It took the FBI a year to crack Alex Murdaugh’s car data but it has shed more light on the prosecution case
The harvested data reveals Murdaugh spent just 20 minutes at his mother’s house on night of the double murders
Last week the care giver, Shelley Smith, said the defendant pressured to say that the visit lasted 40 minutes
Prosecutors say Murdaugh shot Maggie and Paul dead at 8.50pm at the family’s hunting estate and then drove to his mother’s at 9.06pm on June 7, 2021
Murdaugh lat his police interview told detectives he was at his parent’s house for around 40 minutes
However, data seized from the Chevy Suburban shows it was put in park at 9.22pm, [arriving at his mom’s]
Then 21 minutes later, the car is taken out of park, probably headed home
The data recovered from the onboard computer in Alex Murdaugh’s Chevy Suburban appears to prove that he spent just 20 minutes at his mother’s house on the night of the double murders, contrary to his claim that he was there for 40 minutes.
Prosecutors say the defendant shot Maggie and Paul Murdaugh – him wife and his younger son – dead at the family’s hunting estate at Moselle, South Carolina, at 8.50pm on June 7, 2021.
He then fired up his Chevrolet Suburban at 9.06pm and drove to his mother’s home in Almeda, a 15 minutes trip, in order to ‘manufacture an alibi’, the State suggests.
Murdaugh told detectives he was at his mother’s for around 40 minutes – and instructed her caregiver, Shelley Smith, to say the same – although she wept as she told jurors last week that he was actually there for half that time.
Data seized from the computer of his 2021 Chevrolet Suburban – which took the FBI a year to decrypt – yesterday appeared to shatter his alibi.
The car went into park at 9.22pm, apparently arriving at his mother’s, then 21 minutes later, at 9.43pm the car is taken out of park again, indicating he was headed home.
The vehicle goes back into park at 10pm.
The log data does not show whether the car was moving, but the 16 minutes that elapse from when he presumably left Almeda correlates with the normal journey time to Moselle.
Murdaugh called 911 at 10.07pm and reported he had returned home to find Maggie and Paul dead at the kennels on the estate.
No log note indicating when the car went back into park, sometimes the system stops recording.
Between 10pm and 10.13pm the car was taken out of a park five times.
The log data does not prove the car was moving, Dwight Falkofske, an FBI electronics engineer told jurors Wednesday.
However, Murdaugh was holding a shotgun when cops arrived.
It is possible that he drove back to the main house and then back to the kennels – around 400 yards away – after retrieving the firearm.
Falkofske said the data from the Suburban’s onboard computer was encrypted, not something he had ever encountered before. He told jurors this had been done by the manufacturer.
As a result, the FBI had to take another 2021 Chevrolet Suburban and reverse engineer the computer encryption to crack the code.
Smith, the care giver for Murdaugh’s mother testified on Monday that he visited on the night of the killings at some time between 9pm and 9.30pm. He appeared ‘fidgety’ and was periodically looking at his phone during the visit which lasted between 15 and 20 minutes.
His mother Libby, who is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, was in bed and Murdaugh lay next to her in the bedroom.
The caregiver wept on the stand as she described how Alex Murdaugh showed up to his parents’ house a few days later and pointedly told her that he was with his mother for 30 to 40 minutes on the night of the killings.
Smith said this made her ‘nervous’ because she recalled he had only been there for half that time. She was so concerned by the instruction from Murdaugh that she later told her police officer brother about the conversation.
Smith told jurors that Murdaugh arrived at his mother’s on the night of the murders wearing a T-shirt and shorts. It was later than he had ever visited before.
Smith said she did not see any blood on him. However, Murdaugh was wearing a dress shirt and long pants earlier in the evening, according to a Snapchat video sent by Paul at 7.56pm.
When cops arrived he was also wearing a clean T-shirt and shorts.
Smith testified that a few days after the slayings, Murdaugh visited his parents’ house at 6.30am, which she said was ‘unusual’.
She said Murdaugh was carrying a ‘blue something’ in his hand that looked like a tarp or jacket. A blue raincoat was later found at Murdaugh’s parents’ home coated with gun residue.
During the visit, Murdaugh asked about her upcoming wedding and mentioned that he could help her will the bill.
The State says the coat was covered with gun residue and found stashed in a closet at Libby Murdaugh’s home.
Forensic scientist Megan Fletcher told jurors Tuesday that she found 38 gunshot residue particles across the interior and exterior of the coat. She found so many, in fact, that she stopped searching the jacket.
John Meadors for the State asked if a firearm could have been wrapped inside the coat. She confirmed that was a possibility.
At cross defense attorney Jim Griffin arguedF that even the seat Fletcher was sitting in could have gun residue on it given that the evidence had been presented from the witness stand. She agreed that was possible.
Griffin argued that the residue on the rain jacket might have come from Alex’s father, Randolph Murdaugh III, tossing his jacket onto his shotgun – named Bo Whoop – in his truck.
Fletcher concurred that this was also plausible.
Fletcher also testified that she not only found what was described as ‘significant’ gunshot residue on the coat, she found particles on Murdaugh’s t-shirt, shorts, his hand and the seatbelt of his car, from samples taken by cops the night of the killings.
Griffin asked the forensic expert if the small amount of gunshot residue found on Murdaugh’s clothes and hands could have come from the shotgun he claims he grabbed for protection after arriving back at Moselle to find Maggie and Paul dead.
Fletcher agreed this was possible, telling jurors: ‘That would be consistent with somebody that had a firearm in his hand prior to collection.’
Griffin also questioned why the blue tarp discovered at Murdaugh’s parents’ house was not tested for gunshot residue.
The defense claim that the ‘blue something’ that Murdaugh’s mother’s caregiver saw him with after the killings was a blue tarp, not the raincoat.
Fletcher said the jacket was seized because it was bundled up in a closet, while the tarp was folded in a storage container.
When defense grilled her on the logic of that decision, the forensic scientist said this was not her job – she did not recover the item from the property she only analyzed it.
The prosecution is still laying out its case in the double-murder trial at Colleton County Court in Westboro.
Murdaugh is accused of shooting his wife and son dead at the kennels on the estate in a bid to distract from the millions he had embezzled from his law firm.
On the day of the murders, June 7, 2021, he had been confronted by the chief financial officer at the firm over $792,000 that he had stolen. Prosecutors say this was just the tip of the iceberg and ‘the walls were closing in.’
The defense maintains the financial motive claim is ‘ludicrous’, rather their client was a loving family man.
Further evidence of his financial crimes was heard on Thursday after Judge Clifton Newman ruled that it is admissible.
Data from Alex Murdaugh’s Chevy Suburban – Recreating Movements on June 7, 2021
9:03:44 pm: System boots up. (Could have happened after door opened)Dwight Falkofske, FBI electronics engineer, testifying at the Murdaugh double-murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, on Wednesday.
9:06:49 pm: Fires up.
9:06:50 pm: Taken out of park.
MURDAUGH SAYS HE WENT TO VISIT HIS MOTHER IN ALMEDA – AROUND 15 MINUTES DRIVE FROM MOSELLE
9:22:45 pm: Back into park.
21 MINS ELAPSE – MURDAUGH’S MOTHER’S CARER SAYS HE WAS AT THE HOUSE FOR AROUND THIS TIME
9:43:05 pm: Taken out of park.
9:43:59 pm: Back into park. Data does not show if car is moving.
9:44 pm: Taken out of park again.
CAR OUT OF PARK FOR 16 MINUTES – POSSIBLY HEADED BACK HOME TO MOSELLE
10 pm: Back into park.
10:01:17 pm: Taken out of park
10:01:29 pm: Back into park.
10:01:30 pm: Taken out park.
10:01:43 pm: Back into park.
10:04:49 pm: Taken out of park.
10:05:55 pm: Back into park.
MURDAUGH CALLS 911 AT 10.07PM
10:11:45 pm: Taken out of park.
10:12:38 pm: Back into park.
10:13:39 pm: Taken out park.
The above elements have been juxtaposed with other key elements presented by the prosecution as it affects the timeline of events on the night of the two murders
Key events in the timeline laid out by prosecutors to support case that Alex Murdaugh is accused of shooting his wife, Maggie, and younger son Paul, at the family’s hunting estate in Islandton, South Carolina, on the night of June 7, 2021:
7.56pm Paul sent a Snapchat video to friends showing that he was riding around the estate with his father Alex.
8.15pm Maggie Murdaugh arrived home and the trio ate dinner together. Autopsies showed similar stomach contents in Maggie and Paul.
8.30pm Paul’s phone starts moving towards the kennels.
8.44pm A second video taken by Paul at the kennels allegedly, proves that Maggie, Paul and Alex were together.
8.49pm Prosecution say Paul’s phone locked and went silent forever, never to send another text or make another call.
9pm – 9.30pm Paul and Maggie were killed, according to the coroner’s report.
9.06pm Alex Murdaugh’s car is started. The alleged killer said he went to go visit his mother, who is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, in Almeda – typically, a 15-minute drive.
10.07pm Murdaugh called 911 claiming he had arrived home a to find his wife and son shot dead.