Last week, People magazine published an “exclusive” cover story claiming the marriage of South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh and his late wife, Maggie Murdaugh, was on the rocks prior to her violent death four months ago. Written by KC Baker, the story detailed how Maggie Murdaugh “seemed blissful and carefree in photos she posted of the family at weddings, balls, and yacht club events – her in sleek gowns and her husband and sons, Buster, 26, and Paul, 22, in well-tailored tuxedos.”
“But appearances, especially on social media, aren’t always what they seem,” Baker wrote.
According to Baker’s sources, the Murdaughs were “miserable people” behind the veneer of their “black ties and fancy dresses.”
For example, one of Baker’s sources recalled the couple attending a University of South Carolina baseball game just two days before Maggie and her youngest son, Paul Murdaugh, were brutally murdered on a Lowcountry hunting property owned by the family.
At the game, Maggie Murdaugh “seemed aggravated” and was “mad” as her husband and his eldest son, Buster Murdaugh, made multiple trips to the bar for drinks, witnesses told Baker.
“While Alex and Buster went to the bar at least four times to get drinks, Maggie sat quietly next to a young blonde woman,” one of these witnesses recalled.
Scarcely 48 hours later, Maggie Murdaugh and her youngest son were dead …
“Paul Murdaugh was reportedly killed by a pair of shotgun blasts – one to the chest and another which struck his arm and head,” I reported at the time, citing my network of law enforcement and prosecutorial sources.
This information has since been publicly confirmed by health officials as the cause of Paul Murdaugh’s death – one of the few details about this still-unsolved crime which has been released to the public.
As for Maggie Murdaugh, she was reportedly shot and killed by a semi-automatic rifle at or around the same time her son was killed.
Who killed the mother and son? And why?
The inquiry into these slayings – and at least five other active criminal investigations involving Alex Murdaugh, his influential family and the powerful law firm it founded decades ago in Hampton, S.C. – are being probed by agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED). Despite these investigations potentially veering into some treacherous waters, SLED chief Mark Keel has vowed his agency will pursue justice for victims “no matter where the facts lead us.”
“Keel’s promise was a bold one considering where some of these probes could potentially lead – and considering some of the powerful people who could conceivably be implicated during the course of these investigations,” I noted last month.
And that was before I knew just how deep this rabbit hole might go …
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(Via: Columbia S.C. Photographers Travis Bell)
Still, sources familiar with the various investigations have assured me Keel (above) meant exactly what he said.
“No stone will be left unturned,” one of these sources told me bluntly – a statement they reaffirmed in the aftermath of my recent report linking Alex Murdaugh to a suspected drug smuggler.
Obviously, I have heard similar reports alleging trouble in the Murdaugh’s marriage. In fact, on July 4, 2021, I published an extensive (and an actual “exclusive“) report discussing these alleged marital issues – and the role they may be playing in the various criminal inquiries.
“Significant speculation continues to swirl around Alex Murdaugh – especially as it relates to what multiple sources close to the family have described as a troubled marriage with his late wife,” I noted at the time.
While declining to speculate on the status of the union, I did note that “the Murdaughs’ marital status – whatever it was – is one area of interest in SLED’s ongoing double homicide inquiry.”
“It is one of the areas that is being looked at,” a source close to the inquiry told me over the Fourth of July weekend. “It might not end up being the most promising lead, but it is being followed up on as part of the investigation.”
Is that still the case?
Readers will recall that Maggie Murdaugh’s cell phone was retrieved by investigators on a Colleton County road on June 8, 2021 – the day after the slayings. It was promptly sent to SLED’s crime lab in Columbia, S.C. for forensic analysis along with numerous other items retrieved from the crime scene (and nearby).
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The contents of Maggie’s cell phone are once again of interest given a statement issued by Alex Murdaugh’s spokeswoman in the aftermath of the People story – a statement which refuted its suggestion that the couple’s marriage was on the rocks.
“The most recent allegations by People magazine regarding the state of Maggie and Alex Murdaugh’s marriage are totally inconsistent with what we have been told by friends and family members,” the spokeswoman said. “Also, we have reviewed many years of text messages on Alex’s phone, and the conversations between Alex and Maggie portray a very loving relationship. It is our hope that the media will continue to focus on covering the investigation of the person or people responsible for the murder of Maggie and Paul and not reporting salacious stories with no credible sources connected to the Murdaugh family.”
Wait a minute …. “many years of text messages on Alex’s phone?”
Have these “many years of text messages” been turned over to investigators?
One would certainly hope so … especially considering attorneys for Alex Murdaugh told me he was “cooperating fully” with investigators after being identified as a “person of interest” in connection with the murders of his wife and youngest son.
Of course, Murdaugh’s attorneys have repeatedly provided the media with demonstrably false information – especially in the aftermath of a bizarre roadside shooting incident that took place in Hampton county a month ago in which Alex Murdaugh appears to have been attempting to end his life so his son could collect on a $10 million life insurance policy.
Murdaugh and a co-conspirator have since been criminally charged in that case. Meanwhile, a civil case connected to a 2019 boat crash involving the Murdaugh family has been ramping up recently, and the family remains the focus of an ongoing statewide grand jury investigation into whether any of its members attempted to obstruct justice in the aftermath of that crash, which killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach of Hampton and which resulted in multiple criminal charges being filed against the late Paul Murdaugh.
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SLED is also criminally probing a pair of previous suspicious deaths tied to the family – the 2015 unsolved murder of Stephen Smith, a friend of Buster Murdaugh, and the 2018 death of Gloria Satterfield, the family’s housekeeper in Hampton, S.C. The Satterfield case has further exposed what appears to be an elaborate artifice erected and orchestrated by Murdaugh and various co-conspirators with the aim of defrauding the late housekeeper’s family members out of money they were entitled to receive in connection with a wrongful death settlement.
Rabbit holes everywhere, right?
Of course, the highest-profile investigation remains the one seeking to identify the individuals(s) responsible for the June 7, 2021 double homicide.
So … are the allegations raised in the People article a significant part of this inquiry?
Not really. Multiple sources close to the probe told me late last week that nothing has changed on this front since they spoke with me in early July. Certainly, the Murdaughs’ marital status – whatever it was – has continued to receive attention as investigators advance their “no stone unturned” mantra. However, as of this writing, it remains unlikely alleged marital discord between the Murdaughs will wind up being the most fruitful avenue of inquiry related to the homicides themselves.
Even if such discord existed, sources close to the situation have indicated there is nothing at this point to suggest it may have played a role as a primary motive for the crime.
In addition to the presence of what one source described as “more promising leads” tied to the double homicide, there is no indication investigators have obtained any verifiable information related to the Murdaughs’ alleged domestic troubles – including reports that Maggie Murdaugh visited a divorce lawyer in Charleston, S.C. six weeks before she was killed and had initiated a “forensic accounting” of her husband’s finances.
Sources close to the inquiry have acknowledged these reports “may very well be true,” but there is nothing at this point to suggest any evidence has been put forth attesting to their veracity.
Stay tuned to this news outlet for the very latest developments on the various criminal and civil cases linked to Alex Murdaugh, his family and his former law firm.
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 San Diego Padres’ lid pictured above).
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