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South Carolina prosecutors reveal alleged motive in Murdaugh murder case

(CNN) South Carolina prosecutors have put forth what they believe was Alex Murdaugh's motive for killing his wife and son.

He wanted to distract attention from the illicit schemes he was running to avoid financial ruin, they allege in a motion filed Thursday.

"The evidence will show Murdaugh accrued substantial debts over a period of years and to uncover those debts began engaging in illicit financial crimes," prosecutors wrote in the filing. "The evidence will further show these financial crimes were about to come to light at the time of the killings, more specifically on the date of the killings."

"Ultimately," wrote prosecutors, "the murders served as Murdaugh's means to shift the focus away from himself and buy himself some additional time to try and prevent his financial crimes from being uncovered, which, if revealed, would have resulted in personal legal and financial ruin for Murdaugh."

The bodies of Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and their 22-year-old son, Paul Murdaugh, were found on the family property in rural Colleton County on June 7, 2021.

Alex Murdaugh has been charged with murdering both. He has pleaded not guilty.

He also faces dozens of charges related to the theft and misappropriation of money from his clients and his own law firm.