The extent and nature of the federal engagement is limited, according to these sources, however the involvement of federal resources in any capacity marks another escalation in this unraveling Shakespearian saga – which is the focus of at least six separate criminal inquiries at the state level (as well as multiple civil court actions).
Federal officials declined to comment on their specific role in the ongoing investigations, deferring to the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – the agency in charge of multiple state-level inquiries into this influential family and the powerful law firm it founded decades ago in the South Carolina Lowcountry.
SLED issued a statement on Thursday afternoon affirming the agency has previously called upon the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for support in connection with at least one of the Murdaugh-related inquiries – and would continue to call upon the feds “as needed.”
“SLED agents continue to work diligently to bring justice to all victims in these cases,” agency chief Mark Keel said. “As I have previously stated, our agents remain committed to following the facts no matter where they lead us.”
Keel has “been in contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well as the United States attorney’s office for the district of South Carolina,” according to his statement.
“From very early on in this investigation SLED has utilized federal resources as needed,” Keel said. “We will continue to call upon our federal partners as their assistance is needed to successfully investigate and prosecute specific aspects of these cases.”
SLED has already brought charges in connection one of these six criminal probes – an ongoing investigation into a bizarre rural roadside shooting involving 53-year-old Alex Murdaugh, the man at the epicenter of this still-unspooling made-for-Hollywood drama. Murdaugh and a co-conspirator are accused of staging a shooting in an effort to allow his surviving son to collect on a $10 million life insurance policy.
Both admitted as much, but Murdaugh’s co-conspirator – 61-year-old Curtis Edward “Eddie” Smith – has since claimed he was “set-up” by the powerful attorney.
SLED is also probing a brutal double homicide from June of this year – seeking to identify the individual(s) responsible for the savage murders of 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh and 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh. Alex Murdaugh remains a ‘person of interest’ in connection with the ongoing investigation into the murder of his wife and youngest son at “Moselle,” the family’s 1,700-acre hunting property on the Salkehatchie river (on the border of Colleton and Hampton counties).
In the aftermath of that double homicide, SLED has opened investigations into two other suspicious deaths tied to the Murdaugh family – the 2015 murder of 19-year-old Stephen Smith of Hampton, S.C. and the 2018 death of 57-year-old Gloria Satterfield, also of Hampton, S.C. Smith was a friend of Alex Murdaugh’s sons, while Satterfield was the family’s housekeeper.
SLED is also investigating allegations of obstruction of justice involving Alex Murdaugh and other members of his family in connection with a February 2019 boat crash involving Paul Murdaugh – who allegedly slammed his father’s 17-foot center console fishing boat into the piling of a Beaufort county, S.C. bridge while he was “grossly intoxicated.” That crash claimed the life of 19-year-old Mallory Beach of Hampton, S.C. and injured several others. The boat crash obstruction probe is currently before a statewide grand jury in Columbia, S.C.
Launched on September 13, this financial inquiry purports to determine whether Alex Murdaugh “misappropriated funds in connection to his position as a former lawyer” at PMPED. In the aftermath of the roadside shooting on September 4, PMPED hastily accused Murdaugh of absconding with more than $10 million from the firm’s coffers.
Of interest? PMPED never asked SLED to conduct this investigation – the agency launched it on its own. Sources familiar with the nascent probe have told me it could soon metastasize into a much broader graft and corruption inquiry – one impacting numerous law firms, financial institutions and public officials. Oh, and judges.
All charges connected with Murdaugh-related state cases are being prosecuted by the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson (news which I first reported earlier this month). And just yesterday, I exclusively reported that chief justice Donald Beatty had tapped veteran S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman to preside over any Murdaugh-related criminal proceedings at the state level – a move which raised further concern over the extent to which judges in the South Carolina Lowcountry could be implicated in the mushrooming scandal.
This is a developing story … please check back for updates.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that Los Angeles Dodgers’ lid pictured above).
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