Alex Murdaugh, head of an influential South Carolina legal dynasty, was accused, among other things, of trying to extort damages after pleading guilty to his own murder. This case has become the reason why the Murdaugh family story is being looked at again by the American media. In June of this year, the lawyer’s wife and son were murdered under mysterious circumstances. In parallel, investigators are conducting two investigations into the deaths of two people who have links to the Murdaughs.
“Powerful family. Tragic boat accident. Two mysterious killings. Drug addiction, money theft and unsuccessful attempt to shoot during an allegedly planned insurance fraud. It all sounds like someone is trying to stuff a whole list of vile pieces into one crime thriller so intricate, that it could only appear fiction, “CNN wrote on Sunday. “The story of the Murdaughs, an influential South Carolina family with dark mysteries, however, is true,” the US station’s website reads.
The Murdaughs’ dismal fame grew stronger after US police on Thursday reported the arrest and charges against head of the family, South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh. The man was accused of ordering his own murder and attempting a financial fraud. Investigators say that by ordering his own murder, he wanted to trigger a payment of money from the insurance company for his son, Buster. The amount the man was to receive was $ 10 million.
This came about three months after Murdaugh’s wife and his second son were shot. These events prompted investigators to look at two other mysterious deaths of people more or less related to the Murdaugh family.
The Lowcountry Murdaugh Dynasty
Murdaugh history has been linked to the Lowcountry region for decades. This is a quiet, wooded part of South Carolina. It is dominated by farms and small towns that are not affected by the tourist hustle and bustle of the state’s largest city, Charleston.
In 1920, Randolph Murdaugh Sr. took over as prosecutor for the 14th South Carolina Judicial District, becoming the first representative of his dynasty to hold the position. His son, Randolph Murdaugh Junior, succeeded his father and held office for nearly 50 years to hand over his function to Randolph Murdaugh III, father of Alex Murdaugh. He held it until 2005.
Although the Murdaughs lost their prosecution service after nearly 90 years, the influence of the legal dynasty did not diminish. Alex and his younger brother Randy had been running a law firm operating in several counties in South Carolina for many years. Their main field of activity was non-pecuniary damage cases in which they managed to win large settlements for their clients.
– We do not stand out from others. We have simply been acting as lawyers here for many years, Randy Murdaugh told ABC News. – I hear about “dynasty”, about “power”, but we are ordinary people – he explained.
Motorboat accident and charges against Paul Murdaugh
19-year-old Paul Murdaugh, a student at the University of South Carolina and son of Alex, went on a cruise around Parris Island in February 2019 with five friends. While driving his father’s motorboat, he crashed into a bridge over the Archers Creek Canal. One of the passengers, 19-year-old Mallory Beach, fell overboard in a collision. Her body was found a week later.
According to CNN, investigators searching the motorboat found a refrigerator with beer on board, as well as empty cans and bottles of alcohol. Paul Murdaugh has been charged with driving while under the influence, seriously injuring his passengers and losing Mallory Beach.
The 19-year-old did not plead guilty to the alleged acts. He waited for a further trial when another tragedy struck the family.
The murder at the Murdaugh mansion
In June of this year, an ambulance service from Colleton County southwest of Charleston received a call from Alex Murdaugh. The distraught man informed them that he had arrived at his estate in Islandton, a small settlement on the Walterboro-Varnville route, where he found the bodies of his wife Maggie and son Paul lying on the ground by the dog kennels. Maggie Murdaugh, 52, was wounded from multiple shots by a semi-automatic weapon. Paul, then 22, was hit by a shotgun at least twice.
The Murdaugh assassination gave rise to speculation about the possible motives of the killers. Paul’s relatives have revealed that he has received threatening messages since his fatal boat accident.
Hypotheses appeared in the public opinion about the possible involvement of Alex in the crime, which to this day remains unexplained. The head of the family himself and his younger brother rejected these accusations. – My brother loved Maggie and Paul more than his life. Impossible that he could have anything to do with it, I can assure you, Randy Murdaugh told ABC News.
Contract your own murder
On September 4 of that year, Alex Murdaugh made the emergency number. He told dispatchers that he was shot in the head by an unknown man while changing a car tire on the side of the road near his property. “The Murdaughs have suffered more than any other family could have imagined,” the lawyer for the dynasty said, asking the media to respect the victim’s privacy.
However, a week later Alex confessed to investigators that he was in league with his former client Curtis Edward Smith. Murdaugh was supposed to order a man for his murder to extort the insurance company to pay out a multi-million dollar policy for his son, Buster. As he later explained to prosecutors, he wanted to take his own life, but knew that his insurance would not be paid in the event of suicide.
Alex Murdaugh, who has also been accused of embezzling funds, has resigned from running the law firm and announced his intention to go to rehab to treat his opioid addiction. “The murder of my wife and son caused an extremely difficult time in my life. I have made many decisions that I sincerely regret,” he said.
Murdaugh was charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to extort damages and making false statements. His lawyer license has been suspended. He was released on bail, but before he did so, he stood trial in Varnville – in prison clothes and handcuffed. The man’s lawyers told CNN that while their client was “not flawless,” they blamed his problems on opioid addiction.
The Charlotte Observer noted the appearance of Alex Murdaugh at the court hearing on Thursday. His lawyers said that the gunshot would have sustained an “entrance and exit wound”, but there was now no visible mark on his head. The newspaper stressed that the first Hampton County sheriff’s police report marked “no” when asked if the victim had visible wounds. When state department investigators took over, they labeled Murdaugh’s injuries “superficial.”
Alex Murdaugh announced a $ 100,000 reward for providing information that will assist in the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the murder of his wife and son.
A body by the road and an accident at the Murdaugh mansion
CNN noted that what had happened to the Murdaugh family in recent months was a reminder of two other things from years ago.
In June, while the services were investigating the murder of Paul and Maggie, the Investigative Division announced that the investigation into the death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith was reopened. His body was found in July 2015 on a provincial road approximately 8 miles from the Murdaugh Estate. Smith and Buster Murdaugh went to high school together. Police said the extensive head wounds on Smith’s corpse indicated that the teenager was hit by a car. At that time, no one heard the charges. However, the mother of the deceased does not believe that her son was hit by a car.
Investigators did not disclose what new information prompted them to reopen the investigation. CNN said no one in the Murdaugh family is a suspect in the case, and no evidence suggests they were involved.
Authorities said Wednesday that they are also opening an investigation into the death of Gloria Satterfield, 57. The woman worked for over 20 years as a housewife in the Murdaugh family. In February 2018, she died in their mansion as a result of a “trip and fall”. Investigators decided to reopen the investigation based on a motion by the Hampton County Coroner, who noted inconsistencies in the documentation of the woman’s death.
Main photo source: Mic Smith / AP / East News