Alex Murdaugh charged with murder in the deaths of his wife and son

COLOMBIA, South Carolina — More than 13 months after disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh called 911 and said he found his wife and son shot dead outside their home, a grand jury indicted him on Thursday for murder in their murders.

But the legal documents shed little light on the lingering mystery over the deaths that have captivated the public, who have clicked on hundreds of stories and podcasts detailing the dozens of other criminal charges that have piled up in the months since the wife of Murdaugh, Maggie, 52, and their 22-year-old son, Paul, were killed on June 7, 2021.

Murdaugh, 54, has repeatedly denied any role in the deaths, saying he was visiting his sick mother and father and found his son and wife had been killed when he returned to their estate.

“Alex wants his family, friends and everyone to know that he had nothing to do with the murders of Maggie and Paul. He loved them more than anything,” Murdaugh’s defense attorneys said. , Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian, in a statement.

Each murder indictment was a paragraph with exactly one new detail, accusing Murdaugh of killing his wife with a gun and his son with a shotgun. They don’t include any details about how police linked Murdaugh to the deaths after 13 months of investigation or why a man who had no criminal history and was part of a wealthy, well-connected family that dominated the legal community in small Hampton County might have wanted to kill his own family members.

More information may be released during a bond hearing for the new charges Wednesday at the Colleton County Courthouse. Murdaugh is already in jail, unable to post $7 million bail on dozens of other charges.

Murdaugh was also charged Thursday with two counts of possessing a weapon in a violent crime, according to grand jury indictments in Colleton County, site of Murdaugh’s hunting estate where the murders took place.

Murdaugh’s family dominated the legal scene in the small neighboring county of Hampton for nearly a century. Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather served as the region’s elected prosecutors for 87 consecutive years. Murdaugh previously worked for the century-old law firm founded by the family, which in September said he was stealing money.

Throughout the investigation, state police released few details about the case, even fighting a lawsuit in which The Post and Courier newspaper accused the agency of refusing to release information required by law. of State. Thursday’s indictments were no exception. A joint statement from state law enforcement division chief Mark Keel and state attorney general Alan Wilson said they would not comment on specific evidence as the investigation remains active and a court case is pending.

“Over the past 13 months, SLED officers and our partners have worked day in and day out to build a case against whoever was responsible for the murders of Maggie and Paul and to exclude those who were not. officers have not lost sight of this investigation,” Keel said in the statement.

Lawyers for Murdaugh said “it was very clear from day one” that law enforcement was focused on Murdaugh and no one else. They said they wanted his trial to take place within the next three months.

“We know Alex had no motive to murder them,” defense attorneys said.

If convicted of murder, Murdaugh faces 30 years to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors could also choose to seek the death penalty under state law because more than one person was killed.

The June 2021 deaths prompted authorities to look into all aspects of Murdaugh’s life. At least half a dozen investigations have resulted in accusations that he stole $8.5million from people who hired him and that he lied to police saying he was shot by a stranger on the side of the road when officials say he actually asked a friend to kill him. so his surviving son could collect a $10 million life insurance policy just days after the family business determined he was stealing money. The friend said the gun went off as he tried to wrest it from the grasp of a suicidal Murdaugh.

State police said information they gathered through investigations into Murdaugh also led them to look into what was originally reported as the hit-and-run death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith in Hampton County in July 2015, though she didn’t provide further details. .

Officers also said they planned to exhume the body of Murdaugh’s housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who the family said died in hospital several days after a fall in 2018. Prosecutors said Murdaugh had asked its home insurers to pay more than $4 million in wrongful death. claims in Satterfield’s case saying he was negotiating for his family but didn’t give them any money.

In June, Murdaugh was charged in what prosecutors said was an eight-year money laundering and painkiller ring that also involved the same friend and former client accused of trying to help him get commit suicide.

Murdaugh wrote 437 checks worth $2.4 million which his friend cashed over eight years, keeping some of the money for himself and donating the rest for large-scale illegal activities, according to the indictments uncovered last month.

The South Carolina Supreme Court expunged Murdaugh on Tuesday, upholding the inevitable after Murdaugh’s attorneys declined to contest arguments at an expungement hearing in June.

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSColinsAP.

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