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Alex Murdaugh trial: Timeline of murders, financial fraud, unexplained deaths, arrest and conviction

In the 20 months since brutal double murders propelled the Murdaughs into national headlines, a series of other scandals, allegations and alleged crimes have also come to light

Rachel Sharp
Thursday 09 March 2023 15:44 GMT
Alex Murdaugh trial: First officer on murder scene describes finding wife and son dead

Disgraced legal dynasty heir Alex Murdaugh has been convicted in a South Carolina courthouse of the murders of his wife and son.

Murdaugh, 54, was found guilty on 2 March of shooting Paul, 22, twice with a shotgun and Maggie, 52, five times with a rifle on the family’s sprawling hunting lodge in Islandton on 7 June 2021.

He was arrested more than a year after the killings in July 2022 and charged with their murders.

In the 20 months since the brutal double murders propelled the Murdaughs onto national headlines, a series of other scandals, allegations and alleged crimes have also come to light.

Here’s a timeline of the key moments in the case:

8 July 2015 – Stephen Smith, 19, was found dead in the middle of a road in Hampton County, South Carolina. The openly gay teenager had suffered blunt force trauma to the head and his death was officially ruled a hit-and-run. His family doubted this version of events, and the Murdaugh name cropped up in several police tips and community rumours.

2 February 2018 – 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 some stairs. She never resumed consciousness and died from her injuries on 26 February.

24 February 2019 – Paul, then 19, was allegedly drunk driving the family’s boat when it crashed, throwing him and his friends overboard. The body of Mallory Beach, 19, washed up on the shore around a week later.

18 April 2019 – Paul was charged with three felonies over Beach’s death including boating under the influence. He was facing up to 25 years in prison. Beach’s family also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Murdaughs.

7 June 2021 – Maggie and Paul were shot dead at the family’s sprawling estate in Islandton. Maggie was shot five times with an automatic rifle and Paul was shot twice – once in the head and once in the chest – with a shotgun. Murdaugh made a dramatic 911 call at 10.07pm claiming he had returned home from visiting his elderly mother to find their bodies.

17 June 2021 – Murdaugh’s brothers Randy Murdaugh IV and John Marvin Murdaugh appeared on Good Morning America insisting their brother was not involved in the murders.

22 June 2021 – SLED announced that it was reopening an investigation into Smith’s death, based on information gathered during its investigation into Maggie and Paul’s murders.

22 July 2021 – Investigators released the 911 call made by Murdaugh on the night of the murders. In the call, he is heard sobbing as he tells the dispatcher “it’s bad” and “my wife and child have been shot badly”. Mr Murdaugh also tells the dispatcher that he hasn’t seen anyone on the property.

3 September 2021 – Murdaugh was confronted by the partners at his law firm PMPED after they discovered he was allegedly misappropriating millions of dollars of clients’ funds. He was forced to resign.

4 September 2021 – 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 he was changing a tyre on his vehicle. He was treated at a hospital for a “superficial gunshot wound to the head”.

5 September 2021 – Murdaugh entered rehab, announcing he was struggling with a 20-year opioid addiction and that he had resigned from his law firm PMPED.

13 September 2021 – Murdaugh confessed to police that he had orchestrated his own shooting as part of a botched hitman plot. He said he paid Curtis Smith, 62 – a former client, distant cousin and allegedly Murdaugh’s drug dealer – to shoot and kill him in an assisted suicide plot so that his surviving son Buster could get a $10m life insurance windfall. The two men were arrested and charged but Mr Murdaugh was allowed to be released on bond to return to rehab. SLED also opened an investigation into allegations that Mr Murdaugh had been misappropriating funds from his law firm.

15 September 2021 – SLED announced it was reopening an investigation into Satterfield’s 2018 death.

14 October 2021 – Murdaugh was released from rehab only to be dramatically arrested on charges of stealing funds from Satterfield’s family. The family had reached a wrongful death settlement with Mr Murdaugh but said they didn’t receive a dime. They filed a lawsuit against Mr Murdaugh claiming he pocketed the money.

19 November 2021 – Murdaugh was charged with almost 30 counts over the Satterfield wrongful death settlement.

3 June 2022 – SLED announced that it was planning to exhume Satterfield’s body.

12 July 2022 – The Murdaugh family was notified that Murdaugh would be charged with Maggie and Paul’s murders. The same day, Mr Murdaugh was disbarred from practicing law in South Carolina by the state’s Supreme Court.

14 July 2022 – Murdaugh was charged with the murders of Maggie and Paul – two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.

20 July 2022 – Murdaugh appeared in court on the murder charges where he pleaded not guilty.

22 November 2022 – Russell Laffitte, former Palmetto State Bank CEO, was convicted of financial fraud charges in connection to Murdaugh’s alleged white collar fraud schemes.

23 January 2023 – Murdaugh’s murder trial began in Colleton County Courthouse with jury selection. Opening arguments began two days later. By this time, Murdaugh was also facing more than 100 other criminal charges over the suicide hitman plot and the alleged white collar fraud scheme where he is accused of stealing more than $8m from clients. He is also facing several civil suits.

24 January 2023 – A judge approved the settlement agreement in the wrongful death lawsuit brought against the Murdaugh family by the Beach family.

23-24 February 2023 - Murdaugh takes the stand at his murder trial and confesses to financial crimes and to lying about his alibi but insists he did not kill his wife and son.

2 March 2023 - A jury convicted Murdaugh of the murders of Maggie and Paul.

3 March 2023 - Murdaugh is sentenced to life in prison.

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