The Murdaugh Murders: The Latest on Alex Murdaugh and His Legal Challenges

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Saga now includes charges of murder and fraud, at least seven state and federal investigations and millions of dollars unaccounted for

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Mr. Murdaugh is the scion of a powerful South Carolina family known for running both sides of the legal ledger as solicitors, or district attorneys, for a five-county area and as founding members of a regional law firm. The downfall of the Murdaugh dynasty, with its twists and turns, came to national attention with the fatal shootings of Maggie and Paul on June 27, 2021. On Labor Day weekend, Alex Murdaugh attempted to arrange his own murder in what his lawyers later said was an episode prompted by the stress of losing his job, grief over the loss of his wife and son and a haze attributable to a long-running opioid addiction.

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Mr. Murdaugh spent several weeks in drug rehab last fall. In October, he was jailed and denied bond on charges related to swindling his late housekeeper’s sons out of an insurance settlement. A judge later set Mr. Murdaugh’s bond at $7 million, an amount his lawyers said was tantamount to no bond at all.

What has been happening since Alex Murdaugh was jailed on financial charges last fall?

Mr. Murdaugh has been held since October at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, the Richland County jail in Columbia. His assets have been frozen and two court-appointed receivers are sorting out what to do with his property, including overseeing the pending $1 million sale of the family beach house on Edisto Island. A contract is also pending in the $4 million sale of the 1,700-acre hunting estate called Moselle, according to the land company listing it for sale. Many creditors have stepped forward, including the local bank where the mortgage is held, Mr. Murdaugh’s friends and relatives who lent him money and the family of Mallory Beach, who was killed in a 2019 boat crash involving Paul Murdaugh, Mr. Murdaugh’s younger son.

Who are the Murdaugh family and why are they known in South Carolina?
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The Murdaughs ran the solicitor’s, or district attorney’s, office for 87 years in a five-county region of the South Carolina lowcountry, which includes Hilton Head and the roughly 100-mile swath to the northwest. They also ran one of the state’s dominant personal-injury firms, making them feared and revered as power brokers in both civil and criminal law. Alex Murdaugh is the fourth generation of his family to have worked at the family firm, formerly known as Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick. The firm changed its name this year to the Parker Law Group, after longtime partner John E. Parker. It is best known for its work on big personal-injury and wrongful-death cases, particularly those involving railroads and tire manufacturers.

What happened to Alex Murdaugh’s family?

On June 7, 2021, Alex’s wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and younger son, Paul, were shot and killed. Alex Murdaugh said he found their bodies near the dog kennels at Moselle at roughly 10 pm that rainy night. Paul, 22 years old, had been shot in the chest and head, according to his death certificate. He was shot with a shotgun, according to the indictment. Maggie, 52, was shot multiple times, including twice at close range while lying on the ground, according to a person familiar with the investigation. She was shot with a rifle, according to the indictment.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has been running investigations involving the Murdaughs, given conflicts of interest with local law enforcement. SLED said little publicly about the case for more than a year and released no suspect sketches or information before charging Mr. Murdaugh on Thursday.

What happened in the shooting of Alex Murdaugh?

On Labor Day weekend, Mr. Murdaugh attempted to arrange his own murder by hiring an accomplice to shoot him. His lawyers said the attempted assisted suicide was meant to secure a life-insurance payment for his surviving son, 26-year-old Buster. Mr. Murdaugh gave Curtis Edward Smith, a former client, one of his guns and asked that he shoot him in the head so Buster Murdaugh could benefit from the $10 million policy, according to Mr. Murdaugh’s lawyer, Dick Harpootlian.

Mr. Smith, 62, has said he was framed in the case. At his bond hearing, he described the assisted-suicide and insurance-fraud charges against him as “all crap.” Mr. Smith was charged in June with engaging in a conspiracy with Mr. Murdaugh to acquire and distribute oxycodone. Mr. Murdaugh wrote 437 checks totaling $2.4 million over an eight-year period to Mr. Smith and his close associates, according to the state grand jury indictment. Those checks were typically cashed and the proceeds used to acquire and distribute oxycodone, according to the indictment.

What else is under investigation?

Before the double homicide, state investigators were already looking into that Alex Murdaugh had improperly tried to influence the investigation into the death of Ms. Beach, the young woman killed in the 2019 boat crash involving Paul Murdaugh. In the course of investigating the double homicide, SLED investigators said they had uncovered new information that prompted them to look into the suspicious deaths of two other people with ties to the family. A spokeswoman for Mr. Murdaugh declined to comment.

Who is Mallory Beach?

Mallory Beach was a 19-year-old woman who was killed in February 2019, when a boat driven by Paul Murdaugh crashed into a bridge in the middle of the night near Parris Island, SC It took searchers a week to find her body. Paul had a blood-alcohol level of .286, according to hospital records, three times the legal limit in South Carolina. He was criminally charged two months after her death and pleaded not guilty. Paul died before the case went to trial.

Ms. Beach’s parents filed a wrongful-death suit against several parties, including Alex Murdaugh, who owned the boat. Mr. Murdaugh has said in court filings that the crash involved a boat he owned but he shouldn’t be held responsible for Ms. Beach’s death. A trial is tentatively set for early October in Hampton County.

Who is Stephen Smith?

Stephen Smith, a 19-year-old nursing student, was found dead in July 2015 in the middle of a country road in Hampton County. Mr. Smith was a former classmate and friend of Alex Murdaugh’s older son, Buster. His death was originally described by authorities as a hit-and-run. In July 2021, SLED said it was reopening the investigation into Mr. Smith’s death, citing “information gathered during the course of the double murder investigation.” A spokeswoman for Alex and Buster Murdaugh declined to comment on the Smith investigation.

Who is Gloria Satterfield?

Gloria Satterfield was the Murdaugh housekeeper and nanny for more than 20 years. She tripped down the stairs in February 2018 at the Murdaugh home, fell into a coma and died three weeks later, according to legal filings. Ms. Satterfield’s two adult sons have said in legal filings that Alex Murdaugh encouraged them to file a wrongful-death suit against him so they could get insurance to cover Gloria’s medical bills and have something to live on. The sons sued Mr. Murdaugh in September, alleging that they never received any amount of money from a $4.3 million insurance settlement negotiated on their behalf by a lawyer who is friends with Mr. Murdaugh. That lawyer, Cory Fleming, was charged this spring with money laundering, breach of trust and other financial crimes. At his bond hearing, his lawyer said Mr. Fleming had been duped by Mr. Murdaugh, his best friend since college. Mr. Murdaugh was jailed in October on charges related to the Satterfield case. On May 27, Mr. Murdaugh signed a confession of judgment, admitting liability for the theft of the $4.3 million settlement.

Write to Valerie Bauerlein at [email protected]

Corrections & Amplifications
On June 7, Alex’s wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and younger son Paul were shot and killed. An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Paul Murdaugh as Maggie’s husband. (Corrected on Oct. 21)


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