“I wasn’t expecting all of the positive reactions; I really, really wasn’t,” said Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Dr. Kenneth “Kenny” Kinsey.

“It’s not new. I’ve been doing this for 22 years, but I guess it’s the level and the high-profile case,” he said.

“I appreciate those supporters, don’t get me wrong, I’m very appreciative to those supporters,” he added.

Kinsey testified twice as an expert witness in the six-week double-murder trial of Richard “Alex” Murdaugh, 54, held at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro.

On March 2, a 12-member jury convicted Murdaugh on two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime in the June 7, 2021, slayings of his wife, Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, and son Paul Murdaugh, 22.

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Alex Murdaugh used two firearms at close range to shoot and kill his wife and son on that fateful June night at their then-owned 1,700-acre homestead at 4147 Moselle Road, Islandton. While his son was in the feed room next to the run of dog kennels, Murdaugh shot him twice. The second shot killed him. Then he gunned down his wife, who was a few yards away at the equipment shed. Both were shot in their heads.

Kinsey wasn’t one of the officers who reported to the scene the night of the killings, but he reviewed some of the evidence and visited the Islandton location before he compiled a report detailing the order of the shots Maggie and Paul Murdaugh received as well as possible distances of the shooter.

Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Dr. Kenneth “Kenny” Kinsey, a forensics expert, testified twice at the Murdaugh trial.

“When I took the stand both times, I felt the support and I don’t recall feeling that supported in my entire career,” he said.

“It’s one of the high notes of my career,” he said.

But it was on March 3, the day when Circuit Judge Clifton Newman, sentenced Murdaugh to two consecutive life sentences, that Kinsey felt support like no other.

Just prior to Murdaugh’s sentencing hearing, a majority of the jurors met in the deliberation room and requested to speak with Kinsey.

“I’m generally a pretty tough guy, but that tore my –- that reached all the way to my soul,” Kinsey said.

“I don’t remember how many there was, I didn’t count, but it was a room full,” he said.

“They thanked me for breaking things down where they could understand it. This case was so complex with numbers and data and high-tech, I think they just appreciated someone to break it down and my simple mind, that’s just the way I have to learn, so that’s the way I present,” Kinsey said.

“I was just so incredibly humbled by the experience,” he said.

Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Dr. Kenneth “Kenny” Kinsey, a forensics expert, testified twice at the Murdaugh trial.

“I would never challenge their thought process, their knowledge of the case, because they are the 12 experts – those men and women sitting in the jury box,” Kinsey said, “and I think they did a phenomenal job.”

“I don’t think you can ask for anything better and I was so humbled because I just wanted to drop down and thank them for sacrificing that much of their life for their civic duty,” he said.

Consulting work, analysis

Kinsey, who’s performed forensic consulting services for a couple of years, was contacted by state authorities just weeks after the murders.

Kinsey said he received a phone call early in July 2021 asking if he would consider helping them.

“I told Capt. Ryan Neal (of the S.C. Law Enforcement Division) certainly I would,” Kinsey said.

“And then I got a call in late September or mid-October and it took a little while to get everything together and the paperwork and the grand jury permission and that sort of thing,” Kinsey said.

During the trial, Murdaugh’s defense team, led by attorneys Richard “Dick” Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, presented through their own hired expert witness that the killer of Maggie and Paul was approximately 5-foot-2 or 5-foot-4.

The same witness testified that there may have been two shooters of that same height.

Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Dr. Kenneth “Kenny” Kinsey, a forensics expert, testified twice at the Murdaugh trial.

“We took the position that that was a totally bad opinion,” Kinsey said. “There’s no scientific way to judge the distance of a shell casing, it’s really not. It depends on the weapon, it depends on the ammunition that you’re firing in the weapon. You get a general area,” Kinsey said.

“They were doing their job. They were trying to restrict it to a 5-foot-2 or 5-foot-4 person,” he said.

“And another variable that we don’t know: how they were holding the weapon,” he said.

“That weapon is extremely accurate and effective, but yet you have a lady shot four or five times in different areas, so obviously whoever’s holding the weapon – and now he’s been convicted, Alex Murdaugh – obviously he wasn’t holding the weapon at the best efficiency. It wasn’t shouldered. Because he was an outdoorsman, he knew how to handle firearms,” Kinsey said.

As for the theory that there were two shooters, instead of one, Kinsey said, “I can’t eliminate (the possibility of) two people, but I do think he acted alone.”

“This is more of the psychology of it and the layout, because it was a very busy crime scene,” Kinsey said.

“It wasn’t organized at all and I’ve worked a bunch of – I call them ‘hits’ – basically assassinations. You don’t have to do it that way,” he said.

“It’s much more effective to catch two people together and deliver a couple of effective shots. This was just massive overkill, very unorganized,” Kinsey said.

“We’ll never know what happened,” he added. “Only three people knew.”

“I don’t think it was planned,” Kinsey said.

“I think whatever happened, happened. One or more people got a little hot-headed and it just went too far, is my opinion, at least with Paul’s homicide,” he explained.

“I feel like he (Alex Murdaugh) didn’t know Maggie was down there because she was coming in the direction away from the house,” Kinsey said.  

One theory, not presented at trial, was that Murdaugh was riding on his golf cart when he shot and killed his wife and son.

“Honestly, I considered all that very early, but I believe with all of the movement under the shed, out of the shed, around the doghouse, I don’t see where it would be very effective for him to be on the golf cart or it would look like a clown car trying to move around there,” Kinsey said.

“I just believe Mrs. Maggie Murdaugh was more agile than that. We know the first three shots were non-fatal, so I just don’t see that as a good option,” he added.

“I believe it (the golf cart) may have been to get there and get back fast, but I don’t see it as an option for firing the weapon,” Kinsey said.

‘I had no choice’

Kinsey, 54, who’s second-in-command at the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office, loves his career in law enforcement.

Reconstructing crime scenes, such as in the Murdaugh case, is just part of what his job entails.

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As for his decades-long career in the law enforcement field, Kinsey said, “I had no choice.”

“My dad was a full-time public safety officer; he retired. My mother was a police officer; she retired. It just runs in our family,” he said.

Kinsey graduated from Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School before obtaining college degrees from Clemson University, Troy University and ultimately his Ph.D. from Walden University.

He said if he’d chosen a career in anything but law enforcement, “I would’ve had to change my last name, so I really didn’t have any choice.”

 “I had a lot of mentors in those days,” Kinsey said of his high school years.

“A lot of coaches in those days – Nathaniel Badger, Stan Godfrey, Mike Walker – I mean it’s really to many of them to list them all, but you didn’t have an option but do to the right thing back then,” he said.

In addition to working full-time at the sheriff’s office, Kinsey also serves as an adjunct professor at Claflin University, where he’s been teaching crime scene investigations and other criminal justice-related classes since 2012.

Most of his career has been with the sheriff’s office, but he’s also worked as a special agent at the S.C. Law Enforcement Division and as an investigator for the 1st Circuit Solicitor’s Office.

With the unexpected popularity after testifying at Murdaugh trial, Kinsey said he’s received a few calls from other law enforcement agencies soliciting his help.

“I’m probably never going to tell nobody no, but it is where I feel comfortable,” he said about his newly formed consulting business Kenny Kinsey & Associates LLC.

Contact the writer: mbrown@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD

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