Yearslong mysteries surrounding prominent South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh and his family have only deepened in recent months, after his wife and youngest son were found dead in June at their home.
Since then, state investigators have announced they’re reopening two other investigations: the 2015 unsolved death of a 19-year-old found dead on a road as well as the 2018 death of the Murdaugh family’s housekeeper.
The latter announcement came just days after Murdaugh was shot in the head, an act which court documents claim he arranged in order for his surviving son to collect a life insurance payout of about $10 million.
As state officials now pick apart each case in a series of bloody tragedies, here’s a look at who’s involved in the investigations surrounding the Murdaugh family.
Murdaugh, 53, is a member of one of the most powerful family dynasties in coastal South Carolina. Three generations before him served as 14th Curcuit Solicitors — leading prosecutions for Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties in the state.
Alex Murdaugh worked at the law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick (PMPED), according to the firm. He was married to Margaret Murdaugh and they had two sons: Buster and Paul.
On June 7, Murdaugh called 911 to report he had found his wife and son Paul shot dead outside their home in Islandton, a community about an hour away from Hilton Head Island, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) said.
Less than three months after the double homicide, he was shot in the head.
In the week following his shooting, his law firm announced Murdaugh resigned after the discovery that he had “misappropriated funds;” the state Supreme Court suspended his license to practice law in South Carolina; and Murdaugh announced he planned to begin an unspecified rehabilitation treatment, saying in a statement through his attorney the killings of his wife and son “caused an incredibly difficult time in my life” and exacerbated a “long battle.”
On September 13 — nine days after his shooting — Murdaugh admitted to authorities he had arranged for a former client to kill him as part of a suicidal fraud scheme, according to an affidavit to support charges against the alleged gunman.
An attorney for Murdaugh, Jim Griffin, told CNN on Wednesday they were informed an arrest warrant was issued for Murdaugh on charges of conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and he plans to voluntarily surrender Thursday.
Another Murdaugh attorney, Dick Harpootlian, acknowledged the scheme on NBC’s “Today” on Wednesday, saying Murdaugh was depressed and suicidal due to the deaths of his wife and son, the death of his elderly father earlier that same week, and his struggles with opioid addiction.
In a statement obtained Wednesday, Harpootlian and Griffin said Alex Murdaugh’s life “has been devastated by an opioid addiction” and in early September, “it became clear Alex believed that ending his life was his only option. Today, he knows that’s not true.”
Curtis Edward Smith
Curtis Edward Smith is the man whom Alex Murdaugh allegedly conspired with to kill him. He was charged Tuesday with assisted suicide, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, pointing and presenting a firearm, and assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, SLED said. It’s not clear whether Smith has retained legal counsel.
Murdaugh allegedly provided Smith with a firearm and directed Smith to shoot him in the head, according to the affidavit in the case. The plan was for Smith to kill Murdaugh so that Murdaugh’s surviving son could collect the life insurance payout, the affidavit says.
Smith admitted Tuesday to being present at the shooting and to disposing of the firearm afterward, the affidavit says.
Smith, 61, was also charged with distribution of methamphetamine and possession of marijuana, according to SLED.
Murdaugh had represented Smith as his attorney in unrelated court proceedings, court records show. He first represented Smith in a personal injury lawsuit that Smith brought against a land management company and is listed again as Smith’s attorney for a 2013 traffic infraction, according to court documents.
Margaret Murdaugh was 52 when she and her son Paul were fatally shot in June. Alex Murdaugh called authorities and reported he found them dead outside their home.
Colleton County Sheriff’s deputies determined both had suffered multiple gunshot wounds.
SLED took over the investigation, but the case remains unsolved. Alex Murdaugh has denied responsibility in the killings.
“My brother loved Maggie and loved Paul like nothing else on this earth, just like he loves (his other son) Buster,” Alex Murdaugh’s brother, Randolph “Randy” Murdaugh IV, told “Good Morning America” following the killings.” So there’s no possible way he could have anything to do with this, I can assure you.”
Paul Murdaugh, who was 22 at the time of his death, was facing charges of boating under the influence (BUI), causing great bodily harm and causing death in connection to a 2019 boat crash that claimed the life of 19-year-old Mallory Beach, court records show.
Six people, including Paul Murdaugh, were on board the boat at the time of the crash. His father owned the boat.
Paul had pleaded not guilty and court records show the charges were dropped after his death.
Beach, the 19-year-old girl who was killed in the boat crash, was young and full of life, friends and family said.
“She loved her family, her friends and her shelter pets,” one speaker at Beach’s 2019 funeral said, according to CNN affiliate WTGS. “You can tell by the stories that have been shared and memories that have been shared that she enjoyed doing what we call life.”
Her body was found about a week after the February 24, 2019, crash, according to the affiliate.
On September 15, SLED announced it was opening a criminal investigation into the February 2018 death of Gloria Satterfield and the handling of her estate.
Satterfield was the Murdaugh family housekeeper for more than two decades before dying after what was described as a “trip and fall accident” at the Murdaugh home, according to attorney Eric Bland, who is representing her estate.
SLED said it is opening an investigation based on a request from the Hampton County coroner that highlighted inconsistencies in the ruling of Satterfield’s manner of death, as well as information gathered during SLED’s other ongoing investigations involving Alex Murdaugh.
“The decedent’s death was not reported to the Coroner at the time, nor was an autopsy performed. On the death certificate the manner of death was ruled ‘Natural,’ which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident,” the coroner’s request to SLED said.
In the aftermath of Satterfield’s death, a $500,000 wrongful death claim was filed against Alex Murdaugh on behalf of her estate, Bland said. But the estate has not received any of the $500,000 owed as the result of a wrongful death settlement in 2018, Bland added. The attorney has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Satterfield’s estate against Alex Murdaugh, the estate’s former attorney Cory Fleming, as well as Palmetto State Bank.
“We’re talking about an extremely small rural town where this family presides over any number of different capacities and people see the power this family has had,” Bland said. “So you normally … question authority, but sometimes you just don’t question authority because you’re afraid to or you are told things are being handled and you just trust it.”
On June 22, roughly two weeks after the killings of Margaret and Paul Murdaugh, SLED reopened an investigation into the unsolved death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith.
Smith’s body was found in 2015 in a Hampton County road.
SLED said the probe was being reopened based on information gathered while investigating the double homicide of Margaret and Paul Murdaugh.
Buster Murdaugh is Alex Murdaugh’s eldest and only surviving son.
Murdaugh’s scheme for Curtis Smith to kill him “was an attempt on his part to do something to protect his child (Buster),” Harpootlian, the attorney, said.
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