Why did Alex Murdaugh kill his wife and son?
Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal returns for its second season on Netflix, following the recent conviction of family patriarch and renowned attorney Alex Murdaugh for a double homicide. The pressing question remains: why did he commit this tragic act against his wife and son?
The Murdaugh dynasty was at the center of the news when Season 1 of Netflix’s true crime documentary series dropped in February, with the case unfolding in real time. The first chapter of Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal examines five deaths that rocked a local community in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, including the double murder of Alex’s wife Maggie and his youngest son Paul.
Season 2 revisits the case, with “firsthand accounts from those who were there the days leading up to and following the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, including former Murdaugh family housekeeper Blanca Turrubiate-Simpson and matriarch Libby Murdaugh’s former caretaker Mushell ‘Shelly’ Smith, both of whom were crucial witnesses at the trial.”
With the latest installment now available for streaming, many viewers are asking the same question: why did Alex Murdaugh kill his wife and son? Here’s what we know.
Why did Alex Murdaugh kill his wife and son?
Although Alex himself still denies murdering his wife Maggie and son Paul, during his trial for the murders, prosecutors argued that his theft of millions of dollars was about to be exposed, and so he killed them to buy more time.
While the disgraced former South Carolina attorney pleaded not guilty for the fatal shooting of Maggie and Paul, the jury found him guilty of the crimes in March and he was sentenced to two consecutive life terms without parole.
Alongside the murders, which occurred at the family’s 1,700-acre Moselle estate in June 2021, Alex faces charges relating to bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
On Monday, September 18, a plea agreement filed in South Carolina’s US District Court states that Alex has agreed to plead guilty to 22 federal charges relating to the aforementioned offenses, with Alex accused of defrauding his personal injury clients and laundering more than $7 million in funds.
Though the case is ongoing as a federal judge still needs to approve the plea, the financial side of his crimes was permitted to be used as evidence in his murder trial. Earlier in the day of his wife and son’s killings, prosecutors argued that Alex had been confronted about $782,000 in fees that had gone missing from his law firm’s account.
As per AP, prosecutor Creighton Waters argued to the jury that by killing Maggie and Paul, he would garner sympathy and gain time to cover up the financial issue. “The pressures on this man were unbearable, and they were all reaching a crescendo the day his wife and son were murdered by him,” Waters said.
The motive is discussed in Season 2 of Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal, as well as the defense’s arguments. Valerie Bauerlein, reporter for The Wall Street Journal, explains that the defense suggested that maybe the murders were a revenge killing. Alex himself testified that his son and wife may have been targeted as a result of Paul’s 2019 boat crash, which left his friend Mallory Beach dead.
Other arguments raised by the defense included the murders being drug related, or “some random vigilantes,” with Bauerlein adding: “In an almost entirely circumstantial case, there were things that didn’t add up.”
The boating incident was a possible theory put forward as to why Alex might have killed Paul specifically. Waters himself appears in the docu-series to say: “Right out of the gate, it was important to establish that the catalyst that really started everything to unravel was the boat case.
“The boat case created possible criminal liability for Paul that threatened to undermine that family legacy that was so important to Alex.”
Morgan Doughty, Paul’s ex-girlfriend who was in the boat crash, adds: “I think when Mr Alex mentioned the boating accident, he was setting it up so it wasn’t back on him. I mean, the same way as he came in the hospital right after the boat wreck.
“I feel like he would do or say anything to put the blame on someone else… the boating accident is the reason why there has been so much light brought to everything that this man has done.”
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