Alex Murdaugh, the prominent South Carolina lawyer, is in custody after admitting he tried to fake his own killing earlier this month. However, he maintains he had no involvement in the killing of his family. Here’s everything we know :
The prominent South Carolina lawyer whose life has unraveled in the months after his wife and son were fatally shot turned himself in to the police on Thursday after admitting that he had tried to stage his own killing earlier this month, but he maintained that he had no involvement in the killing of his family, The New York Times reports.
Alex Murdaugh, the lawyer, is expected to face charges including lying to the police and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud in connection with the scheme, which was meant to ensure that his older son could collect on his $10 million life insurance policy.
South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh arranged for another man to kill him earlier this month so that his son could collect on a $10 million life insurance policy, authorities said Tuesday.
Murdaugh, 53, survived the Sept. 4 shooting, which happened months after the unsolved slayings of his wife and adult son. Police say that Murdaugh told 911 that he was shot in the head while changing a flat tire and that the shooting caused only a “superficial” wound.
His attorney, Richard Harpootlian, told NBC’s “TODAY” show on Wednesday that his client was trying to get off opioids he was taking to get over the death of his son and wife when he became depressed. Believing his insurance policy had a suicide clause, Murdaugh enlisted a man to kill him during a “fake car breakdown,” according to the attorney.
The scheme was an “attempt on his part to do something to protect his child,” Harpootlian said.
Who are the Murdaughs?
Alex Murdaugh, 53, is the scion of a well-connected legal family in South Carolina. Over the course of three generations, his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father all served as the top prosecutor for a five-county region in the state.
In June, Alex Murdaugh’s wife Margaret, 52, and son Paul, 22, were found murdered near their home.
At the time of his death, Paul was facing criminal charges stemming from a 2019 incident in which authorities say he drunkenly caused a boating accident that left a woman dead.
Alex Murdaugh was shot in early September, a day after he resigned from his law firm.
The law firm later claimed he misappropriated funds, which his lawyer says he primarily used to fund an opioid addiction. Murdaugh entered rehab several days after the shooting.
Murdaugh was found with “superficial” wounds to his head after being shot on a roadside on 4 September.
Originally, Murdaugh’s attorneys had claimed that he was changing a tire when an unidentified assailant shot him. He was released from the hospital two days later.
Now, police know – and Murdaugh’s lawyers admit – that he arranged for a man to shoot him so that his surviving son would be able to collect the insurance money.
The shooter, a 61-year-old former client named Curtis Edward Smith, now faces a slew of criminal charges, including conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, assault and battery, assisted suicide, and possession of drugs. Mr. Smith has admitted his involvement.
Police have issued an arrest warrant for Murdaugh on charges to commit insurance fraud and he turned himself in later on Thursday.
Murdaugh’s attorney said on Wednesday that he devised the plan in the mistaken belief that his son would not be able to collect insurance money if he took his own life.
“He called this guy [Mr. Smith] who met him on the side of the road and agreed to shoot him in the head,” attorney Dick Harpootlian told NBC. “It was an attempt, on his part, to do something to protect his child.”
Mr Harpootlian added that Murdaugh is cooperating with authorities and didn’t want a “fake crime” to distract them as they investigate the killing of his wife and son.
Are the shootings connected?
Police have not charged anyone in the killing of Paul and Margaret Murdaugh in June and have not suggested that Murdaugh is involved.
Speaking to NBC’s Morning program on Wednesday, Mr Harpootlian denied that Murdaugh had anything to do with their deaths.
“He is totally distraught,” Mr Harpootlian said. “He did not murder them.”
The Murdaugh case also prompted police to open an investigation into the 2015 death of Stephen Smith, a 19-year-old found dead in the same county, less than 10 miles away.
His death was first deemed to be a shooting, but was then ruled to be a probable hit-and-run. Police have not said what information was recovered during the Murdaugh investigation that led them to look into the Smith case.
Authorities have also launched a probe into the 2018 death of the families’ long-time housekeeper, 57-year-old Gloria Satterfield, after her sons alleged Murdaugh has yet to pay them any damages over the death.
Murdaugh said at the time that the nanny had tripped over his dogs and fallen down the stairs, but the county coroner has said Satterfield’s autopsy was inconsistent with “slip and fall injuries”.
Who killed Paul and Margaret Murdaugh?
Police have no comment about possible suspects in the June deaths of Paul and Margaret.
Following the murders, Alex Murdaugh’s brothers, Randy and John, said they were unaware if the family had enemies, although they claimed Paul had received threats.
On Wednesday, attorney Mr Harpootlian said that Murdaugh doesn’t know who killed his family.
However, Mr Harpootlian added that he is investigating “an individual, or individuals, we believe have some culpability or have done it”.
“We think we’ll know this week whether the one suspect we’re looking at bears further scrutiny,” he said. “We’ll make that information available to law enforcement”.
Although he declined to give further details, Mr Harpootlian said that the “motive would be personal”.
Police Are Probing Death of Murdaugh Housekeeper in 2018
The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced Wednesday that the agency has opened an investigation into the 2018 death of Gloria Satterfield, a former housekeeper for the Murdaugh family.
Gloria Satterfield, the Murdaughs’ 57-year-old longtime housekeeper, died on Feb. 26, 2018, “as a result of injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident” in a Hampton County home that belongs to the family, according to a settlement Alex Murdaugh reached with her estate.
“She had been a housekeeper for the Murdaughs for 25 years. She had been a fabric of the family,” attorney Eric Bland, who is representing Satterfield’s two sons, told The Daily Beast. “The Murdaughs certainly viewed Gloria as part of the family.”
In a letter to SLED, which was obtained by The Daily Beast, Hampton County Coroner Angela Topper requested that state authorities open an investigation into Satterfield’s death due to “inconsistencies” surrounding it.
Topper added that not only was Satterfield’s death not reported to the coroner at the time of her death, but an autopsy was never performed.
“On the death certificate, the manner of death was ruled ‘Natural’, which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident,” Topper said. “In light of these inconsistencies noted above, I feel that it is prudent to pursue an investigation into Gloria Satterfield’s death.”
The probe comes just hours after Satterfied’s sons, Brian Harriott and Tony Satterfield, filed a lawsuit against several individuals—including Murdaugh—over a $500,000 settlement for her death they say they never received.
According to SLED, the latest probe will also interrogate the handling of Satterfield’s estate, which the lawsuit filed Wednesday suggests was effectively orchestrated by lackeys of Murdaugh.
Specifically, the suit says, Murdaugh guided the sons to have a close friend, attorney Cory Fleming, sue Murdaugh for damages. The suit also raises a slew of questions about what happened to an alleged insurance payout.
“It was Alex’s idea to take these boys to Cory Fleming,” Bland, the attorney representing the sons of the late houskeeper, told The Daily Beast. “It was an unusual situation to bring a claim against Alex personally so that Alex could turn it over to his insurance.”
Representatives for Murdaugh did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Fleming also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
For Bland, the renewed focus on what happened to Satterfield is directly related to the ongoing drama surrounding the Murdaugh family.
The case “never would have come into the presence of the public without initial murders and the boating accident, and now everyone is digging,” he said.