Alex Murdaugh, the descendant of a prominent legal family in the South Carolina Lowcountry, was indicted on Thursday in an investigation into missing funds in a settlement involving the death of his longtime housekeeper , the authorities said.
Murdaugh was taken into custody in Orlando, Florida after being released from a drug rehab center, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, or SLED. He will be held until an extradition hearing and faces two counts of obtaining property under false pretenses.
“Today is just one more step in a long process of justice for the many victims of these investigations,” agency chief Mark Keel said in a statement. “As I said before, we are committed to following the facts wherever they take us and we will not stop until justice is served.”
The heirs of Gloria Satterfield, a housekeeper who died three years ago in what was initially described as an accidental fall, insisted they had not received any of the proceeds from a settlement of 4, $ 3 million orchestrated by Murdaugh.
Murdaugh’s arrest – his second in two months – is the latest in a twisted saga that has raised questions about the family’s powerful ties.
From the start, authorities viewed Murdaugh as a person of interest in the deaths of his wife, Margaret, and son, Paul, one of his lawyers said in an interview on Wednesday, while insisting that his client was not involved.
Murdaugh’s actions on the June night he found his wife and son fatally shot in their rural estate have come under scrutiny as state investigators scoured the evidence and unraveled a network of dual-born criminal investigations homicide.
Law enforcement “said from the outset that Alex was a person of interest,” his lawyer, Jim Griffin, told local FOX affiliate WHNS in Greenville.
State investigators declined to comment on details of the investigation and Murdaugh’s status in the investigation. Griffin did not immediately respond to a request for further comment Thursday, but suggested to WHNS that investigators had not been able to link his client to the murders.
“You’d think if Alex was the one who did it, that SLED could have established that pretty easily that night,” Griffin said. “You would think they would have searched his house and found blood somewhere. You would think they would have found the murder weapons on the property. You would think they would find something to link Alex to the murders, forensic or independent evidence. And to my knowledge, they haven’t. “
Murdaugh, 53, who worked as a personal injury attorney, had an alibi on the night of the murders, Griffin said, and was spending time with his mother, who has dementia, and her caregiver.
In a 911 call made by Murdaugh at 10:07 p.m., he reported finding Margaret and Paul unresponsive.
“My wife and child were badly injured,” he said after finding their bodies near the kennels on the property.
In the aftermath of the shooting, and although he did not disclose the names of suspects or people with an interest in the case or potential motives, state investigators said there was no no danger to the public.
Murdaugh’s legal legacy – and his close ties throughout the Lowcountry for decades – quickly brought him to light. His father, Randolph Murdaugh III, his grandfather, Randolph “Buster” Murdaugh Jr., and his great-grandfather, Randolph Murdaugh Sr., were all elected to the same office as the region’s top prosecutor, during almost 90 years old.
His personal life fell apart when his lawyers said he hired a friend and former client, Curtis Edward Smith, to kill him over Labor Day weekend so that another son, Buster, could benefit from a $ 10 million life insurance policy. Murdaugh’s attorneys said he was depressed over the deaths of his wife and son and was going from a 20-year addiction to opioids when he decided he wanted to die.
Murdaugh was charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and filing a false police report, and was released on $ 20,000 personal bond after surrendering .
Separately, Smith faces several charges related to insurance fraud and assisted suicide, as well as drug-related charges for methamphetamine and marijuana after authorities said they found them in his home.
Griffin denied that the plot was “an elaborate money ploy”, but rather the actions of a desperate man “who had lost his will to live.”
“If he were to end his life, he would do it in a way that would benefit his son,” he said.
Griffin said Smith was standing about 5 feet away when he encountered Murdaugh on a rural road in Hampton County and complied with his request by firing a .38 caliber revolver at his head. Griffin also answered questions about why Murdaugh did not appear to have a visible head injury during his court appearance last month, even though he insisted with police that Smith shot him. .
Griffin admitted he hadn’t seen a gunshot wounds either, but is waiting for hospital records to verify Murdaugh’s injuries.
Murdaugh’s account is just one of many inconsistencies that made it difficult to identify what happened on the day of the shooting, although authorities in their arrest warrants offered his version of events.
But Smith and his lawyer, Jonny McCoy, push back. On NBC’s “TODAY” Thursday, they disputed that Smith was a willing accomplice and claimed he was Murdaugh’s drug dealer.
Smith, 61, said Murdaugh called him and asked to meet him by the side of the road with his work truck. When he arrived he saw Murdaugh had a gun and it looked like he was going to shoot himself, that’s when Smith said he stepped in. The gun fired. Once Smith realized Murdaugh was okay, he said he was gone.
In his initial account shared by his lawyers after the shooting, Murdaugh said he was checking for a flat tire when he was the victim of a random attack by a person in a blue truck.
McCoy said Murdaugh’s changing histories make him unreliable, while his Smith has been consistent in what he says has happened.
“You are perpetuating Alex Murdaugh’s lie, and that’s exactly what he’s used to,” McCoy said in “TODAY”. “He’s used to people listening to his word, and he’s used to people taking that and running with it. And that’s exactly what happened in this case.”
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