The Murdaugh Murders

Prominent South Carolina Lawyer on Trial for Murdering Family



The trial of Alex Murdaugh, a prominent lawyer, began this week with jury selection, as he faces charges of murdering his wife and son. The killings, which occurred in June 2021, have been referred to as the “Murdaugh Murders” and have shocked the community of the Lowcountry region, specifically Hampton, where the Murdaugh family has established a powerful legal dynasty for over a hundred years. According to prosecutors, Alex Murdaugh killed his wife and son in an attempt to conceal his own financial crimes, which include stealing approximately $8.8 million from clients. He has been in jail since October 2021, when he was first charged with stealing from a former client.  The killings of Alex Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, 52, and their son Paul, a 22-year-old junior at the University of South Carolina, occurred on the night of June 7th, 2021. Alex Murdaugh called 911 to report that his wife and one of their two sons had been shot to death. As investigations began more and more details were uncovered. More than a year passed without a suspect or motive being identified. However, on July 14, 2022, Alex Murdaugh was indicted on two counts of murder, with the authorities saying he fatally shot his wife with a rifle and his son with a shotgun. 

Family History

The family’s solicitation history dates back to 1920 when Alex Murdaugh’s great-grandfather, Randolph Murdaugh Sr. became the first-ever solicitor of the region. Now, for nearly 90 years, the post of the chief prosecutor for the five-county region has been held by a Murdaugh, and the family’s law firm has been one of the state’s leading plaintiff litigation firms. The press and talk surrounding the Murdaugh Murders has also spawned investigations into three previous deaths in proximity to the family. 


Housekeepers death

The first was the death of their housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, in 2018. She had worked with the family for over 20 years. After her death, Alex Murdaugh introduced Mrs. Satterfield’s sons to a lawyer who was supposed to help the claim insurance money. However, the sons never received any money, and when they found out in 2021 that a 4.3 million dollar settlement had been reached over their mother’s death they were furious. In June of 2022, Alex Murdaugh admitted that he owed her sons the full 4.3 million dollar settlement. Another suspicion surrounding the death occurred when the family was informed that the coroner had never been contacted to perform an autopsy. This suggests that someone might not want people to know how she really died.


Deadly Boat Crash

When Paul Murdaugh died, he was out on bail after being charged with crashing a boat and killing a 19-year-old passenger named Mallory beach back in 2019. However, Paul was not immediately convicted of the crime as police claimed they did not know who was driving the boat. One passenger has recently released a statement claiming they told the cops Paul had been driving the boat and the officer decided to write in the report that he could not confirm who had actually been driving. Some believe that Alex Murdaugh was in financial trouble partly because of the accident and might have killed his wife and son in order to keep his financial problems concealed.


Hit and Run

Gloria Satterfield is not the only investigation that has been reopened since the Murdaugh Murders. Back in 2015, 19-year-old Stephen Smith was found dead on the side of the road in what was presumed to be a hit-and-run. Investigators never found a suspect and the investigation went cold. However, a couple of weeks after the murders, police reopened the investigation. Although the Murdaughs have not been found guilty in any of the three mentioned deaths. For a single family to be involved in 5 deaths, including the two murders, in 8 years is pretty remarkable, and many believe there is more to the story.


The Trial

Alex Murdaugh has maintained his innocence in the killing of his wife and son, and his lawyers said before the trial that he “looks forward to this opportunity to clear his name.”

In the opening statement of the trial on Wednesday, prosecutor John Waters presented a detailed timeline of the movements and actions of the defendant, Alex Murdaugh, on the night of the killings. The state will use a variety of evidence, including cellphone data, ballistic evidence, and video statements, to prove that Murdaugh was responsible for the deaths of his son and wife. Waters stated that although Murdaugh claims he was not at the dog kennels on the family’s estate on the night of the murders, cellphone video taken by Paul Murdaugh at 8:45 p.m. on June 7, 2021, shows the voices of Murdaugh, his wife, and his son near the location where the alleged murders took place. The prosecutor also said that minutes after this video was taken, Murdaugh shot his son with a shotgun and then shot his wife with a rifle. In addition to this video evidence, the prosecutor also highlighted that ballistics evidence will show that a family weapon was used in the killing of Maggie Murdaugh. He also mentioned that Alex Murdaugh had purchased three AR-style rifles, two of which are missing. The prosecutor also noted that Murdaugh’s phone did not show any activity from around 8 p.m. until just after 9 p.m. Murdaugh returned home just after 10:00 p.m. and called 911 to report the killings, according to Waters. The trial is expected to last for several weeks and will feature testimony from witnesses and experts, as well as the presentation of additional evidence. The prosecution is seeking a conviction for first-degree murder in this case.


Defense attorney Harpootlian began his opening statement by painting a picture of Murdaugh as a loving husband and father. Harpootlian stated that a Snapchat video taken by Paul Murdaugh an hour before the killings showed the pair having a good time and it is not realistic that Murdaugh would have killed his family a short time later. Harpootlian also pointed out that there were no eyewitnesses to the shootings and no forensic evidence such as fingerprints or blood linking Murdaugh to the scene. Harpootlian even questioned whether there was enough time for Murdaugh to have killed his family, gotten rid of the evidence, and begun driving to his parent’s home. He closed out his opening by stating that given there were two different guns used, it’s more likely that there were two people responsible, though he did not identify another possible suspect in the killings. 


What Does This Mean?

This early into a trial no one can be sure of an outcome, however, it is clear that the state feels confident in their case. Many are calling it a battle of evidence and believe whichever side is able to bring more to the table will win. Although some may already believe that Alex Murdaugh is guilty, the truth is we will all have to wait to find out.