On March 2nd, 2023, Alex Murdaugh was convicted of killing his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and 22-year-old son, Paul Murdaugh, at their Moselle home in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Murdaugh was once a name with an untouchable reputation due to their affluence and connections to the South Carolina justice system for nearly a century. Now, their prestigious image and legal reign have withered. While the trial may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Murdaugh’s, sickeningly, this tragedy was not the only crime allegedly related to the family. Below is a convoluted timeline of the events leading up to the trial, and a summary of the trial itself.
January 2006: Randolph Murdaugh III relinquished his role as a prosecutor responsible for overseeing five counties in South Carolina’s 14th circuit district: Allendale, Colleton, Hampton, Beaufort, and Jasper. His son, Alex Murdaugh, volunteered at the solicitor’s office while simultaneously continuing his partnership with Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick, a prominent personal injury law firm.
July 8th, 2015: 19-year-old Stephen Smith, a former classmate of Alex’s oldest son, Buster Murdaugh, was found dead in the middle of a road. South Carolina Highway Patrol investigated the scene and discovered Stephen’s car was out of gas, which was a mistake that occurred frequently, and the tank was open. It ultimately declared the incident to be a hit-and-run and had an autopsy to confirm the determination. However, the car was approximately three miles from Stephen’s body, he suffered severe head trauma, and he had injuries on his left arm. To add, Stephen’s family thought it was off that he did not call them for help, which was normal practice if he was stranded. The listed observations made Chief Billy Jarrell think the incident may have been a homicide.
In December, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) received an anonymous tip revealing Paul and Buster as potential persons of interest. While there were rumors of Buster and Stephen having a secret affair, neither of the brothers were named suspects in the incident and it remains unsolved.
February 26th, 2018: Gloria Satterfield, the Murdaugh family’s housekeeper, allegedly died from tripping over a set of stairs at the Moselle property. Her family issued a wrongful death claim ten months later but never received the money.
February 24th, 2019: Paul, who was underage, drunkenly crashed his father’s boat into a bridge in Beaufort, resulting in the death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach, whose body was found a week later. The incident also injured four other friends. It was reported that he had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. Paul was later charged with three felony counts of boating under the influence causing injury or death and was released on a $50,000 personal recognizance bond. A trial did not occur due to his murder.
April 2021: Maggie Murdaugh allegedly met with a divorce attorney for a consultation.
June 7th, 2021: The Moselle Murders occurred.
- Between 9:00-9:30 P.M., Paul and Maggie Murdaugh were fatally shot outside of their family hunting property. Two different guns were fired: a shotgun was used on Paul, and Maggie was shot with an assault rifle (Daily Mail).
- At 10:07 P.M., Alex Murdaugh hysterically dials 911 reporting he discovered Paul and Maggie’s bodies near the dog kennels. In his first statement to a deputy who arrived at the scene, Alex stated Paul was receiving online threats for his involvement in the boating accident.
- At 11:47 P.M., SLED officers became the lead investigators of the case.
June 23rd, 2021: Considering new details regarding the Murdaugh murders, SLED reopened the cold case of Stephen Smith’s murder in 2015.
September 2021: A series of events took place.
- September 4th: Alex reported to 911 that he was shot in the head by a gunman passing by in a truck while he was changing a tire on the roadside. Evidently, the incident happened near the Moselle crime scene. Later that day he announces his recusal from the family practice and attends rehab for a twenty-year-long opioid addiction.
- September 6th: Murdaugh’s law firm explained his embezzlement of the firm’s finances was the basis of Alex’s departure. The partners came to this conclusion after working with a forensic accounting firm.
- September 15th: Alex admitted to staging his own shooting as an effort to give his son Buster a $10 million life insurance policy since the money would not be provided if his death was caused by suicide. He hired a friend named Curtis Smith, aka “Cousin Eddie.”
- September 16th: To direct law enforcement to focus on Paul and Maggie’s murders, Alex admitted to the orchestration of his roadside shooting and turned himself in after an arrest warrant for alleged insurance fraud was released.
- September 20th: Connor Cook, a former friend of Paul, filed a lawsuit against Alex claiming he was scheming to blame Connor for the 2019 boat crash.
October 2021: Another series of events happened.
- October 6th: Gloria Satterfield’s sons filed a lawsuit against Alex stating he misused the death settlement money. They never received any of the $4.3 million that was owed.
- October 9th: Alex was arrested from rehab for falsely acquiring property which stemmed from Gloria Satterfield’s wrongful death settlement.
- October 13th: Alex has been announced as a person of interest for Paul and Maggie’s murder.
From this time up until December 2022, Murdaugh has been charged with the death of his wife and son. He was also charged with nearly 100 fraud, criminal conspiracy, and drug charges for potentially running a drug ring in Colleton Country with Curtis Smith (2013-2021). SLED also announced its exhumation of Gloria Satterfield’s body, which is an ongoing investigation. Stephen Smith’s case is also ongoing, but additional information has not been made public.
The six-week trial began on January 23rd, 2023, and ended on March 2nd, 2023.
Week 1 Insight: Prosecutor Creighton Waters brought Sgt. Daniel Greene, who was at the crime scene on June 7th, 2021, to the stand. Despite Murdaugh telling law enforcement he checked for pulses on the bodies, Greene told the court Murdaugh lacked blood on his clothes and hands, and tears in his eyes.
Jurors learn the timeline of what occurred in June. Videotaped interviews reveal Alex drove around the Moselle property with Paul and ate dinner with Paul and Maggie afterward. This dinner was the final time Alex saw his wife and son. Maggie went to the dog kennels, which was a quarter mile from the house, and Paul left without stating his location. Alex took a twenty-minute nap with the TV on. He wakes up and sends Maggie texts and phone calls, only to not receive a response. A few minutes past 9 P.M., he visited his mom who suffers from Alzheimer’s at her home 20 minutes away from Moselle. Alex came home, saw the house was empty, and drove to the dog kennels to look for Maggie. He discovered the tragic scene and dialed 911 at 10:07 P.M.
Week 2 Insight: A debate between the prosecution and defense ensued over Alex’s pronoun use in a videotaped interview with SLED. Here is the following statement of contention: “It’s just so bad. I did him so bad.” The prosecution believes Alex said “I,” meaning he had inadvertently confessed, whereas the defense believed he said, “they.”
The prosecution presents the court with a pivotal piece of evidence: a Snapchat video. Paul recorded a video via Snapchat at 8:44 p.m. placing him at the dog kennels. Prosecutors said he was murdered three minutes after. There were two other voices other than Paul’s recorded in the video. Paul’s friends, Will Loving and Rogan Gibson, confirmed the male voice belonged to Alex. This confirms Alex was at the crime scene minutes before the murders despite him saying he arrived around 10 P.M. when they were murdered.
A second Snapchat video was filmed an hour before the previously mentioned Snapchat video. It portrayed Alex in a completely different outfit than what he was wearing when law enforcement arrived at the scene.
Week 3 Insight: A bomb threat was called in and caused the courtroom to evacuate. After it was proven a hoax and everyone returned inside, jurors listened to extensive accounts about Alex’s alleged financial misdeeds. They also learned Shelley Smith, Alex’s mother’s caretaker, was pressured to say he visited his mother for at least forty-five minutes. He was only there for twenty minutes. The Murdaugh’s current housekeeper also took the stand. She said Alex told her to say he wore a different shirt the day of the murders.
Week 4 Insight: Before the prosecution rested their case, Marian Proctor, Maggie’s older sister, announced to the jury Alex told Maggie and Paul to come to the Moselle property despite not wanting to go. She also alluded to Maggie’s happiness with Alex despite the imperfect marriage.
Dr. Ellen Reimer, the pathologist who performed Paul and Maggie’s autopsies, testified against the defense’s theory of how the deaths occurred (Law and Crime Network). She suggested their proposed theory would have left more damage to the bodies than what appeared.
The final witness brought to the stand was special agent Peter Rudolfski, who revealed additional information regarding the timeline of the June 7th murders. At 10:05:57 P.M., Alex arrived at the dog kennels. At 10:06:14 P.M., less than 20 seconds later, he phoned 911. Alex told the dispatcher he checked for Maggie and Paul’s pulses, whose bodies were 30 feet apart from each other. Paul’s knowledge of his father’s drug addiction, and his confrontation with Alex about the issue, were brought to light as well.
Week 5 Insight: Buster Murdaugh was a witness for the defense and testified he drove over to the Moselle property after his phone call with Alex regarding the brutal death of his mother and brother. During his testimony, the defense plays the controversial video that sparked debate three weeks ago. Buster said Alex used the “they” pronoun as opposed to “I.”
This is also the week Alex took the stand in his own trial. He admitted to lying to friends, family, and investigators about being at the dog kennels with his wife and son minutes before the time prosecutors said they were murdered. Despite having a bag of opioids on him that night, he told the court his drug addiction caused paranoia and stated his distrust of the investigators.
Week 6 Insight: After listening to the closing arguments, the jury deliberated for less than three hours and ultimately delivered a guilty verdict. Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without parole on March 3rd, 2023.
CNN reports the confirmation from Alex’s defense team that they will be appealing the sentencing for Paul and Maggie’s murders. The trial may have ended, but it certainly will not be the last time Murdaugh enters a courtroom. CNN states prosecutor Creighton Waters will pursue Murdaugh’s plethora of financial, conspiracy, and forgery charges.