The Murdaugh family saga: a tangled web of secrets and murder

A strong household. A lethal boating accident. Two mysterious slayings. Drug habit, stolen cash and a botched taking pictures in an alleged insurance coverage fraud scheme.

It appears like somebody took a listing of sordid parts and stuffed all of them into against the law thriller so twisty it might solely be fiction.

However the tortuous story of the Murdaughs, a outstanding South Carolina household with shadowy secrets and techniques, is actual. And it’s miles from over.

The story took a recent flip this week when investigators arrested patriarch Alex Murdaugh for allegedly hiring successful man to kill him in a failed try to gather thousands and thousands in life insurance coverage for his surviving son, Buster. This got here three months after Murdaugh’s spouse and different son have been gunned down on the household’s secluded property.

These occasions led authorities to open investigations into a number of different mysterious deaths — relationship again years — with obvious ties to the Murdaughs.

Now the household’s legacy of affect is crumbling and the agricultural space round Hampton, some 75 miles west of Charleston, is buzzing with theories. The evolving saga has impressed a minimum of one podcast and gripped beginner sleuths across the state — and the nation.

“Round espresso outlets and barber outlets, that is all folks have been speaking about,” mentioned Akim Anastopoulo, a Charleston legal professional and former prosecutor who has crossed paths with Alex Murdaugh. “You can’t consider how this factor adjustments day-after-day. The brand new data that comes out — it is superb as a result of everybody resides this in actual time.”

The thriller certainly has a tangled internet of characters and occasions. To unpack all of it, we’ve to return a minimum of six years.



The Murdaughs have lengthy been a potent authorized dynasty on this a part of the Carolina Lowcountry, a quiet stretch of farms, woods, marshland and small cities that really feel far faraway from the vacationer bustle of Charleston and even Hilton Head, some 60 miles south.

For practically a century, the household managed the native prosecutor’s workplace.

Starting in 1920, Randolph Murdaugh Sr. was the primary in three generations of solicitors for the 14th Judicial Circuit, which oversees prosecutions in 5 counties. His son, Randolph Murdaugh Jr., succeeded him within the place for practically 5 a long time.

Randolph Murdaugh III — Alex Murdaugh’s dad — then changed him and served by 2005, marking 87 consecutive years that the household led prosecutions within the space.

However even with the household now not operating the prosecutor’s workplace, their connections run deep.

The Murdaughs, together with Alex and his youthful brother Randy, have lengthy been companions in a regional legislation agency with places of work in three counties. They’ve targeted totally on private harm litigation and have received huge settlements for his or her purchasers.

“We’re no totally different than anyone else. We have simply been right here as attorneys for a very long time,” Randy Murdaugh advised ABC Information in June. “I see phrases like ‘dynasty’ used, and ‘energy.’ However we’re simply common folks …”

Randolph Murdaugh III died in June on the age of 81 — three days after his daughter-in-law and grandson have been killed.



The Murdaughs’ troubles, a minimum of within the eyes of the general public, started in February 2019.

Paul Murdaugh, youthful son of Alex Murdaugh, was piloting his father’s motorboat with 5 pals early within the morning of February 24 when it struck a bridge on Archer’s Creek, close to Parris Island. He was 19 on the time and a pupil on the College of South Carolina.

One in every of his passengers, Mallory Seaside, additionally 19, was tossed from the boat. Her physique was discovered per week later.

A 911 name was positioned from the crash web site at roughly 2:30 a.m.

Three folks aboard the boat later advised investigators that Paul Murdaugh was driving, though one other passenger recognized a distinct individual as the motive force, in keeping with an affidavit.

Investigators looking out the boat discovered a cooler filled with beer together with empty cans and bottles of alcohol, in keeping with CNN affiliate WJCL.

Authorities charged Paul Murdaugh with boating beneath the affect, inflicting nice bodily hurt and inflicting Seaside’s loss of life.

He pleaded not responsible and was nonetheless awaiting trial when tragedy struck the household once more.



On June 7, emergency dispatchers in Colleton County acquired a 911 name from a distraught Alex Murdaugh.

He advised them he had simply arrived on the household’s 1,700-acre property in Islandton, an unincorporated hamlet, to seek out the our bodies of his spouse Maggie and son Paul mendacity on the bottom by their canine kennels.

“It is unhealthy,” he mentioned.

Maggie Murdaugh, 52, had been shot a number of occasions with a semiautomatic rifle. Paul Murdaugh, by then 22, had been shot a minimum of twice with a shotgun.

“And are they respiratory?” requested the dispatcher.

“No ma’am,” Murdaugh mentioned.

The grotesque scene pointed to 2 shooters, leaving some observers questioning if it was linked to the household’s authorized historical past. Paul Murdaugh’s uncles advised ABC Information that he had been acquired threatening messages on-line because the boating accident.

Alex Murdaugh, 53, has denied duty within the killings, which stay unsolved.

“My brother cherished Maggie and cherished Paul like nothing else on this earth…” Randy Murdaugh advised ABC Information. “So there isn’t any doable manner he might have something to do with this, I can guarantee you.”

The slayings thrust the household into the nationwide highlight and have to this point baffled police.

Additionally they introduced new scrutiny to 2 earlier deaths.



In June, as investigators probed the taking pictures deaths of Alex Murdaugh’s spouse and son, they made a startling announcement.

The South Carolina Legislation Enforcement Division (SLED) mentioned it was opening an investigation into the loss of life of 19-year-old Stephen Smith, whose physique was discovered July 8, 2015, on a rural highway some 8 miles west of the Murdaugh property.

On the time, police mentioned Smith had a large head wound they usually believed he’d been struck by a car. No suspect was ever charged.

Authorities haven’t revealed what new data led them to reopen the investigation into Smith’s loss of life.

Smith and Buster Murdaugh, 25, have been classmates at Wade Hampton Excessive College.

The Murdaughs haven’t been accused of wrongdoing in his case, and no proof has linked the household to Smith’s loss of life.

However Smith’s mom advised CNN affiliate WCIV in June that she does not consider her son was the sufferer of a hit-and-run.

Reopening of the investigation was lengthy overdue, Sandy Smith mentioned.

“We have been ready on this eternally,” she advised the affiliate. “Stephen’s all the time been placed on the again burner. It is like no person’s on the lookout for solutions. Stephen’s had no justice.”



Many of the summer time handed uneventfully. Then, on September 4, the Murdaugh saga took yet one more flip.

That day Alex Murdaugh known as 911 and mentioned he’d been shot within the head by an unidentified man whereas altering a tire on the facet of the highway not removed from his house.

A household spokesperson mentioned the household anticipated Murdaugh to get well and requested for privateness, saying, “The Murdaugh household has suffered by greater than anyone household might ever think about.”

However per week later Murdaugh admitted to authorities that he had conspired with the person — recognized by police as Curtis Edward Smith, a former consumer of Murdaugh — to kill him as a part of an insurance coverage fraud scheme.

Murdaugh had hoped his surviving son Buster might acquire a US$10 million life insurance coverage payout, in keeping with an affidavit to assist costs towards Smith.

Murdaugh needed to finish his life, however believed his life insurance coverage coverage had a suicide exclusion, mentioned his legal professional, who added that his consumer needed to guard his solely dwelling little one. Murdaugh supplied Smith with a firearm and advised him to shoot him within the head, the affidavit mentioned.

Murdaugh additionally introduced he had resigned from his legislation agency following allegations he had misappropriated funds, and mentioned he was coming into rehab for what considered one of his attorneys later specified was an habit to opioids.

“The murders of my spouse and son have precipitated an extremely tough time in my life,” Murdaugh mentioned in a press release. “I’ve made loads of selections that I really remorse.”

Then the thriller deepened even additional.



On Wednesday, the South Carolina Legislation Enforcement Division mentioned it was opening a felony probe into the February 2018 loss of life of Gloria Satterfield, a housekeeper who’d spent greater than twenty years working for the Murdaugh household.

Satterfield, 57, died on the Murdaugh property in what was declared on the time as a “journey and fall accident,” in keeping with legal professional Eric Bland, who’s representing her property.

SLED mentioned it’s opening the investigation based mostly upon a request from the Hampton County coroner that highlights inconsistencies within the ruling of Satterfield’s method of loss of life, in addition to data gathered throughout different ongoing probes involving Alex Murdaugh.

The coroner’s request mentioned that no post-mortem was carried out on Satterfield and that “on the loss of life certificates the style of loss of life was dominated ‘Pure,’ which is inconsistent with accidents sustained in a visit and fall accident.”

This week, Bland additionally filed a civil lawsuit alleging Murdaugh proposed the housekeeper’s two sons sue him so they might acquire their mom’s life insurance coverage settlement. Murdaugh then launched the sons to a fellow legal professional to signify them within the lawsuit with out disclosing to them that the legal professional was an in depth buddy, Bland mentioned.

Satterfield’s sons acquired a partial settlement of $505,000 however haven’t seen any of it up to now, the lawsuit states.

CNN has reached out to Murdaugh’s attorneys for remark.



Alex Murdaugh has been charged with insurance coverage fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance coverage fraud, and submitting a false police report. His legislation license has been suspended.

“It is simply such a loopy circumstance of occasions,” mentioned Anastopoulo, the Charleston legal professional. “Those that know them (the Murdaughs) are extraordinarily shocked that this occurred, as a result of he is a effectively revered legal professional.”

Murdaugh was arrested Thursday and appeared in court docket in handcuffs earlier than being launched on bond. The redhead identified to pals as “Large Pink” appeared thinner and grayer than he had in earlier household snapshots. At one level he appeared to wipe tears from his eyes.

In a press release to CNN, his attorneys, Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, mentioned their consumer “isn’t with out fault.” However they blamed his points on an opioid habit.

“These people took benefit of his habit and his capability to pay substantial funds for unlawful medicine,” the attorneys mentioned. “A kind of people took benefit of his psychological sickness and agreed to take Alex’s life by taking pictures him within the head.”

Murdaugh has introduced a $100,000 reward for data resulting in the arrest and conviction of the events liable for the deaths of his spouse and son.

In the meantime, the felony investigations proceed on a number of fronts. Reporters are scouring the area for anybody who may need perception into the Murdaughs. And everybody wonders what’s coming subsequent.

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