Murdaugh Family Murders: Video of ‘Loving’ Alex at Birthday ‘Opened the Door’ to Evidence About Financial Fraud

On Thursday, a South Carolina judge ruled that prosecutors can present evidence of Alex Murdaugh’s alleged fraud because the defense’s prior line of questioning called for it.

On Wednesday, the defense showed a video of Alex and his family celebrating his 54th birthday. They would go on to ask Paul’s friends, Rogan Gibson and Will Loving, whether Alex would have a motive to kill his wife and son and if they believed he was capable of killing.

In turn, the prosecution asked Loving if he knew that Alex had been confronted about stealing more than $790,000 from his law firm the morning of the June 2021 murders.

On Thursday, Judge Clifton Newman determined that the defense’s line of questioning “opened the door” for the state to rebut by presenting evidence of Alex’s alleged financial crimes, despite him only standing trial for murder at this point.

“In the questioning in the cross-examination by Griffin, the witness was asked if he could think of any reason possible Mr. Murdaugh would commit the crimes he was accused of committing,” Newman explained. “That turned cross-examination of the witness from dealing with specific issues in the case to having to testify as a character witness for Mr. Murdaugh.”

Newman is expected to decide whether Jeanne Seckinger, the chief financial officer of Alex’s former law firm, will testify in front of the jury. While not in the jury’s presence, 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 Chris 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: Alex Murdaugh/Joshua Boucher/The State via AP]