Paul Murdaugh’s cellphone video depicts ‘happy family’ before killings, source says

A short cellphone video of the Murdaugh family purportedly taken right before Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were fatally shot at their rural estate in June 2021 depicts a “happy family,” according to a source familiar with the video recording.

“There is talking, and it’s extremely playful and friendly,” the source, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to make public statements about the video at this time, said of the cellphone video with audio.

“It sounds perfectly normal, like any happy family — mother, father and child — doing something together. They are spread out, it sounds like, and they are just talking back and forth.”

The video, whose existence was highlighted earlier this week in a court filing by defense lawyers Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, is likely to be crucial evidence in the upcoming trial of Alex Murdaugh, charged with killing his wife and son.

The recording is also now at the center of a legal and public relations dispute between Murdaugh’s attorneys Harpootlian and Griffin, and the state Attorney General’s office. Harpootlian and Griffin allege the Attorney General’s office has been leaking evidence to various media outlets while denying the same evidence to Murdaugh’s defense team.

Harpootlian and Griffin said they want to see the video. The Attorney General’s office, which said it plans to file its own response to the motion, has denied leaking any evidence to the media.

“If you are going by the voices, it sounds like Paul, Maggie and Alex, and it appears that Paul is holding the phone and is videoing something on a dog, the dog’s tail possibly,” the source added. “You never see anyone on the video. It’s a very short video, probably less than a minute.”

The Murdaugh family Buster, Maggie, Paul, and Alex (from left to right) pose for a photo.

The video is now in the hands of prosecutors and said to be of interest because it is believed to have been taken before — possibly right before — Maggie and Paul were shot to death at the family’s 1,700-acre estate, called Moselle, in Hampton County.

The motion filed Monday by Harpootlian and Griffin alleges that the State Law Enforcement Division, under the direction of state prosecutors, played the video found on Paul’s cellphone to Murdaugh’s family members on Aug. 17, although the video was sealed by court order.

Murdaugh’s lawyers have said he left Moselle before the killings took place and is therefore innocent.

Murdaugh pleaded not guilty to the murders in July, charged more than a year after their deaths. A trial could be held as early as January.

On Monday, defense lawyers filed a motion in state court contending the video is among numerous pieces of vital evidence being improperly withheld from Murdaugh’s defense team by the state Attorney General’s office.

The defense lawyers also contend the Attorney General’s office is already more than a week overdue in giving defense attorneys evidence they need to prepare for a possible January trial. The Attorney General’s office says that it just wants to make sure that no sensitive evidence is released to the public.

Under South Carolina rules of court, prosecutors are supposed to begin turning over evidence — as required by the US Constitution — within 30 days of getting a request from the defense. The material was supposed to have been given to the defense on Aug. 15.

Judge Clifton Newman has scheduled a hearing in Colleton County Monday morning to hear both sides’ arguments.

The video doesn’t show Paul, Maggie and Alex because the camera is wandering all around, the source said, adding there’s little doubt the voices on the video recording belong to the three. It was clearly taken at Moselle, the source said.

“They are talking back and forth. They are talking about the different game birds out there. I think one of the dogs was chasing or caught a chicken. There’s talk of that. You can hear a little bit of laughter,” the source said. “There are clear pictures, but they show nothing. It shows a dog in one frame.”

The video’s existence was first reported in early June by FitsNews, but the news site did not at that time characterize the contents other than to say it showed Murdaugh and Maggie talking by the dog kennels on the Moselle estate.

Maggie and Paul were found dead — Maggie killed by a rifle and Paul by a shotgun — near the dog kennels.

“Any search of Paul Murdaugh’s phone would have been the result of a search warrant issued under seal,” the motion says.

Alex Murdaugh is escorted out of the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro on Wednesday, July 20, 2022, after pleading not guilty and being denied bond hearing on charges of murdering his wife and son.

Alex Murdaugh is escorted out of the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro on Wednesday, July 20, 2022, after pleading not guilty and being denied bond hearing on charges of murdering his wife and son.

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