Disgraced South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh has been indicted on murder charges in the 2021 shooting deaths of his wife and son. He has been charged with two counts of murder, and two counts of possessing a firearm during a crime. According to indictments handed down on Thursday from a grand jury in Colleton County, Murdaugh used a rifle to kill his wife, Maggie, and a shotgun to kill his son Paul a year ago.
Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, lawyers for Alex Murdaugh, said their client is innocent. “Alex wants his family, friends and everyone to know that he did not have anything to do with the murders of Maggie and Paul,” the attorneys said in a statement. “He loved them more than anything in the world.”
The attorneys continued, “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. But we know that Alex did not have any motive whatsoever to murder them. We are immediately filing a motion for a speedy trial, we are requesting that the Attorney General turn over all evidence within 30 days as required by law and we demand to have a trial within 60 days of receiving that evidence.”
A press release from the Office of the Attorney General provided no details about what evidence led to the indictments. “Because this is an active investigation and is now a pending court case, Attorney General [Alan] Wilson cannot comment on specifics,” the release said. South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel addressed the length of the investigation. “Over the last 13 months, SLED agents and our partners have worked day in and day out to build a case against the person responsible for the murders of Maggie and Paul and to exclude those who were not,” Keel said in the statement. “At no point did agents lose focus on this investigation. From the beginning I have been clear, the priority was to ensure justice was served. Today is one more step in a long process for justice for Maggie and Paul.”
Murdaugh was already facing theft and fraud charges that resulted in his arrest last October, followed by a wave of more than 80 criminal indictments. Until now, however, there’d been no formal suspect in the deaths of his wife and son.
On June 7, 2021, 22-year-old Paul and 52-year-old Maggie were found shot to death near the dog kennels on the family’s hunting compound in Colleton County. Murdaugh himself had called 911 that night, breathlessly telling the dispatcher that he had found his wife and his child and they weren’t breathing.
Linking Murdaugh to the unsolved murders may represent the crest of the wave of drama that’s surrounded the lawyer in recent months. At the time of the shooting, his son Paul was facing felony charges for boating under the influence, accused of driving a boat into a bridge resulting in the death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach in 2019. The family had also been sued for the incident. The killings brought renewed attention to the boat crash, including speculation that Paul had been given special treatment by police.
Murdaugh, 54, is the scion of a legal dynasty in the state’s Lowcountry region. Three generations of men before him were elected top prosecutor in the district. Murdaugh worked for his family’s prominent law firm until he was pushed out last September amid accusations that he had misappropriated funds. His law license was subsequently suspended.
Things continued to unravel for Murdaugh last fall. Around the same time he lost his job, he was arrested on charges that he’d hired a former client to kill him in a staged drive-by shooting. At the time, a lawyer for Murdaugh said his client had begun using opioids the wake of Maggie and Paul’s shootings and that he’d become suicidal while going through withdrawal from the painkillers. Murdaugh was charged with fraud after police said he confessed that he’d intended for his surviving 25-year-old son to claim a $10 million life insurance payout after his death. Last month, Murdaugh and the accused hit man, Curtis Smith, were additionally indicted on money laundering charges, accused of taking part in an oxycodone-trafficking ring.
Since his arrest for soliciting his own murder, Murdaugh has been indicted on more than 80 criminal charges, many accusing him of stealing money from clients and his former law firm. Last October, he was arrested after leaving a drug rehab facility in Florida, accused of stealing insurance funds from the sons of his housekeeper, who died after falling on the steps of the family home in 2018. Murdaugh has admitted he wrongly took the money and that he owes his housekeeper Gloria Satterfield’s family $4.3 million. His confession led to his disbarment, which the South Carolina’s Supreme Court finalized on Tuesday.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division opened an investigation into Satterfield’s death and last month said they planned to exhume her body.
In the weeks that followed Maggie and Paul’s shooting deaths, SLED announced that based on information uncovered during the investigation, the agency would also look into the death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith, who authorities said died in a 2015 hit-and-run 10 miles from the Murdaugh home. No one has been charged in his death.
Griffin said he learned about the pending indictment from FITSNews, a South Carolina independent media outlet that’s deeply sourced in the Murdaugh case. He then talked to Murdaugh’s brother who he says told him the state police had been in touch with him about it. Griffin spoke to Rolling Stone ahead of the indictment and said Murdaugh has struggled in jail with the recent anniversary of his wife and son’s killing and the news that he would be charged in their deaths. “That is very, very is very upsetting to him,” he says. “So he is not in a good place.”