COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – The state rested its case Friday after lengthy testimony presenting a timeline from the night of the murders 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.
WATCH: ALEX MURDAUGH MURDER TRIAL: DAY 19 RECAP
Get caught up on the Alex Murdaugh investigations
SLED agent Peter Rudofski presented a timeline comprised of over 4,000 data points aggregating and cross-referencing information gathered from cell phones, cell phone towers, and car GPS systems. The timeline recounts the movements of Alex, Maggie, and Paul Murdaugh the night of June 7, 2021.
Prosecutors hoped the timeline would place Murdaugh at the scene just minutes before Maggie and Paul are believed to have been killed. Several witnesses have identified the voices of Murdaugh, Maggie, and Paul on a video taken in the kennels at 8:44 p.m. Maggie and Paul’s phones lock for the final time at 8:49 p.m.
Murdaugh’s defense team aimed to poke holes in that theory, noting Maggie’s phone showed her walking around 8:53 p.m., and Murdaugh’s car showed him getting in at 9:06 p.m., giving him less than 10 minutes to slaughter his family, dispose of the evidence, get back to the house, clean up, and leave to visit his sick mother.
Throughout the testimony, defense worked to provide what they claim are reasonable explanations for points in the timeline that prosecutors claim are incriminating, hoping the jury will take them into consideration when analyzing the data for themselves.
After the state rested its case, defense called its first two witnesses to the stand. They began with Colleton County Coroner Richard Harvey, who confirmed that the time of death listed on the death certificates — 9:00 p.m. — could really be anywhere between around 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. The second witness, CCSO public information officer Shalane Tindal, confirmed that her agency and SLED sent a joint press release the morning after the murders saying there was no threat to the public.
There will be no court Monday due to the President’s Day holiday. Defense is expected to pick up with a “lengthy witness” Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.
ALEX MURDAUGH MURDER TRIAL LIVE BLOG:
4:33 p.m. – Since the next witness will be lengthy, Judge Newman agrees to adjourn for the weekend and pick up at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. There is no court Monday because of President’s Day.
4:20 p.m. – Defense calls Shalane Tindal to the stand. She is the public information officer for the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office.
Harpootlian presents a quote attributed to Tindal from a Post and Courier article the morning of June 8, 2021. She says the quote was not directly hers, it was coordinated with SLED.
Tindal reads the quote, which was provided to News 2 at the time as well. The quote says that there is no threat to the public at this time. Harpootlian asks about the process of sending out that release. She says SLED and CCSO put it together in consultation with one another.
4:16 p.m. – The state begins cross-examination. State prosecutors point out that Harvey did not use a rectal thermometer, which is typically the best way to determine a more accurate time of death. Harvey says no.
4:04 p.m. – The state rests. Defense calls Colleton County coroner, Richard Harvey, as their first witness.
Harvey responded to Moselle the night of the murders. He arrived on scene at 11:04 p.m. Harvey took photographs of the scene, including in the feed room, before SLED had fully processed the crime scene. Harpootlian asks how he avoided contaminating the crime scene. He says he follows the same path in and same path out and avoids disrupting evidence.
Harvey says that he estimates the time of death for Paul and Maggie was around 9:00 p.m. When he got there, he put his hands in Maggie and Paul’s armpits to see if the bodies were still warm and checked for rigor. There were no signs of rigor, which sets in within about one to three hours, according to Harvey. He says it could’ve been around 8:00 p.m., it could’ve been around 10:00 p.m., but 9:00 p.m. is his estimation.
3:50 p.m. – The state rests. Waters asks for a brief recess for housekeeping matters.
During the recess, defense presents the motion for a directed verdict. According to the American Bar Association, a motion for a direced verdict asks the judge to “dismiss the charges, arguing that the government has failed to prove its case.”
Griffin brings up that the evidence in this case is exclusively circumstantial. Murdaugh’s mere presence at the scene of the crime is not enough to prove he is guilty.
Waters argues that the circumstantial evidence points to Murdaugh.
Judge Newman says that there has been direct and circumstantial evidence, and the law makes no distinction on the weight of value to be given to direct and circumstantial evidence. He says cases can be proven by either or both. Newman says at this point in the investigation, there is evidence to support a guilty verdict if it is believed by the jury. The motion is denied.
2:31 p.m. – Defense attorney Phillip Barber begins cross-examination of Rudofski.
He asks Rudofski how long the drive to Alameda took Murdaugh. Rudofski says about 15-16 minutes. The return trip took about 18 minutes. The top speed on the way back was faster, but the return trip took a bit longer.
Barber points out that SLED agent David Owen and Rudofski conducted a test drive from Moselle to Alameda. Barber says it took about 17 minutes. Rudofski says he doesn’t recall off the top of his head and would have to check.
Barber asks if when Murdaugh arrived home and drove up to the kennels, he could have illuminated the bodies with his headlights while driving up. Rudofski says that is possible. Barber points out that Murdaugh parked near Maggie’s body. Rudofski says he can’t say what Murdaugh saw when he pulled up because he wasn’t there.
Barber sets a timer for 20 seconds. The timer plays out in court. Barber asks if that was enough time for someone who had already seen the bodies to get out and call 911. Rudofski says he’s there to explain the data, not testify about hypotheticals.
Barber asks about a sideways orientation change on Maggie’s phone between 9:06:12 p.m. and 9:06:20 p.m. He asks if that means it would remain in landscape until the next change or if it went back to portrait. Rudofski says he does not know, he is not a phone expert.
Barber asks if every time Maggie’s screen went off and on was recorded. Rudofski says he is not sure, but he thinks everything should be included. Barber points to a screen on note that does not have a corresponding screen off note.
Barber asks if Rudofski was provided the corresponding distance data with the step data. Rudofski says no, he was told it was not reliable. Barber asks if Rudofski was told that the feet-per-step data was extremely consistent and likely indicated it was the same person moving, would it matter? Rudofski says maybe. Barber asks if anyone checked how quickly or slowly Maggie was moving at the time her phone last recorded steps. Rudofski says no.
Barber points out that the brief activation of the camera on Maggie’s phone at 8:53 p.m. was not on Rudofski’s timeline. Barber points out that other experts have testified it is possible to find out what caused that activation, but that no one has looked into it. Rudofski agrees.
Barber asks if Maggie’s camera coming on could’ve been the reason for her phone being taken and not Paul’s. He implies she tried to take a photo of the killer, so her phone was taken. Rudofski says that his inference is that the camera activated because it saw a face and was trying to unlock. Barber again points out the reason for the activation is knowable but has not been investigated.
Barber points out Murdaugh’s phone was at the house at 9:02 p.m. and then recorded steps, and Maggie’s phone recorded steps at 8:53 p.m. while she was out by the kennels. Barber says Murdaugh would’ve had less than 10 minutes to “do everything if he did it.”
Rudofski says that as an investigator, he does find it odd that Murdaugh made so many calls that night. He says that if it were him, he would’ve been in a state of shock. Barber asks if he would not be calling family? Rudofski says maybe he would be calling family.
Barber says speaking of being in a state of shock, Murdaugh appeared to do several strange things that night. He read a text from Michael Gunn, Googled the name of a restaurant in Edisto,, and called someone he had not spoken to in years. Barber implies he was not really aware of what he was doing.
Barber asks about Murdaugh calling Maggie at 9:06 p.m.
Murdaugh’s phone shows him being walking at that time and Barber implies he could be walking to the car because his phone connects soon after and his car starts and shows him leaving. Maggie’s phone was not in a period of steps at that time.
Barber asks if there is any evidence that the phones were ever moving together at the same time. Previous experts have testified that there is not. Rudofski says he thinks there is evidence someone was carrying the phones at the same time at 9:06 p.m. Barber asks if another explanation is that someone else had Maggie’s phone, saw Murdaugh call, and tossed it out the window. Rudofski says that could be Barber’s explanatioin. Barber asks why that explanation is any less viable that Rudofski’s explanation based on the data. Rudofski says it is all about how you interpret the data.
Barber publishes a May 6, 2021 Murdaugh sent to Maggie, which he says is in response to the text Paul sent about Maggie finding drugs in his computer bag.
1:07 p.m. – Court is breaking for lunch and is expected to return around 2:30 p.m.
1:01 p.m. – Prosecution presents several pieces of evidence seized from Paul, Maggie, and Alex’s phones.
The first is a text sent from Paul to Murdaugh on May 6 saying they needed to talk because “mom found some pills” in Murdaugh’s computer bag.
Maggie’s phone revealed that on May 26, 2021, she searched the internet to try and identify several pills.
On June 3, 2021, Murdaugh texted Russell Laffitte saying he needed to extend the credit line on the farm.
11:23 a.m. – Waters publishes the condensed timeline from the night of the murders.
The timeline includes extracted data from Paul, Maggie, and Alex’s cell phones, call records from Paul, Maggie, Alex, and Buster Murdaugh and Rogan Gibson, steps taken, Snapchat data, data from the PMPED building access log, and the GPS data from Murdaugh’s car.
The timeline starts at about 6:00 p.m. It includes calls and texts between Maggie and Paul talking about dinner, Maggie and Marian Proctor, Maggie and her mom, Paul and his friends, Alex and his law partners, etc. It also shows the family members arriving back to Moselle from their various previous locations.
Between 6:52 p.m. and 9:04 p.m., there was no cell-pinging activity on Murdaugh’s cell phone. There is step activity from that time period. Rudofski also notes that there are several calls on Murdaugh’s phone found in the extracted data that did not appear in his call log.
For clarity purposes, this blog will begin listing more condensed data points from closer to the time of the murders. Watch the video above for the full account.
- 7:14 p.m. – Paul and Alex’s phones note them both taking around 200 steps within a similar time frame.
- 7:25 p.m. – Paul and Alex’s phones note them both taking around 45 steps within a similar time frame.
- 7:39 p.m. – Paul takes the Snapchat video of Alex and the tree.
- 7:45 p.m. to 7:56 p.m. – Paul’s phone is located around the kennels. Around 85 steps are taken.
- 7:55 p.m. – Paul and Alex’s phones note them both taken around 270 steps within a similar time period.
- 7:56 p.m. – Paul’s Snapchat video of Alex and the tree finally sends.
- 8:05 p.m. – 52 steps taken on Murdaugh’s phone.
- 8:06 p.m. – Paul’s phone moving towards main house
- 8:08 p.m. to 8:35 p.m. – Paul’s phone at main house.
- 8:17 p.m. – Maggie arrives home.
- 8:23 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. – Paul is continuously in communication with friends.
- 8:30 p.m. to 8:33 p.m. – Maggie’s phone records about 42 steps.
- 8:31 p.m. – Maggie and Alex receive a group message from John Marvin Murdaugh about going to visit their dad in the hospital.
- 8:32 p.m. – Paul’s phone records 283 steps.
- 8:38 p.m. to 8:44 p.m. – Paul’s phone at kennels.
- 8:40 p.m. – Paul calls Rogan Gibson and talks for about four minutes.
- 8:44 p.m. – Paul tries to FaceTime Rogan Gibson.
- 8:44 p.m. – Paul takes the kennel video.
- 8:47 p.m. to 8:48 p.m. – Paul is texting back and forth with Megan Kimbrell.
- 8:49 p.m. – Paul’s phone locks for the last time.
- 8:49 p.m. – Paul receives a text from Rogan Gibson. The text is not read.
- 8:49 p.m. – Maggie reads the group text.
- 8:49 p.m. – Maggie’s phone locks for the last time.
- 8:53 p.m. – Maggie’s phone records 59 steps and orientation changes.
- 9:02 p.m. to 9:07 p.m. – Alex’s phone records 283 steps.
- 9:04 p.m. – Alex calls Maggie.
- 9:05 p.m. – Alex calls Randolph Murdaugh.
- 9:06 p.m. – Maggie’s phone orientation changes from portrait to sideways.
- 9:06 p.m. – Alex calls Maggie twice.
- 9:06 p.m. – Alex’s suburban starts and his phone connects to his car.
- 9:07 p.m. – Alex leaves Moselle.
- 9:08 p.m. – Alex texts Maggie that he is going to his mom’s house.
- 9:10 p.m. – Alex calls Buster for one minute.
- 9:12 p.m. – Alex calls Chris Wilson for less than a minute.
- 9:12 p.m. to 9:18 p.m. – Verizon cell tower data indicates Alex was traveling from Moselle to Alameda.
- 9:18 p.m. – Alex calls John Marvin Murdaugh for just under two minutes.
- 9:20 p.m. – Chris Wilson calls Alex for just over two minutes.
- 9:22 p.m. – Alex’s car transmission shifts. GPS data puts him at Alameda.
- 9:22 p.m. to 9:24 p.m. – Alex’s phone records steps
- 9:24 p.m. – Alex calls his mom’s landline for 20 seconds.
- 9:34 p.m. – Rogan Gibson texts and calls Maggie.
- 9:42 p.m. – Alex’s car starts, his phone connects.
- 9:43 p.m. – Alex’s car leaves Alameda.
- 9:44 p.m. – Alex calls Maggie.
- 9:46 p.m. – Alex calls Paul.
- 9:47 p.m. – Alex texts Maggie “call be, babe.”
- 9:52 p.m. – Alex texts Chris Wilson to call him.
- 9:53 p.m. – Chris Wilson calls Alex and they talk for just under two minutes.
- 9:56 p.m. to 10:06 p.m. – Alex travels 231 steps.
- 10:00 p.m. – Alex’s car arrives home and goes to the house.
- 10:03 p.m. – Alex calls Maggie’s phone.
- 10:05 p.m. – Alex’s car leaves main house.
- 10:05:57 p.m. Alex’s car arrives at kennels.
- 10:06:14 p.m. – Alex calls 911.
- 10:11 p.m. – Alex leaves kennels to go get a gun.
- 10:13 p.m. – Alex leaves main house to go back to kennels.
- 10:14 p.m. – Alex arrives back at kennels.
- 10:17 p.m. – 911 call ends.
- 10:18 p.m. – Alex texts Randy to call him about an emergency.
- 10:18 p.m. – Paul’s phone backlight comes on.
- 10:22 p.m. – Alex receives a group text from Michael Gunn and others.
- 10:24 p.m. – Alex tries to call, text, and FaceTime Rogan Gibson.
- 10:25 p.m. – Law enforcement arrives.
- 10:34 p.m. – Paul’s phone dies.
Rudofski also created a spreadsheet reflecting the steps taken by each individual the night of the murders.
11:19 a.m. – Judge Newman says he received a note from the jury after lunch Thursday saying they thought they would select their own foreperson and that they had already selected one. He said they asked if they could keep the person they picked. Newman said no.
11:00 a.m. – The jury is sent to the jury room for a break.
10:16 a.m. – SLED agent Peter Rudofski is called to the stand.
Rudofski investigated the murders, with a focus on consolidating data into a timeline. He has been working on the document for about a year. There is a version that includes the full day of June 7, 2021, and a condensed version from 6:00 p.m. on.
The timeline is still considered a working draft. Additional information has since come in even since the trial has started. It includes data from GM on Murdaugh’s suburban.
Data from Murdaugh’s suburban had already been analyzed by an FBI expert, but it lacked GPS data. That data mostly had to do with the car and its systems turning on and off, going into and out of park, etc. The GM data has more information about the location of the car.
The GM data is presented in court.
A track of the car’s GPS data from June 7, 2021 is presented. Over 4,000 “dots” or data points were used to map out the drives. It shows Moselle, Hampton, and Alameda.
Murdaugh’s track according to GM data:
- 12:06 p.m. – Murdaugh leaves for work
- 12:24 p.m. – Murdaugh arrives at work
- Max speed driving to work 65mph, average speed around 35mph
- 6:24 p.m. – Murdaugh leaves work
- 6:42 p.m. – Murdaugh arrives home
- Max speed driving home 54mph, average speed 41mph
- 9:07 p.m. – Murdaugh leaves for Alameda
- 9:08 p.m. – Murdaugh passes where Maggie’s phone was located the next morning, traveling at 42mph
- 9:22 p.m. – Murdaugh arrives at Alameda
- Max speed to Alameda 74mph, average speed 51mph
- 9:43 p.m. – Murdaugh begins leaving Alameda. Car pauses in driveway for about one minute
- 10:00 p.m. – Murdaugh arrives home
- Max speed from Alameda 81mph, average speed 46mph (including car idling in driveway)
- 10:05 p.m. – Murdaugh leaves house for kennels and arrives less than one minute later.
- Max speed 28mph driving to kennels
- 10:06 p.m. – Murdaugh calls 911
- 10:11 p.m. – Murdaugh heads back to house (indicated on 911 call he was going to get a gun)
- 10:13 p.m. – Arrives at house
- 10:14 p.m. – Drives back to kennels
Waters brings up the fact that it was dark out and the roads along Murdaugh’s route to and from Alameda had not been recently paved as of June 7, 2021. He asks Rudofski if Murdaugh was traveling at safe speeds. Rudofski says no. He asks if Rudofski has responded to emergency situations at night along that route. Rudofski says yes. He says he would not have driven that fast even when responding to an emergency. The posted speed limit is 65mph.
10:04 a.m. – In redirect, State Prosecutor Creighton Waters asks Kelly if Murdaugh gave consistent, coherent answers when he was interviewed multiple times in the hospital. Kelly says yes.
Waters asks if a phone interview was the preferred method for the September 13 interview. Kelly says that they wanted to go to wherever Murdaugh was, they didn’t know and interview him in person, but that was not an option. Murdaugh’s lawyers offered a phone interview, so they took what they could get.
Harpootlian asks if Kelly at any point in time told Murdaugh’s family that they only wanted to talk to Murdaugh while he was in rehab to show him a picture of the truck. Kelly says they wanted to ask him about that, among other things.
Harpootlian asks Kelly if he asked Murdaugh’s doctors if Murdaugh was competent to speak to him on September 4. Kelly said no, but that the doctors would not have discussed that with them without a subpoena for medical records. Harpootlian points out that Murdaugh was on barbituates and benzos. He asks if Kelly still would’ve conducted the interview had he known. Kelly says yes, Murdaugh was the victim and only witness of a crime, and the statement he gave matched his two previous statements.
9:35 a.m. – Court is in session. Defense begins cross-examining SLED senior special agent Ryan Kelly, who investigated Murdaugh’s roadside shooting.
Harpootlian goes over Murdaugh’s medical records confirming he suffered a brain bleed. He shows Kelly photos of Murdaugh taken by medical personnel.
They discuss the phone interview Kelly conducted with Murdaugh and his lawyers on September 13, 2021.
After Murdaugh admitted to the scheme, it was agreed that he would be brought directly from the rehab facility in Orlando to Hampton County to be charged. Kelly says the agreement was that Griffin and Harpootlian would bring Murdaugh directly to Hampton with no stops, but SLED “encountered” Murdaugh and Buster at Alameda, and he was arrested there. Kelly says he doesn’t fault Buster and that he didn’t know he was doing anything wrong, but it was out of the scope of the agreement.
Murdaugh was allowed to return to rehab in Orlando after his arraignment, then was extradited from Orlando again.
Harpootlian hones in on the fact that Murdaugh willingly admitted to all of his crimes and was indicted upon that admission. Kelly says they already knew about the crimes, Murdaugh just confirmed them.
STAY CONNECTED: Receive news alerts from this trial and watch it on the go with the NEWS 2 APP (download it here). You can also subscribe to daily emails for the latest news on this trial.