Controversy swirls around the powerful Murdaugh dynasty of South Carolina over loss of lives
Paul, 22, and his mom Margaret, 52, were found shot dead on the night of June 6
Son had been facing felony charges in the 2019 boating death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach
The family has also been linked to two other mysterious deaths in recent years
Gay teen, Stephen Smith, was found dead in the middle of a road on July 8, 2015
Cops questioned hit-and-run ruling, and received tips fingering the Murdaughs – Paul’s dad, Alex, also paid $500,000 death settlement in separate case
Housekeeper Gloria Satterfield, 57, died as a result of a ‘trip and fall’ in 2018
No Murdaugh has been criminally charged in the deaths of Smith or Satterfield, But cops are looking into family’s past for possible motives in double-murder
Following the murder of a mother and son from a prominent South Carolina legal family, authorities are investigating whether other mysterious deaths in the family’s past may have offered a motive in the double-slaying.
Paul Murdaugh, 22, was gunned down alongside his mother Maggie, 52, in a brutal double homicide in the family’s sprawling hunting estate in Islandton, South Carolina, on June 7.
Paul had been facing felony charges in a 2019 boat crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach — but now two other mysterious deaths have emerged from the past to further complicate the tragic tale.
In 2018, Paul’s father Richard ‘Alec’ Murdaugh, the patriarch of the powerful Lowcountry family of prosecutors and attorneys, settled a wrongful death claim in the ‘trip and fall’ death of housekeeper Gloria Satterfield, 57.
And in 2015, gay teen Stephen Smith was found dead in the road with horrible injuries in an unsolved case the medical examiner ruled a hit-and-run — a conclusion cops questioned after receiving tips linking Paul as a person of interest.
No Murdaugh has ever been charged or named as a suspect in the deaths of Stephen or Satterfield, but cops are probing whether their deaths or Mallory’s may have driven someone to kill Paul and Maggie in an act of vengeance.
Mallory Beach was killed in a 2019 boating accident allegedly caused by Paul. Questions around a possible tie between her boating death and last week’s murders continue to mount as the state attorney general is refusing to close the case into the boat crash despite the death of the man accused of being culpable.
The Murdaughs are one of South Carolina’s most prominent legal families, and through the generations served as top prosecutors in the state’s 14th Circuit for nearly a century.
The latest revelations mark a new twist in the family’s tragic tale, which shot into the national spotlight after Alec called 911 at 10.07pm on June 7, reporting that he had found Paul and Maggie’s bodies at the families Islandton hunting lodge.
Both had been shot multiple times: Paul in the head and torso with a shotgun, his mother with a semi-automatic rifle. The bodies were found outside the home, near a dog kennel. The time of death was estimated at 9 to 9.30pm.
Sources close to Alec said he has a ‘cast iron alibi’ for the night of the killings, when he was at the hospital visiting his dying father, who passed away from cancer three days later.
Now an incident from Alec’s past is raising new questions. Legal documents uncovered by Mandy Matney of FITSNews show that in December 2018, he settled a wrongful death claim for $500,000.
Alec was the only defendant listed in the settlement, which stated that Gloria Satterfield died as a result of injuries sustained during a ‘trip and fall accident, in Hampton County.’
The document does not state where the fatal incident took place, but Satterfield was reportedly a housekeeper for the Murdaugh family, and her obituary named them as ‘those she loved as her family.’
Court documents did not specify why Alec was accused of fault in the woman’s February 6, 2018 death.
Investigators are also probing whether Stephen Smith’s death has any ties to the murder of Paul and Maggie.
On July 8, 2015, the 19-year-old was found dead in the middle of Sandy Run Road, three miles from his abandoned car, with horrific and disfiguring head injuries and a dislocated right shoulder.
The medical examiner concluded that the teen ran out of gas and was struck by the side mirror of a passing truck, but Stephen’s mother has always believed it was a hate crime.
Investigators at the time received anonymous tips suggesting Paul and his brother Buster as persons of interest, according to documents obtained by FITSNews.
Neither brother was ever named a suspect in the case, and police also investigated other persons of interest. No charges have ever been brought.
On Thursday of this week, Stephen’s mother Sandy Smith was surprised to receive a phone call from the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), and hoped it meant they had a break in Stephen’s death.
‘They called me back and said they were looking into Stephen’s case because they have to see if my family is involved in the shooting of Paul and Maggie (Murdaugh),’ Sandy Smith told FITSNews. ‘What a slap in the face.’
In the aftermath of her son’s death, Sandy Smith said she’s learned that there are two different justice systems in the State, one for people like the Murdaughs and another for everyone else.
“They just don’t care about the poor people who can’t afford to hire a big-time attorney or private investigators.
“They just throw their cases on a shelf to collect dust,” Smith said.
The other death in the family’s past is by now well-known: that of Mallory Beach, who was thrown to her death in February 2019 when a drunken Paul plowed a boat into pilings.
Witnesses have said under oath that Paul, then 20, was drunk and enraged in a fight with his girlfriend, a friend of Mallory’s, slapping her in the face and stripping off his clothes before crashing the boat.
Mallory’s boyfriend, who was also present on the boat, told attorneys that Paul had a ‘crazy’ alter-ego that his friends called ‘Timmy’ who came out when he was drunk, and that stripping his clothes off was a regular habit of ‘Timmy’.
At the time of his death, Paul awaiting trial on three felony counts – two of boating under the influence and one of causing death and bodily injury – for his role the fatal boat crash.
He had been indicted and released on a $50,000 bond.
According to the complaint legal Paul Murdaugh was ‘highly intoxicated,’ ‘drunk’ and ‘belligerent,’ on the February night two years ago when he sped his boat into a piling on Archer’s Creek.
All of the six youths on board that night were under 21, all were ejected from the vessel and all but Beach made it to shore.
Beach’s mother, Renee, has brought a wrongful death suit which is currently proceeding against the company who sold alcohol to Paul, his father Alec, and his older brother, Richard Alexander Jr, known as ‘Buster,’ whose ID Paul allegedly used that day
One theory into which investigators of Colleton County Sheriff’s Officer and South Carolina’s State Law Enforcement Division have said they are looking is that Paul was the target of the killing while his mother’s death was unfortunate ‘happenstance.’
‘Mrs. Maggie don’t deserve this,’ neighbor Gabby Thomas, 62, whose hunting club is next to the Murdaugh estate where the murders occurred, told the New York Post.
‘She’d give you the shirt off her back, that one. Wonderful woman. Them others? I don’t know. But she sure spoiled Paul. I heard him talk back to her once so bad in the beauty parlor once that I made him apologize.’
‘These are good ol’ boys but they’re really smart good ol’ boys,’ Thomas said. ‘And they’re not all bad, neither. They got a lot of support here.’
The four other youngsters on the boat the night Mallory died have all volunteered DNA to homicide investigators: Paul’s ex-girlfriend Morgan Doughty, Mallory’s boyfriend Anthony Cook, his cousin Connor Cook and Connor’s girlfriend, Mallory’s best friend, Miley Altman.
Members of Mallory’s family have also given DNA samples investigators, as has Alec.
On Thursday, Alec’s brothers John and Randy broke the family’s silence, revealing that Paul had received threats over Mallory’s death.
‘We hear all this talk on social media in regard to Paul but I don’t really know of anybody who would truly be an enemy or would truly want to harm them.’
They grew emotional as they pleaded for information on the murders, no matter how ‘big or small’ the details.
Randy and John denied that the family exercised its legal power to interfere in the boating case in any way and said they believe the perception of them as a ‘dynasty’ is all wrong.
‘You see words like ‘dynasty’ used, and ‘power,’ and I don’t know exactly how people use those words, but we’re just regular people and we’re hurting just like they would be hurting if it happened to them,’ said Randy.