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Alex Murdaugh pleads not guilty to murdering wife and son

WALTERBORO, SC (AP) — Once powerful and now disaffected South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that murdered his wife and son 13 months agowith one of his defense lawyers calling for a speedy trial to clear his name and prompt authorities to “find the real killers”.

Wearing a white face mask under his shaved head and ankle chains over shiny leather shoes, Murdaugh, 54, made his first appearance in Colleton County court since being charged in the murder case last week. Despite his innocence, he agreed to remain in jail without bail.

One of his attorneys, Dick Harpootlian, said the defense team wanted to avoid a bond hearing that might reveal new information about the killings and risk prejudicing potential jurors when the case goes to trial. He also said Murdaugh, who is already out on $7 million bail on unrelated criminal charges, cannot afford to pay cash for his release pending trial.

Murdaugh has been behind bars since October, charged with financial crimes and several other offenses that came to light after the murders of his wife, Maggie, 52, and their 22-year-old son, Paul, on the family’s Colleton County hunting property in June 2021. .

TIMELINE: Key dates in Murdaugh family investigations, charges

Harpootlian told a judge Wednesday that Murdaugh wants to go to trial within the next three to four months to show that South Carolina state law enforcement investigators targeted the wrong man.

“He believes the killer or killers are still at large and that would allow SLED to put that behind him and go after the real killers,” Harpootlian said.

Attorney Creighton Waters, the state’s deputy attorney general, responded that trying the case until January or sooner would be “too aggressive.”

“The evidence in this case is substantial and it all points to Alex Murdaugh,” Waters said. “There is forensic evidence as well as other evidence of his guilt for these murders.”

Judge Clifton Newman made no decision in court other than denying bond for Murdaugh. He said he would issue written orders later on the request for a speedy trial, as well as a request for a gag order to bar lawyers and investigators in the case from speaking to news outlets.

SEE ALSO: Investigators may exhume body of Alex Murdaugh’s housekeeper who died in ‘drop-dead accident’

Murdaugh is charged with two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during a violent crime. The indictment says he fatally shot his wife with a rifle and used a shotgun to kill his son.

Authorities have not released details on how police linked Murdaugh to the deaths after a 13-month investigation. And Wednesday’s hearing offered no clues as to why a man with no criminal record and a member of a wealthy, well-connected family that dominated the legal community in the tiny town of Hampton might want to kill his family members.

Authorities have been closed since the investigation began. Last year, they released the late-night 911 call in which Murdaugh reported finding the bodies of his wife and son outside the dog kennels on his property. The medical examiner said both victims had been shot multiple times.

Newman, the judge who presided over Murdaugh’s hearing Wednesday, had previously denied Murdaugh bond on the financial crimes charges. A different judge later set bond at $7 million, but Murdaugh was unable to pay it and remained in jail. His attorneys have complained several times that the bond was too high and said that because of lawsuits and frozen assets Murdaugh could not even afford to buy underwear from the prison store.

If convicted of murder, Murdaugh faces 30 years to life in prison without parole. Under state law, prosecutors could also choose to seek the death penalty because more than one person was killed.

The four new charges connected to the murders were added to a pile of 80 other charges filed against Murdaugh by investigators who have looked into every part of his life over the past year. No trial dates have been set for either case.

Prosecutors said the once-prominent attorney stole more than $8 million in settlements and other money from clients, committed fraud and lied to police while trying to arrange his death so his surviving son could collect on a $10 million life insurance policy . Murdaugh was also charged last month with co-running a $2 million drug and money laundering ring.

The murder charges and other cases are being prosecuted by the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office because of Murdaugh’s ties to the local 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office. The office’s jurisdiction includes Colleton County and Hampton County, where Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather were the elected district attorneys for 87 consecutive years.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Alex Murdaugh pleads not guilty to murdering wife and son Source link Alex Murdaugh pleads not guilty to murdering wife and son

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