The twisting case engulfing the scion of a prominent legal dynasty in South Carolina’s Lowcountry began when he reported finding his wife and son dead. For more than a year, a central question swirled around the fatal shootings of the wife and son of disgraced South Carolina personal injury attorney Alex Murdaugh: Who killed them?
The unsolved slayings of Margaret, 52, and the couple’s younger son, Paul, 22, in June 2021 shattered the immaculate image of the well-connected legal family in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Murdaugh, whose father, a grandfather and a great-grandfather were each elected as top prosecutors in the region in roles collectively spanning almost 90 years, immediately denied culpability in the deaths.
Still, the slayings set off a bizarre chain of events that officials say included Murdaugh hiring a man to kill him so his older son could collect on his life insurance policy, and dozens of charges against Murdaugh accusing him of financial crimes.
Investigators shared few details and named no suspects or persons of interest in the slayings. But then on Thursday, a grand jury indicted Murdaugh on double murder charges in connection with the deaths of Margaret and Paul, authorities said, capping a long-winding mystery marked by conflicting narratives and a web of other questionable deaths that has yet to be fully untangled.
Here’s a timeline of key moments in the case.
June 7, 2021
Murdaugh calls 911 at 10:07 p.m. to say he has found the lifeless bodies of Margaret and Paul near the family’s dog kennels on their hunting lodge estate in rural Colleton County.
“I’ve been gone,” Murdaugh, his voice quivering, tells a dispatcher. “I just came back.”
Authorities arrive on scene. (Lawyers for Murdaugh later provided an alibi, telling news outlets that he had been spending time with his mother, who has dementia, and her caregiver that day.)
June 10, 2021
Murdaugh’s father, Randolph Murdaugh III, dies at his home in Hampton County, South Carolina, at age 81 following various health ailments. His death, while not directly connected to the slayings, adds to the growing intrigue in the case.
June 14, 2021
A coroner reveals Margaret and Paul both suffered multiple gunshot wounds, with the estimated time of death between 9:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Sept. 4, 2021
Murdaugh is injured in a roadside shooting in Hampton County, authorities say. His lawyer and friend, Jim Griffin, tells news outlets that Murdaugh’s black Mercedes-Benz SUV had a flat tire and he pulled his vehicle over when a pickup truck passed by, turned around and a person inside opened fire.
Sept. 5, 2021
Authorities say Murdaugh’s injury is a “superficial” head wound and he had been flown to Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia, for treatment.
Sept. 6, 2021
Murdaugh releases a public statement saying he has resigned from his family’s law firm to enter rehab and that he “made a lot of decisions that I truly regret.” Hours later, his firm — Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrickhe — releases its own statement alleging Murdaugh had misappropriated company funds.
Sept. 8, 2021
The South Carolina Supreme Court indefinitely suspends Murdaugh’s law license.
Sept. 14, 2021
Authorities provide new details in the roadside shooting. They allege that Murdaugh arranged for a man to kill him so that his older son, Buster, could collect on a $10 million life insurance policy. The man — identified as Curtis Edward Smith, 61 — is arrested on charges of assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.
Sept. 15, 2021
An attorney for Murdaugh, Richard Harpootlian, tells NBC’s “TODAY” show that his client was depressed and attempting to get off an opioid addiction that continued to consume him in the wake of his wife and son’s death. Believing his insurance policy had a suicide clause, Harpootlian says Murdaugh enlisted a man to kill him during a “fake car breakdown.”
Meanwhile, state investigators announce the opening of a criminal investigation into the death of a longtime Murdaugh housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield. She died in 2018 following what has been described as a “trip and fall accident” at the family home. The decision is based on a request from the Hampton County coroner and on “information gathered” during a separate investigation involving Murdaugh.
Sept. 16, 2021
Murdaugh surrenders to authorities after he is charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and filing a false police report. He is granted bond and a judge orders him to surrender his passport but permits him to return to a drug rehabilitation center.
Oct. 14, 2021
Murdaugh is arrested in Florida upon his release from a drug rehab facility. Authorities charge him with two felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses after an investigation into millions of dollars that went missing from a settlement involving the death of Satterfield. According to her heirs, they received none of the proceeds from a $4.3 million settlement they said was orchestrated in secret by Murdaugh.
Meanwhile, Smith appears on NBC’s “TODAY” show to dispute that he was a willing accomplice in the September roadside shooting of Murdaugh. In his version of events, he says Murdaugh had a gun and it appeared he was going to shoot himself, which is when Smith says he intervened. The gun fired. Once Smith realized Murdaugh was OK, he said he drove off.
Oct. 19, 2021
A South Carolina judge denies Murdaugh bond and orders him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
Nov. 19, 2021
The state’s investigation into Murdaugh’s business dealings leads to new indictments announced against him totaling 27 counts, including breach of trust with fraudulent intent, obtaining signature or property by false pretenses, money laundering, computer crimes, and forgery. “Altogether, Murdaugh is charged with respect to alleged schemes to defraud victims and thereafter launder” nearly $4.9 million, the state attorney general’s office said.
Dec. 9, 2021
The attorney general announces more charges, including nine counts of breach of trust with fraudulent intent, seven counts of computer crimes, four counts of money laundering, and one count of forgery. In total, Murdaugh faces 48 separate charges. The victims include family friends, an undocumented immigrant, and a man in a car wreck, prosecutors say.
Dec. 13, 2021
A judge sets Murdaugh’s bond at $7 million. Murdaugh, who is being held in Richland County jail, also speaks publicly for the first time in months, telling the court that he had been going through opiate withdrawal in September when he sought to have himself killed.
“My head is on straighter, I’m thinking clearer than I have in a long, long time,” Murdaugh says. “I want to deal with these charges appropriately and head-on.”
(Murdaugh does not make bail.)
Jan. 21, 2022
A grand jury indicts Murdaugh on 23 new charges, including breach of trust with fraudulent intent and computer crimes. Collectively, he faces 71 charges involving the theft of about $8.5 million over the course of 11 years.
Jan. 24, 2022
A legal claim is filed against the estates of Margaret and Paul Murdaugh by the mother of Mallory Beach, 19, who was killed in a boat crash in 2019. The boat was owned by Murdaugh and investigators have said Paul had been steering at some point during the night of underage drinking involving six people on board. The boat slammed into a piling below a bridge, and the passengers, ages 18 to 20, were ejected.
Two survivors also join the Beach family’s legal claim in an attempt to get money they believe they are owed as a result of the accident. Other related lawsuits are pending.
March 16, 2022
A grand jury indicts Murdaugh on four new charges related to a scheme to defraud multiple insurance companies and others involving his friend and another attorney, Cory Fleming. Fleming’s lawyer says in a statement that he is “yet another casualty of the host of crimes perpetrated by Alex Murdaugh.”
May 4, 2022
Prosecutors announce that Murdaugh is facing four new charges related to financial crimes also involving Fleming and others.
June 3, 2022
State authorities say they have received permission from Satterfield’s family to exhume her body as part of an investigation into her death. That investigation was the result of questions surrounding why her death certificate noted that the manner of death was ruled “natural,” which a coroner has said was inconsistent with injuries sustained in a “trip and fall accident.”
June 24, 2022
Smith is taken into custody on new charges, including four counts of money laundering, three counts of forgery and criminal conspiracy.
June 28, 2022
A grand jury indicts Murdaugh and Smith with criminal conspiracy and narcotics offenses. Smith is also indicted on other drug charges. The men are accused of conspiring to purchase and distribute oxycodone in Colleton County from Oct. 7, 2013, to Sept. 7, 2021.
July 13, 2022
The South Carolina Supreme Court formally disbars Murdaugh, who is facing 84 criminal charges and 11 lawsuits.
July 14, 2022
A grand jury announces an indictment against Murdaugh on double murder charges in the deaths of Margaret and Paul.
Two sources close to the investigation say that authorities have cellphone video that they believe not only puts Murdaugh at the scene of the slayings shortly before they took place but also contradicts a previous timeline of events provided on the day of the killings.
“It was very clear from day one that law enforcement and the Attorney General prematurely concluded that Alex was responsible for the murder of his wife and son,” Murdaugh’s lawyers say in a statement. “But we know that Alex did not have any motive whatsoever to murder them.”
July 20, 2022
Murdaugh pleads not guilty to the murder charges.
Aug. 19, 2022
A grand jury indicts Murdaugh on nine more criminal counts related to money laundering and computer crimes. The indictment alleges Murdaugh stole money from his firm in late 2020 and 2021 and that in 2017-18, he took advantage of an error by the firm’s accounting office, which sent $121,358 to him for a loan repayment when that money should have gone to his brother.
Murdaugh’s brother, Randy, is also a partner in the firm; he has not been implicated in any of the alleged schemes.
Oct. 13, 2022
The state Attorney General’s Office sets Murdaugh’s trial date on the murder charges for Jan. 23 at the Colleton County Courthouse. The trial is expected to last almost three weeks.
Dec. 9, 2022
During a pretrial hearing, state prosecutors claim Murdaugh killed his wife and son to gain sympathy and “escape accountability” for his string of financial crimes. Murdaugh’s lawyers reject the state’s motive and questioned why he would “shift a financial investigation away from himself in order to avoid scrutiny” only to put himself “in the middle of a murder investigation.”
Dec. 16, 2022
A grand jury indicts Murdaugh on nine counts of tax evasion, alleging he failed to pay almost $487,000 in state income taxes while making nearly $14 million over nine years. With the latest indictment, the total financial-related charges against Murdaugh are more than 100.
Dec. 20, 2022
State prosecutors announced they will seek life in prison without parole in Murdaugh’s double murder trial, allowing him to avoid the death penalty if convicted.
The double murder trial against Murdaugh opens at the Colleton County Courthouse with jury selection.
In an opening statement, state prosecutors contend Murdaugh killed his wife and son at close range with a shotgun and an AR-style rifle, and that forensic evidence would show his culpability. The defense in its opening statement insists there are numerous holes in the prosecution’s case, claiming it is built on “theories” and “conjectures.”
Prosecutors play a previously unseen video taken from the phone of Paul Murdaugh in which three voices can be heard in the background shortly before the murders occur. Witnesses testify the voices are of Alex, Paul, and Margaret, which places the patriarch at the scene of the crime and undermines his alibi that he had not seen his wife and son in the moments before their deaths.
During the fifth week of the trial, Murdaugh takes the stand in his own defense. He testifies, “I didn’t shoot my wife or son,” and breaks down multiple times as his attorney asks him to describe the murder scene.
Murdaugh is on the stand again. During cross-examination, the prosecution grills him on his “new story,” arguing that his earlier testimony was fabricated to align with their video evidence that he saw his wife and son minutes before they were found dead.
Murdaugh contends he lied to law enforcement officers about his location before the murders due to his addiction to prescription pain pills and his general paranoia.
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