Murdaugh murders

Three bodies, 1,700 acres and a whole lot of hogs: Inside Alex Murdaugh’s $4m Moselle estate

The Moselle estate had a mysterious past even before Maggie and Paul’s murders with ties to a suspected drug smuggler and a housekeeper’s fatal fall, reports Rachel Sharp

Monday 06 March 2023 18:36 GMT
The Moselle estate where the murders took place
The Moselle estate where the murders took place (AP)

It’s a case that captured the nation’s attention over the past 21 months as South Carolina legal dynasty heir Alex Murdaugh stood trial and was convicted of the brutal double murders of his wife and son.

Before returning their guilty verdict on 2 March, jurors went back to the place where it all began.

On 1 March, the jury was taken to the family’s sprawling 1,700-acre Moselle estate in Islandton, South Carolina, to see for themselves the crime scene where Maggie and Paul were killed back on 7 June 2021.

They toured the dog kennels where Murdaugh ambushed his son in the feed room, shooting him once in the chest and a second time in the head, neck and shoulder with a shotgun.

They saw where, moments after gunning down Paul, the husband and father turned on his wife Maggie.

They saw where she desperately tried to flee her killer, backing into an ATV under a hangar outside before being shot five times with a semiautomatic rifle.

But that’s not all jurors saw.

They also saw a place where another mysterious death took place just three years before the 2021 murders.

They saw a snapshot of the powerful and affluent Murdaugh family’s life given the $4m property was the place they called home for several years.

And they might have even seen some of the estate’s wild hogs – whose existence has been an unusually common mention throughout the disgraced attorney’s murder trial.

Moselle’s dark history

Bordering the banks of the Salkehatchie River, 4147 Moselle Road consists of over 1,700 acres of land including a 5,275-square-foot house, a farm, a two-mile stretch of river – and of course the dog kennels.

Before the Murdaughs called Moselle home, the property was tied to another controversial family.

It was the home of Barrett Boulware – a fisherman, suspected drug smuggler and Alex Murdaugh’s longtime friend and business partner who died in 2018.

An aerial view of the Moselle estate including the kennels and feed room (AP)

He and his father were arrested on drug smuggling charges in 1980 when investigators seized 15 tons of marijuana from a shrimp boat in the Bahamas.

The charges were later dropped when a key government witness died.

Boulware’s name cropped up during the murder trial when jurors heard that Murdaugh had stolen $750,000 in insurance money from his friend when he was dying of colon cancer.

Murdaugh family home

Alex Murdaugh bought Moselle back in 2013 from Boulware’s wife Jeannine Morris Boulware, according to property records.

Murdaugh allegedly bought the entire property for just $5, FITS News reported – a move sometimes used so the seller can avoid paying capital gains taxes.

Moselle was just one of several homes that the high-powered attorney – and alleged financial fraudster – owned.

The main house at the Murdaugh Moselle property on Wednesday (AP)

The family also had a home in Hampton, South Carolina, as well as a beach home in Edisto Beach.

During testimony from Murdaugh’s surviving son Buster, jurors heard how the Hampton home had been their main residence but, after it was damaged in a hurricane, the family made Moselle their main home.

However, jurors have heard how Maggie preferred to stay at Edisto Beach – especially during the summer months.

Buster testified that much of the land on Moselle was actually inaccessible and consisted of swamp land.

1,700 acres and a whole lot of hogs

Throughout the trial, jurors heard how the property’s 1,700 acres were a hunter’s paradise with dove fields, deer stands and duck ponds all over the estate.

Murdaugh, Paul and Buster – as well as their friends – would spend a lot of time riding around the estate hunting deer, duck, quail, doves and hogs.

In particular, jurors heard a lot about the hunting of wild hogs – from the time of day to hunt to the type of guns used.

Several witnesses testified that they roamed the property and caused a nuisance, and that the family – and their friends – would shoot them any chance they got.

Alex Murdaugh looks on as his murder trial nears its end (AP)

One witness even told the court how he had killed around 1,000 hogs in his time in the area (though not just on the Murdaugh estate).

The property’s river also made it ideal for fishing and kayaking.

Mystery buyer

In the months after the murders, Murdaugh put Moselle on the market and it is currently under offer for a $3.9m bid from a mystery buyer.

The property was first listed in February 2022 – eight months after Maggie and Paul’s murders and five months before Murdaugh was charged with them – under a new name of Cross Swamp Farm.

It was later changed back to Moselle Farm.

According to the listing by the Crosby Land Co. of Colleton County, Moselle consists of 1,772 acres of “an unusually diverse habitat with varying forest types and age class distribution”.

“The landscape includes productive pine plantations, open fallow fields, and mature stands of mixed pine/hardwood, those upland regions give way to the flat bottomland of the Salkehatchie River Basin,” it reads.

A view from where Maggie Murdaugh was found at the Murdaugh Moselle property on Wednesday (AP)
The feed room where Paul Murdaugh's body was found at the Murdaugh Moselle property on Wednesday (AP)

“The property boasts over 2.5 miles of river frontage, offering freshwater fishing, kayaking, and abundant deer, turkey, and waterfowl populations.”

The family home was built in 2011 and consists of four bedrooms and 3.5 baths, meaning it could “easily be converted into a weekend hunting lodge with the capability to sleep up to 15 people”, the listing reads.

“This is truly a top-tier property, complete with all the improvements and amenities one would expect from a high-end sporting property with little or no deferred maintenance cost,” it reads.

A buyer – said to be a local landowner – put in an offer in June 2022. But the sale was put on hold when Murdaugh was accused of trying to offload his assets to avoid paying up in a string of lawsuits he is facing, prompting a court to freeze his assets.

Three bodies in three years

At least three deaths have now taken place on the Moselle estate.

In February 2018 – three years before Maggie and Paul’s murders – the Murdaughs’ long-term housekeeper Gloria Satterfield died in a mysterious trip and fall at the family home.

Satterfield, who worked for the family for more than 20 years, was found at the bottom of the steps leading into the family’s home after she was believed to have tripped over the pet dogs.

She never resumed consciousness and died from her injuries three weeks later on 26 February.

At the time, her death was regarded as an accidental fall.

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

However, her death certificate cited her manner of death as “natural” and no autopsy was performed.

Questions have now been mounting around Satterfield’s death and investigators reopened an investigation into her death in September 2021 – days after Murdaugh’s financial fraud scheme came to light.

Investigators are planning to exhume her body.

As part of his 100 financial crimes charges, Murdaugh is now charged with stealing $4m in wrongful death settlement funds from Satterfield’s family as part of his decade-long multi-million-dollar fraud scheme.

The jury tour

The jury’s tour of the murder scene came at the request of Murdaugh’s defence attorney Dick Harpootlian who said “it would be useful for the jury to see Moselle” before they decided the fate of the disgraced attorney.

It took place under tight security with Judge Clifton Newman telling jurors that they could not ask anyone any questions while there, including law enforcement, and that they could not discuss the case with each other during the trip.

The judge also advised them that some things have changed on the property in the aftermath of the murders.

“It has been a year and a half or more since June 7, 2021, since the alleged crime occurred. Things have most likely changed. We’re in a different season of the year,” he said on Tuesday afternoon.

The media was also banned from accompanying jurors on the trip, though a small media pool visited the site once the jury left.

According to a pool report from The Wall Street Journal’s Valerie Bauerlein, the jury visit lasted around 1 hour 20 minutes in total including travel time.

The dog kennels and feed room where Maggie and Paul were killed (AP)

The pool then briefly visited the dog kennels noting that it was “a heavy place to visit” with the feed room feeling “like a haunted place”.

While standing in the centre of the small room, she said she could not see to the left outside of the doorway where the prosecution’s expert witness said the shooter was standing.

The place where Paul’s body fell – outside the feed room – was within eyesight of and just 12 steps away from where Maggie’s body was found, she reported.

Judge Newman agreed to the jury visit on 27 February following a request from Mr Murdaugh’s defence attorney Prosecutor Creighton Waters raised an objection that the property has changed in the last 20 months, with trees between the family home and the kennels having grown significantly.

Judge Newman gave the defence a rare win and agreed to arrange the field trip to Moselle.

During the courtroom discussion, Mr Harpootlian also raised concerns about the need for security for the trip after he claimed people had been caught trespassing on the property at the weekend.

A view of behind the house at the Murdaugh Moselle property is seen during a visit to the crime scene on Wednesday (AP)

He said that Murdaugh’s brother called law enforcement to remove trespassers from Moselle as he noticed people taking selfies in front of the feed room where the brutal murders unfolded.

“There were literally dozens of people at Moselle last weekend trespassing, taking selfies in front of the feed room,” he said, condemning the “carnival attitude” of some members of the public.

After the jury visit, proceedings resumed in Colleton County Courthouse with the defence and prosecution delivering closing arguments.

The jury was sent out to deliberate on the afternoon of 2 March and returned with a guilty verdict less than three hours later.

Murdaugh will now find himself with a new, more permanent home – behind bars.

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