Alex Murdaugh murder investigators reveal how they cracked ‘smoking gun’

Investigators cracked Paul Murdaugh’s phone, leading to the damning evidence

Kelly Rissman
Monday 20 November 2023 11:41 GMT
Prosecutors hail Alex Murdaugh guilty verdict

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Investigators in the Alex Murdaugh murder case have unveiled how they pinned down their suspect with a damning cellphone video after a months-long hacking effort.

A video shot on his 22-year-old son Paul’s cell phone caught his father’s voice at the dog kennels on his family’s Lowcountry property in South Carolina. This was the same location where his 52-year-old wife Margaret and Paul were found dead.

But first, investigators needed to break into Paul’s phone. Authorities got access to the phone on 13 August, more than nine weeks after the murders.

The process took months, but the phone passcode was hackable, as it was Paul’s birthday: 041499.

The investigator who cracked the code recounted the process on Dateline. Lt Britt Dove of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) said: “I was in disbelief.”

“I hollered out that I found it to nobody in particular ’cause I was in the office working by myself,” he said. Lt Dove knew the significance of the phone, as it tied directly with Murdaugh’s alibi. The disgraced lawyer allegedly said that he hadn’t been to the kennels that night.

Instead, Murdaugh told David Owen, a senior special agent with SLED, that after dinner, his wife went to the kennels while he was napping at a house on the property, Mr Owen said on Dateline.

Murdaugh’s alibi was almost immediately put into question, as a family friend had told investigators that Paul was caring for this family friend’s dog. Paul even called this friend to relay some troubles he was having while taking care of the dog that night.

Even more damning, this friend also told authorities that he thought he had heard Murdaugh’s voice in the background while on the phone with Paul.

The friend added that Paul had tried to send him a video of the dog, but the video wouldn’t send — that’s how authorities were alerted that video evidence might exist.

Nearly a year after the video was shot, in March 2022, investigators watched the video, which had a time stamp of 8.44 pm. The lieutenant said the video captured three distinct voices: Paul, his mother, and Alex.

“Then I put headphones on to make sure I was really hearing what I thought I heard,” Lt Dove said. “This, we knew for a fact then, just destroyed whatever alibi that was put out.”

Mr Dove relayed the breakthrough to Mr Owen, who said they now had “tangible evidence” that Murdaugh had been lying to them.

“It put Alex at the kennels when he said he wasn’t there,” Agent Owen said. “I was excited. I was really excited.”

The video played a key role at Murdaugh’s murder trial earlier this year, where he was convicted and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

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