Murdaugh trial recap: Witness testimony breaks down phone data from night of murders

Six witnesses took the stand Tuesday as both side continued to focus on evidence in Alex Murdaugh's murder trial
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 12:26 AM EST
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WALTERBORO, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Six witnesses testified Tuesday as both sides focused on phone data from the night of the shootings and what Alex Murdaugh said during an interview with SLED shortly after the incident.


The court began at 9:30 a.m., and SLED senior special agent Jeff Croft returned to the stand for cross-examination.

Jim Griffin from the defense began the day questioning Croft, asking him if he could confirm that none of the guns admitted as evidence yesterday fired the shots that killed Paul. Croft replied that he did not believe so but would need to see the reports.

Griffin continued asking Croft, “Have you ever found the murder weapon?” Croft admitted that as far as he knows, they have not found the murder weapon that killed Paul.

Griffin later asked Croft about Murdaugh’s compliance with the investigation, and Croft explained that they got his consent every time SLED searched the Moselle Property. “You don’t need a search warrant if there’s consent,” Griffin added.

Griffin then returned to the interview Croft conducted with Murdaugh on June 10, 2021, which was played in the courtroom Monday. In the interview, Murdaugh is heard describing Paul’s death, but there is some confusion over what he said. Some believe Murdaugh said, “They did him so bad,” while others think he said, “I did him so bad.”

SLED senior special agent Jeff Croft testifies under cross-examination that he is 100% certain he heard Alex Murdaugh say, "I did him so bad," in an interview.

Griffin asked Croft about the confusion, and Croft said he is 100% confident that he heard Alex Murdaugh say, “I did him so bad.” He added that he made a mental note of it at the time.

Next, everyone shifted their focus to phone data from the night of the murders. Croft said Maggie’s phone was not put in a Faraday bag when SLED collected it. A Faraday bag is RF-shielded to protect the phone from “access to evidential data held on devices awaiting investigation.” The state asked if Maggie’s phone was on airplane mode, and Croft confirmed it was.


The second person to take the stand Tuesday was Michael Anthony Knecht, a records custodian with Verizon Wireless. Knecht’s time in court was short, but he testified that Maggie Murdaugh placed her last outgoing call on June 7, 2021, at 7:50 p.m.


Paul McManigal with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office was the next person to testify. McManigal is a digital forensic examiner who also works for the Secret Service.

McManigal said he was given the data taken from Alex Murdaugh’s phone and was asked to redact information that the Solicitor’s office determined was privileged. He added that the call logs from Murdaugh’s phone weren’t redacted.

According to McManigal, he tried to unlock Paul’s phone and another iPhone 11 that SLED brought him. However, he was unable to get into either.


The Fourth person to appear as a witness was Jonathan VanHouten, a civilian employee with U.S. Secret Service. VanHouten testified that he used software to attempt a “brute force” open of Paul Murdaugh’s phone. According to VanHouten, this process worked, and he was able to extract data from the phone.

Following VanHouten’s testimony, the court took a break for lunch.


The court resumed at 2:15 p.m., and Lt. John Bedingfield with the Department of Natural Resources took the stand to testify.

The court resumed at 2:15 p.m., and Lt. John Bedingfield with the Department of Natural Resources took the stand to testify.

Bedingfield, who owns a firearms side business, said he was commissioned by Murdaugh around Christmas in 2016 to make .300 Blackout rifles for Buster and Paul. According to Bedingfield, Murdaugh reportedly wanted his sons to have them for hog hunting.

Bedingfield testified that he made a third .300 Blackout rifle in April 2018 after Murdaugh said Paul had lost or misplaced the first one.

After the murders, Bedingfield said he got a call from Croft asking for the paperwork that went with the rifles he made for Murdaugh. However, Bedingfield admitted that he couldn’t find the form they filled out for the third rifle.

During his testimony, Bedingfield mentioned that he and Murdaugh’s grandmothers were sisters.


The final witness to testify Tuesday was Britt Dove, who works with SLED’s computer crimes center.

Dove said SLED agents are supposed to put a phone in “airplane” mode and remove the SIM card before being collected for evidence.

Following a short break, the State began asking Dove about the calls and texts Maggie recieved on the night of the murders.

Dove testified that the call log on Maggie’s phone showed that she missed five calls from Murdaugh and two from John Marvin that night. He added that he believes the last call she made was to someone named Barbara at 7:50 p.m.

The phone records also show that she got a few texts in a group message and the last one marked as “read” arrived at 8:49 p.m. According to Dove, Maggie recieved a text from Paul’s friend Rogan at 9:34 p.m., but it was never read.

Dove stated the last orientation change on Maggie’s phone was at 9:06:12 p.m. He explained that an orientation change is generally caused by human interaction. Two seconds after this interaciton, Maggie’s phone recieved a call from Murdaugh.

Shortly after Dove wrapped up his testimony, the court adjourned for the night. The court is expected to resume at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.