Murdaugh Family Murders: Shooter Would’ve Been Covered in Paul’s Biological Matter, Blood Spatter Expert Says

On Monday, an expert testified that whoever shot Paul Murdaugh in the head with a shotgun would have been covered in his blood and biological matter.

Tim Palmbach also speculated that the gunman might have been injured by pellets as Paul was shot at close range. Palmbach said Paul was first shot went through his chest before exiting through his arm.

Palmbach said he believes the killer was close enough to Paul for the barrel of the shotgun to touch his head. It is unclear how long the barrel is since the shotgun was never found.

Palmbach went on to say the “totality of the evidence” suggests two shooters killed Maggie and Paul at the family’s Colleton County property in 2021. He asserted that it is likely that a single shooter was stunned by the “shockwave” of shooting Paul, thus unable to quickly retrieve another gun to kill Maggie.

Palmbach also said that Paul and Maggie were killed extremely close to one another.

“With Paul…I believe he was shot first. I believe he had no idea it was coming. He took a shot in the chest and very soon thereafter the one in the back of the head. Anyone in the near proximity would have heard that,” he said.

Palmbach is a crime scene analysis expert and blood spatter expert who testified as a DNA expert at novelist Michael Peterson’s 2003 trial. Though Peterson was convicted of murdering his second wife in 2001, he was later granted a new trial after a bureau agent was found to have provided misleading testimony about blood spatter at the crime scene. In 2017, Peterson entered an Alford plea and was sentenced to time served.

The prosecution’s expert, Dr. Ellen Riemer previously testified that the first shot that struck Paul did not kill him but the wadding from that shot was lodged in his chest cavity. His arm was apparently down when he was shot, with the first shot entering his chest and exiting his auxiliary, according to Riemer.

Riemer testified that Paul was still standing when he was shot the second time. That time, he reportedly suffered a gunshot wound to his left shoulder and head that proved fatal.

Though Paul’s face was intact, Riemer revealed that his head was turned toward the left when he was shot the second time. Riemer said the second shot immediately killed him — with his brain being blown out of his head to the point that it was brought to the autopsy room in a bucket.

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 late housekeeper Gloria Satterfield’s estate. 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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