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Alex Murdaugh Search Patterns

Approaching the Scene of the Murder of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh and Identifying How You Would Search for Evidence.

Maggie and Richard (Alex) Murdaugh estate was approximately 1700 acres in size. That’s 1700 acres that needs to be search for evidence. How would law enforcement tackle such a large project and what search patterns would they likely employ when furthering their investigations. First, law enforcement can use a variety of search patterns on a single case and just because they started using one, doesn’t mean they couldn’t stop and alter their efforts to another search that may prove more efficient. Let’s go over the case as if you are one of the first law enforcement officer responding to the scene and how it would likely play out.

Alex murdaugh property search patterns

            Alright, so you arrive on scene, a male party, Alex, called 911 and stated that his wife Maggie, and son, Paul, were murdered. Let’s say you have already provided medical care, completed a protective sweep, and have created a large perimeter in what you consider to be the crime scene. Keep in mind that this case involves a double homicide, with a well-connected family, and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is already responding. This means that you will have the initial manpower to use a variety of search patterns. 

            The first search pattern that will be deployed, often comes natural and is pretty much used in every case, the Link Search Pattern. Essentially the search pattern is finding one piece of evidence that leads you to another piece of evidence. With very few exceptions, a Link Search will be conducted at some point during the course of the investigation. Although the murder of Maggie and Paul did prove significant enough to have SLED respond, this is quite common in most homicides and accident related deaths for majorities of states and would not be one of those exceptions.

Connecting the dots crime scene search patterns

            You arrive and see Paul and Maggie approximately 15 feet from each other and they will be your focal point as you know Paul and Maggie were the target and will likely have evidence connected to them. From there you look around to gather your environment, dog kennels, lots of barking, night time, no uninvolved witnesses such as neighbors/bystanders, you look for cameras but don’t see any. Paul and Maggie are dressed appropriately. You immediately look for signs of a struggle, even with a firearm being used, it is possible that some sort of struggled ensued, either before or during the homicide. You look at both Maggie and Paul and see no signs of struggle, so either they knew the suspect, or they were ambushed. You take a look at where they were shot and the position they were found, this is important because it may show if they were running away or shot execution style. You notice multiple gun shot wounds to both bodies, with multiple weapons at play. This catches your attention and are thinking maybe either two or more suspects, or there was some sort of time between the two deaths indicating the suspect waited or planned this out.

            Of course you are working on assumptions that will hopefully soon turn into facts after you have receive more information and collect more evidence. Unfortunately even though they are able to collect the samples that night, they still need to complete various tests and analyze the evidence before they send you the results which will arrive weeks to months from now. From there you start to think of how the suspects were able to get away, what exit route were available, and if they were in a vehicle or on foot. Unfortunately it is raining and a lot of evidence begins to fade so you will act quickly, take pictures/video as you quickly canvas the immediate area for footprints and tire tracks. As the evidence fades with every droplet, you are left without key information. You may choose to deploy a k9 (search dog) or air-wing (Thermal Cameras + overview) in hopes of finding the suspect/s hiding in the woods.

Alex Murdaugh seach patters crime sceneMurdaugh’s Dog Kennels, where Maggie and Paul were shot

            You notice that you are in a secluded area, surely this couldn’t be a random attack, who would know about the dog kennels unless you know the Murdaugh’s personally. You see only one vehicle, the house is quite far from the kennels, Alex is telling you that the vehicle you see was the one he drove down with and that he doesn’t know how Paul and Maggie got down to the kennels. Somethings not adding up, and you can feel it, it’s time to dive deeper with the use of a search warrant. From here you analyze the evidence to the best of your abilities, make sure you check the expended cartridges, swab for gunshot residue, locate any blood droplets, go back to Alex, Maggie, and Pauls house to see if there is anything. From here your two focal points are the Kennel, and their home. After these two locations are fully canvased, searched and photograph you will move to a much more daunting task. Because you never quite located footprints, vehicle tracks, don’t have video footage or other witness statements, you will have to search much of the 1700 acres of property for further evidence.

            Alex did state there where deer cameras places throughout the property, conveniently none of them being near the dog kennels. After reviewing the video surveillance with negative results, you move towards a zone search pattern. Likely on a map, you will map out areas of the property to be searched for clues and evidence. Because it was still night time, you will likely have to wait until the daylight to proceed with any significant search. You would identify the zones with the highest probability of locating any evidence and start with those, working your way to the more unlikely zones. Within the zones you would use another search pattern such as the:

 
     Line/Strip Search 

o   Think multiple people walking a certain distance from each other in a straight line. This search would likely be used on areas just outside of the areas closest to the Kennels and home.

·       Grid Search 

o   Same thing as a line/strip search but another added search will be done perpendicular (90 Degrees) to the first search. The Grid Search is a better search then the line/strip search but requires about double the time to conduct. This search would be used during the areas closest to the Kennels and home.

Random Search Method

o   Just as it sounds, you look and search in a manner that has no distinct path, more so places or things that may stick out to you/investigators as you go. This method would be used pretty much anywhere, and may even be used in conjunction with the other searchers either before or after they were conducted.

 

Throughout the searches, you would of course use the information provided to you by witnesses, in this case, Alex, and use that information to help pinpoint what evidence you are looking for. After gathering more information, you may elect to go back to the area (pending consent or another search warrant), to conduct another, more geolocated and precise search of a particular area. From there you continue you investigation and use the evidence and information found to better your investigation.

Grid crime scene patterns

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By Branden

Branden is a Police Lieutenant who has investigated numerous crimes. He has written and executed multiple search warrants, conducted various protective sweeps, pat frisks and exit orders. He has been involved in numerous police vehicle chases, fights, disturbances, foot pursuits, suspect/hostage negotiations and felony stops. He is trained with an assortment of weapons. He has spoken with countless victims, witnesses and suspects and is using his experience to better protect our communities and loved ones by sharing his knowledge through his writings.

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