Murdaugh Family Murders Explained, What You Need to Know

by Creating Change Mag
Murdaugh Family Murders Explained, What You Need to Know

Update, March 2, 2023: After deliberating for three hours on Thursday evening, a jury found Alex Murdaugh guilty of murdering his wife, Maggie, and younger son, Paul, on June 7, 2021.

Murdaugh still faces a host of serious charges, including money laundering, insurance fraud, and alleged misuse of funds from a settlement related to the death of his housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield. He will face sentencing in his wife’s and son’s murders on March 3, 2023.

The story of the Murdaugh murders stems from a 100-year-old family legal dynasty in Hampton, South Carolina, that was put in the hands of fourth-generation lawyer Alex Murdaugh.

But what took a century to build came crashing down in June 2021, when Alex called authorities after finding his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and his youngest son, Paul Murdaugh, shot dead in their 1,770-acre hunting lodge at 4147 Moselle Road in Islandton, South Carolina.

These crimes led to a series of revelations about the family, which HBO Max unpacked in the new true crime documentary, Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty, that aired on November 3. Followed by another true crime series based on the once-prestigious family Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal which is set to release on Netflix on February 22.

Image credit: Courtesy of Maggie Murdaugh via Facebook.

Now in the same courthouse where generations of Murdaughs laid down the law, Alex is set to go on trial for murder, with jury selection beginning on January 23.

“Murdaugh will not be shackled during the trial, which begins Monday in Colleton County,” a South Carolina Public Radio reported. “He faces life behind bars if convicted. Meantime, a portrait of his grandfather that hangs in the courtroom will be taken down.”

Keep scrolling for everything to know about the case and the Murdaugh family.

Who Are the Murdaugh Family?

The Murdaugh family began in South Carolina at the turn of the century and have been prominent lawyers in the state for decades. Beginning with Alex Murdaugh’s great-grandfather Randolph Murdaugh Sr., who started Peters Murdaugh Parker Eltzroth & Detrick in 1910, generations of his family have continued to work at the firm, including his son, Randolph “Buster” Murdaugh II, grandson, Randolph Murdaugh III, and his great-great-grandsons Randolph “Randy” Murdaugh IV and Alex Murdaugh.

The firm was successful with personal injury cases by taking advantage of a South Carolina law that allows people to sue in any county and not where an incident may have occurred — which can often result in favoritism and landed Hampton County on the 2004 list of “Judicial Hellholes“. However, this made the Murdaugh group the “go-to” lawyers in the county.

Randolph Sr. also became the first elected solicitor, (or district attorney), of the 14th judicial circuit (district) in 1920. Randolph Sr. held the role for 20 years until his death. His son, Randolph “Buster” Murdaugh II, was elected to the position next. He worked from 1940 to 1986, until his son Randolph Murdaugh III took over, working from 1986 to 2006. Alex volunteered and worked part-time in the solicitor’s office after graduating from USC Law School in 1994 until 2021.

The Murdaugh family were solicitors in South Carolina for 86 years straight; leading criminal prosecutions for their district, and playing a key role in deciding which cases get prosecuted (and when) from 1920 to 2006.

What Happened to Paul and Maggie Murdaugh?

Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were shot dead on June 7, 2021. Alex Murdaugh called 911 at around 10 p.m., claiming he had discovered the bodies. However, the coroner found that the two had died between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., per NPR, and they had been shot with different weapons — Maggie with an assault-style rifle and Paul with a shotgun.

In October 2021, Alex was named as a person of interest in the case, although his lawyer denied the allegations and said he had no motive for the crimes, according to People.

According to NBC News, sources close to the investigation said authorities found cellphone video evidence that places Alex at the scene of the crime.

On July 14, 2022, he was indicted by a grand jury in connection to Paul and Maggie’s murders. He was charged with two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.

Alex Murdaugh’s lawyers maintain his innocence.

Image credit: Courtesy of Maggie Murdaugh via Facebook.

What Other Crimes Were Uncovered After the Murdaugh Family Murders?

As investigators looked into the deaths of the mother and son, other unsolved crimes relating to the Murdaugh family were discovered.

Two years before his death, in February 2019, youngest son Paul, 22, had been involved in a boat crash that left his friend, Mallory Beach, dead after being thrown from the boat. Though various witnesses said Paul had been driving the boat while intoxicated, according to a previous NBC documentary on Peacock, key evidence had gone missing in the case.

Paul was charged with one count of boating while intoxicated and two counts of causing bodily injury, though people suggested he received special treatment thanks to his family’s legacy. He was released on bond and a date for his trial was never set, per People.

Additionally, two weeks following the double murders that took place in June 2021, the state reopened an investigation into a 2015 case of a man, Stephen Smith, who had been found dead on the side of the road.

While South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) has not revealed what evidence caused them to reopen the case, per NPR, the Murdaugh name kept coming up in relation to the case. Sources speculated that Buster Murdaugh, Alex Murdaugh’s eldest son who also worked at the family law firm, had a relationship with Smith, according to the Daily Mail.

Furthermore, although Smith’s death was ruled a hit-and-run, he had a gunshot wound above his right eye and his injuries were not consistent with those sustained from vehicle trauma, according to the Daily Mail.

Buster has not been named a person of interest in Smith’s death.

What Happened to Gloria Satterfield?

In addition to Smith’s death, SLED began investigating another case involving the Murdaugh family. In 2018, the family’s longtime housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, died after Maggie Murdaugh called 911, claiming Satterfield had fallen down the stairs. It was noted that Paul was present during the call.

Satterfield was a longtime caretaker of the family, and according to sources featured in Discovery + documentary Murdaugh Murders: Deadly Dynasty, she had told several people that Paul would kill small animals and often disregarded authority.

Her cause of death remains unclear.

At the funeral, Alex approached Satterfield’s sons and said since the accident happened on his property, he was going to sue himself for wrongful death so the boys can get some insurance money, according to The New York Times.

With all legalities handled by Alex, the sons were told to wait for a settlement.

Alex and his insurers did reach a $4.3 million settlement in the months after Satterfield’s death, but the Satterfield family didn’t see a dime.

The Satterfield sons filed a lawsuit against Alex Murdaugh in September 2021, and SLED decided to exhume the body for an autopsy in June 2022, according to South Carolina’s WCSC. That same month, Alex agreed to pay the Satterfield family $4.3 million.

Where Is the Murdaugh Law Firm Now?

The alleged misappropriated funds in the wrongful death suit uncovered various other financial crimes including Alex stealing millions from clients and his family law firm, according to The New York Times.

He was then forced out by his partners in September 2021, just three months after the double murders. The firm changed its name to the Parker Law Group, LLP in January 2021, according to WOTC South Carolina.

Alex was also stripped from being a lawyer in the state of South Carolina indefinitely, and his name was removed from the firm that was once known as the “Murdaugh Law Firm.”

What Happened to Alex Murdaugh?

The following day, after Alex was forced out of the firm, he was shot in the head while changing a tire on the side of the road. The shot only caused minor damage and he was able to call for help.

Days after he was shot, he checked into rehab for opioid addiction. It was there that he admitted to lawyers that he had hired Curtis Eddie Smith to kill him so his son Buster could collect $10 million in insurance money.

On Sept. 16, 2021, he turned himself in to Hampton County Law Enforcement in connection to the suicide-for-hire scam, per People.

Later, on Oct. 14, 2021, Alex was arrested on felony charges for misusing millions from the Satterfield estate and obtaining property under false pretenses, per NPR, and was hit with tens of charges in the months that followed concerning numerous financial crimes and deaths.

He was indicted on murder charges for the deaths of his wife and son in July 2022.

Image credit: Tracy Glantz/The Island Packet/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Where Are the Murdaughs Now?

Alex Murdaugh is currently in jail and is set to go on trial for the June 2021 murders of his son Paul and his wife Maggie in January. If convicted, he could face 30 years to life in prison without parole and could be eligible for the death penalty, according to USA Today.

Murdaugh faces a total of 90 charges, many of which include financial crimes such as stealing from the family law firm, money laundering through a drug ring, and committing insurance fraud.

As for the rest of the surviving Murdaugh family, eldest son Buster was last reported to be “not doing well at all” since his father was arrested for the double murders, sources told People in July 2022.

Despite previously working at his family’s law firm, Buster appears to have no involvement in the rebranded Parker Law Group.

Meanwhile, Alex’s brother Randy still works as a practicing lawyer at the now-renamed Parker Law Firm. He denounced Alex’s actions and claimed he had no involvement in his mishandling of company funds in a statement to People in September 2021.

Randy is also suing Alex for thousands in unpaid loans.

How Much Are the Murdaughs Worth?

It’s unclear exactly how much wealth the Murdaugh family once had, but several accounts and properties were found to be worth millions.

When Murdaugh was held on a $7 million bond for 51 criminal charges, the court detailed Murdaugh’s assets, which included numerous real estate properties and even small islands, according to Greenville News.

Additionally, the court found a retirement account worth between $2.1 and $2.2 million, and an IRA retirement fund valued at $350,000 to $400,000.

He was also supposed to receive a trust for an undisclosed amount after his father Randolph Murdaugh III’s death in June 2021, plus probate assets after his wife’s death that same month.

Furthermore, the family hunting lodge where Paul and Maggie were killed was listed in February 2022 for $3.9 million.

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