In his home court of Hampton County, Alex Murdaugh — who is a person of interest in the recent murders of his wife and son — was granted a $20,000 personal recognizance bond after he was charged with three felonies in an alleged suicide-for-hire insurance fraud scheme.
Tonja Alexander, a Hampton County magistrate judge, set Murdaugh’s bond under the conditions he give up his passport and immediately go back to rehab. If Murdaugh leaves the rehab facility without the court’s permission, a bench order will be issued for his arrest.
Murdaugh has been charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and filing a false police report, according to SLED. All three are felony counts.
Creighton Waters, a prosecutor at the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, argued that bond should be much higher — $100,000 surety (which means he actually has to pay money unlike personal recognizance) — because Alex Murdaugh should be considered a danger to the community. He also asked that Murdaugh must wear a GPS monitor, but the judge denied his request.
However, Dick Harpootlian, Murdaugh’s high-powered attorney, argued that his client is not a danger to the community, but only a danger to himself.
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Harpootlian described his client — who is currently at the center of five criminal investigations — as a victim of opioid addiction spiraled out of control by the recent murders of his wife and son.
“This had an extraordinary effect on him,” Harpootlian asked. “We ask you to let him go heal.”
The judge — working in the county where Murdaughs ruled the law as prosecutors for nearly a century — ultimately sided with Harpootlian.
Murdaugh voluntarily surrendered to agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) at the Hampton county detention center shortly before 11:45 a.m. Thursday. He arrived at the jail after spending less than two weeks at a rehabilitation facility outside the state of South Carolina.
The shooting — which was first reported by this news outlet — took place on Old Salkehatchie Road near Varnville, S.C on September 4, 2021. In its aftermath, Murdaugh was airlifted to Parker’s Emergency and Trauma Center in Savannah, Georgia to receive treatment for “a superficial gunshot wound to the head,” according to a news release from SLED.
That wound was not visible in the mug shot released Thursday afternoon by the Hampton, S.C. sheriff’s office. At the hearing, Murdaugh didn’t appear to have a wound in the back of his head either.
61-year-old Curtis Edward “Eddie” Smith — described by sources close to the Murdaugh family as Alex’s “personal drug dealer” — was arrested Tuesday in connection with the shooting.
Smith is facing multiple charges including assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud in connection with the shooting, according to a release from the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
Alex Murdaugh admitted to setting up the suicide scheme so his son Buster could collect a $10 million insurance policy, according to SLED.
In an interview with the TODAY Show yesterday, Harpootlian claimed that his client — who has been an attorney for more than two decades — didn’t fully understand the suicide exclusion on the insurance policy.
Murdaugh is being represented by two well-known South Carolina attorneys, Dick Harpoortlian and Jim Griffin.
During Wednesday’s interview, Dick Harpootlian admitted on national television that Alex Murdaugh used money from the law firm – and its clients – for personal use.
“It was uncovered that he had perhaps, not perhaps, he had converted some client and law firm money to his use and again spent most of that on opioids,” Harpootlian said.
Craig Melvin of the TODAY Show pressed Harpootlian about his client’s alleged misappropriation, specifically Harpootlian’s claim that the “vast majority” of the millions Alex allegedly stole was used on drugs.
“Dick, that’s a lot of Oxy….” Melvin, who is also from South Carolina, said to Harpootlian.
In a statement issued to media Wednesday, Harpootlian and Griffin blamed “people feeding” into Alex’s addiction for the last twenty years.
Despite the fact that Murdaugh is being represented by two of the most expensive defense attorneys — Harpootlian maintained that his client’s financial state is “ruinous.” He claimed Murdaugh was a powerless, desolate man who has “fallen from grace.”
Alex Murdaugh openly sobbed as Harpootlian described him as a victim who has suffered tremendous loss.
Alex Murdaugh’s Unraveling
Soon after the September 4 shooting, multiple law enforcement sources told FITSNews that the story Alex Murdaugh was telling about the shooting was “very suspicious.”
Family attorney Jim Griffin pushed out a narrative about the shooting which had several holes, including:
- Griffin told reporters that Alex was airlifted to MUSC in Charleston, but he was actually flown to a hospital in Savannah.
- Griffin told reporters that Alex was changing a tire on the side of the road, but the Mercedes-Benz SUV had run-flat tires.
- Griffin told reporters that Alex was on his way to Charleston from Moselle, but the road he was on is out of the way from the direct route.
Two days after he was shot, a family spokesperson released a statement saying that Alex Murdaugh was going into rehab and resigning from the law firm built by his family PMPED.
The timing was interesting considering FITSNews published a story about Murdaugh’s opioid addiction and issues at his law firm just an hour before the statement was released.
Later, officials of the firm claimed Murdaugh had been “pushed out” after misappropriating millions of dollars and resigned on Friday, September 3, 2021.
Adding more mystery to this strange saga, sources told FITSNews the knife used to slash Alex Murdaugh’s tires was recovered by investigators — and somehow linked to Alex Murdaugh.
Last week, sources told FITSNews founding editor Will Folks that Murdaugh’s unraveling could have much larger implications in the Lowcountry.
“If Alex Murdaugh and his family goes down, there’s a lot of people – maybe a whole system – going down with them,” one Hampton native told FITSNews. “There’s nobody who didn’t want to be on the Murdaughs’ payroll.”
Other Murdaugh-Related Cases
Days after the June double homicide, FITSNews published a bombshell story about the three mysterious deaths — Stephen Smith, Mallory Beach and Gloria Satterfield — that have been linked to the Murdaugh family.
On June 22, FITSNews exclusively reported that South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) opened an investigation into the death of Stephen Smith — a Hampton County teenager whose death has been unsolved since 2015.
SLED opened the investigation “based on information gathered during the course of the double homicide investigation of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh,” SLED spokesperson Tommy Crosby told FITSNews.
On Wednesday, Stephen’s Smith’s mother Sandy Smith — who has waited more than six years for justice in her son’s case — issued a statement confirming that her family was not related to Eddie Smith, the man arrested Wednesday.
“For the record my children nor I are related to any Smiths in the state of South Carolina,” she said. “Our Smith name comes from Miami Florida. Some of you people are crazy for even asking me that. We want justice not vengeance.”
SLED has not provided any updates on Stephen’s case since they opened the investigation in June.
Alex Murdaugh was a volunteer solicitor who reportedly carried a badge issued by the 14th judicial circuit solicitor (South Carolina’s version of a district attorney) at the time of the crash.
On Tuesday, FITSNews exclusively reported that the sons of former Murdaugh family housekeeper Gloria Satterfield — who died suspiciously in 2018 following an alleged “trip and fall” incident at a home owned by the family — say they have received no money from the $500,000 settlement they reached with Alex Murdaugh three years ago, according to the sons’ attorney.
On Wednesday, a lawsuit was filed against Alex Murdaugh for that alleged missing money and SLED opened up an investigation into Satterfield’s death.
Soon after that lawsuit was filed, SLED announced that they opened a criminal investigation into the death of former Murdaugh family housekeeper Gloria Satterfield — who died suspiciously in 2018 following an alleged “trip-and -fall” incident while working at the Murdaugh’s home.
Eric Bland, an attorney representing Satterfield’s sons Brian Harriott and Tony Satterfield, told FITSNews he sent a notice of representation to attorney Cory Fleming last week to get “truth and answers” for his clients.
Fleming — a long-time friend of Alex Murdaugh — represented Satterfield’s family in the 2018 death settlement.
“We’re not saying that anything has been done wrong,” Bland told FITSNews. “We just need answers for these two boys — one of them who has special needs — and the answers should be very clear.”
In February 2019, a “highly intoxicated” Paul Murdaugh was allegedly driving his father’s boat when Mallory Beach was killed in a horrific crash near Parris Island, South Carolina. At the time of Paul Murdaugh’s death, he faced three felony boating under the influence charges in that crash.
The 2019 boat crash thrust the Murdaugh family into a regional spotlight. While the powerful family was well-known in the legal and political scene of the Palmetto State, they weren’t making headlines before the fatal boat crash that killed Mallory.
Harpootlian and Griffin represented Alex’s son Paul Murdaugh in the 2019 boat crash.
Last week, the attorney representing Beach’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit filed a notice to secure Alex Murdaugh’s personal property when a judgement is issued in the ongoing civil lawsuit.
While the criminal investigation of Paul Murdaugh ended with his death, authorities are now looking into obstruction of justice allegations involving his prominent family members including Alex Murdaugh, according to FITSNews sources and attorneys representing boat crash survivors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR..
Mandy Matney is the news director at FITSNews. She’s an investigative journalist from Kansas who has worked for newspapers in Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina before making the switch to FITS. She currently lives on Hilton Head Island where she enjoys beach life. Mandy also hosts the Murdaugh Murders podcast. Want to contact Mandy? Send your tips to [email protected].