Alex Murdaugh's shirt worn on night of wife's, son's murders was 'destroyed' by state, defense says

Murdaugh attorneys say prosecutors are using his stained T-shirt to place him at scene of wife's and son's murders

Attorneys representing disbarred South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh, who is accused of killing his wife and son on June 7, 2021, say the shirt he wore the day of the double murder was "destroyed" by "the State."

Murdaugh is awaiting trial in the deaths of his wife and one of his sons near dog kennels on the family's property in the South Carolina Lowcountry. He also faces nearly 100 other charges related to embezzlement and a bizarre suicide-for-hire plot involving Murdaugh's cousin.

The defendant's attorneys, Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, are arguing in a 96-page motion filed Wednesday that the state of South Carolina is relying on "bad faith" evidence from Murdaugh's white T-shirt — apparently spattered with blood — that prosecutors are using to place Murdaugh at the scene of his wife's and son's murders.

"[T]he state needs blood-spatter evidence because it is exceedingly difficult to explain how Mr. Murdaugh could have murdered Paul with multiple 12-gauge shotgun blasts at pointblank range in a small closet without getting at least some blood spattered on his shirt. After all, blood was spattered all over the closet door, walls and ceiling."

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Harpootlian and Griffin state in the filing that the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) conducted a DNA test on the stains in June 2021 and determined that blood spatter marks on Murdaugh's shirt came back positive for DNA from Murdaugh's wife, Maggie Murdaugh, but negative for DNA from his son, Paul Murdaugh.

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In January of this year, South Carolina officials hired retired Oklahoma City Det. Tom Bevel to assist SLED officers in their analysis of the shirt. Bevel initially determined that "the shirt contained no stains consistent with back spatter resulting from a gunshot," Murdaugh's attorneys wrote.

Alex Murdaugh sits in court with his legal team, including attorney Margaret Fox, during a judicial hearing before Judge Clifton Newman in the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, on Aug. 29, 2022.

Alex Murdaugh sits in court with his legal team, including attorney Margaret Fox, during a judicial hearing before Judge Clifton Newman in the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, on Aug. 29, 2022. (Tracy Glantz/The State/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Bevel also concluded at the time that the condition of the shirt had been "destroyed" by the state's blood tests, according to Wednesday's court filing.

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"It turned completely blue; all stains were blue, fuzzy, diffuse, and bled out, their features lost forever," Harpootlian and Griffin wrote. "This is a well-known, documented issue with LCV tests. There are methods to prevent LCV tests from staining the entire substance over time. … But SLED elected to conduct its tests in a manner that would prevent anyone else from conducting subsequent tests."

Alex Murdaugh walks into his bond hearing on Sept. 16, 2021, in Varnville, South Carolina.

Alex Murdaugh walks into his bond hearing on Sept. 16, 2021, in Varnville, South Carolina. (Mic Smith, File/AP)

Despite the apparent destruction of the shirt, Bevel stated in his "final report" in March that bloodstain pattern experts agreed that "the best explanation for the stains on the shirt are" high-velocity blood splatter, "most likely resulting from shooting Paul."

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Harpootlian and Griffin argue that Bevel made a different conclusion about the blood in his final report compared to his initial report despite having "no additional evidence" after the t-shirt was destroyed before Bevel's final report was released.

Alex Murdaugh, right, is shown here with his family.

Alex Murdaugh, right, is shown here with his family. (Fox News)

SLED Chief Mark Keel told Fox News Digital in a statement Friday that the agency is "reviewing the motion and will respond at the appropriate time."

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Murdaugh's defense team said they had been unaware of the destruction of the shirt until Nov. 4, when they requested that the t-shirt be sent to an independent lab, which could take microscopic photographs of the evidence. The state then informed Murdaugh's defense that the shirt had "turned black" and could not be photographed, according to the defense.

Police arrive at the Murdaugh family's farm house in Colleton County, South Carolina, in June 2021.

Police arrive at the Murdaugh family's farm house in Colleton County, South Carolina, in June 2021. (Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post And Courier via AP)

Murdaugh's lawyers are now arguing that SLED destroyed the t-shirt either in bad faith or by gross negligence. However, they go on to claim that the state's alleged bad faith goes beyond the destruction of the shirt.

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"Manifest bad faith occurred in SLED's dishonest concealment of the destruction when obtaining a false report from Mr. Bevel stating Mr. Murdaugh's shirt had over a hundred high-velocity impact splatter bloodstains consistent with a gunshot — when SLED knows the shirt does not have any human blood on it at all — based on Mr. Bevel's purported examination of the shirt on March 10, 2022, that in fact was already destroyed." 

Murdaugh's attorneys claim that Bevel changed his report about the t-shirt to be consistent "to what the state wanted it to be."