Hampton County, SC – The downward spiral of a prominent South Carolina legal family may have finally reached its conclusion on Saturday after a former prosecutor tried and failed to have himself killed so his son could inherit $10 million just three months after his wife and other son were murdered.
For 100 years, Murdaughs have ruled South Carolina’s 14th Judicial Circuit, which includes Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton, Allendale, and Jasper counties, both as prosecutors and in private practice, NBC News reported.
Until very recently, 53-year-old Alex Murdaugh served as a part-time prosecutor for the 14th Judicial Circuit and was a partner in the law firm founded his by great-grandfather in Hampton more than 100 years ago.
Alex’s father, Randolph Murdaugh III, was also a 14th Circuit Solicitor.
Randolph’s father and grandfather had been the prosecutors for Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties before that, according to NBC News.
But things started going sideways for the family dynasty in 2019 after Alex’s youngest son, then 20-year-old Paul Murdaugh, was charged with three felonies in connection with the death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach.
Beach died after she was thrown from a boat that crashed while Paul was allegedly piloting it under the influence after a day of drinking and partying with older family members.
The family’s prominence and legal connections raised questions after Beach’s death.
Early on, 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone asked South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson to reassign the cases if charges were brought because three of the people on the boat had relatives who worked in his office, the Island Packet reported.
Then the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office asked to be recused from the investigation due to its “long-standing relationship” with Paul’s grandfather.
Beach’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in March of 2019 against a convenience store, Alex Murdaugh, and his oldest son, Richard Alexander “Buster” Murdaugh Jr., for serving alcohol to underage people the night of the boat crash, WJCL reported.
A month later, Paul was indicted for boating under the influence causing death and two counts of boating under the influence causing great bodily injury.
But in the end, none of that mattered and all of the charges against Paul were dismissed because the then-22 year old and his mother, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, were both shot to death in the yard of their family’s rural hunting estate in Islandton on the night of June 7.
Alex found his wife and son’s bodies in the yard and called 911 but he told police he wasn’t there at the time of the murders.
Law enforcement sources told the Island Packet that Paul was shot in the upper body and head by a shotgun.
The sources said investigators believed his mother was killed by a semi-automatic rifle.
Alex’s father, Randolph, died two days after his grandson and daughter-in-law were murdered, FOX News reported.
No arrests have been made in the murders of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh, nor have any suspects been announced by authorities.
Things further unraveled on Labor Day weekend when Alex called 911 at 1:34 p.m. on Sept. 4 and claimed he had been shot while changing his tire on the side of the road in Hampton County, the Island Packet reported.
Alex told police that he had been shot by a man in a blue pickup truck, WJCL reported.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) said Alex was airlifted to Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia with “a superficial gunshot wound to the head.”
Two days later, Alex was released from the hospital and announced he was going into drug rehab and had resigned from his family’s legacy law firm, Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick (PMPED), FOX News reported.
It turned out that Alex had been confronted by his law partners a day earlier over what sources have said was millions of dollars in missing money, according to The State.
The law firm confirmed that Alex Murdaugh had resigned after it was discovered that he had “misappropriated funds.”
PMPED said in a statement that it was bringing in a forensic accounting team to investigate the alleged theft and said they would deal with it in a “straightforward manner,” The State reported.
The firm also said it had reported its former partner to the South Carolina bar.
On Sept. 8, the South Carolina Supreme Court suspended Alex’s law license effective immediately, WJCL reported.
And five days later, SLED announced it was investigating the claims Alex had stolen money from his law firm.
On Tuesday, SLED arrested 61-year-old Curtis Edward Smith in connection with the shooting of Alex Murdaugh, WJCL reported.
Smith’s charges included assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud, and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, according to WSAV.
Authorities said that Alex had hired Smith to kill him so that his surviving son, Buster, could collect a $10 million life insurance policy.
Officials said that Alex had admitted to the scheme, WJCL reported.
Attorneys for Alex said that he had been battling an opioid addiction for more than 20 years and the man who shot him was one of his drug dealers.
Alex Murtaugh’s lawyers released an explanatory statement to the media on Wednesday morning, WSAV reported.
“On September 4, it became clear Alex believed that ending his life was his only option,” the statement read. “Today, he knows that’s not true.”
“For the last 20 years, there have been many people feeding his addiction to opioids. During that time, these individuals took advantage of his addiction and his ability to pay substantial funds for illegal drugs,” it continued.
“One of those individuals took advantage of his mental illness and agreed to take Alex’s life, by shooting him in the head,” the statement read.
“Fortunately, Alex was not killed by the gunshot wound,” the attorneys continued. “Alex is fully cooperating with SLED in their investigations into his shooting, opioid use and the search to find the person or people responsible for the murder of his wife and son. Alex is not without fault but he is just one of many whose life has been devastated by opioid addiction.”
Separately, SLED announced in late June that during the course of the Murdaugh murder investigation, investigators had found information related to the unsolved 2015 murder of 19-year-old Stephen Smith in Hampton County, WJCL reported.
The agency has not released any details related to that investigation.
Late on Sept. 15, SLED announced it was opening an investigation into the death of the Murdaugh’s long-time nanny and housekeeper who died in what was described as a trip-and-fall accident in the Murdaugh’s home, WCBD reported.
SLED said it opened the investigation into the death of Gloria Satterfield at the request of the Hampton County Coroner’s Office and based on other information found while investigating Alex Murdaugh.
Hampton County Coroner Angela Topper sent a letter to SLED that said Satterfield’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,” WCBD reported.
Satterfield’s sons filed a lawsuit against Alex on the same day the criminal investigation was announced that alleged he’d never paid them a $500,000 wrongful death settlement that had been owed to the estate since 2018, WCBD reported.
The lawsuit also called for answers surrounding the circumstances of Satterfield’s death.