COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Sparks flew in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial Friday as his defense team moved for a mistrial.
Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife Margaret and youngest son Paul at their family property in June of 2021.
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The motion — which was denied by Judge Clifton Newman — came as prosecutors examined Blanca Turrubiate-Simpson, who worked as a housekeeper for the Murdaughs. She described a conversation she had with Maggie months before the murders when Maggie broke down in tears over the boat crash lawsuit.
The state is hoping to use that testimony, along with the testimony of Mark Tinsley — an attorney for the boat crash victims — to prove that investigations connected to the boat crash case put Murduagh in a corner. They claim he murdered Maggie and Paul to distract from his other crimes.
Murdaugh’s defense team says the theory is unfounded and that Murdaugh was a loving father and husband. They also used Simpson’s testimony to highlight what they claim was a botched investigation from the start, noting that SLED let Simpson go into the home alone the day after the murders and clean up.
The jury also heard from a caregiver for Murdaugh’s mother and an FBI expert in historical cell phone location analysis who plotted out the movements of Paul, Maggie, and Alex’s phones the night of the murders.
Court is set to resume at 9:30 a.m. Monday.
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4:55 p.m. – Court adjourns for the day and will pick up at 9:30 a.m. Monday. Judge Newman says that he does not anticipate having court on President’s Day.
4:42 p.m. – Defense begins cross-examination. Griffin asks if Murdaugh felt it was important to clear Paul’s name in the boat case. Tuten says that is what Murdaugh told him.
Defense asks if Tuten was suggesting if Murdaugh was giving the people in his office any of the money. Tuten says no.
They discuss the guns. Tuten did not know one of the Blackouts had been replaced.
Griffin asks about Murdaugh’s relationship with Paul. Tuten says it was loving. He says Murdaugh and Maggie had a good relationship as well.
Tuten confirms Paul received threats after the boat crash. Griffin asks if Paul felt uncomfortable in the Hampton area because of the boat crash. Tuten says Paul stayed away.
4:14 p.m. – Nathan Tuten, an officer with the Walterboro Police Department and Paul’s lifelong friend, is called to the stand.
He describes Paul as the best friend you could ask for; reliable, trustworthy, and loyal. He says Maggie was like a second mom to him.
Tuten and Paul lived together in a cabin on the Moselle property for a semester. He says they liked to hunt and fish together.
Prosecution asks if Paul had any guns he favored. Tuten says the 300-blackout and the camo Benelli shotgun.
Three guns are presented in court. Tuten identifies them as Paul’s rifle, Paul’s shotgun, and Buster’s shotgun.
Prosecution asks if Murdaugh had a shotgun he favored. Tuten says yes, a Super Black Eagle original shotgun.
Proscution plays the video Paul took at 8:44 p.m. the night of the murders. Tuten identifies Paul, Maggie, and Alex’s voices and says it looks like they are at the kennels.
From February 2019 to May 2022, Tuten worked as a runner at PMPED. He took court documents to different courthouses across the state and helped out around the office with whatever was needed.
He also cashed checks for Murdaugh. He would take the checks to Palmetto State Bank, get cash, and bring the cash to Murdaugh. Sometimes when he would bring the cash back, other people were in the office. Once the Yemmasee Police Chief was there, once Cory Fleming was there, and once Chris Wilson was there.
A few weeks before the murders, Murdaugh stopped asking Tuten to cash the checks.
Defense asks if he saw the “upheaval” at the law firm in June of 2021. Tuten says yes.
Tuten says Paul called him the weekend before the murders. Paul called while he was on the way to Charleston. That was the last time he talked to Paul.
Tuten says his mom called him the night of the murders and told him. Shortly after, one of the law partners called to let him know as well.
Defense asks how Murdaugh was after the murders. Tuten says he wasn’t in the office much.
Tuten assisted Jeanne Seckinger in investigating Murdaugh’s finances at the law firm.
In July of 2021, Tuten drove Murdaugh to the airport for a vacation to the Florida Keys with Maggie’s family. On the ride, Tuten says Murdaugh told him he wanted to clear Paul’s name and beat the boat case.
4:02 p.m. – Court resumes. Defense begins cross-examination of Wilde.
Defense asks if calls handoff between towers if a car is moving. Wilde says yes. He says that the only tower that shows up is the tower the initial call pinged on and that the handoffs will not show up.
Defense asks why Wilde looked at C.B. Rowe and Marty Cook’s phones. He says he was requested.
Defense asks if he was requested to look at records from Eddie Smith or Spencer Roberts. Wilde says he did look at Smith’s information.
3:41 p.m. – Court is in recess for 10 minutes.
2:37 p.m. – FBI Supervisory Special Agent Matthew Wilde is called to the stand. He is an expert in historical cell phone location analysis.
Wilde supervises agents on the Cellular Analysis Survey (CAS) team. His work focuses on location data.
In July of 2021, he was brought onto the Murdaugh case. He was asked to help figure out why the 911 call bounced off a Hampton County cell tower if the call was made from Moselle as Murdaugh claimed. He was also asked to help geolocate cell phones involved in the case.
Wilde looked at Alex, Paul, and Maggie Murdaugh’s cell phones as well as Marty Cook and C.B. Rowe.
He plotted the location data from those phones with timestamps. The report is entered under seal because it has cell phone records.
Wilde goes over the report.
He explains that most cell phone towers are divided up into three sectors. Calls bounce off of one sector of the tower. Wilde can determine a general area from which a call was made based on what sector the call bounces off of. Phones can also be just outside the sector, he says.
In a rural area, Wilde says phones can bounce off of towers up to around 10 miles away. Cell phones try to connect to the tower and sector with the best signal, which might not always be the closest. At Moselle, Wilde says that he knows for a fact calls ping off of multiple sectors.
Cell tower data for Paul’s phone on June 7, 2021:
- In the Oakatee area from 5:30 p.m. until around 6:09 p.m.
- 6:17 p.m. through 6:53 p.m. traveling north towards Moselle
- 7:05 p.m. pings new sector close to Moselle
- 7:30 p.m. in area of Moselle
- 8:40 p.m. call pings in area of Moselle
- 9:03 p.m. call pings in area of Moselle
- 10:34 p.m. in area of Moselle
Location data for Paul’s phone on June 7, 2021:
- 8:06 p.m. on Moselle Road moving towards dog kennels
- 8:08 p.m. to 8:35 p.m. at the house
- 3:38 p.m. near the dog kennels
- 8:44 p.m. media file (video taken at kennels) locates phone to dog kennels
- 10:18 p.m. near the dog kennels
Wilde testifies that based on the data, he does not think Paul’s phone moved from the kennels between 8:44 p.m. and 10:18 p.m.
Cell tower data for Maggie’s phone on June 7, 2021:
- In the Charleston area until around 7:00 p.m., then begins traveling west
- 7:50 p.m. pings in Walterboro. Final tower hit
Wilde explains that since Maggie’s phone calls were not answered after 7:50 p.m., he does not have good tower information for the rest of the night.
Cell tower data for Alex’s phone on June 7, 2021:
- 4:10 p.m. to 6:25 p.m. pings in Hampton near PMPED
- 6:40 p.m. to 9:10 p.m. pings near Moselle
- 9:18 p.m. pings near Varnville
- 9:20 p.m. pings near Alameda
- 9:34 p.m. pings near Alameda
- 9:46 p.m. pings near Alameda
- 9:52 p.m. pings near Moselle, but sector facing Varnville
- 10:06 p.m. (911 call) pings near Varnville**
- 10:17 p.m. pings near Moselle
- 10:19 p.m. pings near Moselle
- 10:21 p.m. pings near Varnville
- pings near Moselle for the remainder of the night
**Wilde explains why the 911 call pinged the Varnville tower. In radiofrequency, the higher the frequency, the shorter the distance it can travel. The call happened on a lower frequency, so it could travel further. Wilde says the phone could’ve been at Moselle when the call was made. Prosecution notes that some of the coverage areas overlap. The Varnville cell tower extends to areas at Moselle.
They go through Murdaugh’s records through June 15.
Wilde says the records of Marty Cook and C.B. Rowe indicate the phones were not near Moselle between 8:50 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. the night of the murders.
2:34 p.m. – Defense begins cross-examination. Harpootlian notes that Rast described Murdaugh and Maggie stopping by the night of June 6 as unusual, not “strange” as the state presented. She agrees.
She says it was probably around 9:00 p.m. and they stayed for around 30 minutes.
Harpootlian asks what Miss Libby’s state was in 2021. Rast says she was better. She couldn’t walk, but she could go in a wheelchair and she could feed herself.
Sometimes she would recognize her sons when they visited and sometimes she wouldn’t.
Rast said that Paul had a calming effect on her. He would remind her of the past.
2:19 p.m. – Court resumes. The state calls Belinda Rast to the stand. Rand was a home caregiver for Murdaugh’s mother.
She describes “Miss Libby’s” current state as in need of constant care. She says Miss Libby is bedridden and does not know what is going on. She describes Alzeihmers patients as similar to babies.
Rast says she considers Miss Libby family.
She works from 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. on weekdays and overnights every other weekend.
Prosecutors ask if Rast remembers June 7, 2021. She does.
Rast says she got to know Paul because he would often visit his grandparents. She says he was polite and offered to do things for his grandparents. She says he would always get Miss Libby ice cream.
She got to know Murdaugh as well. However, she says it wasn’t very common for Murdaugh to visit during her shift. She says that on June 6, 2021, Murdaugh and Maggie stopped by to drop off Krispy Kreme donuts for Murdaugh’s father. She says Murdaugh did not wake him up but looked in on him.
1:01 p.m. – Court is breaking for lunch and will resume at 2:15 p.m.
12:52 p.m. – In redirect, prosecution asks if Simpson had ever been to Alameda. She says she went once. He asks if the blue raincoat was at Alameda. She says she doesn’t know where it came from and that she had never seen it at Moselle.
Simpson says that Murdaugh purchased a lot of new clothes after the murders. She said that when he would go places with the family on the weekend, he would come home with new polo Vinyard Vines-type shirts.
Defense asks if Murdaugh was dramatically losing weight after Maggie and Paul’s deaths. Simpson says yes. Harpootlian asks if Murdaugh needed to buy new clothes because his old clothes were too big. Simpson says she assumes so.
Harpootlian asks when Simpson was first asked about what Murdaugh was wearing. She says a few days after the murders when she was first interviewed.
12:33 p.m. – Court resumes. Newman sustains the objection as hearsay.
Defense continues questioning Simpson. Harpootlian asks about her relationship with Buster. She says they had a goood relationship and that he is a good kid.
Harpootlian asks Simpson if she ever saw Paul with any guns. Simpson says yes, she says there were guns all over that place.
Harpootlian asks if Simpson had ever seen the blue rain jacket. She says no, she had never seen it at Moselle. Harpootlian asks if Simpson is familiar with pretty much all the clothing at Moselle. She says pretty much.
Harpootlian asks what size Murdaugh wore. Simpson says 2XL. Harpootlian asks if anything size large would fit Murdaugh. Simpson says he might have had one or two things that size, but most of his items were 2XL.
Simpson says the shirt Murdaugh was wearing in the Snapchat video was not the one she saw Murdaugh leave in that morning. She says he would keep clothes at his office, in his car, etc.
Harpootlian presents texts between Simpson and Maggie from June 7, 2021.
A text from Blanca indicates she left around 3:30 p.m. She saw Paul’s white truck, but didn’t see Murdaugh’s car there.
Simpson says that Maggie would get upset that any time anything happened with Murdaugh’s parents, he was the one to get called to the house. Simpson says that Maggie felt Murdaugh shouldered too much of the burden and she was concerned for his health.
Harpootlian asks if Maggie preferred to stay in Editso, Simpson says yes. He asks if Maggie indicated in any way that she did not want to go to Moselle to have dinner that night. Simpson says that Maggie was concerned about the rennovations at the Edisto house and that she had to leave the house unlocked for the workers.
Harpootlian asks if SLED ever asked Simpson about the clothes Murdaugh was wearing on June 7, 2021. Simpson says not until recently. He asks if they asked other questions about what happened June 7. She says they asked about what she was doing that day, when she saw Murdaugh leave, about her texts with Maggie, etc.
Simpson says she felt like a member of the family.
Harpootlian asks if Maggie told Simpson that she felt shunned by the people in Hampton after the boat case. Simpson says yes. He asks if Maggie ever mentioned Paul receiving threats.
12:06 p.m. – The jury is sent to the jury room as counsel discusses a line of questioning. Harpootlian was attempting to ask about the conversation Simpson had with Murdaugh in “the little house” during which she says it felt like Murduagh was trying to convice her he was wearing something different than she rememered him wearing.
Harpootlian was trying to ask if before that conversation, Murdaugh told her that he had just come from an interview with SLED and they showed him the Snapchat video.
Prosecution objected before Harpootlian could ask. Judge Newman overruled the objection. Harpootlian began asking again. Prosecution objected again before Harpootlian could finish the question.
After the jury is out of the room, prosecution argues that defense is trying to get Murdaugh’s statements on the record via the witness. Harpootlian argues witnesses are allowed to testify about conversations they had with the defendant. Prosecution argues that if defense wants Murdaugh’s statements entered into the record, he can take the stand himself. Defense argues he has a Fifth Amendment right.
Judge Newman says they will take a break while prosecution and defense come to an agreement.
11:46 a.m. – Defense begins cross-examination. Harpootlian asks if Murdaugh would introduce Simpson as his friend or his housekeeper. Simpson agrees he would introduce her as his friend.
Harpootlian asks how Murdaugh felt about Maggie. Simpson says he loved and adored her.
Simpson said she never saw them have any arguments, the most she saw was disagreements over the remodeling of the house.
Harpootlian brings up the dishes being in strange places the morning of June 8. He asks if Simpson knew around 12-15 people were in the house the night of the murders. She said she did not.
Harpootlian asks if SLED was around the house when she arrived and if anyone questioned whether she should go inside. Simpson says no. He asks if she found it strange that she was allowed to go right in and clean up a crime scene. She says she didn’t think it was strange because law enforcement was all down at the kennels.
After she had already been there, SLED agents came into the house and began processing the house. She says they were walking throughout the house while she was in there. She says no one asked her anything.
Harpootlian asks if the items on the foor of the bathroom were there after SLED left. Simpson says yes.
Harpootlian asks if the khaki pants Murdaugh was wearing in the Snapchat video with the trees could’ve been the same ones on the floor of the bathroom. She says they could be, but he has many pairs. She can’t remember if there was a shirt on the floor with the pants or not.
Harpootlian asks if she saw any bloodstains on the pants. She says no. He asks if there was any indication of blood anywhere — bloody footprints, any evidence someone had washed blood off of something, bloody shoes, etc. She says she didn’t see anything.
Harpootlian asks if Simpson cleaned the shower that day. She says she rinsed it off. Harpootlian asks if anyone from SLED told her not to. She says no.
Harpootlian asks if Simpson knows what clothes and shoes Murdaugh took with him to his parent’s house after the murders. She says no.
Harpootlian asks about cell service with Verizon at Moselle. Simpson says the service was touch and go around the property, including at the kennels and around the house. Simpson said when you found service, you better not move.
11:38 a.m. – The jury is brought back in and Simpson gives testimony about the conversation with Maggie. She again says Maggie was worried about the amount of money being asked for in the lawsuit. Simpson says Maggie thought Murdaugh wasn’t being entirely truthful about what was going on regarding that lawsuit and said he “doesn’t tell me everything.”
The video taken by Paul at 8:44 p.m. on the night of the murders is played. Simpson is asked to identify the voices in the video. She identifies Paul, Maggie, and Alex Murdaugh.
She previously said that she may have heard another voice, but after listening more she says that she only hears three.
Prosecution asks if Maggie would go to the kennels by herself at night. Simpson definitively says no. Simpson says she was scared because it got dark out there.
11:27 a.m. – The jury is sent to the jury room as counsel discusses the admissibility of a conversation Simpson said she had with Maggie months before the murders. The conversation was about money. Harpootlian objects on the basis of hearsay before testimony begins.
Prosecution asks if Maggie was concerned about money before Judge Newman rules on the objection.
Harpootlian passionately objects and the jury is sent to the jury room.
Harpootlian moves for a mistrial because prosecution brought up the issue of money after he had objected and before Judge Newman had ruled. He says that even if the objection is sustained, the jury can’t forget what was said.
Prosecution says the testimony is admissible because hearsay evidence is admissible in certain situations.
Newman hears the testimony without the jury present.
Simpson says Maggie was crying and said a lawsuit was filed asking for $30 million. Maggie said they didn’t have that kind of money. She told Simpson if she could give them everything she had and start over, she would.
Harpootlian says Murdaugh was the one named in the lawsuit, so Maggie’s concern about his financial state is not relevant to the limited financial crimes testimony permitted in this trial.
Judge Newman rules that there has been testimony throughout the trial depicting the family as loving. He says defense has asked multiple times if there were any issues in the family, so this line of questioning is appropriate.
The motion for mistrial is denied.
11:03 a.m. – Prosecution shows Simpson a photo of the clothes Murdaugh was wearing after the murders. She says she recognizes them.
Simpson says that the shirt could’ve been kept in the same stack as the shirt that had fallen on the floor. She says she would’ve put it there if there was no more room in the drawer where other shirts were kept.
The state plays Paul’s Snapchat video of him and Murdaugh riding around the property looking at trees hours before the murders. He is wearing khakis, a seafoam Columbia shirt (different than the shirt he wore to work), and what Simpson describes as house slippers.
Simpson says she never saw the shirt or shoes again after that night.
Simpson continued working for Murdaugh after the murders. She and her husband moved to Moselle as caretakers because Murdaugh never stayed there again after the murders. She took care of things around the property like cutting the grass and also looked after the dogs. The family’s dog Bubba is now living with Simpson.
Simpson says she had a conversation with Murdaugh about a shirt after Paul and Maggie were killed. Simpson put all of Murdaugh’s clothes and toiletries at what she referred to as “the little house” in Hampton. He walked in one day and said he needed to talk to her.
Murdaugh was pacing back and forth and told her he had a bad feeling. He said a video was going to come out and asked if she remembered the “Vinny Vines” (Vinyard Vines) shirt he was wearing that day. Simpson was confused because she knew he was wearing something different. She didn’t know what Murdaugh was trying to do, or if he was trying to convince her he was wearing a different shirt.
On September 4, 2021, Simpson said that Murdaugh asked her to send him copies of the insurance cards. She sent him a picture of one card and he said he needed another. She said the one he needed was in Maggie’s purse. She asked if he was okay and Murdaugh told her he was getting routine exams done and he needed the cards to schedule appointments. Simpson says she thought it was strange because it was a Saturday and she wondered where he would go to get medical exams on a Saturday.
Simpson and her husband stopped living at Moselle after September 4, 2021.
After the murders, Simpson picked up Maggie’s car from the sheriff’s office and cleaned it. Paint and pillows for decorations at the Edisto house were still in there.
Simpson found Maggie’s wedding ring under the driver’s seat.
Simpson recalls a conversation she had with Maggie months before the murders.
10:43 a.m. – The jury is sent to the jury room for a break.
9:54 p.m. – Blanca Turrubiate-Simpson is called to the stand.
She is a U.S. military veteran who worked in the South Carolina Department of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
She met Murdaugh when he was her friend’s lawyer, and she served as a translator. She and Murdaugh formed a sort of relationship after that, and she served as a translator on cases in which Murdaugh’s clients spoke Spanish.
Around 2007, Simpson started helping out around the Murdaugh’s home. She started out only working every two to three days, then her work picked up when someone tried to burn the Murduagh’s house down. Simpson said she helped Maggie a lot with documenting damages from that incident.
In 2017, Simpson sufferd a stroke and had to stop working to go to rehab.
Simpson says she and Maggie were close. They had a good relationship and would often catch up even when Simpson was not working for the family.
She went back to work for the Murdaughs in 2019, after the boat crash.
June 4, 2021 was the last time Simpson saw Paul. She said she was getting ready to leave when Paul walked in with a big basket of laundry. She stayed late to wash his clothes because he said he needed them for the weekend.
Simpson was scheduled to work at Moselle on June 7, 2021. Maggie texted her that morning and asked if she could stop at the grocery store because Alex wanted some Capri Suns juice pouches. Maggie also texted her and said she was going to a doctor’s appointment and that Murdaugh wanted her to come home.
She said in another phone conversation, Maggie told her that Murdaugh asked her to come home. Simpson said Maggie sounded a bit disappointed because she preferred being at Edisto and had a lot of work going on there.
Simpson said Maggie told her Murdaugh also asked Paul to come home that night to clean up a mess C.B. Rowe made because they had a hunt that weekend.
When Murdaugh left to go to work that day, Simpson said he was wearing khaki pants, a seafoam-colored short-sleeve polo shirt, and a dark-colored sports coat. She remembers distinctly because his collar was sticking out and she fixed it.
Simpson said in a phone conversation, Maggie called and asked her to cook because she didn’t think she would be home in time. She made cubed steak, gravy, and white rice and left it on the table. She texted Maggie to let her know and left Moselle.
Simpson said she heard about the murder early the next morning when Murdaugh called her. She said he sounded shaky and said “B, they’re gone, they’re gone.” Simpson said she initially wondered if they left and went to Edisto. Murdaugh told her they were dead, and she dropped the phone. Simpson can’t recall what happened after that.
She went to Alameda to meet Murdaugh and Buster to make sure they were okay, then headed to Moselle. Murdaugh told her to go in through the front gate because there were a lot of SLED agents. He asked her to straighten up “the way Maggie likes” because there would probably be a lot of people stopping by and bringing food, and he wanted it to look how Maggie would’ve wanted it to look.
Simpson becomes emotional describing going into the house. She says it was hard because she knew Maggie wasn’t coming back and she didn’t want to move her stuff. She says she felt cold.
She says she walked in through the front door and went into the kitchen. She didn’t turn on any lights. In the kitchen, she noticed there were no pots on the stove, which was unusual because Maggie would usually leave the pots on the stove. The pots were not in the sink and not on the stove. She found them sitting in the fridge, which she said was not normal.
Maggie’s pajamas were laid neatly in the middle of the doorway going into the laundry room, which Simpson says was very unusual. Simpson says Maggie wouldn’t lay her clothes in the middle of the door like that.
In the master bathroom, Simpson found a small pile of Maggie’s clothes next to the tub and a pair of khaki pants next to the shower.
There was a damp towel on the closet floor as well as a clean white t-shirt that looked like it had fallen off a stack of t-shirts, which sat at the top of the closet.
Simpson put the clean t-shirt back in its pile and washed the rest of the items she found on the floor.
9:48 a.m. – Defense begins cross-examination of Tinsley. Defense asks if there was any life insurance on Maggie and Paul. Tinsley says he doesn’t think there was a life insurance policy on anyone, including Murdaugh.
Defense asks Tinsley previously testified that there would not have been an explosion on June 10, 2021. Tinsley says that statement was taken out of context, but he said something to that effect.
9:32 a.m. – Court is in session. Prosecution resumes direct examination of attorney Mark Tinsley.
Tinsley represents the family of Mallory Beach and other victims of the boat crash.
They pick up on Tinsley’s investigation into Murdaugh’s finances.
He filed a motion to compel statements from Murdaugh’s bank after Murdaugh claimed to be broke. A hearing on the motion to compel was set for May 11, 2021. Tinsley and Murdaugh’s lawyer, John Tiller, both were undergoing cancer treatments around that time, so they agreed to delay the hearing until June 10.
State prosecutor asks Tinsley how he heard about Paul and Maggie’s murders. Tinsley says he got a phone call that night. Tinsey said amid the shock and horror, nobody gave much consideration to the upcoming hearing; they pushed it back.
Waters asks if the tragedy had any impact on Tinsley’s assessment of the boat case. He says if things were as they initially appeared, it would’ve ended the civil suit against Murdaugh. He says if Maggie and Paul were murdered by some vigilante, the jury would feel sympathy for him and would not convict him. Plus, Tinsley said he still had other defendants like Parker’s to hold accountable.
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