Alex Murdaugh's sister-in-law recalls strange conversations with defendant following murders
Walterboro, S.C.- It was just a normal day for Marian Proctor when she got a call from her sister Maggie Murdaugh during the late afternoon of June 7, 2021. The two frequently spoke by phone.
Maggie was enjoying her beach home in Edisto and hadn’t planned to see her husband that night. But Alex Murdaugh’s father was dying and Proctor encouraged her sister to support him.
“Go be with him if he needs you,” Proctor advised.
That was the last time Proctor spoke with her sister.
Maggie and her son, Paul, were shot to death just hours later, on the family’s rural property in Hampton County. Alex Murdaugh told police he’d found the bodies of his loved ones after returning from his parents’ house in Almeda.
Proctor was surprised to hear her sister hadn’t been with him.
“That’s the whole reason she went home that night,” said Proctor.
The revelation was one of many Proctor shared with jurors Thursday in the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh, the disgraced attorney charged with shooting Maggie and Paul to death with two different weapons: a rifle and a shotgun.
In the days following the killings, Proctor said she and her family were scared. A killer was on the run. But Alex Murdaugh didn’t seem to be afraid. She asked if he had any idea who might be responsible.
“He said he did not know who it was but felt like whoever did it had thought about it for a really long time,” Proctor testified.
“Did that strike you as odd,” asked lead prosecutor Creighton Waters.
“I just didn’t know what that meant.”
There had been speculation the murders might be in retaliation for an alcohol related, fatal boating crash in 2019 in which Paul had been charged. Murdaugh was being sued and was supposed to have a hearing three days after the murders. The hearing was cancelled.
But Proctor testified that even after the murders, Murdaugh was focused on the case.
“He said his number one goal was clearing Paul’s name,” testified Proctor as her voice cracked.
“And, I thought that was so strange because my number one goal was to find out who killed my sister and Paul.”
During cross examination, defense attorney Jim Griffin’s voice waivered as well.
“Sorry, this is hard for me too,” he told Proctor.
Griffin went on to ask Proctor about the special bond the Murdaugh family shared and pointed out how much the two sisters favored each other in a picture he revealed in court.
It was the first time jurors saw what Maggie looked like and that last time Proctor saw her sister alive. She took the photo of Maggie, Alex and their two sons, Paul and Buster.
When Griffin asked about Murdaugh’s focus on the boat crash, Proctor said she wasn’t being critical of him, perhaps it was his way of honoring Paul. But she found it odd they never talked about finding the killer.
“We were sort of living in fear,” she said. “We thought this horrible person was out there.”
Proctor went on to testify, the family couldn’t figure out a motive behind the murders.
“We thought it probably had something to do with the boat case,” Proctor testified. “We thought that up until September.”
Prosecutor Waters tried to follow up by asking what happened in September to change Proctor’s mind, but the defense quickly objected, and jurors were excused.
Judge Clifton Newman overruled, and jurors eventually heard allegations of drug abuse, embezzlement and a roadside shooting that prompted Proctor to change her mind about a motive for the murders.
How much more jurors hear about the September incident in which Murdaugh says he was shot while trying to change a tire is up to the judge.
Murdaugh’s attorneys have said the 54-year-old was trying to stage his own death so his surviving son could collect millions in insurance money. The prosecution has argued the now disbarred attorney was creating a situation to deflect from a confrontation earlier in the day regarding stolen money.
“And you heard Mrs. Proctor testify it had the effect of ‘oh my gosh, the real killers are back’,” said Waters.
Judge Newman is expected to hear more arguments and decide the issue Wednesday morning.