What’s next for Alex Murdaugh after guilty trial verdict and life prison sentence?

Whatever the verdict had been in the murder case, Murdaugh was never walking out of court a free man

Rachel Sharp
Tuesday 07 March 2023 11:25 GMT
Alex Murdaugh found guilty for murder of wife and son

Disgraced legal scion Alex Murdaugh will spend the rest of his life in prison after being found guilty of the brutal murders of his wife Maggie and son Paul.

The once-powerful attorney was convicted of two counts of murder and two weapons charges after a dramatic six-week “trial of the century” inside the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina.

Jurors took less than three hours to reach the verdict after hearing how he had gunned down his wife Maggie and son Paul on the family’s sprawling 1,700-acre Moselle estate in Islandton, South Carolina, back on 7 June 2021. He continued to claim his innocence as he received two consecutive life sentences on 3 March.

But this is far from the end of the scandals, criminal cases and unanswered questions surrounding Murdaugh.

Whatever the verdict had been in the murder case, Murdaugh was never walking out of court a free man, as he is being held on bond on more than 100 charges in cases including a multi-million-dollar fraud scheme and a botched hitman plot.

Here’s what’s next for the disgraced attorney:

A new prison cell

Murdaugh was handed two consecutive life terms at his sentencing on 3 March, hours after the guilty verdict came down. The sentence will be served at one of the state’s seven maximum security prisons, which only house violent criminals.

Upon leaving the court, he was to be handed over to the custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDOC) and taken to the Kirkland Correctional Institution in Columbia.

All male inmates are originally taken to this facility after sentencing, which is one of the state’s maximum security prisons.

Once there, he is expected to have a two-month evaluation including mental and physical health checks.

This evaluation – together with the inmate classification system – will be used to determine which of South Carolina’s highest-security prisons Murdaugh will be sent to spend the duration of his sentence.

The evaluation process takes about 45 days, the SCDOC said in a statement following Murdaugh’s sentencing.

700 years for financial crimes

Separate to the murder case, Murdaugh is facing a staggering 99 charges from 19 separate indictments for a string of financial fraud schemes.

He is accused of stealing at least $8.7m from settlements from dozens of legal clients he represented through his law firm PMPED.

Part of the plots involved Murdaugh negotiating wrongful death and other settlements for his clients and then stealing the money for himself, according to prosecutors.

The alleged schemes date back as far as 2011 but were on the brink of being exposed at the time of the murders.

Alex Murdaugh, centre, is handcuffed in the courtroom after a guilty verdict of his double murder trial was read aloud at Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina
Alex Murdaugh, centre, is handcuffed in the courtroom after a guilty verdict of his double murder trial was read aloud at Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina (AP)

During his trial, prosecutors said that Murdaugh killed his wife and son to distract from his financial crimes.

Among the slew of charges are counts of: fraud, attempted tax evasion, money laundering, embezzlement, obtaining signature or property by false pretenses, forgery, insurance fraud, and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.

Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

But, in court during his murder trial, he confessed under oath to stealing from PMPED and at least 18 law firm clients.

Among the victims are the family of Gloria Satterfield, the Murdaugh family housekeeper who died in a mysterious trip and fall death back in 2018.

He faces up to 700 years in prison on these financial fraud charges.

Charges over botched hitman plot

Murdaugh is also facing charges over a bizarre September 2021 botched hitman plot.

On 4 September 2021 – three months on from the murders and one day after he was ousted from his law firm for stealing funds – Murdaugh was shot on the side of a road in Hampton County.

He survived and called 911, claiming he was ambushed in a drive-by shooting while changing a tire on his vehicle.

He was treated at a hospital for what police called a “superficial gunshot wound to the head,” but his story quickly unravelled.

Curtis Eddie Smith appears in court on charges related to Murdaugh
Curtis Eddie Smith appears in court on charges related to Murdaugh (2022 The State Newspaper)

Mr Murdaugh’s version of events rapidly fell apart and he confessed to asking Curtis Eddie Smith to shoot and kill him in an assisted suicide plot so that his surviving son Buster could get a $12m life insurance windfall.

Mr Smith, 62, is Mr Murdaugh’s alleged drug dealer, distant cousin and former law firm client.

Both men were arrested and charged over the incident and are currently awaiting trial on the charges.

They were both later hit with fresh charges of narcotics and criminal conspiracy over an alleged drug and $2.4m money laundering ring.

Investigation into Gloria Satterfield’s death

An investigation is still ongoing into the death of Gloria Satterfield, the Murdaugh family’s housekeeper of two decades who died in a mysterious trip and fall death at the Moselle estate.

Satterfield worked for the influential Murdaugh family for more than 20 years when she was found at the bottom of the steps leading up to the family’s home. She died weeks later from her injuries.

At the time, her death was regarded as an accidental fall – though her death certificate cited her manner of death as “natural” and no autopsy was performed.

Gloria Satterfield died in a ‘trip and fall’ at the Murdaugh home in 2018
Gloria Satterfield died in a ‘trip and fall’ at the Murdaugh home in 2018 (Provided)

After her death, Murdaugh reached an agreement to pay her family $4m in a wrongful death settlement – but then allegedly stole the money as part of his fraud scheme.

On 15 September 2021, days after Murdaugh’s crime schemes were exposed, SLED announced it was reopening an investigation into Satterfield’s death.

In early 2022, officials announced plans to exhume her body.

It is not clear what evidence may have led investigators to do so – or where the investigation may be headed.

Investigation into Stephen Smith death

SLED has reopened an investigation into another mystery death with a tie to the Murdaugh family.

Stephen Smith, 19, was found dead in the middle of a road in Hampton County back in 2015.

He had suffered blunt force trauma to the head and his car was left down the road.

His death was officially ruled a hit-and-run but the victim’s family – and investigators who worked on the initial case – have long doubted this version of events.

There have long been murmurings in the community that a “Murdaugh boy” may have been involved and the Murdaugh name came up 40 times in documents in the initial case, reported Live5News.

Just days after the murders of Maggie and Paul, SLED announced that the investigation into their murders had led them to reopen an investigation into Smith’s death.

It is not clear what may have prompted the launch of that investigation.

In January 2023, SLED said it had “made progress” in the case but no other details have been released.

Mounting lawsuits

Murdaugh is also facing a growing number of lawsuits from victims of his financial fraud schemes as well as survivors on a 2019 boat crash.

In February 2019, Paul was allegedly drunk driving a boat when he crashed it, throwing his friend Mallory Beach to her death.

He was charged with boating under the influence and faced up to 25 years in prison but was killed before his trial.

Mallory Beach was killed in the 2019 boat crash
Mallory Beach was killed in the 2019 boat crash (Facebook )

Murdaugh was also sued by the Beach family – with the lawsuit coming to a head at the time of Maggie and Paul’s murders.

That lawsuit was settled days before the murder trial but other passengers in that wreck have also filed lawsuits accusing him of enabling Paul’s drinking or meddling in the law enforcement investigation.

Several law firm clients – who were swindled out of settlement money – are also suing him.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in