On Thursday, Alex Murdaugh’s associate testified that he was also defrauded by the South Carolina attorney who allegedly stole millions from his family law firm and clients before and after his wife and son’s slayings in 2021.
Chris Wilson, Alex’s longtime friend who is also a lawyer, cried while testifying that he was in contact with Alex on the night Maggie and Paul were murdered on their family property. He said he often worked cases with Alex as Alex’s firm was bigger and had more resources and would split fees in half.
Wilson and Alex attended law school together and were roommates. Wilson testified that they worked together on many cases, and that he mostly managed disbursements as it was often his clients Alex was assisting. This was also the deal in the Faris case.
#AlexMurdaugh’s longtime best friend, Chris Wilson, testified that the disgraced lawyer confessed his financial crimes and problems with substance abuse during a heart-to-heart conversation. #MurdaughTrial pic.twitter.com/8eOgbG7jiC
— Law&Crime Network (@LawCrimeNetwork) February 2, 2023
Wilson said in the Faris case, Alex asked him to make out checks to him and he would have them cleared by his law firm.
Prosecutor Creighton Waters asked Wilson, “You trusted your friend, right?” Wilson said he did.
“I don’t know how I feel now,” Wilson commented, referring to his current opinion of Alex.
In May 2021, Alex’s paralegal contacted Wilson’s paralegal about where PMPED’s (Alex’s law firm) fees were in the Faris case. Alex’s paralegal said they got a cost check but not a fee check. Wilson’s paralegal responded that both Wilson and Alex got a fee check.
Wilson testified that the fees had been disbursed in three separate checks in March 2021. He also claimed he only learned about the emails between the paralegals in September 2021, when Alex’s law firm informed him that Alex had been stealing funds from the firm and clients.
Before that, in mid-July, Alex reportedly sent two money wires which totaled $600,000. While $192,000 was still missing, Alex allegedly claimed that he could not access that money because it was in annuities and he would be penalized.
At some point, Wilson reportedly loaned $192,000 to Alex to cover the missing fees in the Faris case — which Alex had already spent.
Wilson testified that in August 2021, months after Maggie and Paul’s murders, he had Alex sign a promissory note that he would pay him back that money. Wilson explained that there were concerns Alex would take his own life and he wanted him to sign the note in case he had to seek reimbursement through Alex’s estate.
In early September, another partner at the law firm reportedly contacted Wilson about Alex stealing fees. A day later, Wilson reportedly met Alex at his parents’ house — where Alex allegedly admitted to having a 20-year opioid addiction. Around the same time, Alex allegedly told his law firm about stealing money and resigned.
Wilson’s testimony appears to line up with statements made by Jeanne Seckinger, who is the chief financial officer of Alex’s former law firm,
On Thursday, Seckinger testified that Alex stole $2 million from the law firm and from clients by diverting money to a Bank of America account with the same name as the consulting firm they worked with.
Seckinger said that before they discovered the widespread fraud, the law firm was concerned that Alex was hiding funds in various banks and putting money in his wife’s name to avoid paying a settlement regarding Paul’s fatal boat crash. In February 2019, Paul reportedly crashed his boat into Archer’s Creek Bridge in Beaufort County.
Passenger Mallory Beach, 19, was ejected from the boat and killed; five other people aboard were injured. A fisherman reportedly discovered Beach’s body a week later. Paul was charged with felony boating under the influence in connection with Beach’s death, but he was murdered before he could face trial.
Seckinger said that in May 2021, she was alerted to a check obtained for client expenses by Wilson, Alex’s lawyer and longtime friend, though a fee check was not supplied. On May 27, 2021, she and a law firm partner reportedly emailed requesting documents regarding the disbursement. Alex was allegedly adamant that Wilson was paid and that the money would be available by the first week of June.
Seckinger testified that — on the day of the murders — she questioned Alex again when nothing was disbursed, eliciting a “dirty look” from Alex. The conversation was reportedly cut short because Alex got a phone call about his father’s ailing health.
In September 2021, the law firm discovered additional misappropriations of funds allegedly on Alex’s part. Seckinger said Alex’s signature was on a fee check and other checks. She also said he had checks on his desk.
Seckinger said they later learned that other payments had been made via Palmetto State Bank. Money was also held there for beneficiaries but it ended up being used by Alex for personal business, she testified.
According to Seckinger, two partners at the law firm eventually confronted Alex about the allegations — to which he confessed and resigned.
Prosecutors claimed Alex was motivated to kill his wife and son because he wanted to distract from these financial crimes.
Alex is believed to have acted alone in the 2021 slayings, allegedly shooting Maggie with a rifle and killing Paul with a shotgun on their Colleton County family property. He was reportedly filmed driving away from the lodge an hour before he called 911 to report their deaths. He allegedly carried out the double slaying after visiting his mother.
Last week, Colleton County detective Laura Rutland testified that there were no footprints located in the blood near Paul Murdaugh’s body even though Alex claimed he turned him over twice and checked his pulse.
Rutland also testified that she saw no blood on Alex — including on his shoes and hands. During cross-examination, Rutland would not say if, to her, Alex appeared to be the person who had just killed his son on their family’s property.
SLED agent Melinda Worley said she swabbed 10 different areas in Alex’s car and all of them returned presumptive positive results. She said she also photographed a 16-gauge shotgun shell located on the rear floorboard of his vehicle.
Prosecutors said cell phone data and forensic evidence tie Alex to the slayings. Meanwhile, Alex’s attorney, Dick Harpootlian, said the cell phone records were incomplete and asserted that Alex would be covered in blood if he killed his wife and son at close range. Harpootlian said no blood was found on Alex’s clothing.
In September 2021, months after Paul and Maggie’s slayings, Alex suffered superficial head wounds when he allegedly had former client Curtis Smith, 61, shoot him in the head so his surviving son, Buster, would receive a $10 million insurance payout.
A day before the shooting, Alex was forced out of his family law firm amid allegations he misappropriated funds.
Two days after the apparent botched suicide, Alex announced he was entering rehabilitation for drugs. Shortly thereafter, he was charged with insurance fraud in connection with the September 2021 suicide-for-hire plot and released on bail.
However, in October 2021, Alex was rearrested upon leaving a rehabilitation center in Florida for allegedly stealing $4.3 million from the estate of his former housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who suffered a fatal fall on his property in February 2018.
In that case, he was accused of stealing insurance payouts that were intended for Satterfield’s family. Authorities plan to exhume her body amid an ongoing investigation regarding her death.
In addition to the murder charges, Alex faces more than 100 criminal counts related to fraud.
In June 2022, Alex and Smith were indicted for allegedly purchasing and distributing oxycodone in multiple counties. In December 2022, Alex was indicted for tax evasion for allegedly failing to claim the $6 million he allegedly earned through illegal acts between 2011 and 2019.
Alex was charged with Maggie and Paul’s murders days after he was formally disbarred by the South Carolina Supreme Court.
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[Featured image: Chris Wilson/Twitter video screengrab]