Jurors visited Moselle estate where Alex Murdaugh's wife, son were killed as closing arguments begin

The Murdaugh trial could wrap up soon after nearly 6 weeks

ByChristina Maxouris, CNN
Wednesday, March 1, 2023
Jurors visit Murdaugh crime scene ahead of closing arguments
Jurors visited the place where the Murdaugh murders took place on Wednesday, ahead of closing arguments in the double-murder trial.

WALTERBORO, S.C. -- The group of jurors who will decide Alex Murdaugh's fate visited on Wednesday morning the sprawling Islandton, South Carolina, property where the defendant's wife and son were found fatally shot in 2021.

The massive estate, known as Moselle, has been at the heart of the trial -- and played a big role in the Murdaugh family's life before the grisly killings.

The 1,700-something acre property includes the house the family lived in for several years, as well as dog kennels, a cabin, and stretches of swamp lands, plotted fields and forests in which Murdaugh would go hunting for deer and other game with his two sons.

Murdaugh, who has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder, maintains he found his wife, Maggie, and younger son, Paul, fatally shot when he returned to Moselle from a visit to his sick mother on the night of June 7, 2021. Their bodies were found near the property's kennels, where the Murdaughs kept their hunting dogs.

The judge agreed this week to let jurors view the property, despite opposition from prosecutors who said it has changed since the killings, including that trees have grown taller and thicker than what they were in the summer of 2021. Testimony in the murder trial ended on Tuesday, and closing arguments began shortly after jurors returned to the courtroom Wednesday.

Alex Murdaugh murders trial (1 of 56)

The 12 jurors and two alternates assembled at the Colleton County courthouse at 9 a.m. Wednesday, loaded into three transport vans and left for Moselle. They were followed by security vehicles and other court personnel. The jury arrived on the property at roughly 9:40 a.m. and left at about 10:30 a.m..

Here's a close look at what we know about the Moselle estate.

More than 1,700 acres of land

The Murdaughs purchased the Moselle property around 2012, Buster Murdaugh, the defendant's surviving son, testified in February.

The family had been living in Hampton, South Carolina -- a roughly 20-minute drive from Islandton -- but after that house sustained damage during a hurricane, they relocated to the Moselle home, Buster Murdaugh told the court.

Much of the Moselle property was "really not even accessible," the 26-year-old testified, as some areas are swamps and many parts don't have road systems to navigate the land on.

SEE MORE: Murdaugh trial updates: Former lawyer testifies in own defense, admits he lied to investigators

"It's a big property," he said, filled with dove fields, duck ponds and deer stands all over. The Murdaugh men frequently went hunting for deer, duck, quail, doves and hogs on the land and would often invite friends to join them.

The property had a huge population of hogs, Buster Murdaugh testified, which would often ruin the family's dove fields, so the Murdaughs would regularly hunt the animals to "try to cut the numbers down a little bit."

Property listed for $3.9 million

The estate went up for sale last year, several months after the killings, according to CNN affiliate WJCL.

The listing cited by the affiliate says the Moselle Farm, listed for $3.9 million, is under contract.

The land "boasts over 2.5 miles of river frontage, offering freshwater fishing, kayaking, and abundant deer, turkey, and waterfowl populations," according to the listing. "To complement the natural amenities there are two man-made waterfowl impoundments capable of being planted with corn and flooded to attract wintering waterfowl. In addition, there is a 20-acre dove field complete with a dead wire and parameter fencing to minimize crop damage."

At the end of a long road sits a 5,275-square-foot home, built in 2011, according to the listing -- shortly before Buster Murdaugh estimates his family bought the estate.

There's also a cottage on the property, which Buster Murdaugh referred to in his testimony as a "cabin," saying he had stayed there for some time with two friends.

Nathan Tuten, a longtime friend of Paul Murdaugh, also testified in court he had stayed at the cabin with Paul for some time.

The property also includes a "rifle shooting range," according to the listing.

"The location, ecosystem, and water features make this an ideal candidate for a conservation easement. The next owner may be the beneficiary of considerable tax advantages that may be available through the donation of an easement," it notes.

(A conservation easement is, generally, a part of a property that is preserved and not developed. Making a donation allows the donor to take a tax deduction based on the appraised value of the property.)

Another death tied to the property

There was another fatal incident tied to the family's Moselle estate.

Gloria Satterfield, a longtime housekeeper for the Murdaughs, died in a hospital in February 2018, three weeks after what was described as a "trip and fall accident" at the Murdaugh home, an attorney representing her estate previously said.

"Certainly there were questions by my clients because after she unfortunately fell, she was airlifted to a hospital and she had a traumatic brain injury, she never was able to communicate with them for the next three weeks until she died," attorney Eric Bland previously told CNN.

In a February 2, 2018, recording of a 911 call posted online by CNN affiliate WHNS, a caller who appears to be Maggie Murdaugh reports Satterfield fell and gives the Moselle home's address.

"My housekeeper has fallen and her head is bleeding, I cannot get her up," the caller says, adding Satterfield fell while going up the home's outdoor, brick steps.

In 2021, more than three years after her death, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division announced it was opening a criminal investigation into Satterfield's death after a request from the Hampton County coroner that highlighted inconsistencies in the ruling of her manner of death.

"The decedent's death was not reported to the Coroner at the time, nor was an autopsy performed. On the death certificate the manner of death was ruled 'Natural,' which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident," the coroner's request to SLED said.

A 'haunted place'

Notes from a reporter representing the media who visited the crime scene after the jurors Wednesday help paint a picture about the vast, now-vacant estate.

A visitor can go at least a mile without seeing the home on the drive in.

The property feels almost abandoned: The grass has grown tall, bushes have overgrown, a mailbox is covered with pollen and spiderwebs.

The dog kennels, the area where the bodies were found, have no animals inside.

"It is a heavy place to visit. The property has stood vacant for 20 months," the reporter noted. "Some items seem to be left where they fell, including a deflated football behind the kennels and a tube of sanitizing wipes in the shed."

The feed room -- where a crime scene forensics expert testified Paul was likely standing in when he was shot the first time -- "feels like a haunted place," the reporter noted.

SEE ALSO: Alex Murdaugh's surviving son testifies he was 'destroyed' by fatal shootings of wife, son

"The concrete pad where Paul fell is within sight of the corner of the shed, where Maggie's body was found. Maggie fell roughly 12 steps from where Paul would have fallen," the reporter added.

Parts of the feed room appear to have been redone and painted.

No visible signs of violence, like bloodstains or similar marks, give away what happened in June 2021, except for the large bullet holes that remain in a back window.

"There was significant testimony about the bullet hole in the quail house. The hole is still visible and is in cardboard that appeared to be stapled to the side of the structure," the reporter also noted.

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