Feb. 1: Alex Murdaugh double murder trial continues with cell phone forensics expert (2023)

The trial against Alex Murdaugh, the ginger-haired scion of a powerful legal family, began Jan. 23 in Colleton County. He’s charged with double murder in the June 2021 slayings of his wife and youngest son.

@postandcourier Did Alex Murdaugh accidentally confess to brutally murdering his son Paul, or did a state investigator misunderstand the prominent Hampton attorney’s words? Reporter Avery Wilks breaks down what happened in the double murder trial yesterday and shares what testimony we will see today. #alexmurdaugh #murdaugh #alexmurdaughtrial #murdaughfamily ♬ original sound - The Post and Courier

The Post and Courier has three reporters covering the criminal trial from the Walterboro courthouse. Frequent updates from testimony and court proceedings will be posted here throughout the day, with the latest information appearing at the top.

Read more about the Murdaugh saga, including our in-depth profiles and past trial coverage.

6:01 p.m. update:

Griffin cross-examined Loving. He testified Paul could be careless with weapons, and he once left the black .300 Blackout rifle at Loving'shouse in Columbia.

Loving described Alex and Paul's relationship as "awesome." He said the same of Alex and Maggie's.

The last time Loving saw Paul was about a week before the murders. They spent Memorial Day weekend together along with Alex, Maggie and other friends celebrating Alex's birthday.

Griffin played a short video in which someone could be seen carrying a cake to Alex, who says, "Thank y'all so much."

Inside the courtroom, Alex bent his head and cried.

Waters asked Loving a few additional questions. The murders of Maggie and Paul were a shock to everyone, Loving testified. Everyone became worried about the family, and everything else stopped in its tracks, he said.

Waters played the Snapchat video Loving received from Paul about 7 p.m. the day of the murders. Loving smiled in the courtroom as he watched the short clip in which laughter can be heard.

Waters paused it on Alex and asked Loving about what the man was wearing: long pants and a shirt.

The prosecutor ended his questions by asking Loving whether he knew anything about the state of Alex's finances. Did Loving know, for instance, Alex was confronted the morning of the murders about $792,000 of missing fees from his law firm?

"No I did not," Loving said.

Newman dismissed the jurors until 9:30 a.m. Feb. 2.

5:27 p.m. update:

Loving said he spoke with Paul a few times the day of the murders. He received a Snapchat video from Paul showing him and Alex at Moselle, looking at trees they'd planted.

Loving woke up to several missed calls around midnight June 7, 2021, including from Paul's cousin, who told Loving about the murders. Loving drove first to his parent's house, then to some friends in Charleston, he said.

Loving went to Moselle a couple days after the murders and spoke with Alex, he said.

"We mostly just grieved," Loving said.

Waters brought up the 2019 fatal boat crash. In addition to the criminal charges brought against Paul, a civil lawsuit connected with the crash named Alex, Buster, Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.

Loving testified he and Paul didn't talk about the crash much: "I didn’t want to bring up something like that," he said.

Loving knew the family had ultimately put their house in Hampton up for sale. He heard "through the grapevine" the Murdaughs were selling it to help pay for "some of the lawsuits they were under," Loving testified.

Waters then played Loving the video Paul took of Gibson's dog Cash the night of the murders, asking whose voices Loving recognized.

The man testified he's "100 percent sure" he can hear Alex, Maggie and Paul's voices in the video.

5:08 p.m. update:

Waters called the state's next witness. Will Loving, 26, said he met Paul 11 years ago in Edisto. Loving and Paul, who was a couple years younger, got "pretty close" when Loving was 21 and Paul was 19, he said.

The two would fish or hunt at Moselle and go boating in Edisto, Loving said. They lived together in Columbia before the murders.

Loving said he and Paul would use a black .300 Blackout rifle belonging to the Murdaughs to hunt hogs at Moselle. Loving knew the family had two Blackout rifles, one black and one beige, he said. The beige weapon, which didn't have a scope, mostly stayed in the gun room at the property's main house, Loving testified.

(Video) Phone forensic expert returns to the stand in Alex Murdaugh trial

The man also said he later found out the family had owned a third .300 Blackout rifle, but it had been stolen out of Paul's truck during a party some years ago.

Loving and Paul bought a scope for the beige rifle a few months before the murders, he testified. They took the scope to Moselle at the end of March or early April 2021 and "sighted it in" to the rifle using a stoop just outside the gun room, Loving said.

A SLED agent previously testified he found "weathered" .300 Blackout shells by this stoop the day after the murders.

Loving said he never saw the beige .300 Blackout again after using it that day. Authorities have not recovered this weapon, and they believe Maggie was killed using the same type of rifle.

4:39 p.m. update:

Alex Murdaugh cried a lot in the days after the murders, Gibson testified. He seemed "distraught" and "torn upabout it," the man said.

There are no circumstances in which Gibson could imagine Alex brutally murdering his wife and son, he said.

4:21 p.m. update:

Investigators interviewed Gibson a few more times after the murders, he testified. They asked him about the 8:40 p.m. phone call with Paul. Gibson told them he thought he'd heard Alex, but he couldn't be sure.

Much later, in November 2022, investigators asked Gibson to watch a video filmed on Paul's phone just after their call ended. The man realized it was the video of Cash he never received.

Waters asked whether he recognized the voices of his "second family." Gibson heard Paul, Maggie and Alex's voices, he testified.

"How sure are you now?" Waters asked.

"Positive," Gibson responded.

Griffin then began his cross-examination. He asked Gibson about Paul and Alex's relationship. It was very good, Gibson said. The father and son were close.

Griffin asked the witness whether he knew about the 2019 boat crash which killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach. Paul had been charged with driving the boat while under the influence, and the criminal charge was pending when he died.

Gibson testified he did know about the crash. And he knew some people would "mouth off" to Paul when he went out to bars, Gibson testified, but there were no threats he thought were "real serious."

4:09 p.m. update:

Gibson said he had a ChocolateLabrador Retriever puppy named Cash in June 2021. Gibson kept Cash during the week in the kennels at Moselle, he testified.

Gibson spoke to Paul on the phone at 8:40 p.m. the night of the murders. He could tell Paul was at the kennels because he heard dogs barking in the background, Gibson testified.

Paul was asking Gibson if something was wrong with his dog's tail. Gibson asked Paul to FaceTime him so he could see for himself. Gibson testified he thought he could hear Maggie and Alex's voices in the background of the call.If the FaceTime didn't work because of poor service at the kennels, Paul agreed to text him a video, Gibson said.

After they hung up, Paul tried FaceTiming Gibson. It lasted only 11 seconds.

Paul was on his cellphone "a lot," Gibson testified. And if the two were in a conversation, Paul would usually respond pretty fast.

Gibson didn't get any video from Paul like they'd agreed, he said. Gibson tried calling Paul several times and texting him, but he never got an answer.

Gibson eventually went to sleep. When he woke up around 5 a.m. June 8, 2021, a friend broke the news of Maggie and Paul's deaths, Gibson said. The man arrived at Moselle a few hours later. He spoke with investigators there, telling them about the 8:40 p.m. phone call he'd had with Paul the night before.

Gibson told investigators he was "99 percent sure" he'd heard Alex's voice in the background of the call.

Gibson continued coming to Moselle in the week after the murders, visiting with the Murdaughs' extended family members. He testified about a conversation he had with Maggie's mother. Gibson told her he'd spoken with Paul the night he was killed, and that he'd heard Maggie's voice and a "male voice that I thought was Mr. Alex."

Alex, who was in the room, did not push back, Gibson said. The two never spoke about the night of June 7, 2021, he said.

3:42 p.m. update:

CreightonWaters, the state's lead prosecutor, is questioning his next witness, Rogan Gibson. The Hampton man said he'd known Paul all his life, though they became especially close when Gibson turned 11 or 12 and moved next to the Murdaughs. They became "like a second family" to Gibson, he said.

Gibson said he and Paul enjoyed spending time at Moselle. They liked to fish or hunt hogs, deer, turkeys, dove and quail. They'd frequently take the Murdaughs' .300 Blackout rifle to hunt hogs at night, Gibson said.

The man testified he heard one of the family's two Blackout rifles had been stolen at some point. Someone had stolen it out of Paul's truck at a party, Gibson said.

After that weapon went missing, the men would use Buster's Blackout rifle. Gibson said he wasn't sure whether a replacement was ever bought for the stolen gun. Paul would often carry in his car the Blackout rifle along with a camouflage-patterned Super Black Eagle 12-gauge shotgun, Gibson said. They were his friend's two favorite guns.

(Video) Forensic expert, sergeant testify at Alex Murdaugh murder trial | Day 6

3:18 p.m. update:

Varnadoe marked in his paperwork that Murdaugh's hands were free of blood and debris, he testified. The man's hands were clean, Varnadoe said.

The sergeant said he remembered Murdaugh waswearing a white t-shirt that also appeared clean.

Defense attorney Jim Griffin is cross-examining the sergeant. Murdaugh consented to the gunshot residue test and cooperated with investigators the night of the murders, Varnadoe said.

Murdaugh was cordial and respectful that night, though "shook up," the sergeant testified.

The gunshot residue kit was taken back to SLED's lab for testing, Varnadoe said. He does not know its results.

3:01 p.m. update:

Jurors are seated after their lunch break. Prosecutor John Meadors called the state's next witness, Sgt. Dathan Varnadoe with the Colleton County Sheriff's Office.

Varnadoe responded to Moselle after the homicides were reported. He entered through the driveway by the dog kennels— not the property's main entrance, marked by columns, Varnadoe testified.

The sergeant performed a gunshot residue test on Murdaughs' hands, he said. The two men recognized one another, he said, because Varnadoe had testified as an expert witness in one of Murdaugh's cases a couple years prior.

Murdaugh, then a part-time prosecutor for the 14th Circuit, had asked Varnadoe to testify about gang lingo. The sergeant clarified the phrase, "Get the whistle," means to "get a firearm," he said.

Meadors is having Varnadoe act out a gunshot residue test to show jurors how close Varnadoe was standing to Murdaugh.

1:36 p.m. update:

Alex and Maggie's phones neverrecorded simultaneous movement, Dove testified.

Records show Maggie's phone recorded 59 steps between 8:53 p.m. and 8:55 p.m. This is the last time her phone recorded any steps being taken, Dove said.

Feb. 1: Alex Murdaugh double murder trial continues with cell phone forensics expert (1)

Her phone recorded an orientation changeto portrait at 9:06:12 p.m., as if someone was lifting it, Dove previously testified. It switched back to landscape at 9:06:20 p.m.— the final orientation change.

Her phone display was off between 9:07 p.m. and 9:31 p.m. despite receiving a text from Alex at 9:08 p.m., Dove said.

Records show Alex's phone recorded 283 steps between 9:02:18 p.m. and 9:06:47 p.m. Barber entered as evidence an FBI report examining Alex's car data, which shows its engine came on 1 second later, at 9:06:48 p.m.

"It appears (Alex and Maggie's) phones were not together being moved by the same person," Dove testified.

Feb. 1: Alex Murdaugh double murder trial continues with cell phone forensics expert (2)

Barber asked Dove when Maggie's phone might've been thrown to the side of the road where it was found June 8, 2021. Dove couldn't say for certain.

Barber also asked Dove about location data from Maggie's phone. The lieutenant said he couldn't do a full download of it until June 16, 2021, and by that time the phone had deleted its location data through June 9— two days after the murders.

Feb. 1: Alex Murdaugh double murder trial continues with cell phone forensics expert (3)

(Video) Alex Murdaugh Murder Trial Day 8 Live | Cell Phone Evidence | Morning | Lawyer Reacts

During his redirect, Conrad asked Dove what would've happened if Maggie's phone was tossed after 9:07 p.m., when its display shut off. The phone wouldn't have recorded an orientation change, he said.

Conrad also asked Dove to highlight for jurors a text Maggie sent to someone earlier the day of June 7.

"Alex wants me to come home," it reads.

Both the defense and prosecution teams have finished questioning Dove. Jurors are on a lunch break until about 2:30 p.m.

12:28 p.m. update:

Defense attorney Phillip Barber is cross-examining Dove. He asked whether the lieutenant was aware Maggie's phone was found on the side of Moselle Road about 15 feet into the woods. Dove said he wasn't.

Barber went over a few text messages sent between Alex and Maggie Murdaugh earlier the day of the murders. Alex asked about her doctor's appointment, and to call him after she'd gotten a pedicure, Dove said.

Barber then brought out an easel to map out a detailed timeline of Maggie's phone data between 8:50 p.m. and 9:08 p.m. the night of the murders. He is writing down timestamps on the easel in front of jurors.

12:03 p.m. update:

Conrad ended his questioning of Dove by asking him a few general questions.

The lieutenant testified it's possible for a phone to have moved a short distance, like its user taking a few steps, without it recording the data. He also said aphone could be thrown a short distance without it recording an orientation change.

Dove also reviewed photos and videos from Alex, Maggie and Paul's cellphones, he said. The lieutenant found data relevant to the night of the murders only from Paul's phone, he said — the roughly 50-second video recorded on its camera around 8:45 p.m.

Conrad plays the video for jurors. Dove testifies three voices can be heard, though he can't identify them. The video appears to be captured inside a kenneled area with a fence around it, and the user is trying to film a dog's tail, Dove said.

Prosecutors have previously said the three voices belong to Alex, Paul and Maggie, placing all three at the crime scene mere minutes before Paul and Maggie's phones lock for the final time.

Inside the courthouse, Alex Murdaugh began to cry as the video played.

11:51 a.m. update:

Dove is explaining to jurors a detailed timeline he made of Paul's phone including precise location data between 6 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. June 7, 2021. The timeline actually stops at 10:34 p.m. when Paul's phone dies, Dove said.

The phone's camera was used in an application from 8:44:49 p.m. until 8:45:47 p.m. near a red-roofed building at Moselle, Dove said.

The lieutenant then went over the number of steps Paul's phone recorded that evening:

  • At least 712 steps taken between 6:54 p.m. and 8:05 p.m.
  • At least 423 steps taken between 8:05 p.m. and 8:42 p.m.

Feb. 1: Alex Murdaugh double murder trial continues with cell phone forensics expert (4)

11:03 a.m. update:

Dove is now testifying about his examination of Paul's cellphone, starting with the 22-year-old's call history the night of the murders.

Paul rejected a call from someone at 8:32 p.m. He called Gibson at 8:40 p.m., which lasted just over 4 minutes, Dove said. He FaceTimed Gibson at 8:44 p.m. for 11 seconds.

Dove then went over Paul's text history. A friend messaged him twice at 8:48:39 p.m. talking about movies. Paul read those messages within 30 seconds of receiving them, at 8:48:59 p.m.

Gibson sent Paul a text 36 seconds later, at 8:49:35 p.m., but Paul never read it, Dove testified.

(Video) Alex Murdaugh trial courtroom updates: February 1

Feb. 1: Alex Murdaugh double murder trial continues with cell phone forensics expert (5)

10:46 a.m. update:

Dove then went through Murdaugh's text history the day of the murders. Murdaugh was in the same group message as his wife and extended family members in which they discussed his father, who'd recently been admitted to a hospital.

Feb. 1: Alex Murdaugh double murder trial continues with cell phone forensics expert (6)

Murdaugh's brother and sister sent messages to the group at 8:31 p.m. June 7, 2021, but Murdaugh didn't read them until 1:44 p.m. the next day, Dove said.

He sent two texts to Maggie at 9:08 p.m. and 9:47 p.m. June 7, both of which went unanswered. Murdaugh also texted Rogan Gibson, a family friend, at 10:24 p.m. to "call me."

In his review of Murdaugh's texting habits over the two months Dove examined, the lieutenant said Murdaugh would generally read his texts within an hour of them being sent.

Dove went over the number of steps Murdaugh's phone recorded the evening of the murders, stressing these were estimations:

  • 562 steps between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
  • 441 steps between 7 p.m. and 7:48 p.m.
  • 344 steps between 7:55 p.m. and 8:09 p.m.
  • 283 steps between 9:02 p.m. and 9:06 p.m.

Dove wasn't able to glean more detailed data from Murdaugh's phone the day of the murders, such as orientation changes, because he didn't examine the device until September 2021.

Feb. 1: Alex Murdaugh double murder trial continues with cell phone forensics expert (7)

10:25 a.m. update:

Dove is testifying about Murdaugh's call history between May 1, 2021, and June 30, 2021. The lieutenant noted a review was done on Murdaugh's phone prior to his examination. "Several communications" were removed from the phone that could violate attorney-client privilege shared between Murdaugh and his former legal clients, Dove said.

Feb. 1: Alex Murdaugh double murder trial continues with cell phone forensics expert (8)

Conrad asks Dove to read out four entries in Murdaugh's call log. Records show Murdaugh makes a FaceTime call at 5:25 p.m. May 30, 2021. He makes two more FaceTime calls on June 4, 2021, and then another at 10:25 p.m. the night of the murders, Dove said.

Dove testified Jan. 31 that Murdaugh had called his wife five times between 9:04 p.m. and 10:03 p.m.— entries which were missing in Murdaugh's call history.

"A gap like that would indicate that (the calls were) actually removed from there," Dove said.

9:44 a.m. update:

Jurors are seated and listening to testimony fromLt. Britt Dove with SLED’s computer crimes center. Judge Clifton Newman qualified Dove on Jan. 31 as an expert in cellphone forensics.

State prosecutor John Conrad is questioning Dove about his analysis of Alex Murdaugh's cellphone.

Call Jocelyn Grzeszczak at 843-323-9175. Follow her on Twitter at @jocgrz.

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