'Fidgety' Alex Murdaugh Brought Tarp to His Mother's House on Night of Family Killings: Witness

A caregiver of Murdaugh's elderly mother testified that he spent "15 to 20" minutes at his parents' house on June 7, 2021

January 18, 2023: Alex Murdaugh sits in the Colleton County Courthouse with his legal team including Dick Harpootlian, middle, and Jim Griffin, right, as his attorneys discuss motions in front of Judge Clifton Newman in a December hearing.
Alex Murdaugh . Photo: Tracy Glantz/The State via ZUMA

Fighting back tears, Mushelle "Shelley" Smith took the stand on Monday in the murder trial of Alex Murdaugh, the once-prominent South Carolina attorney accused of fatally shooting his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul.

On the night of June 7, 2021, Smith was working as a caregiver for Murdaugh's elderly mother. Smith testified that a "fidgety" Murdaugh showed up at the house that night for a brief visit. Under his arm, she testified, he was carrying a blue tarp.

Smith testified that Alex Murdaugh remained at the house for approximately 15-20 minutes — but that later, Murdaugh would insist that he had stayed "30 or 40 minutes." She said during a subsequent conversation, the former lawyer allegedly tried to clarify the timeline with her, insisting that he had stayed longer than she remembered.

Then, she claimed, he offered to help her with her wedding expenses — even though they had never discussed her personal life before.

The timeline is important to both the prosecution and the defense. Authorities say that Murdaugh visited his mother to create an alibi for his whereabouts when Maggie and Paul were murdered. If he remained at his mother's home for 15-20 minutes, prosecutors say he would have had the time to commit the crime.

But the defense insists that Murdaugh spent more than a half hour at his mother's house, which makes the state's theory more unlikely.

Smith testified that Murdaugh told her that she should say "it was 30-40 minutes if someone asked."

While Smith testified, Murdaugh stared at her, never looking away. At some points, he shook his head as if to indicate disagreement with her testimony.

Smith also recalled that Murdaugh arrived wearing shorts, a T-shirt, and cloth shoes. She saw no blood or dirt on him. He talked to his mother and even sat on her bed to watch part of a game show.

During cross-examination, a visibly-nervous Smith wiped away tears as the defense attempted to contradict her recollections.

murdaugh family
Maggie, Paul and Alex Murdaugh.

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.

Prosecutors say that Alex Murdaugh shot and killed his wife and son at approximately 8:49 p.m. that night. Then, they say, he called his wife's phone after her death in an effort to create an alibi.

But the defense says that the prosecution's timeline is incorrect, and that Paul and Maggie were killed sometime after Alex Murdaugh had left the scene.

Murdaugh claims he left his house at approximately 9 p.m. to visit his ailing mother. When he arrived back at the home around 10 p.m., he called 911 and told the dispatcher that he had found his wife and son's bodies.

murdaugh family
The Murdaugh Family.

Paul was shot in the chest and head with a shotgun at close range. Maggie was shot multiple times, including one shot in the back and additional shots while she was lying on the ground. She had been shot with 300 Blackout ammo from an AR-style rifle. Both of them were pronounced dead at the scene.

The murders of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh have shaken the community of Islandton, S.C., where the Murdaughs were a prominent legal dynasty.

Alex Murdaugh is currently facing two counts of murder and two weapons charges in this trial. He has pleaded not guilty.

Even if Murdaugh is acquitted in this trial, he will have more legal woes. He faces dozens of charges for alleged financial crimes, including misappropriating money from his law firm, defrauding clients of funds and computer crimes. Authorities allege that he also defrauded the family of his former housekeeper out of a $4.5 million insurance settlement after she died in a mysterious slip-and-fall accident at his home. A trial for those charges will be held at a later date.

Earlier on Monday, the judge ruled that information about the alleged financial crimes can be entered as evidence in the murder trial.

The trial is expected to last for several more weeks.

Related Articles