Personal connections show the downfall of attorney Alex Murdaugh

Mother and son murdered (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The shooting deaths of the wife and son of South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh set off a chain of investigations, strange occurrences and legal maneuvering over the past 13 months that his attorney says will soon lead to murder charges.

But Murdaugh’s life was quietly unraveling behind the scenes long before that. Authorities said he was stealing money, addicted to painkillers and desperately trying to avoid an in-depth examination of his finances related to a wrongful death lawsuit involving his son, all while lying to just about everyone in life. of the.

Like the whiteboard on a detective show, rays of half a dozen investigations radiated from Murdaugh after the murders of Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and her son Paul, 22, on June 7, 2021.

Suddenly, a whole cast of people became protagonists of the drama: the family of a teenager killed in a boating accident determined to fight for justice, the murdered wife who led a quiet life, the Murdaugh client who could have been hired to organize an attack. about the life of the lawyer and housekeeper who died in a fall at the Murdaugh home.


More than a year before the murders, 19-year-old Mallory Beach died when she was thrown from a Murdaugh family boat after it crashed into a bridge pier. Police said Paul Murdaugh was drunk while he was driving the boat in February 2019.

Beach’s family demanded justice not only criminally, but also in civil court, filing a wrongful death lawsuit that is still awaiting trial.

That lawsuit likely meant a close look at the Murdaugh family’s finances. Murdaugh fought the lawsuit throughout, as Beach’s lawyers suggested she feared they would find out how she managed to live so far beyond her current means. Prosecutors said they have since learned that Murdaugh was stealing money from his law firm and her clients.

The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating whether Murdaugh, his family or his friends tried to obstruct the boating accident investigation. Others on the boat said Murdaugh was in the emergency room that night, going through his rooms and trying to convince them to tell investigators his son didn’t drive.


Maggie Murdaugh married the sweetheart she met at the University of South Carolina and moved to tiny Hampton County, where Alex Murdaugh’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had all been elected prosecutors.

By all accounts, she led a quiet life, supporting her husband’s work and raising two children. Her friends don’t remember her working outside her for a brief time running her own gift shop. They remember a devoted mother who loved her family’s seaside home about 60 miles (96 kilometers) away on Edisto Island.

Maggie Murdaugh died near her youngest son on the family’s hunting estate in Colleton County. Both were shot multiple times, the coroner said. Alex Murdaugh called 911 after discovering their bodies. He said that he had just returned home after visiting his sick mother and father.

Thirteen months later, Murdaugh’s attorney said the rest of the family was told Tuesday that state agents will seek murder charges against Murdaugh this week.


Curtis “Eddie” Smith met Alex Murdaugh when he sued the tree company he worked for after hurting his back in 2007. Or they may have already met. Like many things with Murdaugh, exactly what happened is murky.

Murdaugh won a settlement for Smith, who said the two became friends. Murdaugh’s attorneys said it was more of a business relationship, with Murdaugh buying drugs.

A few days after the century-old Murdaugh family law firm discovered stolen money in September 2021, Murdaugh asked Smith to meet on the side of a lonely Hampton County road, according to prosecutors. . Murdaugh said she asked Smith to kill him so his surviving child could get a $10 million life insurance policy. Smith said Murdaugh threatened to kill himself and the gun went off when Smith tried to take it from him.

The shot only grazed Murdaugh’s head. Murdaugh’s attorneys called Smith a drug dealer.

“With a friend like that, who needs enemies?” Smith told an Associated Press reporter.

Both men were charged in the highway shooting: Smith on assisted suicide, conspiracy and other charges; Murdaugh, for insurance fraud and filing a false police report after initially saying he was randomly shot while changing a tire.

In June, prosecutors suggested a much deeper relationship. They charged both men again, saying Murdaugh wrote 437 checks worth $2.4 million that Smith cashed over eight years to try to hide theft and other illegal activities, including a drug ring involving the painkiller oxycodone.

It was the 16th indictment against Murdaugh, who prosecutors say has stolen more than $8 million from clients and others.


Gloria Satterfield was the Murdaughs’ housekeeper for two decades before slipping into a coma and dying a few days after Alex Murdaugh said she tripped and fell at home.

Murdaugh directed the Satterfield family to a friend to act as their attorney, according to a lawsuit. Murdaugh then forced his insurers to pay more than $4 million in wrongful death settlements, prosecutors said.

But Satterfield’s family never saw a dime until his new lawyers came after him. Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter relentlessly attacked Murdaugh in court and in the media. Murdaugh ultimately ended up behind bars on $7 million bail.

Bland compared Murdaugh to a bank robber, but using a pen and crooked friends instead of a gun.

Months later, the lawyer friend and a banker who prosecutors say secretly sent Murdaugh money intended for trusts for his clients were charged.

Bland and Richter have won more than $4 million in legal settlements with Murdaugh, whose assets have been frozen, as well as with Murdaugh’s lawyer friend and the bank Murdaugh used.

The investigation into Satterfield’s death continues. State agents said in June that they would exhume his body. South Carolina coroners are supposed to be notified of any suspicious deaths, but the Hampton County coroner was not told about Satterfield’s fall.

Another death inquest was reopened after the shooting deaths. Stephen Smith, 19, died in what investigators said was a hit-and-run, likely struck in the head by the mirror of a semitrailer on a two-lane Hampton County highway in 2015. But Smith’s mother He said there was no broken glass or plastic shards from a mirror on the road where his son’s body was found.

State agents have not said what evidence in the Murdaugh case led them to reopen the Smith case.

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