Alex Murdaugh’s double homicide trial was abruptly paused on Wednesday after a bomb threat forced officials to evacuate the South Carolina courthouse.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) confirmed to The Daily Beast that the Colleton County Court was evacuated after “a bomb threat was received” by courthouse personnel. The evacuation came just as prosecutors called their 38th witness to the stand in their case arguing Murdaugh murdered his 52-year-old wife, Maggie, and his 22-year-old son, Paul, in June 2021 in a desperate attempt to conceal the discovery of his financial crimes.
“The building has been evacuated, and SLED, along with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the threat. No additional information is available from SLED at this time,” SLED added in a statement.
The Colleton Sheriff’s Office also released a statement on Wednesday urging “citizens to use an alternate route of travel,” vowing to “update traffic conditions as needed.” No additional information about the threat has been released, but on Wednesday afternoon security was letting people back into the courthouse after officials gave the all-clear.
According to the Post and Courier, courthouse administrators say the threat claimed the bomb was in the judge’s chambers.
The evacuation came after over two weeks of testimony in a case deemed the “trial of the century” in South Carolina. Murdaugh, 54, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime in connection with the double homicide. Defense lawyers are arguing that there is no concrete evidence—or motive—to prove Murdaugh wanted to harm his “wonderful” family.
After a crucial ruling from Newman, prosecutors this week have finally been able to present witnesses to the jury about why Murdaugh would have been motivated to kill his family. On Wednesday, jurors heard damning testimony from Murdaugh’s long-time paralegal, who testified that she first discovered the former lawyer had been stealing from his family law firm and clients for years.
“He’s been lying to me this whole time,” Annette Griswold testified about her mindset after she discovered his years-long scheme. “He’s had these funds. He lied to me.”
Griswold had just stepped down from the stand—prompting prosecutors to call Brian Hudak, a SLED agent who works on computer crimes, to testify—when Newman announced to the courtroom that they needed to evacuate.
Eric Bland, who represents one of Murdaugh’s victims in his financial scheme, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that the bomb threat in an already high-profile case was probably an unwelcome disruption to an “already fragile jury.” So far, the jury has endured a rigorous selection process, a relentless media circus, and a lengthy trial starring a prominent figure in the Lowcountry.
“This will be very unnerving for the jury,” he added.