Alex Murdaugh rocks and sobs as defence experts say son was shot in back of head at point-blank range

Alex Murdaugh sobbed and rocked back and forth as two defence experts gave gruesome testimony detailing how his son Paul was shot in the back of the head at point-blank range.

Forensic pathologist Dr Jonathan Eisenstat and crime scene analyst Tim Palmbach were called as witnesses for Mr Murdaugh’s defence team on Monday, where they both cast doubts on the prosecution’s theory of how the murders unfolded.

Both experts testified that the killer held a shotgun to the back of Paul’s head and pulled the trigger, with the force causing the 22-year-old’s brain to “explode” out of his skull.

“This explosive nature… you never see that unless you have a high-energy source contact wound,” testified Mr Palmbach.

The crime scene analyst and expert in blood spatter analysis, who has previously worked on the infamous Michael Peterson “Staircase case”, said that “seeing that head in the position it was, that is a contact wound from a high energy source weapon” like a shotgun.

Because the shot was fired at point blank range – meaning the killer would also have had to be close to the 22-year-old when they pulled the trigger – the assailant would have been covered in the victim’s blood and other bodily substances, he said.

“A lot” of blood would have sprayed onto the killer’s face, head and upper body and collected in their hair, he said.

Dr Eisenstat testified that the barrel of the gun would also have been jammed up with biological matter such as brain, blood and skull.

Maggie and Paul were both gunned down at the family’s Moselle hunting estate in Islandton, South Carolina, back on 7 June 2021.

Paul, 22, was shot twice with a 12-gauge shotgun as he stood in the feed room of the kennels, with the second bullet blowing his brain from his skull.

Maggie, 52, was shot five times with a .300 Blackout semiautomatic rifle as she tried to flee from her killer.

In Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro on Monday, jurors were shown gruesome photos and diagrams from Maggie and Paul’s autopsies as the defence sought to pick holes in the prosecution’s case and sow doubts in the quality of the entire murder investigation.

Dr Eisenstat testified that – while he agreed with some things – he disagreed with some of the conclusions reached by Dr Ellen Riemer when she performed autopsies on the bodies of the two victims.

He said that he agreed with Dr Riemer about Paul’s first gunshot wound, where the killer shot him in the chest from around three feet away.

Crime scene photos show shell casings on the floor of the dog feed house (Law & Crime)
Crime scene photos show shell casings on the floor of the dog feed house (Law & Crime)

But, this caused Paul to be “bent over” and the killer then shot him a second time with the gun pressed against his head, he testified.

Dr Eisenstat described the second gunshot as a “textbook” contact wound to the skull which then caused gunshot pellets to travel through his neck and into his shoulder.

The head wound was an entrance and not an exit wound, he testified.

This contradicted Dr Riemer who testified to the exact opposite: that the shooter fired from outside the feed room and the bullet entered his shoulder and neck first, travelling up to his brain.

Dr Eisenstat told the court that he believes Dr Riemer was “wrong” about the fatal shot that caused Paul’s brain to detach from his skull.

On Maggie’s wounds, Dr Eisenstat testified that he agreed with Dr Riemer on four of the five gunshot wounds.

But on the fifth – the first fatal wound which went through her chest and brain – the forensic pathologist again said he believes the bullet travelled in the opposite way to Dr Riemer.

He testified that the killer fired a bullet down into Maggie’s head as she leaned forward. The bullet then travelled into her chest, he said.

“It goes through the brain and causes injury to the brain stem,” he said, saying that her death would have been “immediate”.

This likely happened after a shot to the abdomen caused her to buckle over, with her head then leaning down, facing her killer.

“The explanation that I think is probably most reasonable is that she’s leaning forward, most likely from pain from the abdominal wound,” he said.

Dr Riemer previously testified that the killer fired this fatal shot from behind Maggie and that the gunshot travelled in the opposite direction, entering her chest first and travelling up into her brain.

Under cross-examination, Dr Eisenstat said that it was possible that the shooter was taller than Maggie – given his testimony that the bullet travelled downwards into her head. This comes after a previous defence witness suggested that Maggie’s killer must have been 5’2” tall – far shorter than Mr Murdaugh who is 6’4”.

Mr Palmbach testified that the findings in the autopsy report about Paul’s wounds – that the head wound was an exit wound – were “inconsistent” with the evidence which he testified shows it is a contact wound.

“All of it is consistent with a contact shot to the back of the head,” he said.

He described the way the shot entered the head and caused “gaseous materials [to] swell and build”. The pressure builds up in the head, creating enough force to push his brain, skull fragments, blood and hair up towards the ceiling and the door of the feed room.

Alex Murdaugh looks on as the court is shown grisly photos from autopsies on Maggie and Paul (Colleton County Court)
Alex Murdaugh looks on as the court is shown grisly photos from autopsies on Maggie and Paul (Colleton County Court)

“His brain was a mass on the ground,” he said, as jurors were shown graphic images of Paul’s head and heard how his brain was on the ground by his leg – almost in its entirety.

Mr Palmbach testified that the evidence supported the defence’s theory that two shooters may be responsible for the murders.

“The totality of the evidence is more suggestive of a two shooter scenario,” he said.

His theory for this was that Paul’s killer would have been covered in the victim’s biological matter – and could even have been injured by the skull fragments.

This would have “stunned” the shooter so to grab a second gun – the .300 Blackout – and shoot Maggie in quick succession would be unlikely, he said.

As the graphic photos of his wife and son’s bodies were shown in court, Mr Murdaugh became emotional, wiping tears from his eyes and rocking back and forth.

While the testimony pushed back on the validity of the prosecution’s expert witnesses, it also raised questions about the lack of blood found on Mr Murdaugh on the night of the murders.

However, the state has suggested that Mr Murdaugh changed clothes and showered after killing his wife and son.

Jurors have previously seen a Snapchat video Paul took less than one hour before the murders. The video, sent at 7.56pm on 7 June 2021, shows Alex Murdaugh dressed in khaki trousers, loafers and a blue button-down shirt on the grounds of Moselle.

This clothing does not match the white short-sleeved t-shirt and shorts he is seen wearing in police bodycam footage in the aftermath of the murders.

Questions had already been raised about this outfit as multiple law enforcement officials have testified that Mr Murdaugh and his clothing were “clean from head to toe” and no blood was found on the t shirt – despite his claims that he had touched the bloody bodies of his wife and son.

During Monday morning’s testimony, Dr Eisenstat also raised doubts about the time of death determined by Colleton County Coroner Richard Harvey.

Mr Harvey previously testified for the defence that he estimated the time of death of the two victims at around 9pm – by putting his hand under their armpits to feel for temperature.

Dr Eisenstat said that “you wouldn’t learn anything” from that method, saying “it’s a guess”.

He said that a coroner should take both the person’s core temperature by using a thermometer in the rectum, take the ambient temperature at the scene, and check the body’s rigidity.

While casting doubts on the coroner’s expertise, the testimony does little to undermine the prosecution’s time of death as this is actually based on the last cellphone usage of the two victims.

Prosecutors say Paul was shot first at around 8.50pm, followed by Maggie right after.

Cellphone data shows both victims last appeared to use their phones at 8.49pm.

Throughout the defence’s case, Mr Murdaugh’s attorneys have sought to discredit the state’s case and the investigation by law enforcement from the get-go.

The defence is expected to rest its case on Monday, after calling its final few witnesses to the stand in an effort to convince the panel of jurors that the disgraced legal scion did not murder his wife and son.

The prosecution will then begin its rebuttal case, before closing arguments begin as soon as Wednesday.

The jury will also visit the scene of the murders, including touring the dog kennels and the feed room where the victims were gunned down.

Judge Clifton Newman agreed on Monday to the defence’s request of a jury visit to the Murdaugh family’s sprawling 1,700 Moselle estate.

The visit is expected to take place sometime later this week as the trial, before they decide the fate of the disgraced legal scion and accused killer.

Buster, Maggie, Paul and Alex Murdaugh left to right (Maggie Murdaugh/Facebook)
Buster, Maggie, Paul and Alex Murdaugh left to right (Maggie Murdaugh/Facebook)

Mr Murdaugh is facing life in prison for the murders of Maggie and Paul and has pleaded not guilty.

In a dramatic two days in court last week, Mr Murdaugh took the witness stand in his own case and confessed to lying about his alibi on the night of the murders.

For the past 20 months, the 54-year-old has denied ever being at the dog kennels with his wife and son on the night of 7 June 2021.

In a bombshell moment, he admitted to lying saying he was “paranoid” in part because of a distrust of SLED and because he was encouraged by his lawyer friends not to speak without an attorney present.

But, during a dramatic cross-examination, prosecutor Creighton Waters appeared to catch him in another lie.

He revealed evidence that Mr Murdaugh had lied about his alibi from the moment that the first officer arrived on the scene, appearing to pour cold water on the reason the accused killer gave for lying.

Prosecutors claim Mr Murdaugh killed his wife and son to distract from his string of alleged financial crimes – at a time when his multi-million-dollar fraud scheme was on the brink of being exposed.

Jurors heard four weeks of dramatic testimony from the prosecution, covering a trove of circumstantial evidence, including cellphone and car data and numerous apparent holes in his alibi for the time for themurders.

Meanwhile, the defence is seeking to present the alleged killer and financial fraudster as a loving family man who would never have murdered his wife and son. Defence experts have testified about mistakes in the preservation of crime scene evidence and claimed Maggie’s shooter was 5’2” tall – not 6’4” like Mr Murdaugh.

Beyond the murders, the brutal double murders brought to light a series of scandals surrounding Mr Murdaugh including unexplained deaths, a multi-million-dollar fraud scheme and a botched hitman plot.

Published by anthonyhayble


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