COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Testimony about Alex Murdaugh’s financial crimes took center stage Thursday in his 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 13 RECAP
Get caught up on the Alex Murdaugh investigations
The jury heard from several people close to Murdaugh, as well as some with whom he did business. Through testimony from Murdaugh’s longtime friend Chris Wilson and the son of Murdaugh’s former housekeeper Tony Satterfield, prosecutors aimed to show that Murdaugh had no qualms about stealing from those close to him and those in vulnerable situations.
They argued Murdaugh’s financial crimes were on the verge of being discovered through internal investigations at Murdaugh’s law firm, as well as an investigation connected to the lawsuit in the 2019 boat crash that killed Mallory Beach.
Murdaugh’s defense called the theory irrational and insisted that Murdaugh’s financial situation was not as dire as prosecution would like it to seem.
They also painted Murdaugh as a loving father whose life was turned upside down by the deaths of his wife and son.
In a big development Thursday, we now have more clarity on a timeline for the trial.
The state said that the situation is fluid, but they anticipate wrapping up witness testimony by Wednesday of next week. Defense will then begin calling their witnesses, which they believe will take at least a week. Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian said they would try and pair that down since the trial is already behind schedule.
Court is expected to resume Friday at 9:30 a.m. with continued testimony with attorney Mark Tinsley, who represents victims in the boat crash case.
ALEX MURDAUGH MURDER TRIAL LIVE BLOG:
5:40 p.m. – Court is adjourning for the day and is expected to resume at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Harpootlian points out that the state needs to know when prosecutors will be done calling witnesses so that they can make sure defense witnesses are ready to go as soon as the prosecution is done.
Waters says it is fluid, but as of right now, Wednesday of next week is his assessment.
Harpootlian says he expects the defense’s case to take at least a week, but they’ll try to pair it back because the case is already running behind schedule.
4:46 p.m. – Mark Tinsley is called to the stand. Tinsley represents the family of Mallory Beach and other victims of the boat crash.
Tinsley has known Murdaugh for over 20 years. Waters asks if Tinsley has ever seen Murdaugh do a closing argument. Tinsley says yes, in 2005. He says Murdaugh got emotional and cried. Defense objects on grounds of relevance. Objection is sustained.
Waters asks if Tinsley is familiar with the boat case. Tinsley says he filed the boat case.
He describes an experience Rene Beach, Mallory Beach’s mother, had days after the crash. He says she wanted to go down to the crash site, but it was taped off. Minutes later, members of the Murdaugh family were allegedly waved through the tape and allowed down to the site.
Tinsley said he began putting pressure on law enforcement because the Beach family was worried the accident would get covered up.
Tinsley spoke to Danny Henderson, who was representing Murdaugh in the boat crash.
Tinsley also says he reviewed Murdaugh’s insurance policies shortly after the boat crash. There was one offered by Progressive that provided $500,000, but none of the other policies were applicable. Tinsley said the Progressive policy was not going to be enough for all of the victims in the boat crash.
Waters asks about Tinsley’s assessment of Murdaugh’s general wealth. Tinsley said that he knew Murdaugh was actively resolving cases and had money constantly rolling in. He said Murdaugh was going to have to pay himself and made that clear to Murdaugh’s attorneys.
Tinsley says in August of 2019, he saw Murdaugh at a lawyer’s conference either at a fundraiser for either Dick Harpootlian or Lindsey Graham. He says Murduagh got in his face and said something to the effect of “I thought we were friends, what’s this about the boat case.” Tinsley says he told Murdaugh they were friends, but he was going to do everything he could for this case and that Murdaugh needed to settle.
Tinsley said that there was a lot of pushback from the defense and shock that he would hold Murdaugh personally accountable.
Tinsley told Murdaugh’s defense that he wanted $10 million. Tinsley said that Murdaugh claimed he was broke and couldn’t pay. Murdaugh said he could maybe put together $1 million. Tinsley didn’t believe it because he knew how many successful cases Murdaugh had. He said Murdaugh had a “spigot of money.” He had active cases, generational wealth, and land. Tinsley said when Murdaugh said he was broke, he offered Murduagh a payment plan and offered to take some of the Murdaugh family properties.
Tinsley requested Murdaugh’s financial information in discovery.
4:26 p.m. – Defense begins cross-examination of Malinowski.
Griffin points out that the $750,000 to Murdaugh made in July was approved by three members of the executive committee.
They go through several other loans Murdaugh had with the bank that are in good standing.
Griffin goes through a note from 2020 saying the Murdaughs are good customers of the bank and generally make their payments on time. The note said that due to the boat crash lawsuit, they may have to liquidate some assets, but the loans will likely still be paid and there is more than enough collateral.
Griffin asks if in June of 2021, the bank was fully collateralized on outstanding notes. Malinowski says he thinks so, with the exception of one that Murdaugh had with his father.
4:21 p.m. – Court returns. Defense brings up a GoFundMe page set up for Mushell Smith, Murdaugh’s mother’s caregiver. Smith’s daughter made the page saying she wanted to reward her mother for her bravery in testifying against Murdaugh.
The first donation was made by attorney Mark Tinsley, but his name was later redacted to name anonymous.
Defense moves to exclude his testimony noting that Tinsley has a monetary interest in the outcome of this case and is now making payments to the state’s witnesses.
Judge Newman says he does not believe the testimony needs to be thrown out.
4:03 p.m. – The jury is sent to the jury room for a break.
3:11 p.m. – Palmetto State Bank CEO Jan Malinowski is called to the stand. He took over after Russell Laffitte was ousted as president and CEO.
Waters asks if prior to June of 2021, he had any concern with the nature of Murdaugh’s relationship with the bank. Malinowski says no.
On July 20, 2021, there was a Board of Directors Meeting during which Murdaugh’s finances were discussed.
On August 6, 2021, Murdaugh’s account was nearly $350,000 in overdraft.
Malinowski says Norris Laffitte sent an email on August 9, 2021 asking for a full accounting of Murdaugh’s relationship with the bank.
Shortly after, a deposit of $400,000 was made into Murdaugh’s account by Russell Laffitte. There was no loan application in existence.
On August 12, 2021, another directors’ meeting was held. At that point in time, Murdaugh had over $4 million in outstanding loan balances.
Malinowski found paperwork for a $750,000 loan to Murdaugh for “repairs to the Edisto beach house.” The paperwork was meant to look like it was filed in July, but it was actually filed in August. He says he knows because the paperwork automatically generates numbers and the sequence on that document was the August sequence.
On July 15, 2021, $350,000 was wired to the Wilson Law Group on Murdaugh’s behalf. The money came from the bank’s general account. There was no loan documentation at that time. Malinowski believes the backdated loans were meant to cover the wire transfer plus the $400,000 Laffitte had deposited to cover the overdraft.
Malinowski later learned that Laffitte had been converting PMPED checks made out to Palmetto State Bank for Murdaugh’s personal use. Laffitte was terminated.
In April of 2021, the loan on the Edisto beach house had matured, so an appraisal was ordered. The appraisal had nothing to do with Murdaugh’s outstanding funds. It was standard practice to renew the existing loan. Maggie was scheduled to meet with the bank’s appraiser the day after her murder.
On June 7, 2021, Murdaugh’s account balances were as follows:
- Alex Murdaugh farm account: -$2,458
- Alex Murdaugh checking account: $2,185
- Alex Murdaugh Health Savings Account: $7,540 (HSA can only be used for medical purposes)
- Alex and Maggie Murdaugh interest checking account: $3,009
- Alex Murdaugh account: $62,115
Waters asks what would’ve happened if the bank had discovered Murdaugh was stealing client funds, diverting money, and had been disbarred. Malinowski says the relationship with Murdaugh would’ve ceased.
3:03 p.m. – Harpootlian begins cross-examining Satterfield.
Harpootlian asks if Fleming was Satterfield’s lawyer. Satterfield says yes, but so was Murdaugh. They were all a team, to his understanding.
Harpootlian asks if Satterfield ever called any of the other members of the team to ask about the case. Satterfield says no.
Harpootlian highlights that the phone call with Murdaugh asking about the case was on June 22. Harpootlian asks if Satterfield accused Murdaugh of anything prior to June 7. Satterfield says no.
Harpootlian points out that after finding out about the missing funds, Satterfield’s lawyer Eric Bland sued Murdaugh’s firm and got an over $6 million payout. Satterfield at first says he is not aware of anything other than the money recovered in the confession, then appears to recant.
2:37 p.m. – Tony Satterfield is called to the stand. Satterfield is the son of the Murdaugh’s former housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield. She worked for the family for over 20 years.
Gloria died after allegedly falling down the stairs of the Murdaugh’s home in 2018. After her death, Murduagh helped secure her sons over $4 million in a wrongful death settlement. Murdaugh kept the money for himself.
Waters points out that Gloria did not die instantly, but remained in the hospital for several weeks. Waters asks if Gloria was ever able to tell her sons exactly how she died. Satterfield says no.
Note: SLED has since received permission to exhume Gloria’s body and further investigate the circumstances of her death.
After the funeral, Satterfield says Murdaugh told him and his brother he would take care of them. He said to send him all paperwork and hospital bills. Murdaugh told Satterfield he was going to go after his insurance company and get money to pay the outstanding medical bills. He also said he was going to try and get Satterfield and his brother $100,000 each.
Murdaugh also encouraged Satterfield to file a lawsuit but said he couldn’t represent them himself because of a conflict of interest. He brought in his longtime friend Cory Fleming to represent them, but Satterfield said that Murdaugh was the only one he ever had contact with about the case. Murdaugh also recommended his friend Chad Westendorf serve as their personal representative.
Satterfield said he thought Murdaugh was his lawyer. He only met with Fleming once or twice and called Murdaugh whenever he had a question about the case.
By the time Fleming became the personal representative, a $505,000 settlement had already been recovered in the case. Satterfield said he was never made aware of the recovery and never received any of the funds.
Waters asks if Murdaugh ever told Satterfield about the $3.8 million recovery from the insurance umbrella policy. Satterfield says no. Waters asks if Satterfield ever got any of that money. Satterfield says no.
Satterfield says he would reach out to Murdaugh every few months to check on the case. Murdaugh would tell him it was hard, but that they were making progress.
Waters presents a text sent from Murdaugh on April 12, 2021, saying that he was just checking in and if Satterfield needed anything, to let him know. Satterfield responds and asks about the case. Murdaugh says the case is “finally getting some movement,” but still had “a ways to go.” By that time, there had already been two recoveries in the case.
In June of 2021 (after Paul and Maggie’s murders), Satterfield learned through the media of other financial crimes by Murdaugh. He reached out to Murdaugh again to ask about the case.
Ultimately, Murdaugh confessed to stealing over $4 million from the Satterfields.
2:17 p.m. – Court resumes.
Defense objects to prosecution calling up the next witness, Tony Satterfield. They say it is more prejudicial than probative and previous testimony has already given the jury enough context to Murdaugh’s financial crimes.
Waters argues Murdaugh’s stealing from the Satterfields was different because he was not diverting funds from the law firm or his clients, but was a defendant in a civil suit and stole money from that.
Judge Newman says that since there was communication about the stolen funds between Satterfield and Murdaugh in June of 2021, the testimony is relevant. Defense points out that the only call was June 22, 2021.
12:52 p.m. – Court is in recess for an hour and 15 minutes.
11:47 a.m. – Defense begins cross-examination.
Jim Griffin clarifies that Wilson did not know there was any issue with missing fees on June 7, 2021. Wilson says that is correct. He says he didn’t have any reason not to trust Murdaugh’s explanation. Griffin asks if Murdaugh seemed panicked or frantic about the fees during their conversation about the fees before June 7. Wilson says no.
Griffin asks about Wilson’s concern for Murdaugh after the murders. Wilson says Murdaugh’s law partners, family, friends, etc were all worried he might kill himself because he was distraught over Maggie and Paul’s deaths.
Griffin asks if anyone thought Murdaugh may have had any involvement in the murders of Maggie and Paul. Wilson says no, Murdaugh was grieving.
Griffin asks if Murdaugh had any sort of life insurance policy on Maggie. Wilson says no.
Griffin asks if Murdaugh was a loving husband and father, and Wilson says yes. He asks if Murdaugh ever behaved erratically around his wife and kids. Wilson says no.
Griffin asks if Wilson ever saw any indication of opioid use or abuse. Wilson says no.
They discuss things the families liked to do together. Wilson agrees that Murdaugh’s priority was his family.
Griffin asks about visiting the Murdaugh’s over Memorial Day weekend in 2021. He says Maggie and Alex were getting along. They had a big cookout for Murdaugh’s birthday.
A video from the weekend of everyone singing Murdaugh “Happy Birthday” is reviewed in court.
Griffin asks about the calls on June 7. Wilson agrees they were normal. Griffin asks if it was normal for Murdaugh to end a call when he got to Moselle because the service out there was spotty. Wilson says yes.
Griffin presents more detailed phone records that differ somewhat from the records presented earlier, but generally only by a few seconds.
Griffin asks if Murdaugh was erratic, breathing heavily, stressed, etc on the phone. Wilson says no.
Griffin asks if it was unusual for Murdaugh to go visit his parents. Wilson says no, he went almost every day. He says he thought Murdaugh went during the day for the most part, but it wasn’t strange for him to go at night.
Griffin asks about Murdaugh’s demeanor the night after the murders. Wilson says Murdaugh was destroyed. He said Murdaugh was crying a lot, but trying to be gracious to everyone that was there.
Griffin asks about the “gracious” comment. Wilson says that Murdaugh always tries to be polite and talk to people.
Wilson says in the days after, several of Murdaugh’s law partners were there to support him. At some point, his partners and some of his friends (who happen to be lawyers) decided that Murdaugh was not in the right state of mind to interact with law enforcement without someone else present, but he also didn’t need a bunch of different lawyers advising him. Wilson said he made clear that he was there in the “friend” capacity, but he agreed with the recommendation.
11:40 a.m. – Court resumes. Waters asks Wilson to describe the moment he found out Murdaugh was stealing money.
Wilson said Lee Cope called him on September 3, 2021 and told him. Wilson said he was shocked. He reached out to Murdaugh after and said they needed to meet in person.
Wilson said he felt shocked, betrayed, mad, and numb. He got in the car the next morning and headed towards Beaufort to find Murdaugh. He called Murdaugh multiple times along the way. Murdaugh called him back and they agreed to meet at Murdaugh’s parents’ house in Alameda.
They met sometime between 10:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.
Wilson asked what was going on and whether Murdaugh had involved him in something else he needed to know about. Murdaugh broke down crying and told Wilson he had a decades-long opioid addiction and that he had been stealing money. Murdaugh told Wilson “I’m sorry, I’ve shit you up, I’ve shit a lot of people up.”
Waters asks if Wilson ever got his $192,000 back. He says no.
Wilson says he and Murdaugh have hardly spoken since September.
They go back to the texts the night of June 7, 2021. Waters hones in on the timeline. Murdaugh texted Wilson at 9:52 p.m. asking him to call. Wilson called at 9:52 p.m., but there was no answer (which Wilson previously said was normal), and Wilson called back at 9:53 p.m. Murdaugh answered and they talked for three or four minutes, then Murdaugh said he was arriving home and asked if they could talk tomorrow.
11:06 a.m. – The jury is sent to the jury room for a brief recess. Prosecutors plan to discuss the confrontation Wilson had with Murdaugh on September 4, 2021. The conversation involves Murdaugh admitting he has a drug issue. Later that day, Murdaugh was found shot on the side of the road. Prosecution wants to make sure all of those topics are admissible.
Judge Newman says that the testimony on Murdaugh’s roadside shooting will not be allowed since Wilson was not there firsthand.
Court is in recess for 10 minutes.
9:41 a.m. – Chris Wilson is called to the stand. He is Murdaugh’s longtime friend and fellow lawyer. He has his own firm, Wilson Law Group.
Wilson previously gave emotional testimony without the jury present about his relationship with Murdaugh. He has known Murdaugh since high school. They played sports together, went to law school together, and lived together. He says their families were friends as well. He said they talked almost every day, often several times a day.
Wilson says he considered Murdaugh one of his best friends, if not his best friend.
After Wilson started his own practice, he and Murdaugh began working together. Wilson says his firm was small and had fewer resources, so he would often work with Murdaugh on cases. Over the years, he says they worked together on probably 30 cases.
Wilson and Murdaugh worked together on the Farris case, which is the case that sparked PMPED’s investigation into Murdaugh’s finances. They settled in case in early 2021. They received a settlement of $5.5 million at the end of February. That money is required to sit in the lawyer’s account for at least 10 days before disbursement. Wilson said that since the sum was so large, he waited a bit longer to disburse the funds.
Murdaugh’s share — which was supposed to go to PMPED — was set to be $792,000.
State prosecutor Creighton Waters presents a text conversation between Wilson and Murdaugh from March 10, 2021. Wilson reads it.
Murdaugh said, “I need to get check today, if it’s just too much for you I will deal with it.”
Wilson called Murdaugh shortly after and told him he was getting the checks ready. Murdaugh told Wilson he was going to put the checks into an annuity because “he was concerned about his exposure in the boat case” and wanted to put some money away. He told Wilson the checks needed to be made out directly to him, not to the firm, and that he had already cleared it with PMPED. Murdaugh also said he was doing three separate annuities so he would need three separate checks.
Wilson said he didn’t have any reason not to trust Murdaugh; he had known him for over 30 years, they were friends, and Murdaugh was a partner in the firm with the authority to make financial decisions. He said Murdaugh’s request didn’t set off any red flags.
Waters presents a series of checks made on March 10, 2021, to Richard Alexander Murdaugh. The checks appeared to be signed by Murdaugh and deposited at Bank of America.
Wilson reiterates that he and Murdaugh talked several times a day, their wives talked often, and their families were close. He says he was close with Maggie, Paul, and Buster. He says it hasn’t been the same since everything happened, but he hopes that will change one day.
Waters asks what Wilson’s general perception of Murdaugh’s wealth was. He says Murdaugh had a big firm, a big reputation, and made a lot of money. He calls him “one of the biggest dogs in that firm.” He said he never seemed to have problems when it came to money.
They move on to Annette Griswold asking Wilson’s office about missing fee checks in May of 2021. Murdaugh told her that he had not received the fee checks from the Farris case (the checks Wilson wrote on March 10). Wilson’s office told Griswold that the checks had already been sent. Griswold and PMPED CFO Jeanne Seckinger asked Wilson’s office for a detailed accounting of the fees.
Wilson says the matter was brought to his attention around June 2, 2021.
He reached out to Murdaugh and let him know PMPED was saying they believed Murdaugh was owed more money. Wilson said he told Murdaugh that if Murdaugh was owed more, he had no problem paying him more. He also pointed out that this was the case where the checks were written directly to Murdaugh and asked if everything was okay. Murdaugh said yes, he just had to make sure his firm knew where everything was. Wilson said he believed him.
Wilson said they didn’t talk about it again until after the murders.
Wilson says that he was with Murdaugh, Maggie, and Buster the Saturday before the murders.
They discuss the night of the murders. Murdaugh called him around 9:11 p.m. He says he and his wife were sitting on the back porch watching The Bachelor. When Murdaugh called, Wilson says he was messing with a pool pump so his hands weren’t free. He told Murdaugh he would call him back. He said Murdaugh sounded normal.
Wilson called him back at 9:20 p.m. Murdaugh said he was arriving at his mom’s house and asked to call Wilson back. Wilson said sure.
At 9:52 p.m., Murdaugh texted him saying “call me if you’re up.” Wilson called. Murdaugh didn’t answer initially, which Wilson said was normal. He called right back and Murdaugh picked up. He asked about Murdaugh’s mother, some questions about a case, etc. Murdaugh eventually said he was about to be home, so could they talk tomorrow? Wilson said yes and went to bed.
Wilson said he was asleep and heard his phone buzzing, but didn’t pay attention. He said his wife came in hysterical and woke him up. She was on the phone with either Randy or his wife. Wilson said he got dressed and headed to Moselle. It takes about an hour and 40 minutes from Columbia.
Wilson said he tried to call his daughter multiple times because she is extremely close to Paul and Buster.
He got to Moselle around 1:00 a.m. He saw lights at the kennels so he went there first, but someone waved him towards the house so he went there. He said when he got there, he hugged Murdaugh and cried.
Waters asks if Wilson had any discussion with Murdaugh about what happened that night. He said he didn’t ask Murdaugh, he didn’t Murdaugh to describe what he found and relive it, he just wanted to be there for his friend.
In the aftermath, Wilson said he and a lot of others were worried Murdaugh was going to kill himself, so he tried to check in and stop by more often.
Waters says it certainly wasn’t the time to ask about the fees, right? Wilson says he didn’t know there was an issue with the fees at that point because he trusted Murdaugh’s explanation.
Around the middle of July, Murdaugh called Wilson about the fees. He told Wilson he wasn’t able to put the money in the annuities as he thought, it had to go to his firm, so he told Wilson he would send the money back and asked him to write the checks to PMPED. Murdaugh only sent $600,000 of the $792,000 in two separate wire transfers. One was from Palmetto State Bank and one was from Bank of America.
Wilson asked Murdaugh about the $192,000. Murdaugh said that he put it away and couldn’t access it, but he could get it to him soon. Wilson put $192,000 of his own money into the trust account to cover the fees owed to PMPED. He emailed Murdaugh to let him know the money was in the account, and Murdaugh forwarded the email to the firm.
They spoke in early August about the $192,000 and Murdaugh assured him that he would get it to him soon. He said the money was tied up in what Wilson understood to be some sort of annuity, but there would likely be money coming his way after his father’s death.
In mid-August, Wilson went to Murdaugh’s office and asked him to sign a promissory letter. He said he was worried Murdaugh was going to kill himself and he knew he had to have something in writing if he wanted to make a claim against the estate. Wilson said he put it more delicately, saying something to the effect of “I hate to ask this, but if you get hit by a car or something, I need assurances.” Murdaugh said no problem and wrote out the note.
9:35 a.m. – The trial resumes with cross-examination of FBI automotive forensic specialist Dwight Falkofski.
Falkofski processed the infotainment center and OnStar module that Hudak collected from Murdaughs’ car.
Defense confirms that other Bluetooth devices had connected to Murdaugh’s car system, but the only one that connected in June appeared to be his phone.
Although they were able to get some location data out of the car, Falkofski says there was no location data available for the entire day of June 7, 2021.
9:00 a.m. – Alex Murdaugh arrived at the Colleton County Courthouse shortly after 9:00 a.m. Thursday as his trial for murder enters day 14.
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.