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A salacious murder trial is underway in South Carolina

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A murder trial in South Carolina is now underway. A fourth-generation prosecutor is accused of killing his wife and son. The story of Alex Murdaugh inspired numerous documentaries and podcasts. Here's South Carolina Public Radio's Victoria Hansen.

VICTORIA HANSEN, BYLINE: Alex Murdaugh called 911 breathless and sobbing, saying he'd found the bodies of his loved ones on the family's rural property in 2021. But prosecutor Creighton Waters says Murdaugh killed them, using a shotgun on his 22-year-old son and a rifle on his wife.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CREIGHTON WATERS: Pow, pow - two shots, abdomen and the leg, and took her down. And after that, there were additional shots.

HANSEN: Waters says shell casings found around Maggie's body match those of a rifle Murdaugh once owned but can no longer be found. And he says cell phone video puts the 54-year-old at the crime scene, despite his claims otherwise. As for a motive, Waters says Murdaugh planned the murders to gain sympathy and distract from a decades-long financial embezzlement crime spree that was about to be exposed.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WATERS: Listen to that gathering storm that all came to a head on June 7, 2021, the day the evidence will show he killed Maggie and Paul.

HANSEN: But defense attorney Dick Harpootlian says there's no motive, no evidence, no bloody clothing, fingerprints, murder weapons, and...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DICK HARPOOTLIAN: Was there enough time to kill Paul and then find the AR and then ambush Maggie?

HANSEN: Harpootlian says he has video, too, showing Murdaugh and his son spending time together about an hour before the murders.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARPOOTLIAN: That he executes him in a brutal fashion - not believable.

HANSEN: The lead-up to this trial has captivated people here and around the world. Now jurors will hear testimony to determine what they believe happened on that June night.

For NPR News, I'm Victoria Hansen in Walterboro, S.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Victoria Hansen is our Lowcountry connection covering the Charleston community, a city she knows well. She grew up in newspaper newsrooms and has worked as a broadcast journalist for more than 20 years. Her first reporting job brought her to Charleston where she covered local and national stories like the Susan Smith murder trial and the arrival of the Citadel’s first female cadet.