‘Monster’ lawyer who killed wife and son jailed for life
THE disgraced scion of a legal dynasty was last night jailed for life for murdering his wife and son in a case that transfixed America.
Alex Murdaugh, a multimillionaire disbarred lawyer, was branded a ‘monster’ by a judge after a televised six-week trial marked by bizarre plot twists.
Prosecutors said he executed his family – making it look like outside murder – to cause a distraction and generate sympathy as investigators closed in on his own murky finances.
At the time of the killings he faced a hearing that could have revealed what he later admitted to be an $8.5million (£7million) theft from his South Carolina law firm. He had used large chunks of the money to fund a 60-pill-a-day addiction to opioid painkillers.
The case has been compared to the trial of OJ Simpson, with a special on Netflix, numerous podcasts and TV documentaries dissecting every moment.
Murdaugh, 54 – whose name is pronounced Murdock – showed scant emotion at the packed courtroom in rural Walterboro where a jury took less than three hours to convict him.
He was part of a legal dynasty begun by his great-grandfather in South Carolina in 1910, earning a fortune from personal injury cases. Their legal power in the local jurisdiction meant it was known by some as ‘Murdaugh County’.
Judge Clifton Newman noted in sentencing that Murdaugh’s ancestors had tried defendants in cases that led to the death penalty for less serious crimes, a penalty prosecutors did not seek for him.
The judge also told him his slain family would visit him in his sleep and ‘reflect on the last time they looked you in the eyes’.
The unravelling of his empire began with the suspicious death of family housekeeper Gloria Satterfield in 2018, which Murdaugh claimed happened when she tripped over pet dogs and fell down the stairs.
He encouraged her family to make a claim on his insurance but pocketed the $4.3million (£3.5million) payout himself. Then in 2019 his son Paul, 22, crashed a boat that killed a passenger, Mallory Beach, 19.
While the criminal case against Paul was closed, Ms Beach’s family filed a civil lawsuit against Murdaugh that was set to force him to reveal details about his shady finances as he claimed he had no money.
In June 2021, three days before that trial was due to begin, Murdaugh’s son Paul and his wife Maggie, 52, were found shot dead at the kennels of the hunting lodge at the family’s 1,700-acre estate.
Events took another bizarre turn three months later – in the middle of the murder investigation – when Murdaugh called 911 to report a wound to his own head. He was charged with insurance fraud and is said to have confessed to hiring a cousin, Curtis Smith, to shoot him while changing a car tyre.
Eventually Murdaugh was charged with shooting his wife five times with a rifle and his son twice with a shotgun and the trial began last month.
He claimed he was innocent and his attorney Dick Harpootlian said a gang called the Walterboro Cowboys could have been behind the killings over a grudge against the family.
Murdaugh was convicted on circumstancial evidence, primarily based around his claim that he was taking a nap when his wife and son were shot dead. In fact, in a Snapchat video taken by Paul on his phone minutes before he died in the kennels, his father’s voice could be heard in the background.
Judge Newman sentenced Murdaugh to two life sentences without parole to run concurrently.
Murdaugh, who has one surviving son, Buster, 26, is facing 99 separate financial charges for which he could be jailed for an additional 700 years.