The double homicide trial of convicted killer Alex Murdaugh ended nearly two months ago, but those closely following the broader ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga know South Carolina’s ‘Trial of the Century’ was just the first chapter of this still-unfolding narrative.
Murdaugh is also facing a myriad of other charges – including 99 counts of alleged financial crimes handed down by the South Carolina statewide grand jury and three local charges stemming from a September 2021 roadside shooting incident, the event that initiated his public unraveling.
Prior to that unraveling, the Hampton, S.C.-based “House of Murdaugh” enjoyed near-dictatorial power over a five-county region in the southernmost tip of South Carolina. Three generations of Murdaughs – including Alex’s late father, Randolph Murdaugh III – held the post of S.C. fourteenth circuit solicitor between 1920-2006. Murdaugh himself was a badge-carrying assistant solicitor.
Last month, we reported that prosecutors in the office of South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson were planning to advance the next chapter of this Southern Gothic drama, focusing their attention on more than thirty alleged financial crimes linked to the death of former Murdaugh housekeeper Gloria Satterfield.
Details of this alleged criminal conspiracy can be found in a sprawling, 44-page indictment dated March 10, 2022. According to that document (.pdf), Murdaugh and Beaufort-based attorney Cory Fleming engaged in an elaborate scheme between January 2019 and November 2020 to deprive Satterfield’s family of a multi-million dollar settlement following a fall that resulted in Satterfield’s death.
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Satterfield collapsed on the front steps of main house at the Murdaughs’ Moselle property shortly before 9:24 a.m. EST on the morning of Friday, February 2, 2018. She died three weeks later, ostensible of complications from her fall. Alex Murdaugh convinced insurance investigators that Satterfield was tripped by the family’s dogs – thus allowing him to fraudulently steer a multi-million dollar insurance settlement away from its intended recipients and into his own pockets.
Is that really what happened, though? Or did Murdaugh lie to insurance investigators the same way he lied to a Colleton County jury earlier this year?
Murdaugh is facing twelve (12) criminal counts related to the alleged Satterfield scheme including breach of trust, money laundering, computer crimes and obtaining property by false pretenses. Fleming is facing eighteen (18) similar criminal counts related to the scheme.
Both Murdaugh and Fleming are also facing a separate criminal conspiracy charge.
“Instead of compensating Gloria’s sons for her death, Murdaugh converted all of the money to his own personal use, for expenses including but not limited to utility payments, loan payments, a six-figure credit card payment, cash, and checks written to himself and associates, including six-figure checks written to his father and a law partner,” the indictments alleged.
Should there have been a settlement in the first place, though?
Murdaugh has reportedly admitted to his attorneys that he knew his family’s dogs had nothing to do with Satterfield’s death – which could throw the entire settlement into jeopardy.
On May 31, 2022 – six weeks prior to being indicted on murder charges – Murdaugh confessed judgment (.pdf) in the amount of $4.3 million in connection with a civil case brought by Satterfield family attorney Eric Bland.
As of this writing, no date has been set for the Satterfield financial trial. However, deputy attorney general Creighton Waters – the lead prosecutor for the statewide grand jury – has told multiple parties those charges are next up in the vast Murdaugh criminal queue.
The timing of all these cases could come into clearer focus this week as a status conference has been scheduled for 10:00 a.m. EDT this Friday (April 21, 2023) at the Hampton County courthouse in Hampton, S.C.
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One factor that could be delaying the movement of these cases is the legislative immunity afford to Murdaugh’s lead attorney, state senator Dick Harpootlian. For those of you unfamiliar with this controversial component of the Palmetto State’s “justice” system – a state lawmaker cannot be compelled to appear in a South Carolina courtroom anytime between January and July. That’s seven months of “legislative protection” afforded to these attorneys each and every year – during which cases involving their clients cannot be heard (unless they waive this privilege).
To his credit, Harpootlian waived his legislative immunity during the six weeks Murdaugh stood trial in Walterboro, S.C. from January 23 through March 3 – missing a big chunk of the 2023 legislative session in the process.
Sources familiar with the ongoing discussions say prosecutors could move forward with the charges against Fleming in the event Harpootlian is unavailable to participate in a trial involving Murdaugh.
In addition to Fleming, disgraced banker Russell Laffitte – who is appealing his recent federal conviction on various Murdaugh-related financial charges – is also facing numerous state charges tied to his dealings with Murdaugh. Then there is Curtis “Eddie” Smith – Murdaugh’s alleged drug dealer/ check casher and the man who allegedly shot Murdaugh in the head during the roadside shooting incident.
Smith stands accused of four counts of money laundering, three counts of forgery, one count of conspiracy, one count of methamphetamine trafficking, one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance and one count of simple possession of marijuana. He is also facing fraud and weapons charges tied to the roadside shooting on Old Salkehatchie Road – which took place almost three months after the graphic murders of Murdaugh’s wife and son.
While we keep tabs on all of these defendants and the various charges they are facing, it is important to bear in mind even more charges could be forthcoming – against Murdaugh and potentially other defendants. As this news outlet reported last month, a statewide grand jury is continuing to investigate what remains of this erstwhile empire.
Count on this news outlet to keep our readers up to speed …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Jenn Wood is FITSNews’ incomparable research director. She’s also the producer of the FITSFiles and Cheer Incorporated podcasts and leading expert on all things Murdaugh/ South Carolina justice. A former private investigator with a criminal justice degree, evildoers beware, Jenn Wood is far from your average journalist! A deep dive researcher with a passion for truth and a heart for victims, this mom of two is pretty much a superhero in FITSNews country. Did we mention she’s married to a rocket scientist? (Lucky guy!) Got a story idea or a tip for Jenn? Email her at [email protected].
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