October 16, 2021

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Alex Murdaugh to turn himself in amid botched murder, insurance fraud plot: What we know – USA TODAY

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Alex Murdaugh, the prominent South Carolina lawyer at the center of multiple state investigations, is expected to turn himself into police Thursday, his attorney said.

It wasn’t immediately clear what charges Murdaugh is or would be facing, but state police this week listed him as a co-defendant in a botched scheme to arrange his murder in order for his life insurance policy to be paid out to his son. Multiple death investigations, including those of his wife and youngest son, remain swirling around the case.

Murdaugh’s lawyer Jim Griffin said his client would be in Hampton County to surrender to police Thursday and have a bond hearing tied to the insurance fraud plot.

The Hampton County Magistrate Office confirmed to USA TODAY a bond hearing for Murdaugh was scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday.

A former client of Murdaugh’s, Curtis Edward Smith, 61, was arrested Tuesday and faces multiple charges including assisted suicide and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said in an affidavit that Murdaugh arranged for Smith to shoot him on the side of the road so his $10 million life insurance policy would go to his son. Smith, however, only grazed Murdaugh’s head with the bullet, and the embattled attorney survived.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division also announced Wednesday it was opening an investigation in the death of a former housekeeper who died at Murdaugh’s home in 2018 and whose family is now suing.

Insurance fraud scheme:South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh had man shoot him in $10M life insurance scheme, police say

Here’s what we know:

Alex Murdaugh to surrender Thursday

Griffin, one of Murdaugh’s lawyers, told CNN and the New York Times Wednesday that Murdaugh would surrender to authorities in Hampton County. Griffin didn’t immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.

Murdaugh had been at a drug rehab center. His other attorney, Dick Harpootlian, said Murdaugh had recently been suffering from an opioid addiction.

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division nor prosecutors have said the charges Murdaugh is or would be facing. A police spokesperson did not immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.

Murdaugh’s former client arrested Tuesday

Curtis Edward Smith was arrested after Murdaugh and Smith both told police about their alleged insurance fraud plot, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said.

Smith is facing 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.

Harpootlian told the “Today” show on Wednesday that Murdaugh believed if he died by suicide, his insurance policy would not be paid out to his son, Buster, so he contacted Smith to arrange the killing.

A bullet grazed Murdaugh’s head and he was hospitalized over Labor Day weekend. State police said Smith admitted to being present and disposing of the firearm the shooting.

It wasn’t clear whether Smith had an attorney.

Former housekeeper’s death now being investigated

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said Wednesday it was opening a criminal investigation into the death of Gloria Satterfield. The decision is “based upon a request from the Hampton County Coroner earlier today, as well as information gathered during the course of our other ongoing investigations involving Alex Murdaugh,” the agency said.

More on former housekeeper’s death:2018 death of South Carolina woman sparks investigation, lawsuit

The county coroner sent a letter Wednesday to state police indicating Satterfield’s death at Murdaugh’s home was never reported to the coroner’s office, nor was an autopsy done despite her manner of death being listed as “natural” from injuries she sustained from tripping and falling.

Coroner Angie Topper noted that “the manner of death was ruled ‘natural,’ which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident.” Satterfield, of Furman, South Carolina, was the Murdaugh family housekeeper for over two decades before her death, according to WYFF-4.

Along with the investigation, a new lawsuit was also filed in Satterfield’s death. Chad Westendorf, a banker at Palmetto State Bank, originally filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2018 and court documents show a settlement was reached for $500,000. The suit states that, following Satterfield’s death, Murdaugh acknowledged that he was at fault and introduced her family to his “good friend, Corey Fleming, so that Fleming could assist the sons in filing legal claims against Murdaugh for the wrongful death of their mother, with the assistance of a banker friend, Chad Westendorf.”

But on Wednesday, the heirs of Satterfield’s estate filed a second civil lawsuit against Murdaugh, Westendorf and other attorneys indicating they had not received any money from the settlement.

Another investigation tied to murders of Murdaugh’s wife and son

In what remains an unsolved case, Murdaugh’s wife and son, Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, were fatally shot at their family’s hunting estate June 7. Murdaugh reported their deaths to police, and there have been no arrests in the case.

Murdaugh’s attorney, Harpootlian, told the “Today” show, however, he and Griffin were investigating “an individual or individuals we believe may, may, have some culpability or had done it.” Harpootlian did not elaborate further on whom he and his partner were investigating, saying only the motive would be “personal.”

What to know:Murders, money and mystery swirl around prominent Murdaugh family in South Carolina: What we know

During the course of the double homicide investigation, state police also said they were opening an investigation into the unsolved 2015 death of Stephen Smith, 19. Smith was killed in what was originally ruled to be a hit-and-run, but his mother said at the time she believed her son was targeted for being gay.

Paul Murdaugh involved in deadly 2019 boat accident

An open case also remains in the death of Mallory Beach, a 19-year-old who died during a boating crash in 2019. Paul Murdaugh was awaiting trial on three boating under the influence charges tied to the incident. Beach’s family is also suing the Murdaugh family.

Police investigate allegation that Murdaugh stole law firm’s funds 

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is also investigating whether Alex Murdaugh misappropriated funds from his law firm.

Murdaugh’s firm said the attorney had resigned earlier this month after it discovered his misuse of funds. Harpootlian told the “Today” show Murdaugh was using the money to fuel his opioid addiction.

Who are the Murdaughs?

Alex Murdaugh comes from a long line of prominent lawyers in the South Carolina Lowcountry. 

For three generations, a Murdaugh served as the elected solicitor in the area, with his great grandfather, grandfather and father filling the role for more than 85 years continuously.

Multiple Murdaughs had worked at the well-known Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, and Detrick, PA law firm, too. The firm was established by Murdaugh’s great-grandfather more than 100 years ago.

Contributing:  Michael M. DeWitt, Jr. and Christal Hayes

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