COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Members of the jury in Alex Murdaugh’s double murder trial visited the family’s property – known as Moselle – where Margaret and Paul were killed the night of June 7, 2021.
The idea for the jury to visit the crime scene came at the suggestion of defense attorney Dick Harpootlian this week, who requested that Judge Clifton Newman ask jurors if they wanted to visit the property. Judge Newman went ahead to schedule the visit at the defense’s request.
The visit comes after final witnesses were called on Tuesday.
12 jurors and 2 alternates met at the Colleton County Courthouse on Wednesday morning where they were loaded into several transport vans and sent on their way to Moselle, according to pool reports. Judge Clifton Newman rode separately in a pick-up truck that was driven by Colleton County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jason Chapman.
Capt. Chapman was the lead local officer that responded on the night of the killings. He was on the witness stand during the first full day of testimony where he talked about Alex Murdaugh’s demeanor and the challenges of securing the scene on a rainy night.
Based on the pool account of the trip, members of the jury were taken through the kennel entrance at the property and were given a total of 30 minutes to view the crime scene. While they were expected to spend much of their time at the kennels and the shed where Margaret and Paul were killed, they also viewed the exterior of the main house – jurors did not go inside.
Media pool was staged on Moselle Road while jurors toured the property. Deputies with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office kept guard of the entrance. Pool members were allowed onto the property after the jury moved along but only for a short period.
Wall Street Journal reporter Valerie Bauerlein, who was chosen as part of the pool to report on the trip, described the remoteness of the Moselle property in terms of how large Colleton County is. “Your pool can go a mile or more without seeing a home,” she wrote.
Jurors walked a narrow path between the kennels and the shed as they viewed the property. “One juror was standing in the feed room door, glancing up at the doorway that has been the subject of so much wrenching testimony,” wrote Bauerlein.
Judge Newman was with the jury – she described him as standing still and looking down while wearing street clothes.
Attorney Dick Harpootlian and co-counsel Margaret Fox also visited the site along with Attorney General Alan Wilson.
“The birdsong is constant and beautiful; the sky is still overcast,” Bauerlein noted of the atmosphere. “The grass on the property is tall and the shrubs outside the caretaker’s cabin are bushy and overgrown.”
A mailbox at the entrance to the kennels was covered in pollen and spiderwebs, and a “no trespassing” sign was tied to a post above the mailbox.
Harpootlian previously said that people were trespassing on the Moselle property taking selfies in front of the feed room and asked for security for the jury during their viewing. He said that Alex’s brother, John Marvin Murdaugh, who has been maintaining the property, called the sheriff’s office to remove some people from the location.
Bauerlein said the property was a “heavy place to visit,” and noted the feed room felt haunted.
“The property has stood vacant for 20 months and the grass is high,” Bauerlein included in her pool report. “Some items seem to be left where they fell, including a deflated football behind the kennels and a tube of sanitizing wipes in the shed. There is a yellow hose wrapped haphazardly in the spot described by Roger Dale Davis, the caretaker for the dogs. There are no animals in the kennels.”
Bauerlein explained that the concrete pad where Paul fell was within sight of the corner of the shed – that’s where Margaret’s body was found, approximately 12 steps from where Paul would have fallen, she noted.
“There was no visible sign that two people had died in a violent manner in such close proximity, no blood stain or anything similar to it, either in the feed room, on the concrete pad, or at the corner of the shed,” Bauerlein reported back in her pool notes.
She explained the interior of the feed room appeared to be refurbished with new plywood and said that some parts had been painted. “The back window remains, and the bullet holes are large and cracked around the edges,” she said.
“There was significant testimony about the bullet hole in the quail house. The hole is still visible and is in cardboard that appeared to be stapled to the side of the structure,” Bauerlein continued.
Jurors returned to the Colleton County Courthouse just before 11:30 a.m.
Alex Murdaugh arrived at the courthouse shortly after 11:40 a.m., in time for closing arguments in the double murder trial to begin.