Movie/review

The Murdaugh mysteries: Five deaths with a connection to disgraced S.C. attorney, family, under investigation

One story has practically dominated the news cycle in South Carolina’s Lowcountry this year.

It’s a series of cases that the locals have dubbed “The Murdaugh Mysteries” — all somehow with a connection to a prominent and powerful local attorney: No plea.

911 DISPATCHER: 911, where’s your emergency?

ALEX MURDAUGH: This is Alex Murdaugh. … My wife and child have been shot badly …

But how did it come to this? Michael DeWitt, editor of The Hampton County Guardian, part of the Gannett USA Today network, says Alex Murdaugh came from a family that over generations grew deep roots and amassed power and influence in this part of South Carolina. 

Michael DeWitt: The Murdaughs built an empire of sorts here in the Lowcountry.

It began over a century ago when the family established a law firm. Three generations of Murdaugh men also held the public office of solicitor, the chief prosecutor. Alex Murdaugh didn’t continue that tradition.

Michael DeWitt: Alex inherited the last name and the red hair, and very little of the talent.

Murdaugh family
Buster, Maggie, Paul and Alex Murdaugh.

Maggie Murdaugh/Facebook


Alex worked as a volunteer prosecutor in the office. But primarily he made a good living in the family law firm. He married his college sweetheart, Maggie, and they had two sons, Buster and Paul. They lived the good life, spending time at their 1,700-acre estate, and two private islands.

Seth Stoughton: They … have now generations of political power and political support and contacts and access, and with access comes power.

Seth Stoughton is a law professor at The University of South Carolina.

Seth Stoughton: A powerful legal family in small-town South Carolina has a lot of levers they can pull.

But in September, it looked like someone was out to challenge that power with what appeared to be an attempt on Alex Murdaugh’s life.

According to his lawyer, Alex Murdaugh told investigators he was changing a flat tire on a rural road when a person in a pickup truck passed by, asked Alex if he was having car trouble, and then shot him in the head.

ALEX MURDAUGH [911 call]: When I turned my back, they tried to shoot me … they shot me.

murdaugh-handcuffs.jpg
On September 16, Alex Murdaugh appeared in court for allegedly trying to plan his own death — by conspiring with Curtis Smith to shoot him.

WTOC


But incredibly, just 12 days later, on September 16, Alex Murdaugh appeared in court for allegedly trying to plan his own death — by conspiring with Curtis Smith to shoot him.

Nikki Battiste: Did you shoot Alex Murdaugh?

Curtis Smith: No.

Nikki Battiste: When did you first meet Alex Murdaugh?

Curtis Smith: About 35 years ago. 

Smith, a handyman, says he is a distant cousin of Murdaugh, but only got to know Alex well a few years ago, and says he started doing odd jobs for the family.

Curtis Smith: We talked on the phone … most days … just chatting back and forth about different things.

Nikki Battiste: You’ve described Alex Murdaugh as like a brother to you.

Curtis Smith: He was like a brother to me. … At least I thought he was.

curtis-edwasrd-lsmith.jpg
Curtis Smith was charged with assisted suicide, insurance fraud and several other counts in the September 4 shooting of Alex Murdaugh. 

Colleton County Detention Center via AP


Smith is now out on bond and faces five felony charges in the shooting of Alex Murdaugh.

Murdaugh will face three charges in the shooting, but with several ongoing investigations and lawsuits looming, many wonder when and how this steep fall from grace will end.

Michael Dewitt: Alex Murdaugh’s world unraveled and unraveled quickly.

It all started, says DeWitt, back in February 2019.

911 CALL: [Yelling and screaming in background]

911 DISPATCHER: 911, what’s your emergency?

CONNOR COOK: We’re in a boat crash on Arthur’s Creek.

Michael DeWitt: Things began unraveling for the Murdaugh family with the boat crash.

It was about 2:20 am. Six young friends who had been partying crashed a boat into a bridge. One of them was 19-year-old Paul Murdaugh.

Another was 19-year-old Mallory Beach, who disappeared that morning.

CONNOR COOK [to 911]: There’s six of us and one is missing.  

911 DISPATCHER: Who’s missing?

CONNOR COOK:  A female, Mallory Beach is missing. … She’s in the water.

Lynn Reavis: Mallory, she was just this wonderful, fun-loving, happy girl. And everybody loved her.

Mallory Beach
Mallory Beach

Lynn Reavis


Lynn Reavis and her niece Mallory were extremely close.

Lynn Reavis: You always got a hug hello and a hug goodbye. And the last thing she [crying] told me was she loved me.

As investigators later learned, the fatal night began around 8 hours earlier at the Murdaugh family’s river home on a private island. Then-19-year-old Paul Murdaugh gathered five friends for a night of partying. Among them were Connor Cook, Connor’s cousin Anthony Cook, and Anthony’s girlfriend Mallory Beach. All were underage, say investigators – and all were drinking alcohol. Just before they gathered, Paul Murdaugh used the ID of his brother Buster to buy beer at a convenience store.

Paul Murdaugh
In this still image taken from security camera video, Paul Murdaugh appears to be celebrating that he was able to successfully purchase alcohol, says Michael DeWitt, the editor of The Hampton County Guardian, who has covered the story. Seconds later, he can be seen loading the cooler in the boat.

South Carolina Division of Natural Resources


Michael Dewitt: And if you look at the video footage when Paul comes out of the store, he’s holding the beer up. … He’s celebrating.

Shortly after gathering at the river home, they boarded the Murdaugh family’s boat and took off.

Investigators with South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources would later use data from the boat’s Garmin navigation system to create a timeline of events that led to the fatal crash.  Around 8:00 p.m., the group arrived at a party at a house on the river. Just after midnight, the six of them boarded the boat and headed toward downtown Beaufort.

Paul and Connor decided to go into a bar for a drink.

MILEY ALTMAN [police interview]: He just was very persistent about going up to Luther’s and getting a shot.

Passenger Miley Altman later told police in this interview that the rest of them didn’t want Paul to go in:

MILEY ALTMAN [police interview]: It’s just kinda like, he just is a whole other person when he’s drunk.

Michael DeWitt: They went in, pounded a couple of shots. … somewhere around 1:00, 1:30 … You see the video footage of them leaving the boat dock. It appeared as if a couple of ’em were very intoxicated.

Anthony Cook and Mallory Beach
As Anthony Cook and Mallory Beach made their way back to the boat, surveillance cameras captured one of the last images of Mallory alive.

South Carolina Division of Natural Resources


Michael DeWitt: It was kind of a sad, touching moment when you see Mallory and her boyfriend … I think, is the last moment that anybody … captured an image of her alive.

It was around 1:15 a.m. when they took off again on the boat.

MILEY ALTMAN [police interview]: Paul was just driving, doing donuts.

Miley Altman told investigators tempers were running short:

MILEY ALTMAN [police interview]: And, so, Conner starts driving a little bit and then Paul, he like stops Conner and he’s like, “No this is my boat”, like, “let me drive …”

MILEY ALTMAN: I saw the bridge coming …


CONNOR COOK [911 call]: What bridge is … Paul, what bridge is this?

First responders’ dash cam video captured the mayhem:

OFFICER: Alright, where’s everybody else at?

UNIDENTIFIED: At the bridge, at the bottom of the bridge.

OFFICER:  Alright, we’re still missing one? What’s her name?

UNIDENTIFIED: Mallory Beach.

Everybody was accounted for, except Mallory Beach.

Stephen Domino: Everybody was crying, scared, shocked, just worried about their friend.

Then-Beaufort County Deputy Sheriff Steven Domino was one of the first on the scene. Paul Murdaugh wasn’t saying much, but Mallory’s very distraught boyfriend Anthony Cook was talking to Deputy Domino.

After Domino got Anthony into his patrol car, Paul Murdaugh came into sight.

Stephen Domino: He was walking up from where the boat was.

ANTHONY COOK [to Domino] Get that m———– there away from me.

Stephen Domino: He actually tried to rush through me to get to Paul because I guess he saw him smiling.

Nikki Battiste: Paul was smiling while Anthony’s girlfriend is missing in the water?

Stephen Domino: Correct.

ANTHONY COOK [to Paul Murdaugh]: Why are you f—— smiling like it’s f—— funny? My f—— girlfriend’s gone, bro.

That’s when Anthony Cook definitively identified the person he said was driving the boat: 

POLICE DASH CAM VIDEO:

ANTHONY COOK: Do y’all know Alex Murdaugh?

STEPHEN DOMINO: Yeah, I know that name.

ANTHONY COOK: That’s his son.

STEPHEN DOMINO: That’s him driving the boat?

ANTHONY COOK: Good luck.

Stephen Domino: That’s when he indicated that he couldn’t be touched.

Michael DeWitt: You’re talking about Alex Murdaugh’s son. Good luck. 

MALLORY BEACH AND THE BOAT CRASH

Nikki Battiste: Tell me about February 24, 2019.

Lynn Reavis [crying]: I had got a phone call at about 5 o’clock that mornin’. And my sister was callin’ to tell me that Mallory was lost, that she had been in a boat crash, and they couldn’t find her.

Lynn Reavis says her niece Mallory had already been missing for nearly 3 hours, when her family finally learned the news, but not from police.

Lynn Reavis: One of my cousins had called … our mom and wanted to know if she knew about the boat crash, that Mallory had been in it.

Lynn Reavis: They all went … to where it had happened … And I just couldn’t go.

Lynn Reavis
Mallory’s aunt, Lynn Reavis, said Mallory’s family believes that Paul Murdaugh was driving the boat at the time of the accident. “With Paul not being here now, I don’t think my niece, Mallory, will get justice,” Lynn said. “Because with both of them being deceased, it just ended. The case ended. All I ever wanted was for him to get on the stand and say, ‘I’m sorry.’ That’s all I ever wanted to hear.” 

CBS News


The search went on for days.

Lynn Reavis: There was people from other states that came, and … they wanted to help.

On the eighth day, two volunteers— brothers— found Mallory’s body about 5 miles down the river from the crash site.

Lynn Reavis: I was at home. And someone called and said they had found her. And I fell apart [crying].

Many in Hampton County were grieving, says Michael DeWitt. 

Michael DeWitt: Hundreds of people attended her funeral.

Lynn Reavis: There were so many people. … it took, like, 4 hours … to greet everybody. … I’ve never seen so many people.

Reavis says even the Murdaughs were there.

Lynn Reavis: Paul was at Mallory’s funeral. … And they even went to the — to the cemetery when we buried her.

Michael DeWitt: And in the weeks after that … we’re just waiting … Is someone going to make an arrest? Is there going to be an admission of guilt or responsibility?

A month after the crash — afraid they might never learn what happened to Mallory — the Beach family filed a wrongful death suit against members of the Murdaugh family. Now the Beach family could depose the survivors about what led to the fatal boat crash.

Michael DeWitt: Paul was allegedly acting rash and reckless.

Lynn Reavis: Those children say that they begged for him to stop and they begged … “Just let us out.” And he refused.

Nikki Battiste: And Mallory said she was scared.

Lynn Reavis: Yes. And that hurts my heart that she was so terrified [crying].

In her deposition, Paul Murdaugh’s then-girlfriend Morgan Doughty said, “Paul and i got into an argument because I didn’t take his side.”  He slapped her and spit on her, she said — and kept leaving the boat’s wheel to fight with her. “Whenever it was done,” she said, “he would go back and take over again.” Authorities believe all that movement explains the last moments recorded by the boat’s Garmin device.

At 2:20 a.m., the Garmin recorded the boat slowing down and then speeding up. Seconds later, the Garmin shows the boat coming to an abrupt stop when it struck a piling over at the Archers Creek Bridge.

In his deposition, Connor Cook said that the morning of the crash he held back from telling investigators that Paul was driving the boat because he was afraid. And, while at the hospital being treated for a broken jaw, he says he was told by Alex Murdaugh that he “didn’t need to tell anyone who was driving.”

Michael DeWitt: Alex … reportedly went from room to room to try to communicate with the other boat crash passengers and get them all on the same page. 

A hospital security guard said he overheard Alex Murdaugh on his cell phone say, “She’s gone. Don’t worry.”

Lynn Reavis: That hurt when I read that. Because … we were asleep. Did not know anything was goin’ on. … Instead of worryin’ about … who’s drivin’ the boat …  Let us know.

Michael DeWitt: I think that from day one, ground zero, the effort was … what can we do to get Paul out of this?

In fact, in a recent lawsuit, Connor Cook claims Alex Murdaugh tried to frame him as the driver of the boat, not Paul.

Michael DeWitt: How can we create a cloud of confusion … and say, “Can you prove who was drivin’ the boat?”

At the hospital, Paul Murdaugh’s blood alcohol level was tested by doctors treating him. Several hours after the crash, the 19-year-old was three times over the legal limit and was allegedly still acting out.

Michael DeWitt: He was getting belligerent with the nurse’s staff, according to court records, just being loud and troublesome.

But that morning, and for weeks to come, many felt that Paul Murdaugh was not treated like a suspect in a crime.

Lynn Reavis: We didn’t think he was gonna be charged. 

Nikki Battiste: Why?

Lynn Reavis: Because it was takin’ so long. We just didn’t think we’d see that day. And then for it to happen on her birthday.

Nearly two months after the boat crash, on what would have been Mallory’s 20th birthday, Paul Murdaugh was charged with three felony counts, including boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and causing the death of Mallory Beach. He pleaded not guilty.

Michael DeWitt: An officer of the court came forward with handcuffs to formally arrest him, fingerprint him … and they were waved away. … like, we don’t need that, you know?  …  So, he was never handcuffed.

Paul Murdaugh
Nearly two months after the boat crash, on what would have been Mallory’ Beach’s 20th birthday, Paul Murdaugh was charged with three felony counts, including boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and causing the death of Mallory Beach. He pleaded not guilty.

South Carolina Attorney General


In his booking photograph, Paul Murdaugh is wearing his street clothes.

Nikki Battiste: Were you surprised that Paul Murdaugh never spent a day in jail?

Stephen Domino: I don’t know … how it happened. My personal opinion, yes.

Bond was set at $50,000.

Michael DeWitt: And we see from news reports after this, that Paul continued to live his lifestyle.

OFFICER [dash cam video]: How you doing sir?

PAUL MURDAUGH: Good, sir.

About a year later, Paul got a speeding ticket while towing a boat.

OFFICER: The reason I pulled you over, you were bookin’ it. OK, I got you at 78.

PAUL MURDAUGH: 78?

OFFICER: Yes.

Two years after charges were filed, there was still no trial date set, when on June 7, 2021, Alex Murdaugh called police and said he’d found his wife and son Paul shot dead.

ALEX MURDAUGH: Maggie and Paul.

911 OPERATOR: Maggie is her name?

ALEX MURDAUGH: Yes, ma’am. And please hurry.

A MOTHER AND SON MURDERED

June 7, 2021, as Paul Murdaugh was awaiting trial in the death of Mallory Beach, a fusillade of gunfire erupted on the Murdaugh family estate.  

ALEX MURDAUGH [to 911]: This is Alex Murdaugh at 4147 Moselle Road.

At 10:07 p.m., a panicked-sounding Alex Murdaugh called 911 saying he had just arrived home to find his wife of nearly 28 years, Maggie, and their son shot.  

911 DISPATCHER: Is he moving at all? Your son? I know you said that she was shot. But what about your son?

ALEX MURDAUGH: Nobody — they’re not — neither one of them’s moving.

First responders rushed to the Murdaugh family hunting lodge, a sprawling 1,770-acre property in Colleton County. But it was too late — 52-year-old Maggie and her 22-year-old son Paul were dead. 

This place of refuge where the family had spent their free time hunting and enjoying the outdoors — where Paul had honed his shooting skills alongside his father and brother — was now a gruesome crime scene.   

Nikki Battiste: Describe the reaction of the community after the double homicide.

Michael DeWitt: Shock … A lot of people know them. So, there was grief and—and dismay from a lotta people. 

Mallory Beach’s aunt, Lynn Reavis, was one of those people. 

Lynn Reavis: The thought of the horror that they went through, I cried.

Maggie and Paul Murdaugh
Who killed Maggie and Paul Murdaugh? “This is like … a whodunit playing out in real time on the internet in the age of social media,”  University of South Carolina law professor Seth Stoughton says of the theories.

Maggie Murdaugh/Facebook


Nikki Battiste: Who would want to kill a mother and son? That’s what I can’t stop thinking.

Lynn Reavis: We’ve thought about it too … Things like that shouldn’t be happenin’ in our little community.

But what happened in this little community soon became national and international news.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, known as SLED — the state’s top investigative agency — took over the case 

Michael DeWitt: The Colleton County coroner estimates that they were killed between 9 and 9:30 p.m. … They were found fairly close to one another on the ground near the dog kennels. 

Maggie, a dog lover, was said to have spent a lot of time at the kennels with the hunting dogs. 

Michael DeWitt: Sources tell media that Maggie was killed with some type of automatic rifle like an AR-15 of some sort. And Paul was killed with a shotgun and they were both shot multiple times.

“48 Hours” has not independently confirmed the type of weapons used, and SLED has not named any suspects. But that hasn’t stopped social media sleuths from espousing theories.

Michael DeWitt: One, Alex Murdaugh had somethin’ to do with it … The other theory was it’s — this was somehow related to the boat crash. Somebody wanted justice that they didn’t think they would get in the courts, in relation to the boat crash. 

Alex claims to have an airtight alibi. He was at the hospital visiting his sick father when the shootings took place.  But alibi’s can be deceiving, says Professor Stoughton.    

Seth Stoughton: Sometimes the person behind the murder is not the same person as the one who pulls the trigger.

Nikki Battiste: You think there could be a hit man possibly?

Seth Stoughton: We’ve certainly seen other cases where there are hired killers, hired guns. I wouldn’t want to suggest that is the case here. But … sometimes, people … are smart … about how they do bad things.

Some are asking if Alex hired the man now accused of shooting him.


Man who cops say shot lawyer in suicide plot …

04:14

Nikki Battiste: Did Alex ever hire you as a hit man?

Curtis Smith: No.

Nikki Battiste: Did you kill Maggie or Paul Murdaugh?

Curtis Smith: No.

At a recent hearing, Battiste questioned Murdaugh family attorney Dick Harpootlian about the double murder.

Nikki Battiste: Did Alex kill his wife and son? 

Dick Harpootlian: No.

Nikki Battiste: Does he have any idea who did?

Dick Harpootlian: No

Recent reports about the Murdaugh marriage have raised questions about a possible motive.  

Michael DeWitt: People magazine, which cited unnamed law enforcement sources, claimed that … Maggie and Alex did not have a good relationship and they were gonna get a divorce. And she was consulting with an out-of-town attorney. 

Nikki Battiste: Were there any problems in Maggie and Alex’s marriage?

Dick Harpootlian: Absolutely none, none.  And – trust me, I was with them for almost two years … Always affectionate, always courteous … just a picture of domestic bliss.  

And what about the oldest motive in the book? Money.

Nikki Battiste: Did Maggie and Paul Murdaugh have life insurance policies? 

Dick Harpootlian: They didn’t have any insurance.

Nikki Battiste: They did not have life insurance policies on Maggie and Paul?

Dick Harpootlian: They had no insurance.

Getting to the truth in this case will be a challenge, says Professor Stoughton. 

Seth Stoughton: Investigators are going to have a hell of a time sorting through all of the possible explanations and motives … given the different contacts and connections here. I do not envy them that job.

As investigators were attempting to untangle the snarls of evidence in the double murders, they came across another case with a connection to the Murdaughs.  The mysterious death of Stephen Smith.

WHAT HAPPENED TO STEPHEN SMITH?

Just 15 days after the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, SLED made a stunning announcement: It had found information while investigating the double murders that led the agency to open a new investigation into an old case: the death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith.  

Nikki Battiste: Tell me, who is Stephen Smith?

Michael DeWitt: Stephen Smith was a young man living in Hampton County. He had a sister. They — they were twins.

Openly gay and well-liked, Stephen attended the same high school as Buster Murdaugh. They were in the same class, but apparently travelled in different circles; neither friends nor enemies.  After graduation, Buster went to college to study government and international affairs. 

Stephen Smith
Another incident with a connection to the Murdaughs is the mysterious death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith.

Stephen went to a community college to pursue his dream of becoming a nurse.  But all those dreams came to a sudden halt on a two-lane country road sometime in the early morning hours of July 8, 2015. What happened to Stephen has been the subject of rumors and speculation ever since.   

Michael DeWitt: A passerby calls 911.

911 DISPATCH: Hampton County 911, where’s your emergency?

CALLER: I see somebody laying out.

911 DISPATCH: … and is it in the road or on the side of the road?

CALLER: He in the roadway. Somebody’s gonna hit him, it’s dark.

Stephen Smith was found dead at the scene from blunt force trauma to the head.

Stephen’s yellow Chevy was found roughly 3 miles away — his wallet inside, the gas cap unscrewed. Initial reports by the S.C. Highway Patrol claimed Stephen ran into car trouble and was likely walking when he was struck and killed by a vehicle.

But recently released audio interviews show some officers on the case did not agree with that hit-and-run theory:

TROOPER DAVID.B. ROWELL | S.C. Highway Patrol: Nothin’ at the scene appeared that it was a vehicular accident.  

TROOPER DAVID.B. ROWELL:  … walked both shoulders of the highway, east and west, looking for any evidence … didn’t see anything that appeared to be vehicular involved. 

Michael DeWitt: There was no vehicle debris, no broken headlight or paint scrapes or— or anything.

Seth Stoughton: When someone is hit by a car, they’re very frequently knocked out of their shoes.

Nikki Battiste: Stephen Smith’s shoes were still on when he was found?

Seth Stoughton: They were, and they were loose … It certainly raises questions as to whether hit-and-run is the right conclusion.

Stephen’s mother, Sandy Smith, told the CBS affiliate WTOC she didn’t believe the hit-and-run scenario either.

SANDY SMITH: The only damage to his body was his head. From his right eye socket to the back of his head. His right shoulder was dislocated.

Seth Stoughton: When someone is struck by a car going at speed, I don’t mean 70 mph, I mean even something like 25, 30, 35 mph … you fly, bodies get pushed a long way … the body rolls and moves and there’s — there’s road burn, there’s rash marks, there’s evidence often on the road.

m
Sandy Smith believes her son was murdered. The case has not been solved.

AP


Sandy Smith told Michael DeWitt’s newspaper she believed her son was murdered.  

Michael DeWitt: She believed it was — a hate crime related in some way to his sexuality, and in our interviews with her she pleaded to the public, “If anybody knows anything, please, I want answers.”

Investigators like Trooper Todd Proctor spent months talking to Stephen’s friends, family, and possible love interests trying to get those answers.

TROOPER TODD PROCTER: You’re the ninth person that I’ve talked to so far about this. 

CLASSMATE: OK. 

TROOPER TODD PROCTER: So, so, hopefully some people are gonna start talking. 

In recorded audio interviews, one name kept coming up over and over again. Stephen’s sister Stephanie heard that name multiple times. 

STEPHANIE NICOLE SMITH | Stephen’s twin sister  [to S.C. Highway Patrol]: I went into the store and a bunch of people kept coming up to me and said, “hey do you know the Murdaugh boys are behind it.”

Neither brother has ever been named a suspect and the Murdaugh family attorney has not responded to “48 Hours”‘ request for comment on the Smith case.  But Smith family attorney Andy Savage said publicly the focus on the Murdaugh family may be unfounded: “There are suspects we have in sight that are unconnected to Murdaugh …”

The pathologist ruled the blunt head trauma that killed Stephen could’ve possibly come from contact with the side view mirror of a passing truck.

Now former Trooper Todd Proctor recently told Fox News he didn’t believe it then and he doesn’t believe it now:

TODD PROCTOR [to Fox News]: It looked like it was more staged. Like possibly the body had been placed in the roadway.

The case was never solved and went cold until the House of Murdaugh came crumbling down one brick at a time.

Michael DeWitt: It’s almost been a case of episodic television where, “Tune in this week and we’ll see what’s next from Hampton County, home of the Murdaughs.”

THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF THE MURDAUGH’S HOUSEKEEPER

On September 6, 2021, two days after being shot, Alex Murdaugh found himself once again making front page news, when he stunned the world by releasing this statement: “I have made a lot of decisions that I truly regret,” he said — and announced he was leaving the law firm.

 Alex Murdaugh was now saying he has been addicted to opioids for two decades, a surprise to many.

Seth Stoughton: The idea of a 20-year-old serious opioid addiction does not seem consistent with Alex Murdaugh’s successful practice as an attorney.

It wasn’t only claims of drug abuse now staining Murdaugh’s reputation.

Murdaugh has now been accused of stealing millions from his own law firm and was asked to resign the day before he was shot.

Michael DeWitt: Friday, the law firm has a come to Jesus meeting with him … we know you’re allegedly stealing money, you’re out … Saturday, the reported shooting … Monday, Alex releases a statement saying, “I’m going into rehab.”

Then came the news about why Murdaugh had allegedly hired Curtis Smith. He says it was to make his suicide look like murder, so his son Buster could collect a $10 million insurance payout.  

Seth Stoughton: I believe one of the initial statements was that because he did not know whether his life insurance would pay out in the event of a suicide … he’s a lawyer who was perfectly capable of reading his insurance policy.

Murdaugh’s confession sent Curtis Smith to jail for two days, until he posted a $55,000 bond for his alleged role in the shooting, and another $5,000 for possession of methamphetamine, found in his home when he was arrested.

Curtis Smith: They just arrested me based on what he said.

According to Smith, there was no fraud scheme. Alex Murdaugh called him that day to help with a flat tire. When he arrived, Smith says he found a desperate man, holding a gun.

Curtis Smith: He’s standing there with it like this [points his finger like a gun out in front of him]. And he said, you know, “you got to take care of this.” And I said, “well, I can’t do it.” … And he told me, he turned his head. I just grabbed his arm, put it behind his head, took the gun from him.

Smith says the gun went off in the struggle, but he managed to take it from Alex and “dispose of it.” Then he got out of there as fast as he could.

Nikki Battiste: Why did you leave the scene?

Curtis Smith: I didn’t know anything else to do. He was alive.

Jonny McCoy: He was alive, and the gun was out of his hand.

Curtis Smith’s defense attorney, Jonny McCoy.

Nikki Battiste: Some people would think, call the police, call someone.

Jonny McCoy: Well … Alex Murdaugh is the police. He’s a prosecutor. … Curtis didn’t report anything because there’s no crime … He saved his life.


Lawyer accused of plotting his own killing

04:13

On September 16, 2021, facing charges of insurance fraud, conspiracy, and filing a false police report, Alex Murdaugh turned himself in. No plea has been entered yet.

Michael DeWitt: The fact that a Murdaugh sat in a chair in a jumpsuit with handcuffs is somethin’ I’ve never seen in my lifetime.

Despite the serious charges against him, Alex Murdaugh was released on $20,000 bond, and allowed to go back to rehab in Florida. While there, investigators were looking into all of his business dealings when the list of missing money and suspicious deaths orbiting Alex Murdaugh’s world grew longer, and now included, Gloria Satterfield.

Gloria Satterwhite
Gloria Satterwhite

Ronnie Richter: Gloria was the housekeeper for the Murdaugh family for more than 20 years.

Ronnie Richter is an attorney for the Satterfield family.

Ronnie Richter: She literally helped raise Alex Murdaugh’s sons, Paul and Buster.

In 2018, the 57-year-old died after a trip-and-fall accident at the Murdaugh estate, the very same property where Maggie and Paul would be found dead in 2021.

Ronnie Richter: What’s been reported is that she was at the house that day on the front steps. The dogs got a little rambunctious and gave her a push and she fell down the stairs.

Back then, Satterfield’s death was not questioned. Instead, it was ruled “natural,” and no autopsy was ever performed.

Ronnie Richter:  There is nothing natural about a 57-year-old woman falling down a flight of steps and dying from head trauma.

At Gloria’s funeral, Murdaugh did something very odd, says Richter. He recommended Satterfield’s sons file a wrongful death lawsuit, against him. Alex even steered them toward an attorney — his former college roommate and Paul Murdaugh’s godfather, Cory Fleming.

Ronnie Richter: A lot of trust was placed in both Alex and in Cory to do the right things, and it really went south from the outset.

Court documents show a $4.3 million payout by Alex Murdaugh’s insurance company, but none of the money ever went to Satterfield’s family. 

Nikki Battiste: Where did that money go?

Michael DeWitt: Well, allegedly it went into Alex Murdaugh’s pocket.

On September 15, 2021, SLED announced it was opening a criminal investigation into Satterfield’s death and the handling of her estate

Then, on October 14:

NORAH O’DONNELL | CBS Evening News, October 14, 2021: Another twist in the Alex Murdaugh case. The new criminal charges the disgraced lawyer is facing.

Alex Murdaugh now faces two felony charges for his alleged role in the Satterfield insurance fraud. No plea has been entered in this case either, but this time, a judge ordered Alex Murdaugh to be held without bond. He’s been in the Richland County jail since October 16.  Meanwhile, the investigation into the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh is still ongoing.

Michael DeWitt:  You certainly cannot rule out Alex Murdaugh as a suspect.

And the family of Mallory Beach hope Murdaugh is investigated for obstruction of justice in the investigation into Mallory’s death.

Mallory Beach
Mallory Beach’s family has created the nonprofit Mal’s Palz to keep her passion for animals alive and to raise money to build a new animal shelter for the Hampton County, SC, community.

Lynn Reavis


For the family of Mallory Beach, the grieving continues.

Lynn Reavis: There’s just days where you just wanna cry all day long.

Nikki Battiste: What would justice possibly look like for your family now?

Lynn Reavis: Now I just think if the lawsuit would be settled, so we can get on with our lives. Because Mallory died almost three years ago. And every time these stories come out, it’s like it happens all over again.

Mallory Beach’s family has created the nonprofit Mal’s Palz to keep her passion for animals alive and to raise money to build a new animal shelter for the Hampton County, SC, community.

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