Walterboro prepares for murder trial of Alex Murdaugh

Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 5:58 PM EST
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WALTERBORO, Sc. (WTOC) - Walterboro is a town of about 5,000 which will soon see an influx of up to 1,500 people starting next week, according to the city’s tourism director.

It’s caused the city to put extra effort into planning for the crowd, and local businesses and hotels are preparing for more customers than usual.

“I have heard right now that we’re at 100%. Everybody has pretty much filled up, they’re renting houses in the area for not only media for the trial, but also court personnel, anybody who’s happened to come into town,” said Scott Grooms, the Walterboro Director of Tourism.

That’s driving business to some locally-owned options, like Old Academy Bed and Breakfast – just a few blocks away from the courthouse. The owner is getting calls from around the world.

“A call came in, I could barely understand what he was saying, I was trying to help him. I said ‘where are you calling from?’ and he said Paris. Then, I realized why he was coming,” said Jean Sterling, the owner of Old Academy and Breakfast.

Walterboro has become well known in the shadow of the Murdaugh trial and a local antique shop owner says it makes for an interesting dynamic.

“It’s a dubious honor obviously. This is not what we want to be known for, this is a charming little community. This is certainly a flier from the normal condition in Walterboro, it’s a lovely place to live,” said Mark Bradley, the owner of Downtown Envy Antiques.

The city is only shutting down one street for the duration of the trial – that’s North Walter Street right next to the courthouse. The city will also be bringing in food trucks to accommodate for the large crowd.

“The city is not making one cent off of the food trucks. The food trucks are setting up, because we could not feed a lunchtime of one hour, with people having to leave the property, go down to one of the other restaurants. In the city of Walterboro, we have two restaurants on Main Street, both of them would be overwhelmed if we didn’t use the food trucks,” said Grooms.

The city’s tourism department expects the largest crowds at the beginning of the trial next week, and toward the end in mid-February. Regardless, this town is expected to have way more visitors than normal.