two consecutive life sentences. The jury found guilty Murdaugh on Thursday night after six weeks of trial and only three hours of deliberations.

Judge tells Alex Murdaugh murdered son and wife ‘visit him at night’

Addressing Murdaugh directly at sentencing, Judge Newman said: “I know you have to see Paul and Maggie at nighttime when you are attempting to go to sleep.

“I’m sure they come and visit you ... They will continue to do so and will reflect on the last time they looked you in the eyes.”

Murdaugh agreed that he saw Maggie and Paul “all day and every night” while showing little emotion.

Judge Newman also spoke about how “heartbreaking” it was to see Murdaugh go from being portrayed as a grieving father and husband in the media to being indicted and convicted of murder after investigators confronted his web of lies. The judge also hinted that – in his eyes – he believes Murdaugh could have been sentenced to death for the heinous slayings if prosecutors had requested it.

“You’ve practised law before me, and we’ve seen each other on various occasions throughout the years,” the judge said. “... Over the past century, your family, including yourself, have been prosecuting people here in this courtroom, and many have received the death penalty, probably for lesser conduct.”

Alex Murdaugh sentenced to life in prison after conviction in double murder trial (AP)

“The question is, when will [the lying] end? When will it end?” Judge Newman asked.

The court was expecting to hear victim impact statements but prosecutor Mr Waters revealed that none of the victims wished to speak at this time. Mr Waters called Murdaugh a cunning manipulator and somebody who “placed himself above all others” and had violated the trust of his loved ones.

While he gave Murdaugh the chance to finally tell the truth once and for all, the judge admitted he “would not expect a confession of any kind”. The judge admonished Murdaugh for continuing with his lies in the courtroom – after he took the stand, changed his alibi and continued to deny killing his wife and son.

But the disgraced attorney and serial liar reiterated his statement of innocence.

“I’m innocent. I would never hurt my wife Maggie and I would never hurt my son PawPaw,” he told the court.

Mr Waters said that Maggie and Paul “like everyone else were unaware of who he really was... no one knew who he really was and that’s chilling”.

Over the course of the investigation and the trial, the lead prosecutor said he had discovered who the real Alex Murdaugh really was.

“I’ve looked in his eyes. He liked to stare me down as he walked by me during this trial. And I could see the real Alex Murdaugh,” he said.

Prosecutors said that Murdaugh killed his wife and son to distract from his string of financial crimes – at a time when his multi-million-dollar fraud scheme was on the brink of being exposed. Jurors were told that on the day of the murders, Murdaugh was confronted by his law firm CFO about missing money that he had stolen.

Buster, Maggie, Paul and Alex Murdaugh from left to right (Maggie Murdaugh/Facebook)

Three days after the murders, a hearing was also slated to take place in a lawsuit over a fatal boat crash Paul was involved in.

Then, on 4 September 2021 – one day after he was ousted by his law firm for stealing funds – Murdaugh claimed he was the victim of a drive-by shooting.

He kept up the story for days, with jurors being shown a police sketch of an imaginary man he claimed ambushed him.

Days later, he confessed that he had orchestrated the plot claiming he had asked his alleged drug dealer and distant cousin Curtis Eddie Smith to shoot him in the head so his surviving son Buster would get a $12m life insurance windfall.

As well as the boat crash case, the fraud scheme and the botched hitman plot, there are at least two other unexplained deaths with some tie to Murdaugh.

Days on from the murders, an investigation was reopened into the 2015 death of Stephen Smith, who was found dead in the middle of the road in Hampton County.

The openly gay 19-year-old 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 also reopened into another mystery death connected to the Murdaugh family – that of their longtime housekeeper Gloria Satterfield.

She died in 2018 in a mystery trip and fall accident at the family home. Murdaugh then allegedly stole around $4m in a wrongful death settlement from her sons.

Murdaugh is now also facing around 100 charges over the multi-million-dollar fraud scheme and roadside shooting cases.

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