FIRST ON FOX – HAMPTON, S.C. – Paul and Maggie Murdaugh’s graves, which remain without headstones, drew more than 100 visitors Sunday afternoon – many deeply shaken after the family patriarch was convicted of their murders and handed a double life sentence.
Mike Artis, 60, drove his 81-year-old mother, Minnie Artis, two hours from her home in Sumpter to the Hampton Cemetery so she could pay her respects.
The graves are marked by small plastic plaques surrounded by fresh flowers and faded cloth bouquets in the shade of a towering oak tree.
“It really affected me,” Minnie said after placing bunches of red carnations on each plaque.
Alex Murdaugh was found guilty Thursday of fatally shooting his 22-year-old son, Paul, and his wife, Maggie, 52, on the family’s sprawling hunting estate June 7, 2021. The property, known as Moselle, is about 13 miles northeast of the cemetery.
Murdaugh, 54, who insists he’s innocent, was handed a life sentence after a wearying six-week trial in the Colleton County Courthouse.
“I don’t think he did it. I don’t think anybody could shoot their son in the head like that,” she said while wistfully staring at the plaques.
The markers sit a mere three feet from the marble headstone of Alex Murdaugh’s father, Randolph Murdaugh III, who died three days after Paul and Maggie.
It’s unclear why the mother and son don’t have tombstones.
Mike, who disagrees with his mother and believes Murdaugh is guilty, told Fox News Digital that it upsets him that Paul and Maggie don’t have permanent grave markers.
“This really irks me. With all the money and wealth, the rest of the family, Randy and John Marvin and Liz, they can spring for headstones,” he said of Murdaugh’s affluent siblings.
“[Paul and Maggie] are the forgotten victims in all this,” he added. “So much focus was on him and not enough focus was on them and that’s why we came down here.”
The shocking murders and the explosive trial that followed have dominated national headlines and rocked communities across South Carolina.
Joan Martin, 73, a retired educator, drove with her husband about an hour from Saint Matthews and wept as she paid her respects to the slain mother and son.
“We felt great empathy toward Paul and Maggie. I spoke to her a few minutes ago, and I told her to rest in peace,” she said, her eyes still watering. “The kind of death that she died was just frightening and unfathomable.”
Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters described in closing statements how Maggie was “running to her baby” Paul, who’d just been shot in the chest and head, when her husband mowed her down with a rifle.
“It was just a tragedy for everybody involved: the families, the community, the police officers who had to come and visualize this. It will take a long time to recover,” she told Fox News Digital.
Karen Morrison and several friends drove four hours from Rutherford, North Carolina, to the cemetery.
Morrison has been following the Murdaughs in the news since Paul drunkenly crashed his father’s boat into a bridge in 2019, killing Mallory Beach, which set off an unthinkable spiral of destruction that culminated in Alex Murdaugh’s conviction.
“The Murdaughs have what everybody in the South wants, lots of property, a beautiful home, a beautiful family, they just seemed to have it all,” she mused.
Unlike the many gawkers who took selfies near the murder scene at Moselle after Netflix aired its documentary last month, most of the visitors to the cemetery didn’t take photos and appeared somber.
Among the steady stream of people paying their respects was Orangeburg deputy Kyle Hardison, who was accompanied by his wife and parents, and a local Hampton couple, Latrosha and Rodney Hayward, who live five minutes away.
“Everyone is heartbroken to know this happened right around here,” Latrosha said. “My heart goes out to Buster, who lost a mom, a brother, now his dad being incarcerated. It’s just awful. I just wish that time could rewind.”