South Carolina attorneys/ podcasters Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter pushed back this week against recent revelations in a multi-million dollar ‘Murdaugh Murders’ civil case – revelations which could derail settlements obtained on behalf of the estate of Gloria Satterfield, a longtime domestic worker for the family of convicted killer Alex Murdaugh.
The revelations could also conceivably jeopardize the legal fees Bland and Richter have collected in connection with Satterfield’s case.
Murdaugh claimed his family’s dogs caused Satterfield to trip and fall on the front steps of their hunting property on the morning of Friday, February 2, 2018. Satterfield passed away three-and-a-half weeks later. Murdaugh’s unsubstantiated claim about the dogs – and his oddly specific insistence that Satterfield came to the residence to pick up a check as opposed to arriving for work – were key components of fraudulent insurance payouts and other claims related to this case.
Last week, Murdaugh belatedly acknowledged “no dogs were involved in the fall of Gloria Satterfield on February 2, 2018.”
“(Murdaugh) invented Ms. Satterfield’s purported statement that dogs caused her fall to force his insurers to make a settlement payment, and he stated that she was not on the property to perform work,” according to a filing from his attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin.
During a video press conference on Monday morning, Bland fired back at Harpootlian and Griffin – accusing them of manipulating the media.
“We believe that the press and the public are being played here,” Bland said. “Because legally and factually (Harpootlian and Griffin) are 100 percent wrong.”
“Every one of these the target defendants had lawyers and investigators, and before they paid us that money last year, they had the absolute right to investigate from anew and start over and say, hey, you know what, we don’t think that dogs caused the fall,” Bland continued. “They did not do that because they looked into it themselves.”
Bland also no longer believes Gloria Satterfield’s body should be exhumed in the hopes of determining more conclusively what may have caused her death.
“If she’s exhumed, her injuries are never going to be able to (tell) how she died if she was pushed down the stairs,” Bland claimed. “Her injuries are exactly the same as if the dogs ripped her and pushed her down the stairs or if she herself tripped from the top stairs.”
“They’re not going to solve a crime,” Bland added.
Bland’s statements on Satterfield’s exhumation contradicted the previously stated wishes of her son, Tony Satterfield, who told me prior to his testimony at Murdaugh’s double homicide trial in February that he would want to see his mother’s body exhumed if it meant finding answers.
So … what happened on that fateful morning?
(Click to view)
The late Maggie Murdaugh called 9-1-1 at approximately 9:24 a.m. EST to report Satterfield’s fall.
“My housekeeper has fallen and her head is bleeding,” Murdaugh told a Colleton County dispatcher. “I cannot get her up.”
“She fell going up the steps – the brick steps,” Murdaugh added, telling the dispatcher Satterfield was “on the ground.”
“Is she bleeding from anywhere?” the dispatcher asked.
“Yes, her head,” Murdaugh responded.
“Okay, are you guys able to control the bleeding?” the dispatcher asked.
“No,” Murdaugh replied. “I haven’t even tried.”
Maggie Murdaugh soon grew frustrated with the dispatcher’s questions and handed the phone to her late son, Paul Murdaugh.
“She’s cracked her head and there’s blood on the concrete and she’s bleeding out of her left ear … and out of her head,” Paul Murdaugh told the dispatcher. “She’s cracked her skull.”
Asked whether Satterfield had ever suffered a stroke before, Paul Murdaugh also became irritated with the dispatcher.
“Ma’am can you stop asking me all these questions?” he said.
A little more than three years later, both Paul and Maggie were savagely murdered at the dog kennels on the Moselle property – approximately 1,175 feet northwest of where Satterfield fell. Alex Murdaugh has since been convicted of their murders and sentenced to life in prison. He is also currently facing more than 100 other criminal charges – including a dozen financial charges tied to Satterfield’s death.
But we are to take him at his word when he says Satterfield told him – and no one else – that the dogs caused her fall on his property?
Here is the Satterfield 9-1-1 call in its entirety as obtained by FITSNews in November of 2021 …
(Click to view)
As previously noted, neither Paul nor Maggie Murdaugh made any reference to Satterfield’s fall being caused by dogs. And unlike Alex Murdaugh’s notorious 9-1-1 call following the double homicide, no dogs can be heard barking or whimpering in the background.
So where did that story come from? Alex Murdaugh.
As we previously reported, insurance investigator Bryant McGowan interviewed Murdaugh on March 29, 2018 at Moselle. Murdaugh claimed to have been alerted to the situation by his late wife – who called him at work and told him Satterfield had been “seriously injured” in a fall on the property.
According to Murdaugh, he rushed home – arriving at Moselle ten minutes later.
“Gloria was there – sitting up,” he told McGowan.
Murdaugh claimed there was a “big pool of blood” at the bottom of the stairs where Satterfield had fallen, and “a lot of blood on the side of her face.”
Murdaugh claimed to have had a conversation with Satterfield in which indicated she was aware of who she was, where she was, with whom she was conversing – and what happened to her.
“She indicated that the dogs had caused her to fall,” Murdaugh said.
Here is that interview in its entirety.
Again, no one witnessed Satterfield’s fall. And, if this original account is to be believed, she told no one other than Alex Murdaugh about what happened to her.
(Click to view)
In a report (.pdf) released to the media by Bland and Richter this week, statements attributed to Alex Murdaugh’s since-murdered family members appear to support his version of events – although neither Maggie Murdaugh nor Paul Murdaugh had anything to go on other than Alex’s word.
“Satterfield never told Maggie why (she) fell,” the report concluded.
Maggie Murdaugh also told investigators “Satterfield knew the four dogs and had never experienced any problems with them.”
As for Paul Murdaugh, he told investigators he “did not try to talk with (Satterfield)” after she fell – but that he remembered “his father Alex arrived and asked what happened and that Satterfield ‘said something about dogs.'”
Indeed, according to the report issued by Bland and Richter this week it was “Satterfield’s post-incident statement to Murdaugh” which led investigators to conclude his liability was “probable” in this case.
Was Alex Murdaugh really there, though? In other words, was he even in a position to hear what he claimed to have heard?
Investigator Steve Peterson – who has become a household name to those following the Murdaugh drama – was (and is) unconvinced by Murdaugh’s story. He reached out to one of the two other individuals who were at Moselle that day – Moselle caretaker Ronnie Freeman and Travis Martin, another employee of the family.
Peterson interviewed Freeman as part of his investigation into the 2015 murder of Stephen Smith of Hampton, S.C. – hoping to gain insight as to what he may have heard while being around members of the family.
An excerpt from that interview was featured in the Netflix documentary ‘Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal.’
According to Peterson, he called Freeman to talk about Smith’s death but ended up discussing what happened to Satterfield. During that conversation, Freeman disputed Alex Murdaugh’s version of events – specifically his presence at the home prior to emergency medical technicians arriving on the scene.
(Click to view)
“Gloria probably come through at about 8:30,” Freeman told Peterson. “Walkin’ up to the house, she got a McDonald’s cup in one hand, her purse on her shoulder, like she does every morning. And then Maggie calls me within fifteen minutes later. I asked her what the hell happened, and she was hysterical. ‘Ronnie, you gotta get up here. Gloria fell. There’s blood everywhere.'”
Upon arriving on the scene, Freeman observed Satterfield with her feet laying on the stairs and her head on the brick landing.
“Her feet were about her head,” he told Peterson. “We needed to at least get her body horizontal. So Paul, you know, grabs her legs. I grab both of her shoulders to get her horizontal.”
“So when EMS arrives and it’s you, Paul and Maggie?” Peterson asked Freeman. “Investigative reports say Alex talked to Gloria, and that she said that the dog tripped her,”
“That’s not true,” Freeman said. “He wasn’t there.”
“So then you’re saying that Alex is still not there when EMS leaves?” Peterson asked.
“Correct,” Freeman responded.
If what Freeman says is true, both Maggie and Paul Murdaugh lied to investigators about Alex being present at the scene.
“Maggie and Paul did what Alex told them to do,” a source close to the family told me. “That’s how this all works.”
It could also be another potential motive for murder …
Count on this news outlet to keep our readers posted on the latest developments in this case. Murdaugh’s friend and former attorney Cory Fleming is scheduled to stand trial on September 11, 2023 per the order of S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman during a recent status conference. Murdaugh’s trial on the Satterfield charges could be held the following month.
Murdaugh is facing twelve (12) criminal counts related to the alleged 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.
THE REPORT …
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.
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