IF not for a phone recording of the family Labrador, murderer Alex Murdaugh may never have been nailed.
America has been gripped for the past month by the trial of law firm chief Murdaugh, 54, accused of shooting dead his son and wife in a bid to distract police attention from an alleged web of fraud he weaved to fund a spiralling £40,000-a-week drug habit.
Yesterday he was handed two life sentences, to run consecutively, after a jury found him guilty of double murder in June 2021 at the family’s 1,772-acre hunting estate in South Carolina.
Cops are still trying to unravel the alleged frauds.
The court heard how Murdaugh, the latest in a family dynasty of top lawyers, had a decade-long addiction to painkillers and a lavish lifestyle he could not afford.
He was said to have decided to murder son Paul, 22, and wife Maggie, 52, to hide his murky finances while making the killings look like assassinations.
At his estate’s dog kennels he shot his son twice with a shotgun then used an assault rifle to blast his wife five times at close range while she knelt.
The personal injury lawyer then drove at 80mph to his mother’s home before returning an hour later to call the emergency services and fake his grief at finding the pair slain.
He claimed they may have been targeted in a revenge killing.
In 2019, his intoxicated son had rammed a boat into a bridge, sending friend Mallory Beach, 19, into the water.
She drowned and Paul, who denied being at the wheel, had been charged with causing her death.
He died while still awaiting trial.
Murdaugh senior’s hitman story might have stood up if not for a video Paul had taken of the family pet Bubba on his phone.
The killer’s voice was heard by cops on a Snapchat video Paul recorded of the dog just before the slayings began.
Placing Murdaugh senior at the scene was crucial for the prosecution, who had no murder weapon, no witness and no bloodstains on his clothing.
Yet the web of intrigue does not end now that Murdaugh is behind bars.
There are other deaths that have been associated with the Murdaugh family in recent years.
Netflix docuseries A Southern Scandal looks at possible links between the Murdaughs and the hit-and-run death of Stephen Smith, 19, in 2015.
The probe into his death, near the Murdaugh estate, has been reopened.
Police are also looking into the death of the Murdaughs’ house help Gloria Satterfield, 57, in 2018.
She was said to have slipped on stairs at the family estate yet her death was recorded as natural and not reported to the coroner.
Murdaugh is said to have persauded Gloria’s relatives to file a wrongful death suit against him so insurers would pay out £3million but he kept the money.
Police now want her body exhumed in order to examine the true cause of death.
Murdaugh’s financial dealings are firmly under the microscope.
Three months after his wife and son were slain he botched an £8million life insurance scam in which his distant cousin Curtis “Eddie” Smith, 62, shot him at a roadside.
It was meant to look like a drive-by hit yet Murdaugh suffered just a superficial gunshot wound — and cops soon rumbled the ruse.
Murdaugh has admitted it — but there are more claims, too.
Murdaugh and Smith are accused of taking part in a £2million drug ring and money-laundering operation.
That is just one of the 99 other charges against the disgraced lawyer, which also include swindling £6.6million from clients.
The murkiness of the Murdaugh world may even run deeper, because the ex-owner of the £3.5million family estate on the Salkehatchie River was suspected drug smuggler Barrett T. Boulware.
Fisherman Boulware, who died in 2018, was charged with conspiracy to import 15 tons of marijuana in 1980 but the case was dropped after a witness was killed in a car accident.
Boulware was a business partner of Murdaugh.
The saga has kept reporters, internet sleuths and true-crime fans rapt as his trial heard how Murdaugh was a “cunning manipulator” who hid his true self from even family.
The trial was told how Paul found a bag of pills in his dad’s computer case shortly before the killings.
Murdaugh’s eldest son Buster, 26, was a witness for his defence, insisting his dad was “destroyed” by the deaths of their loved ones.
Before he was jailed, Murdaugh told the judge he thought about his wife and son “all day and every day”.
Those memories should now haunt him in his cell, for the rest of his life.
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