Lawyer Who Arranged Own Death After Wife, Son Were Killed Faces New Charge
By Jason Hall
October 14, 2021
A prominent South Carolina lawyer who was shot months after his wife and son were slain in unsolved shootings this summer and was later accused of hiring a hitman to kill him so his other son could collect on a $10 million life insurance policy has now been formally charged in relation to stealing insurance settlement with the sons of his late housekeeper.
KTLA reports Alex Murdaugh was arrested at a drug rehab facility in Orlando, Florida on Thursday (October 14), where his attorneys confirmed he had been staying during the past six weeks after being shot in the head, which was later proved to be part of a conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.
Murdaugh was charged with two counts of obtaining property by false pretenses in relation to the death of his longtime housekeeper and nanny, Gloria Satterfield, in February 2018.
Last month, NBC News reported the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division opened a criminal investigation into accusations that Murdaugh kept money from Satterfield's family.
The agency said the case was reopened by request from the Hampton County coroner and on "information gathered" during a separate investigation involving Murdaugh.
Hampton County Coroner Angela Topper wrote a letter to state investigators in her request confirming Satterfield's death "was not reported to the coroner at the time, nor was an autopsy performed," NBC News reported.
"On the death certificate, the manner of death was ruled 'natural,' which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident," Topper added.
Satterfield's family released a statement in response to the announcement of the investigation, calling it a "sad day."
"The news of the opening of a criminal investigation causes more questions at a time when the family just wanted answers regarding the claims that were asserted in connection with the death of their mother and any settlements reached," the statement said at the time. "Today this nightmare escalated for the family with the news of the opening of the criminal investigation into the death of Gloria Satterfield."
Satterfield's family filed a lawsuit in Hampton County court Wednesday accusing Murdaugh and others of breach of fiduciary duty in failing to compensate the family in a wrongful death settlement.
Satterfield, 57, died in February 2018 after experiencing injuries during a fall in the Murdaugh home, where she had worked for more than two decades.
The lawsuit states "the exact details of the fall remain unclear" and her two sons, Michael "Tony" Satterfield and Brian Harriott were entitled to be paid $475,000 in direct payment to "compensate them for the grief, sorrow and mourning associated with the loss of their mother" in relation to the wrongful death settlement.
Murdaugh had the home insured through Lloyd's of London and promised to "take care of the boys" by suing himself to collect on personal liability insurance through Lloyd's, according to the lawsuit.
However, a "stipulation of dismissal" was filed in October 2020 -- nearly two years after a partial settlement was reached with the insurance firm -- ending the estate's claims against Murdaugh, who also reportedly signed the stipulation, according to an exhibit attached to the lawsuit.
Ronald Richter Jr., who represents the Satterfield family, said they didn't receive any compensation.
The latest events add to a strange situation surrounding the family as questions continue to be raised regarding the fatal shootings of Murdaugh's wife, Margaret, 52, and their son Paul, 22, in June, three days after Murdaugh's father, prosecutor Randolph Murdaugh III, had also died.
Last month, Murdaugh was shot hours after resigning from his job earlier this month, told 911 that he was shot in the head while changing a flat tire, which caused a "superficial" wound, authorities confirmed on September 14 via NBC News.
Murdaugh's attorney, Richard Harpootlian, told the TODAY Show Wednesday (September 15) that his client was trying to get off opioids -- which he said Murdaugh took to get over the death of his son and wife while battling depression -- at the time he came up with the suicide plot.
Harpootlian said Murdaugh enlisted a man to kill him during a "fake car breakdown" as he believed his insurance policy had a suicide clause and the scheme was an "attempt on his part to do something to protect his child."
Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, another attorney representing Murdaugh, said it became "clear Alex believed that ending his life was his only option" in a joint written statement, adding, "today, he knows that's not true."
"For the last 20 years, there have been many people feeding his addiction to opioids," the statement read. "During that time, these individuals took advantage of his addiction and his ability to pay substantial funds for illegal drugs," the statement said. "One of those individuals took advantage of his mental illness and agreed to take Alex's life, by shooting him in the head."
On September 6, Murdaugh released a statement by NBC News revealing that he resigned from his position in order to enter rehab after he "made a lot of decisions that I truly regret," which included allegedly "misappropriated funds," hours after being shot in what was believed to be a roadside attack.
"This is disappointing news for all of us," the law firm, Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick, said in a statement obtained by NBC News. "Rest assured that our firm will deal with this in a straightforward manner. There's no place in our firm for such behavior."
The firm, which was founded by Murdaugh's great-grandfather, said a forensic accounting firm planned to undergo an internal investigation and had already notified law enforcement and the South Carolina Bar of its plans.