Alex Murdaugh Coverage
The Murdaugh family saga has dominated the news after another shooting, a resignation and criminal accusations — with Alex Murdaugh at the center of it all. Here are the latest updates on Alex Murdaugh.
Defense attorneys for accused double murderer Alex Murdaugh have filed a motion to compel the state to turn over material that would shed light on why an expert witness changed his opinion on the presence of blood from “high-velocity impact spatter” on a shirt worn by Murdaugh the night of the killings.
Attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin have alleged that investigators for the state pressured their outside expert into changing his analysis.
The motion for discovery asks that prosecutors be ordered to produce “all communications to or from Tom Bevel,” the state’s blood pattern analysis expert. They have also asked for “all Photoshop Document files related to photographs of the white T-shirt Mr. Murdaugh was wearing the night his wife, Maggie, and son Paul were murdered, which Mr. Bevel asserts are his basis for changing his opinion.”
The motion, filed Monday in Colleton County, comes less than a week after Murdaugh’s lawyers unleashed a broadside attack on the state’s evidence that Murdaugh’s T-shirt was allegedly covered in a mist of blood consistent with bullet wounds.
Their original 96-page motion seeks to exclude testimony about blood pattern analysis on Murdaugh’s T-shirt from the upcoming trial.
The blood pattern, called “high-velocity impact spatter” or “back spatter,” is caused by the spray of blood from a bullet wound. It could indicate that Murdaugh was present when his wife and son were repeatedly shot and killed.
At the heart of both filings is the claim that Bevel, who is described on his website as a “crime scene consultant,” initially found that the blood on Murdaugh’s shirt was not consistent with back spatter.
In a draft report dated Feb. 4, Bevel stated that, “The stains on the white t-shirt are consistent with transfers and not back spatter from a bullet wound.”
Murdaugh’s attorneys have argued that the blood ended up on Murdaugh’s shirt as he checked his wife and son for signs of life.
Bevel later changed his opinion that the blood is consistent with back spatter.
Was expert pressured to change opinion?
Defense attorneys allege that agents for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division sought to pressure Bevel to change his analysis. When Bevel asked to see the shirt in person and provided an address where they could mail it, SLED agent David Owen said they would fly out and deliver the shirt to Bevel.
The motion quote Owen as saying that, “Due to the chain of custody issues” they needed to “hand deliver” the shirt, which had been largely destroyed after sections were cut from it and forensic chemicals turned the white cotton fabric blue.
In reality, Murdaugh’s attorneys argue that it was actually a plan to “work Mr. Bevel face-to-face to cajole him into changing his opinion.”
The plan succeeded, Murdaugh’s attorneys argue. After Owen and SLED Lt. Kukila Wallace flew to Oklahoma to show Bevel the shirt, Bevel sent an email saying that his firm had been able to use Photoshop to “filter the colors of the shirt” to reveal evidence of back spatter.
“I don’t see any other mechanism to get so many misting stains onto (Murdaugh’s) shirt other than the spatter created from the shotgun wounding (of Paul Murdaugh),” the motion quoted by Bevel as writing to investigators after the visit.
The final report issued at the end of March stated that the T-shirt had “over one-hundred stains consistent with spatter” that could only have been created by shooting Paul with a shotgun, according to the motion.
In their motion, Murdaugh’s attorney’s stated the prosecution produced the original draft report “by accident,” and has not produced any other drafts of Bevel’s analysis.
Blood pattern analysis is crucial to the case
The blood pattern analysis is likely to be crucial to both sides in the upcoming murder trial, which is set to begin Jan. 23. Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife, Maggie, and youngest son, Paul, on the family’s 1,700-acre Colleton County estate, known as Moselle, the night of June 7, 2021.
In the motion filed last week, it was revealed that 48 bird shot pellets — tiny metal balls found in some shotgun shells — were removed from Paul’s left shoulder and head. His mother was shot repeatedly with a rifle and five extended cartridge cases of .300 AAC BLK rifle bullets were recovered, including two on the dirt by her right side.
Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains in the Richland County Jail.
The disgraced former attorney and scion of a Lowcountry legal dynasty recently filed a motion giving notice of an alibi, saying he was on the Moselle property from 8:30 pm to shortly after 9 pm when he left to visit his mother, who has dementia, in nearby Varnville.
The motion says that on his 20-minute drive to Varnville, Murdaugh made multiple calls on his cellphone and spoke with his oldest son Buster; his brother, John Marvin Murdaugh, and his sister-in-law, Liz Murdaugh. The alibi also states that he spoke to Chris Wilson, a longtime friend and lawyer, and CB Rowe.
Shortly after 9:20 pm, Murdaugh arrived at his mother’s home, the alibi says. He visited with his mother and a nurse’s aid, Muschelle “Shelly” Smith until approximately 9:45 pm.
While on the trip back to Moselle, he called and spoke to Wilson again. Murdaugh’s alibi says he returned to the property shortly around 10 pm and discovered Maggie and Paul’s bodies near the dog kennels about five minutes later.
this story was originally published November 29, 2022 2:26 PM.