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South Carolina murder mystery deepens with body to be exhumed | South Carolina

Yot is more than a year since the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, the wife and son of Alex Murdaugh, the jailed South Carolina lawyer making headlines via a complex embezzlement case as hard to navigate as the state’s low country swamp.

The story has captured the imagination of much of America as a true crime murder mystery that appears to mix violent shootings and other deaths with financial shenanigans – all served up with a hefty dose of southern Gothic drama.

No arrests have yet resulted from the double murder investigation. But Alex Murdaugh faces 700 years in prison on fraud charges totaling $8.5m in losses.

Yet there have been incremental, and some say important, advances, including the release this week of 911 tapes from the day Murdaugh claimed he was ambushed by a gunman in the wake of the murders, and plans to unearth the body of housekeeper Gloria Satterfield, whose family were swindled out of millions of dollars in a $4.3m insurance settlement.

All told, the sprawling saga around the prominent South Carolina family involves five deaths, at least seven state and federal investigations, the loss of millions of dollars, and five indictments totaling 71 charges, including money-laundering, computer crimes and forgery.

In jailhouse calls obtained this week by the State, a local Columbia newspaper, Alex Murdaugh told sister-in-law Liz Murdaugh “it wasn’t that bad” when he was shot in the head during an alleged suicide-for-hire incident three months after his wife and son were murdered. Murdaugh’s lawyers insist he had nothing to do with those killings, and he was visiting his mother and father when they were killed.

Thirteen days after the shooting, Murdaugh appeared at a bond hearing without a scratch. Curtis “Eddie” Smith, who allegedly received about $2m from Murdaugh in the apparent fake-suicide scheme, was charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature for his involvement with him.

Murdaugh’s attorney told the Post and Courier that Murdaugh had “entry and exit wounds” from the bullet that struck him – and he was “lucky to be alive”. But the Hampton county incident report indicated that he had no “visible injuries”.

Murdaugh, in a December phone call, said: “So you know how fast the bullet comes out of a gun, right? yeah. Esta bien. So it hits my head, it goes into my skin and puts a hole and kind of goes around my skull, it comes out an inch and a half, two inches further away.”

Three months earlier, Murdaugh reported finding the bodies of his wife and son. But those reports, too, are filled with inconsistencies. Cellphone records show Murdaugh was at or near the property close to the time of the murders. Maggie Murdaugh left all her assets for her, valued at about $2.1m after debts, to her husband for her.

The murders came three days before Murdaugh’s father Randolph died after a long illness. Randolph was part of Alex Murdaugh’s “ironclad alibi” to his whereabouts of him at the time of the killings. But it was also the same day that Paul Murdaugh – the murdered son – was scheduled to appear in court on charges stemming from a 2019 boat crash that killed teenager Mallory Beach.

Two weeks later, South Carolina state police began looking into the death of another teen, Stephen Smith, in 2015. Investigators said they had uncovered new information about Smith’s death while investigating the double murders.

And then there’s Gloria Satterfield, the housekeeper of 20 years who died after a fall at Murdaugh’s home – apparently after tripping over a dog – in early 2018. Satterfield died three weeks after the incident. But an autopsy was never conducted, and the coroner’s office said it was not informed of her death de ella, as it should be for anyone who dies under unusual or suspicious circumstances. In fact, her death went uninvestigated for three years.

A sign welcomes people to Hampton county, where the Murdaughs have been prominent for a century. Photograph: Jeffrey Collins/AP

But earlier this month, a court approved Murdaugh’s “confession of judgment” to stealing the wrongful death insurance payout to Satterfield’s family. Some money, about $7.5m, was recovered for the Satterfield family, and some of that will be directed toward a foundation to “benefit underprivileged Hampton county families; good, God-fearing, law-abiding and hard-working people.”

But according to attorneys for Satterfield, the dog narrative was only one that Murdaugh shared – neither his late wife, Maggie, nor son Paul, ever mentioned a dog. Earlier this month, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (Sled) said it had received permission from the family to exhume Satterfield’s remains from him. “This is a complex process that will take weeks, not days,” investigators said.

Murdaugh’s lawyers have said state police investigators consider their client a person of interest in their investigation. But he has never been publicly named as a suspect in any murder investigation. For now, any charges have revolved around financial wrong-doing.

On Thursday, the South Carolina supreme court said it wants to revoke Murdaugh’s law license, saying there is overwhelming evidence he stole millions from his clients, although none of the 71 charges against him have been resolved.

The court cited charges against Murdaugh for filing a false police report and fraud. Nautilus Insurance, which paid out the settlement to the Satterfield family, said in a lawsuit last month that “the scope of Murdaugh’s depravity is without precedent in western jurisprudence”.

“Based on these admissions, there is no factual dispute about whether [the] respondent engaged in dishonest conduct,” Chief Justice Don Beatty wrote in his order. Next week, Murdaugh will have an opportunity to leave Richland county jail, where he is being held on a $7m bond, to argue why he shouldn’t be disbarred.

But losing his law license will be a blow for the Murdaugh family. For more than a century, it has held sway over the jurisprudence across South Carolina’s Hampton county. For 87 years straight, Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather have been the elected prosecutors, while the family law firm dominated the law business.

In one of the jailhouse calls released last week, Murdaugh’s only surviving son, Buster, could be heard expressing concern that a search warrant was improperly served on his father. “I understand that you’ve done illegal shit. But it doesn’t mean you can just… you know… turn a cold shoulder to the laws of the United States.”

“Allegedly done illegal stuff,” Murdaugh replied. “I’m kidding… anyway… so… It is what it is, you know? It is what it is.”

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