Murdaugh autopsy doctor rebuts defense with gory testimony

The South Carolina pathologist who performed autopsies on Maggie and Paul Murdaugh challenged claims made by the defense during day 26 of family patriarch Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial.

Attorneys defending Murdaugh brought in a pathologist Monday to theorize that son Paul, 22, was shot in his head from point-blank range on the affluent family’s 1,700-acre estate in 2021.

But Dr. Ellen Riemer, who examined the victims’ wounds upclose, said Tuesday that Paul’s shooter was probably standing 3 feet away when they fired a shotgun blast that also left entry wounds on the suspect’s son’s cheek and shoulder.

“We would have had tears of the skin and his eyes would have been either displaced from the orbital bones,” Riemer said in a “Law & Crime” transcript. “The orbital bones were intact.”

Had Paul been killed by an execution-style “contact” shot, according to Riemer, “he would have not even had a face left.”

Riemer also told jurors that Paul “still had a forehead” when he died, which wouldn’t have been the case had his killer been holding a shotgun to his head when the trigger was pulled. She said “the damages to his head would have been much worse” if the defense’s version of the murder were accurate.

Riemer agreed with the defense’s conclusions regarding the killing of Maggie, 52, who was shot multiple times with a rifle from roughly 5 feet away. Orangeburg County sheriff’s deputy Kenneth Kinsey told the court the same earlier in the trial.

Testifying in his own defense last week, Murdaugh said he believed the murders were tied to a 2019 crash where a woman was killed in a boat being driven by Paul, who had allegedly been drinking. He told the jury whoever was responsible for Paul’s brutal death “hated” the victim, whom he loved. The prosecution noted the 54-year-old defendant had no evidence supporting his theory.

Murdaugh’s legal team persuaded South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman to at some point soon let jurors tour the family property where Paul and Maggie were found dead on June 7, 2021.

“You just can’t really appreciate the spatial issues without really seeing them,” said defense attorney and state Sen. Dick Harpootlian.

The defense has suggested two gunmen were involved in the murders, which were committed with a .12-gauge shotgun and an AR-style rifle.