Dick Harpootlian the attorney representing South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh in a TV interview said ‘We know who killed Alex’s wife and son – and it was personal’
Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and her son Paul, 22, were found shot dead at family’s hunting lodge on June 7
Harpootlian on Wednesday denied Alex Murdaugh killed his wife and son
His client was addicted to opioids and fell into depression after the deaths of his wife and son on one of the family’s properties, on June 7
Subsequently investigators allege, he hired a hitman to kill him so that his surviving child could collect a $10million life insurance policy.
On Tuesday police arrested Curtis Edward Smith, 61, the man ‘paid by Alex Murdaugh to kill him’, on charges of assisted suicide
Harpootlian said his client was in ‘dark, dark place’ when he hatched scheme – and he wanted to make his death look like a suicide to facilitate the insurance payout to his sole survivor
Alex Murdaugh was said to have spent millions of dollars to fuel opioid addiction and he expects Alex to be charged for embezzling from law firm
Alex Murdaugh’s lawyer says he may know who killed the South Carolina legal dynasty heir’s wife and son three months back, though he does expect his client to be arrested for embezzling funds from a law firm to fuel an addiction to painkillers.
Attorney Dick Harpootlian says his client was addicted to opioids and fell into depression after the deaths of his wife and son on one of the family’s properties, on June 7. Subsequently investigators allege, he hired a hitman to kill him so that his surviving child could collect a $10million life insurance policy.
‘He was in a dark, dark, dark place and he wanted to help his remaining son, Buster, in any way he could,’ Harpootlian says.
‘He thought this was the only way he could leave him with anything.’
Harpootlian says that his client, who suffered a gunshot wound to the head while changing a tire on a rural highway on September 4, hatched the self-financed attempt on his life, for insurance payout, ‘to protect his child’, 25-year-old Richard Buster Murdaugh.
Murdaugh’s surviving son, 25-year-old Richard Alexander ‘Buster’ Murdaugh Jr, the sole surviving heir to his father’s South Carolina legal dynasty, was apparently supposed to receive the insurance payout from his father’s death in the botched alleged, assisted suicide scheme, investigators said.
Harpootlian also says that the motive for the murders of his wife, Maggie, 52, and son, Paul, 22, was ‘personal’ and that the identity of the suspect could be revealed sometime this week.
‘It was an attempt on his part to do something to protect his child,’ Harpootlian says of the suicide-for-hire scheme. ‘He didn’t want law enforcement spending time on this fake crime instead of focusing on solving the murders of Maggie and Paul.’
The defense attorney acknowledged that Murdaugh is likely to be arrested for allegedly misappropriating millions from his own law firm.
Harpootlian told NBC TODAY that he and another lawyer, Jim Griffin, visited Murdaugh at an out-of-state detox facility on Monday. He said it was the first time either he or Griffin, spoke to Murdaugh ‘when he wasn’t on opioids of Oxy (oxycodone).’
‘He clearly knew that what he had done was wrong,’ Harpootlian told TODAY on Wednesday.
‘He believed that $10 million policy had a suicide exclusion,’ according to the attorney.
‘Suicide exclusions are only good for two years, and he didn’t realize that. So he arranged to have this guy shoot him.’ The alleged misfiring hit man, Curtis Edward Smith, 61, was arrested on Tuesday charges of assisted suicide, assault and battery, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.
Smith, from Walterboro, South Carolina, is a former client of Murdaugh, 53, who represented him in minor traffic matters as well as a 2015 lawsuit that Smith filed against a forest management company.
According to police, Murdaugh paid him to shoot him in the head and kill him, making it look like a random, drive-by attack. But, the plan failed as the shot only grazed his head, according to state police.
On June 7, the bodies of Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and the couple’s younger son Paul, 22, were found by Alex Murdaugh at their South Carolina home.
Murdaugh claims to have an ‘iron clad alibi’ for the night of his wife and younger son’s murder, saying he was visiting his father in the hospital, just days before Randolph Murdaugh III’s death of cancer.
On the night of June 7, Murdaugh immediately identified himself on the 911 call and told the operator his ‘wife and child have been shot’ near dog kennels on his property.
‘I’ve been up to it now. It’s bad,’ Murdaugh said.
During the 911 call, dogs could be heard barking in the background and Murdaugh sounded deeply upset and agitated.
He told the operator several times that neither his son or wife was breathing.
No arrests have been made. Harpootlian adds, ‘The murder of his wife and son 90 days ago took a tremendous toll on him.’
Harpootlian Wednesday denied that Alex Murdaugh had anything to do with the deaths of his wife and son.
‘He did not murder them. He is totally distraught about their deaths.’
In the time he has spent with the family, they were ‘affectionate’ with each other and that there was no indication Alex Murdaugh wanted to do them harm, the family’s lawyer said.
Harpootlian also claims that the defense team is pursuing leads and have gathered information that may implicate a suspect in the June killings of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.
The team have zeroed in on ‘an individual or individuals we believe – may – have some culpability’ or had carried out the murder. ‘We think we’ll know this week whether the one suspect we’re looking at bears further scrutiny and we’ll make that information available to law enforcement,’ Harpootlian says.
When the interviewer probed for motive the killings, ‘Well, that would reveal who that person is, but it’s personal,’
Revealing that he made Alex Murdaugh available for interviews with South Carolina law enforcement, Harpootlian adds that his client used ‘the vast majority’ of the funds that he is accused of embezzling at his law firm ‘to buy drugs.’
According to Harpootlian, Alex Murdaugh told investigators that he wrote personal checks to ‘drug dealers’ to obtain the painkillers.
The lawyer says that he left a paper trail that law enforcement officials are now looking at.
When asked if he expects Alex Murdaugh to be arrested, Harpootlian replies: ‘Yes, I think he will be charged.
‘But what he doesn’t want – and we don’t want – is an effort to deal with these issues [which] distract from law enforcement resources that could be used to solve the murders of Maggie and Paul.’
It was Alex Murdaugh who discovered his wife and son’s bodies near dog kennels on the property and called 911 shortly after 10pm on the evening of June 7.
According to investigators mother and son were killed between 9 and 9.30pm.
Paul suffered fatal shotgun wounds to the head and torso. His mother was killed with a semi-automatic rifle. Murdaugh was visiting his sick father in hospital on the night of the shooting – Randolph Murdaugh III died three days later after a long battle with cancer.
What little information has emerged since, has only served to deepen the mystery surrounding the events on the Islandton estate in June.
At the time of his death, Paul Murdaugh was awaiting trial on a charge of boating under the influence causing death in a February 2019 crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach.
Whether local law enforcement agencies tried to obstruct the investigation into the boating death is also being reviewed by state officials.
Mallory died when Paul, ‘intoxicated’ and ‘belligerent’ ploughed his father’s boat into a piling in Archers Creek after an afternoon of drinking at an oyster roast.
Paul was one of six teenagers described by police as ‘grossly intoxicated’ that night. He was awaiting trial on three felony counts of boating under the influence, including boating under the influence resulting in death, a charge which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.
He had been released on a $50,000 bond pending his trial. All charges were dismissed two months after his death but the wrongful death suit being brought by Mallory’s mother, Renee, is still being pursued.
Buster is named as it was his license that Paul used to purchase the alcohol that night – a practice which, lawyers for Beach allege, was both common and done with Buster’s knowledge.
Murdaugh’s insurance company Philadelphia Indemnity have refused to pay out on two personal injury policies to the tune of $6million. The company, on record stated that they found that they had ‘no obligation’ to defend or indemnify Murdaugh or his older son for a host of reasons.
The company stated that Murdaugh ‘had knowledge or should have had knowledge that his minor son illegally purchased and consumed alcohol on a regular basis by using or displaying the driver’s license of his adult son, Murdaugh Jr.’
They continued, ‘It was foreseeable that Murdaugh’s son would purchase alcohol for consumption by other minors and would then become intoxicated.’
Attorneys for Beach have since filed yet more paperwork in the wrongful death suit stating their intention to come after Murdaugh’s two properties – the hunting lodge and the Edisto Island beach house.