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Jury hears more on 'I did him bad' comment, Maggie's phone records on Murdaugh trial day 7

WCIV Charleston 2/1/2023 Bailey Wright, Drew Tripp & Tara Jabour

The Murdaugh murder trial will resume at 9:30 Tuesday with one major question on everyone's mind: Did Alex implicate his guilt in a police interview? 

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Title: Murdaugh Murder Trial Recap - Jan. 31 Start time: 01/31/2023 07:00:00 PM End time: 01/31/2023 08:00:00 PM

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On Monday, the State played the jury a video recording of an interview the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) conducted with Alex Murdaugh about three days after the murders. Attorney Jim Griffin was also present in the vehicle, which was parked in the yard of his brother John's hunting lodge.

During the interview, Murdaugh can be heard telling the SLED agent, 

"It's just so bad. (I) did him so bad. He (was) such a good boy too."

In court, Creighton Waters stopped the video to have witness Jeff Croft repeat that quote for confirmation. Alex sounded to have said "I did him so bad," Croft said.

However, there's been confusion with some people hearing "they" instead of "I." 

We're expecting the defense to challenge this today. 

For a full breakdown of Monday's trial proceedings, read all the notes in our "day 6" story or listen to our podcast "The Murdaugh Murders, Money & Mystery."

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First witness: Jeff Croft returns to the stand

Croft returned to the stand and the defense started the day with their cross-examination. Attorney Jim Griffin led the questioning. 

He is a senior special agent with SLED and was first dispatched to the crime scene on Moselle Road on June 8, 2021, the day after the murders. He assisted in evidence collection from there on. 

Griffin began by going over the guns entered into evidence in court Monday. Those were guns collected from the Murdaugh's property, including their gun room. 

In summary, Croft conceded that none of the guns were loaded similarly to the one alleged to have been used to kill Paul.

It came out that Paul was killed with a steel shot. Croft said he found no steel shot shotgun ammo or fired shells at Moselle. 

Croft said Maggie's phone was located using "Find My iPhone" about 2,100 meters (or 1.3 miles) from the murder scene. Alex gave police Maggie's passcode.

He also said the phone wasn't secured in a Faraday Bag (which blocks cell signals) and to his knowledge, one wasn't requested.

When asked, Croft said SLED did look into Alex Murdaugh as a person of interest. He said they started their investigation with a "small circle" of those in the crime scene- Maggie, Paul and Alex. As the only living person in that circle, Croft said he was looked into.

Griffin asked Croft if he knew of any SLED agents going to Alex's mother's house outside Hampton to check on Murdaugh's alibi the morning after the shootings and Croft said he isn't aware, that he didn't personally go.

Griffin insinuated nobody went to investigate at Alex's mother's house until September. Griffin asked wouldn't it have been wise to go to the mother's house immediately to rule Alex out as a suspect? Croft wouldn't commit.

Croft: "I can't testify to what-if's."

Regarding what Alex Murdaugh said in his second interview with SLED- which was played to the jury Monday- Croft said he's confident he heard "I" instead of "they," which is what he testified the day previously too. 

That would make his interpretation of the full quote Alex said while talking about losing Paul: "I did him so bad." 

Croft said he made a mental note of it at the time to follow-up and didn't act on it immediately. When Griffin asked if they considered this to be some sort of confession, he only said it was something to follow-up on.

When asked if they ever did follow-up, Croft said they intended to follow-up, but that their next interview with Alex in August "didn't make it that far." He did not elaborate. 

Griffin: "Why didn't you ask him right then and there -- when he said 'I did him so bad' -- why didn't you ask him, 'What did you mean by that, Alex?
Croft: "It was simply an information gathering interview. It was decided beforehand they wouldn't challenge Murdaugh on anything he said, and asking Murdaugh to clarify would've ultimately been a challenge."

Griffin played the recording of Alex's comments multiple times, including at one-third speed for the jury. Croft still confirmed he hears "I." 

A few additional details we learned: 

  • Griffin asked Croft based on where the shell casings landed on the murder scene, would the shooter be on the right or left of the fired projectile trajectory. Croft just he couldn't testify to any lines but generally speaking, the shooter probably would have been to the left of where the casings landed. 
  • Croft said from his experience, you can't clearly see the kennels area from the house due to trees. 
  • SLED was allowed back on the Moselle property on June 13 with consent, not a search warrant. 
  • Murdaugh's law partners on scene were cooperative and weren't obstructing the search at all. 
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Second witness: Michael Anthony Knecht

Knecht is a custodian of records with Verizon Wireless. Assistant Attorney General John Conrad ran the questioning for the state. Dick Harpootlian ran cross-examination for the defense. 

Knecht said cell data will show things like data and time of call, network switch router (hub), specific cell tower, incoming vs outgoing calls, phone number, data/network type. Much of his testimony was explaining how to read the call logs. 

A lot phone data from a number of cell phones was added to evidence; the data was collected from a search warrant. The phones included belonged to: 

  • Alex Murdaugh
  • Paul Murdaugh
  • Maggie Murdaugh
  • Claude "CB" Rowe
  • Marty Cook
  • Rogan Gibson (Pauls's friend)
  • Connor Cook
  • Buster Murdaugh

A few of the calls described included: 

On Maggie's phone: 

  • Scope of search warrant was May 1-June 10, 2021.
  • Calls at 6:46 p.m., 7:50 p.m., 11:50 p.m. the night of June 7, 2021.
  • Moving back to 9:04 p.m. Call routed to voicemail.
  • Several more calls to Maggie's phone after 9:04p.m., none answered.

On Alex's phone: 

  • First call they go over is call from Alex to Maggie at 9:04 p.m.
  • Then a number of other calls by Alex to other numbers over the next hour.

Knecht said Verizon usually only keeps data and call/text records for 18 months. 

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Third witness: Paul David McManigal 

McManigal is currently a sergeant with the Charleston County Sheriff's Office. He's assigned to the U.S. Secret Service cyber-fraud taskforce as a digital forensic examiner. 

Assistant Attorney General John Conrad ran the questioning for the state. Dick Harpootlian ran cross-examination for the defense.

McManigal was asked to redact any potential client-attorney privileged information from Alex Murdaugh's cell-phone. The decision regarding what actually to remove was made by an attorney with the 9th Circuit Solicitor. 

He said call logs were not redacted at all. 

McMangial said he also tried to unlock Paul Murdaugh's iPhone 11 on June 9. He could not unlock it, however.

The defense only asked McManigal one question, which he was unable to recall: Was Paul's phone battery fully dead when he received it.

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Fourth witness: Jonathan VanHouten

VanHouten is currently a civilian who works for the U.S. Secret Service. He is a former investigator with the Columbia Police Department, where he was a taskforce officer with the Secret Service. 

VanHouten said he used a tool called Cellbrite Premium to unlock Paul's phone, which was necessary to get to the data to encrypt it. He was able to open it in March of 2022 and he testified that the phone's data was not wiped. 

Based on technology at the time, VanHouten said the software could only attempt to "brute force" its way into the phone 164 times a day- which takes time. With a four-digit passcode, it could take 10,000 attempts and maybe 68 days. With a six-digit code, it could take 1 million tries which could take 

VanHouten said he only completed the data extraction, he did not analyze the data himself. He returned the phone and data to SLED on March 24, 2022, which was a few days after receiving it. 

Court recessed for lunch at 1 p.m. with a return time of 2:15 p.m. 

Fifth witness: John Bedingfield

Bedingfield has been in law enforcement for 28 years with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. He is currently a region captain for the Lake Murray/Lake Marion area. 

He also has a side business as a firearms dealer and happens to be Alex Murdaugh's second cousin. Bedingfield said he was closer to Alex's brother John Marvin, but knew him all his life and was around him a bunch. 

Bedingfield was referred to previously in the trial, as the person who reportedly assembled three .300 Blackout AR-15 style rifles for the Murdaugh family. 

Bedingfield became a registered FFL firearms dealer back in 2016. Being a licensed FFL dealer means he has to keep certain paperwork, including sale logs, background checks, ATF forms, etc.

Bedingfield said Alex Murdaugh came to him around Christmas of 2016, wanting him to assemble two AR-style rifles for him to give to his two sons to use for hunting hogs. Bedingfield recommended a .300 BLK style for its knockdown power. 

The two firearms cost $9,188. The receipt was dated December 23, 2016. 

Caption: WCIV

The State had him explain some details about the make of the guns. He said they discussed adding suppressors (silencers) to the rifles, but they were never added due to additional paperwork needed from the federal government which was never completed. They also added thermal night-vision scopes so they could hunt at night. 

Bedingfield said he made a third version of the gun in April 2018 after Alex Murdaugh said Paul's was lost. The third did not include the scopes, given the first one with an optic was lost and those can go for about $1,500 to $1,800 each. 

The third replacement firearm cost $875. The price difference was due to it being more of a "stripped down" model without the same accessories. 

Maggie completed the purchase of this one and the transfer was done in her name because Alex wasn't able to make it to Barnwell to pick it up that day. 

Questions from the defense's Jim Griffin establish the third firearm was black in color, like Buster's. Paul's was tan. 

Bedingfield was also asked if he knew how many .300 BLK rifles he's sold over the years. He said he had no idea. 

Sixth witness: (David) Britton "Britt" Dove

Dove is a lieutenant in the computer crimes unit of SLED. He's a former Columbia-area police officer and has been in law enforcement since 1998. 

He was qualified as an expert witness in cell phone forensics. The State spends time asking him to explain how data is extracted and all the ins and outs of what could be found. 

Dove said he had run a full Cellebrite physical extraction of files and reports on Maggie's phone, including logs, caches, locations, health info and financials. A report of Maggie's phone events from June 7 is roughly 87 pages. 

Caption: Analysis of the Murdaugh Murder Trial on Jan. 31 from investigative reporter Anne Emerson and former SC AG Charlie Condon. (WCIV)

The hard drive containing her phone's data was entered into evidence.

He was handed Maggie Murdaugh's phone to review. Looking at Maggie's home screen, he said she had app notifications on. Looking at her location services, he could see location was set to "always on" for Alexa and "only while using" for the App Store, Apple Watch, and others. 

Dove said in Maggie's call log from June 7, 2021, there were five missed calls from Alex: 

  • Time not shared in court; call completed with "Marian," likely Maggie's sister, Marian Proctor; unknown if incoming or outgoing 
  • 7:50 p.m., the last outgoing and/or answered call Maggie made. It was to "Barbara" and lasted 2 minutes and 46 seconds
  • 9:04 p.m. missed call from Alex
  • 9:06 p.m. missed call from Alex
  • 9:06 p.m., missed call from Alex
  • 9:45 p.m., missed call from Alex
  • 10:03 p.m., missed call from Alex 

In her texts from that day, Dove said most are unread or unopened. 

  • 8:31 p.m., read status; In a group text to several members of the Murdaugh family, John Marvin Murdaugh texts: "I plan to go over to visit Dad tomorrow afternoon, is anyone else preparing to go?" He's referring to their father Randolph Murdaugh III's failing health
  • 8:49 p.m., read status; "Lynn G." texts the same group saying she's in court all week. This is the last read message on Maggie's phone. Lynn G. is Alex's sister
  • 9:08 p.m., from Alex, unread status; text reads "Going to check on M, be right back" (this comes two minutes and 7 seconds after his call was missed) 
  • 9:34 p.m., unread status, from Paul's friend Rogan Gibson; text reads "Tell Paul to call me" 
  • 9:47 p.m., unread status, from Alex; text reads "Call me babe"

Under phone events on June 7, 2021: 

  • 8:17 p.m., her phone was unplugged from a charger
  • 8:30 p.m., visited the website PoshMark Buy and Sell Fashions; Dove believes it was open in the background
  • 8:49:26 p.m., start time of "display on," which refers to it being lit up, likely due to text coming in. Reasons could include the receipt of a notification from a message, call, app, etc. It doesn't have to be associated with human interaction 
  • 8:49:27 p.m., the device was unlocked and a text message from 8:31 p.m. was read. An orientation change was also logged, which Dove said was most likely due to human action, but there's no way to determine who was holding the phone 
  • 8:49:31 p.m., the phone locked

    *The phone stayed locked from this time until the next day, June 8 at 1:10 p.m., which is when SLED finds it and Alex provides the passcode 

  • 8:53 p.m., end time for orientation change from landscape to portrait; the camera activated for one second in the background, likely activated when attempting to find a face for biometric unlock. Dove said the phone didn't record what the camera was looking at; if it had seen Maggie's face he believes it would have unlocked
  • 8:55 p.m., phone display turns off. No more steps are logged 
  • 9:06 p.m., orientation change to portrait; Dove believes that happened due to human action, like someone lifting it

    *This is the same time her phone receives an incoming call from Alex, which was not answered 

  • 9:06 p.m., end of portrait mode recorded. No more orientation changes after this  

Starting at 9:31 p.m., the display comes on and off a few times. There was no obvious cause for this, Dove said. 

Between 8:17 and 8:18 p.m., Maggie's phone records a total of 38 steps. Dove said the steps a phone records isn't always accurate. Instead of exact steps, this number tells him this phone was on someone moving. An additional 44 steps were logged from 8:30 and 8:33 p.m., and 59 steps were logged from 8:53 to 8:55 p.m. 

Note- In pretrial, the State said Maggie's time of death was between 8:49 and 8:53 p.m. 

Court adjourned at 5:40 p.m. It will resume at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. 

Caption: Jury hears more on 'I did him bad' comment, Maggie's phone records on Murdaugh trial day 7. (WCIV)

Caption: Jury hears more on 'I did him bad' comment, Maggie's phone records on Murdaugh trial day 7. (WCIV)

Alex Murdaugh stands trial accused of killing his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and son, Paul Murdaugh, 22, at the family's Colleton County property in June of 2021.

He's charged with two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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