Fifteen claims against Alex Murdaugh amounting to more than $160 million are vying for a portion of the estimated $1.76 million that’s been located and preserved for victims by a court-appointed receivership established to disburse his assets. And yes, that math doesn’t add up – or come close to adding up.
As a special referee reviews the claims filed in Hampton County, South Carolina – and decides how to split the limited funds – the claims against the convicted murderer, confessed fraudster, and master manipulator tell different parts of his story. They also reveal much more about the personal and professional machinations that led to his undoing.
The receivership is an ongoing part of the wrongful death lawsuit filed in 2019 by the family of Mallory Beach, who was killed in a February 25, 2019 boat crash when a fishing vessel owned by Murdaugh and piloted by his late son – Paul Murdaugh – crashed into the piling of a bridge on Archer’s Creek in Beaufort County, S.C.
Paul Murdaugh and other passengers on the boat were “grossly intoxicated” at the time of the crash. As a result, he faced multiple counts of boating under the influence while his father and numerous other defendants were named in the wrongful death case.
The boat crash set off a chain reaction that ultimately exposed more than a decade of financial crimes. Prosecutors contend it ultimately led Murdaugh to brutally murder Paul – along with his own wife, Maggie Murdaugh – on June 7, 2021 at Moselle, the family’s hunting property in Colleton County.
As the scope of Murdaugh’s admitted financial misconduct became clear, a receivership controlling his assets was established by circuit court judge Daniel Hall at the request of attorney Mark Tinsley. The receivership was created as a preventative measure to preserve assets for Murdaugh’s victims. Attorneys John T. Lay and Peter M. McCoy were appointed to identify and liquidate the assets. At their recommendation, a process is now underway to compensate victims.
Of the fifteen claims filed for a share of the receivership money, three originated with the boat crash, one is from the law firm where Murdaugh worked – formerly known as Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick (PMPED) – two are from partners at the law firm who say they loaned Alex money while the other nine are from victims of Murdaugh’s financial crimes.
Relative to the boat crash, claims were filed by the Estate of Mallory Beach, Miley Altman and Morgan Doughty. They contend that Alex Murdaugh’s liability in these matters comes from his encouragement and facilitation of Paul’s alcoholism. The estate of Mallory Beach seeks $50 million in punitive damages while Altman’s claim is for $3 million and Doughty’s is for $7 million.
“There is ample evidence that Alex Murdaugh not only knew about Paul Murdaugh’s proclivity to drink alcohol to excess and drive under the influence, but that Alex Murdaugh encouraged and facilitated the behavior,” the claims state.
Citing the sworn testimony of survivors, these claims allege that on the night of the boat crash Alex instructed Paul to travel by boat to avoid DUI checkpoints in Beaufort County. Evidence provided in attached affidavits indicate that Paul was involved in a drunken crash in the early morning hours of January 1, 2019 – a problem Alex solved by writing the driver of the other vehicle a check. The claims also say that Alex also knew of or witnessed Paul’s involvement in other motor vehicle collisions while under driving under the influence.
The boat crash claimants further argue they should take precedence over others … including cases which have already settled or those in which other claimants allegedly have “unclean hands.”
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“Of all known claims at this time, many of the financial victims have received substantial settlements from others,” they noted. “Of those financial victims, most still have claims against Alex Murdaugh’s coconspirators who helped him steal or launder funds. Claims made by anyone who helped Alex Murdaugh should be barred by their unclean hands.”
In one such “unclean” claim – filed by attorney Mark Ball on behalf of PMPED – it is stated that Alex Murdaugh’s thieving dated back to 2005 (at least) but was not discovered until September 2021. PMPED suffered losses of more than $14 million including almost $1.5 million Alex stole from the firm, almost $9 million Alex stole from clients, the millions in costs associated with covering those losses, and the $70,000 cost of a 2021 Chevrolet Suburban the firm purchased for Alex – and which was subsequently seized by S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) in June 2021.
However, the law firm that once bore the family name has been able to recover some of those losses. In addition to $1,591,062.85 in court ordered restitution and the $792,000 in stolen fees that attorney Chris Wilson returned at Alex’s request, the claim documentation makes note of $3,876,766.06 in compensation that the firm kept to offset the losses – attorney fees that would have been paid to Murdaugh under other circumstances. By means of explanation, the documentation says: “As of September 3, 2021, RAM (Murdaugh) was not entitled to any additional compensation from PMPED because of disloyalty and dishonesty. The amounts in this column reflects fees he may have been entitled to but for his criminal, immoral, unethical, and disloyal conduct.”
Two attorneys from the firm, now Parker Law Group, filed individual claims over loans that they say have not been paid back. A claim from attorney John E. Parker says Murdaugh owes him $477,000 while another from Alex’s brother, Randolph Murdaugh IV, seeks to recover a little more than $77,000.
The largest claim related to Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes came from Arthur Badger – who is seeking $45.5 million after Alex and Russell Laffitte conspired to rob him of settlement funds in litigation over the death of his wife. Two other claims are also related to the Badger case – the estate of Charles Harley Jr. and Eva Mae Marshall who was injured in the collision.
The smallest claim was also the result of financial crimes. Randy Drawdy is seeking $5,755.41 for unreasonable interest and fees levied against his settlement funds. While Drawdy was compensated by PMPED for the funds Alex stole from him, he is trying to collect interest on nearly $10,000.
The most recent accounting of receivership funds indicates liquidated assets totaled $2,160,639.79. Expenses were paid in the amount of $659,197.75 and an additional $261,525.00 is pending collection. That leaves an estimated balance of $1,762,967.04 for distribution.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Callie Lyons is a journalist, researcher, and author whose investigative work can be found in media outlets, publications, and documentaries all over the world – most recently in the Parisian newspaper Le Monde and a German documentary for ProSieben. Lyons also appears in Citizen Sleuth – a 2023 documentary exploring the genre of true crime.
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