S.C. attorney Alex Murdaugh charged with taking funds from housekeeper’s death settlement

ORLANDO, Fla. — Embattled South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh, who allegedly hired a man to kill him three months after his wife and son were slain, is once again in police custody.

Murdaugh, 53, of Hampton, is accused of misappropriating funds stemming from the death of Gloria Harriott Satterfield, the Murdaugh family’s longtime housekeeper and nanny.

>> Related story: Cops probe 2018 death of Murdaugh family housekeeper amid arrest in dad’s botched suicide

Satterfield died Feb. 26, 2018, after a supposed fall at the Murdaugh home. Her adult sons have sued Murdaugh, claiming the family was not made aware that a settlement had been reached in a wrongful death suit against Murdaugh.

NBC News reported that the men have not received any of the $4.3 million settlement overseen by Murdaugh himself.

Murdaugh is charged with two felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. He is being held in Orange County, Florida, where he is awaiting an extradition hearing.

Murdaugh was arrested in Orlando as he left a drug rehab facility, SLED officials said. Orange County court records indicate he has waived extradition to South Carolina to face the charges.

>> Related story: Son, matriarch of prominent S.C. legal family gunned down at hunting lodge

“Today is merely one more step in a long process for justice for the many victims in these investigations,” SLED Chief Mark Keel said in a statement. “I want to commend the hard work and dedication that our agents have shown over the last four months. They will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of those who were victimized by Alex Murdaugh and others. As I have said previously, we are committed to following the facts wherever they may lead us and we will not stop until justice is served.”

The legal scion’s troubles began June 7 when he reportedly found the bodies of his wife, Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, and the couple’s younger son, 22-year-old Paul Terry Murdaugh, on the family’s hunting lodge. Both had been repeatedly shot.

One of Alex Murdaugh’s attorneys confirmed for the first time Wednesday that his client has been a person of interest in the murders from the beginning, NBC News reported.

Shortly after the double homicide, investigators reassured the community that there was no active danger to the public.

Murdaugh’s arrest is his second in a month. He turned himself in Sept. 16 on allegations that he had hired a former law client to shoot him in the head and kill him so Murdaugh’s surviving son could collect a $10 million life insurance policy. The bullet grazed his head instead, authorities said.

In that case, Murdaugh is charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and filing a false police report.

The alleged shooter, Curtis Edward Smith, 61, is charged with assisted suicide, insurance fraud and other charges.

Smith and his attorney, Jonny McCoy, appeared on “Today” Thursday morning, where McCoy alleged that his client was set up by Murdaugh. Smith said he went to the scene of Murdaugh’s alleged shooting after the attorney asked him to meet him on the roadside.

Smith said Murdaugh had a gun and was going to shoot himself, but that he intervened. The gun fired, Smith said, but he is “1,000%” sure Murdaugh was not struck.

“I didn’t shoot him,” Smith said. “I’m innocent. If I would have shot him, he’d be dead. He’s alive.”

Smith told CBS that he took the gun with him when he left the scene.

“If I hadn’t took the gun, I don’t know what he would have done,” the handyman said.

Murdaugh’s attorneys, Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, dispute Smith’s claims.

“Alex was definitely shot in the head,” Griffin told the Post and Courier. “This was not something that is open to debate. We will verify it in the coming days.”

The attorneys later released medical records to The State in Columbia that confirmed doctors treated Murdaugh for wounds consistent with a gunshot to the back of the head, including a skull fracture.

>> Related story: Attorney Alex Murdaugh turns self in on charges he plotted own killing

“Bloggers have questioned whether he was shot based on his hair style, not upon actual records,” Griffin told the newspaper. “These records answer that question. He really was shot.”

The alleged suicide attempt came as Murdaugh stepped down from his position in his family’s 111-year-old law firm, which has accused him of pilfering up to $5 million, which Murdaugh’s attorney said went to feed his client’s 20-year opioid addiction.

Drug tests at the hospital showed that Murdaugh had opiates and barbiturates in his system when he was shot, The State reported.

Murdaugh’s family has been a large part of the local legal community for generations. His father, Randolph Murdaugh III, was the last in a three-generation line of prosecutors for the 14th Judicial Circuit. His grandfather, Randolph Murdaugh Sr., was the first person named to the solicitor’s post in 1920.

Randolph Murdaugh Jr. took over the post in 1940, when Murdaugh Sr. died in a train collision, and served until 1987, at which point Murdaugh III took office. Randolph Murdaugh III, who retired in 2005, died of natural causes days after his grandson and daughter-in-law were slain.

Alex Murdaugh was a volunteer prosecutor in the same office but stepped down around the time he resigned from the family law firm.

SLED officials have since opened investigations into the law firm’s accusations and into Satterfield’s death. They have also reopened the probe into the cold case of Stephen Smith, who was found dead on a Hampton County road in 2015.

>> S.C. attorney accused of stealing from law firm in wake of family tragedy

Smith, 19, of Brunson, reportedly died of blunt force trauma, and authorities suspected a hit-and-run crash.

Smith’s mother believes he may have been the victim of foul play, The Associated Press reported. Sandy Smith has told multiple news outlets over the years that she believes her son was beaten to death.

She has also said she believes Paul Murdaugh could have been involved. The Island Packet reported that Smith graduated in 2014 from Wade Hampton High School with Paul Murdaugh’s older brother, Richard “Buster” Murdaugh.

>> Read more true crime stories

Authorities are also looking into whether Alex Murdaugh tried to cover up Paul Murdaugh’s involvement in the high-profile 2019 boating crash that killed his cousin’s girlfriend, 19-year-old Mallory Beach.

According to authorities, Murdaugh was intoxicated when he smashed his family’s boat into the pilings of a bridge, ejecting several of his passengers. Beach’s body was recovered a week after the crash.

When he was slain, Paul Murdaugh was awaiting trial on charges related to Beach’s death.

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