Alex Murdaugh and The Fall of a Southern Dynasty

© REUTERS / Flickr/Jimmy Emerson, DVMSouth Carolina State Capitol
South Carolina State Capitol - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.09.2021
Alex Murdaugh has been charged with insurance fraud following his confession of a failed suicide attempt by a hitman to secure his son a $10 million insurance payout.
The legal circumstances surrounding Murdaugh have blossomed, from a contained small-town crime news snippet into a full-blown true-crime saga. The South Carolina attorney and occasional prosecutor faces charges of insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, and filing a false police report.
However, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Murdaugh’s failed scheme to hire a hitman to murder him so his son could collect a $10 million life insurance policy that led to the aftermentioned charges has led to a series of new investigations. Much like William Faulkner’s American epic, “Absalom! Absalom!,” each peak into the Murdaugh family unveils a deeper and darker look into a southern patriarchy.
The Murdaugh family is the definition of a dynasty. From 1920 to 2006, a man with the surname Murdaugh served as the solicitor of the 14th Judicial Circuit of South Carolina. For 86 years, one family controlled the courts of the Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton, Jasper and Allendale counties. For 86 years, they determined what charges to bring, what crimes to investigate, and what sentences to recommend. For 86 years, they were the law.
The Murdaughs didn’t just preside over the 14th Judicial district, they also started and ran the highly successful law firm of Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, Detrick, or PMPED Law Firm. One family was on both sides of the courtroom. The power that the Murdaugh family held gave them the ability to be shielded from the law, and to wield it as they saw fit.
Alex Murdaugh wasn’t born with a silver spoon, but rather a silver gavel.
The September 4, 2021 failed assisted suicide attempt by Alex Murdaugh was simply the final breach in a long leaking dam. The day before, he left the family law firm of PMPED over accusations that he misappropriated funds, and, mere months earlier, on June 7, his son and wife were fatally shot in their Islandton home. The murder brought national attention to the family, and resulted in an interview of Alex’s two brothers with ABC News. The murder has yet to be solved and no charges have been filed.
The interview paints the Murdaughs as a pillar of their community, an upstanding family with nothing to hide. Yet, that wasn’t entirely true. Alex’s son Paul had faced three felony charges following a February 2019 boating accident that resulted in the death of Mallory Beach.
As of June 2021, no trial had been scheduled, and there were whispers that the Murdaugh’s deep connections at the 14th Circuit may have had something to do with that. However, these remain rumors.
Adding further speculation to the Murdaughs using their influence to avoid legal consequences was the death of their housekeeper. Gloria Satterfield died at the Murdaugh’s home in an apparent slip and fall accident.
However, her death certificate said she died of natural causes and was never reported to the local coroners’ office. Her estate filed a wrongful death suit with the Murdaughs, settling for $500,000, but as of now, the family hasn’t received any money. With all of the attention on Alex Murdaugh, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has opened a criminal investigation in Satterfield’s death.
In 2015, Stephen Smith died in a hit-and-run accident about 10 miles from the Murdaugh’s estate. The case was ruled a hit-and-run, but investigators felt that foul play could have been at hand. Smith’s mother believed her son had been murdered and has insinuated that the Murdaugh family was either directly involved or helped facilitate a cover-up.
Alex Murdaugh’s attorney claims his client was severely depressed and addicted to opioids. The combination of his son and wife being murdered, and then his father dying three days later, would send anyone in a downward spiral. Another factor could be that Murdaugh faced serious financial strains. He had yet to pay the Satterfields in the wrongful death suit, and he had misappropriated funds from his family’s law firm.
The truth in all of these cases has yet to be revealed. Are the Murdaughs a murderous family or have they used their deep connections in the justice system to help shield themselves and others from justice? Were Paul and Maggie Murdaugh slain by someone who felt Paul had skirted retribution for the death of Mallory Beach? Or had Alex Murdaugh done the unthinkable?
Perhaps the most puzzling, and likely the most revealing bit of information is why did Alex Murdaugh hire a hitman to carry out his suicide? Was it just for the life insurance payout? Was it to make it look like he had enemies and draw eyes away from the family?
The story of the Murdaughs has yet to be fully written. With multiple investigations going on at once, there’s no telling what will be revealed.
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