Alex Murdaugh texted his secretary from rehab begging for forgiveness after he was fired for stealing millions from his legal firm, his double-murder trial heard today.
‘The worst part is, I did the most damage to the ones I love the most,’ the alleged killer wrote to Annette Griswold while he was in rehab for a crippling opioid addiction four months after his wife and son were murdered.
‘The better I get the more guilt I have,’ Murdaugh said in the groveling message.
The disgraced attorney, 54, is accused of killing his wife Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22, on June 7, 2021, in a bid to gain sympathy and distract from the ‘gathering storm’ of his financial crimes.
Griswold said in the weeks before their deaths he was ‘cagey’ in the office, yelled at staff and that a pending lawsuit over a fatal boat crash in which his drunken son had been driving was ‘consuming his life.’
At the time of Maggie and Paul’s deaths, Murdaugh and his son were facing a civil suit over the boat wreck that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach in February, 2019.
Murdaugh wrote a groveling message to his secretary, Annette Griswold, while he was in rehab for a crippling opioid addiction four months after his wife and son were murdered. ‘The worst part is, I did the most damage to the ones I love the most,’ he said
Alex Murdaugh with his wife Maggie and son Paul
At the time of Maggie and Paul’s deaths , Murdaugh and his son were facing a civil suit over the boat wreck that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach in February, 2019. Murdaugh told cops Paul and Maggie had been killed in revenge for the accident
The court heard yesterday from the chief financial officer at his firm, Jeanne Seckinger, who testified that Murdaugh was stealing money from the firm and putting it in Maggie’s account ‘because of the boat case.’
Prosecutors say that Murdaugh killed Maggie, 52, and Paul, 22, because he was ‘out of time and out of options’ and that he had racked up millions in debt.
Griswold told jurors: ‘You could tell the boat crash was weighing heavily on him. It was consuming his life, almost.’
She referred to him as having his ‘ass on his shoulders’ and said he ‘just wasn’t himself with us anymore’.
TIMELINE: NIGHT OF THE KILLINGS
Alex Murdaugh, 54, is accused of shooting his wife, Maggie, 52, and younger son Paul, 22, at the family’s hunting estate in Islandton, South Carolina, on the night of June 7, 2021.
Here are the key events in the timeline laid out by prosecutors:
At 7.56pm, Paul sent a Snapchat video to friends showing the 22-year-old riding around the estate with his father.
At 8.15pm, Murdaugh’s wife Maggie arrived home and the trio ate dinner together. Autopsies showed similar stomach contents in Maggie and Paul.
About 8.30pm, Paul’s phone starts moving towards the kennels.
Then at 8.44pm, a second video taken by Paul at the kennels – soon to become a murder scene – allegedly proves that Maggie, Paul and Alex were together.
At 8.49pm the prosecution say Paul’s phone locked and went silent forever, never to send another text or make another call.
Between 9pm and 9.30pm, Paul and Maggie were killed – according to the coroner.
At 9.06pm, Murdaugh’s car is fired up.
The alleged killer said he went to go visit his mother, who is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, in Almeda – around a 15-minute drive.
At 10.07pm, Murdaugh called 911 claiming he had arrived home a to find his wife and son shot dead.
She told the court: ‘I cared about him. I respected him. I loved him … It was hard to work for him sometimes. He was a bit erratic. Yeah, for all the respect and love I had for him, it was still very difficult to work for him.’
She read part of a text she received from the legal heir while he was in rehab, on September 26, 2021.
Murdaugh wrote: ‘I have been worried about yall and am sorry I didn’t get to tell yall myself. I know both of u have been hurt badly by me. I know it sounds hollow but I am truly sorry. The better I get the more guilt I have.
‘I have an awful lot to try to make right when I get out of here. The worst part is knowing I did the most damage to those I love the most.
‘I’m not real sure how I left myself get where I did. I am committed to getting better and hope to mend as many relationships as I can. You both are special people and important me.
‘Please know how sorry I am to have made you a a part of my misdeeds. I hope yall are doing as well as possible. I love u very much.’
Griswold gave evidence about a fake Forge Consulting account, which Murdaugh set up to embezzle funds from his firm and siphon into his personal bank accounts.
Jurors heard yesterday that on the day of the murders, Murdaugh was confronted over $792,000 that he had stolen from the firm, Peters Murdaugh Parker Eltzroth and Detrick (PMPED).
He had allegedly moved that money into Maggie’s account to shield it from the upcoming lawsuit over the boat wreck.
It would later be discovered that he had stolen millions, dating back to 2011. It cost the law firm more than $5million to reimburse clients.
Griswold said she had encountered checks to the fake Forge account which concerned her because they were not the correct way for attorneys to receive money owed to the firm for cases.
She was attempting to track down $792,000 that had gone missing from a recent case Murdaugh was working on when she learned that Maggie and Paul had been killed.
Her endeavors were halted as everyone at PMPED rallied around Murdaugh and she went into ‘mama bear mode’ to protect and look after her boss.
Alex Murdaugh walks into the courthouse before his double murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, on Wednesday
Prosecutor Creighton Waters questions Annette Griswold, Alex Murdaugh’s former paralegal, during Murdaugh’s double murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse on Wednesday
Alex Murdaugh with his son Paul and wife Maggie. The pair were 22 and 52-years-old when the prosecution say the disgraced attorney shot them dead at the Moselle estate on June 7, 2021
But in September she found a check linked to the case which proved Murdaugh had been stealing from the firm. He was fired the following day.
The paralegal was asked to explain how she uncovered his thefts from the firm.
Griswold told the court that Murdaugh would write out checks to the fake Forge account while she was out of the office, usually late on a Friday when not many people were around, and have another paralegal who was unfamiliar with the cases handle the payments.
Waters asked: ‘Was the defendant using the opportunity of you being out of the office to push these things through?’
Griswold said: ‘Yes.’
She told jurors of one instance where Murdaugh had forged a signature to steal $125,000 that was owed to a client.
In the spring of 2021, Griswold learned that that the $792,000 from the so-called Faris case (Faris vs Macks Trucks) that Murdaugh had worked on had not been paid to PMPED.
The court has previously heard that money lawyers made on cases always went to the firm and that if they went to the partners personally this would be ‘stealing’.
Griswold said: ‘I assumed they gave Alex the checks and he’s lost them. They’re misplaced. They’re somewhere in his truck. They’re in a file folder.’
But when she asked Murdaugh about the money, he said he never got the checks.
The defense theory is that somebody else killed Murdaugh’s wife and son in revenge for a boat crash (the Murdaugh boat Sea Hunt is pictured) during which Paul had been driving under the influence, killing a 19-year-old woman, in February 2019
Bottles and cans of beer found aboard the boat which Paul Murdaugh was driving under the influence
The paralegal then went to her boss and the firm of Chris Wilson, a close friend of Murdaugh’s and colleague with whom he worked on the Faris case, to try and work out where the missing $792,000 had gone.
Griswold told PMPED chief financial officer Jeanne Seckinger who ‘was instantly on high alert because it didn’t look good.’
They both hoped it was some sort of misunderstanding but suspected that ‘something is wrong.’
Seckinger told the court yesterday she confronted Murdaugh over the missing funds on June 7, 2021, hours before Maggie and Paul were shot dead.
As a result of the murders, Murdaugh’s colleagues stopped asking about the money.
Recounting how she learned of the killings, Griswold said Murdaugh’s brother Randy, another partner at PMPED, texted her to call her when she could.
‘It’s bad, Annette. It’s real bad,’ Randy told her and informed her that Maggie and Paul had been murdered.
Griswold said that she was scared for Alex, Randy and the legal scion’s surviving son Buster, saying that she and her colleagues ‘were in complete mama bear mode.’
Randy Murdaugh, Alex’s brother, is seen in court Tuesday. Seckinger said that after a meeting of the senior partners on September 3, 2021, Randy confronted Alex over the thefts to demand his resignation
Evidence is brought to witness Jeanne Seckinger for financial crimes during Alex Murdaugh’s double murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse on Tuesday
‘We didn’t want them to have to go out and have to talk to reporters, we didn’t want them to have to run out and run into anybody. We were scare for them,’ she said.
‘We were very protective, anything suspicious out the window we were on high alert.’
She said the Faris fees were ‘the furthest thing from her mind’.
It was not until September, when was searching through Murdaugh’s office for files, that those missing funds came crashing back into her life.
The paralegal said that as she was looking around on his desk ‘a check from it floated like a feather to the ground.’
It was a check from March from the Faris case.
‘He’s been lying this whole time. He had these funds. He lied to me. That feeling in the back of my mind was correct. He did take these funds,’ she testified.
She said she brought it to Seckinger and Murdaugh was fired the next day, September 3.