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Alex Murdaugh Must Undergo Psychiatric Evaluation Before Any Decision On Bond, Judge Rules

South Carolina Judge Clifton Newman heard bond term requests from both prosecutors and Alex Murdaugh’s defense lawyers, but said he needs more information before making a ruling.

By Kevin Dolak
Alex Murdaugh G

Alex Murdaugh will remain behind bars after a judge denied requests this week for him to remain free on bond as he awaits trial for his alleged theft of millions from an insurance payout meant for the sons of the beloved family housekeeper who died on his property in 2018.

On Tuesday in a Hampton County courtroom, Circuit Judge Clifton Newman heard bond term requests from both prosecutors and Murdaugh’s defense lawyers. Requesting a bond of $200,000, GPS monitoring, the surrender of his firearms, and travel restrictions, the state called the 53-year-old “a danger to himself” and others. His defense team asked for his release on a personal recognizance bond and conceded that Murdaugh should submit to drug testing; he was arrested last week after exiting a rehab facility for what his attorneys have said is an opioid addiction. 

Newman denied the requests from both teams. Citing “safety issues” that make Murdaugh a potential danger to the community, the judge declared that he must undergo a psychiatric evaluation before any bond can be considered and sent him back to his jail cell.

“There’s no way this court can set a bond at this time,” Newman said, according to a report from news outlet Law & Crime. “I am therefore denying bond.”

Newman indicated that he would reconsider his decision after receiving more information on Murdaugh's mental state; Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian said after the hearing that therapists who have recently met with his client will send their records to a local psychiatrist, who will prepare a report, the Associated Press reported

Further outlining his decision, the judge said that Murdaugh’s alleged financial scheme was “reckless,” then detailed his alleged botched plot to die by assisted suicide over Labor Day weekend, and spoke on the defendant’s apparent drug dependency — all of which has occurred or come to light over the past four months as his life as a family man has quickly and publicly unraveled. 

Murdaugh's life began to spiral on June 7, the night he called authorities to say he’d found his wife and son shot dead on the family property. Now, he's facing two felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses and separate felony charges relating to what may have been his botched attempt to die by assisted suicide. The fraud case in question on Tuesday is in regards to the estate of Gloria Satterfield, the late housekeeper who worked for the wealthy and powerful family in their homes in the South Carolina Lowcountry before dying in an alleged “trip and fall” accident —  the circumstances and aftermath of which is now being reexamined by state authorities.

Prosecutors and an attorney for Satterfield’s sons allege that Murdaugh, the scion of a generation-spanning legal dynasty in the region, used his power and prestigious reputation to bilk the men out of a major settlement, which they say he encouraged the grieving sons to pursue at their mother’s funeral. Prosecutors said that Murdaugh had his college roommate and best friend, recently-suspended South Carolina attorney Corey Fleming, negotiate a settlement from Murdaugh’s umbrella insurance policy to the tune of about $4.3 million. 

Satterfield’s sons, Michael "Tony" Satterfield and Brian Harrio, never saw a dime of the insurance payout, their lawyer, Eric Bland, previously told Oxygen.com. In fact, they only learned of the petition for a settlement in their mother’s death after reading a newspaper article regarding the tragic death of local woman Mallory Beach, who was killed in 2019 a accident while aboard the Murdaugh’s Sea Hunt Triton powerboat with the now-deceased Paul Murdaugh when it was crashed into a bridge during an alleged drunken night excursion.

“Today is the day that Alex Murdaugh needs to get comfortable getting uncomfortable,” Bland said in court on Tuesday. “This is a crime of a lawyer stealing money. ... A man who stole money from the very family of the housekeeper that helped raise his kids. This is a crime that we’ve never seen before.

“He stole,” he concluded. “He’s a liar, and he’s a cheat.”

Murdaugh’s defense lawyers told the judge that their client is not a flight risk and that he was a law-abiding family man — until he was crippled by drug addiction. 

“The Alex Murdaugh who is not hooked on drugs has lived a good, fruitful life — a law-abiding life,” attorney Jim Griffin said, according to the AP. “Only when he got hooked on opioids did things turn south and he truly regrets his conduct.”

Last week’s arrest was the second for Murdaugh in under two months. In September, he was arrested by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division in connection with the Sept. 4 alleged botched assisted suicide attempt.  According to investigators, Murdaugh recruited his client, Curtis Edward Smith, to kill him, even providing Smith with a gun and instructing him to shoot him in the head on the side of a rural road. Smith, however, has insisted that he was “set up” by Murdaugh and that the two had struggled with the gun after he arrived to find his attorney brandishing the weapon that day. Murdaugh was struck by a bullet in the head but survived after being airlifted to a hospital. He’d allegedly wanted his death to appear like a homicide so that his surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, could cash in on $10 million in life insurance.

A torrent of revelations about Alex Murdaugh and his family have come to light after his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and their 22-year-old son, Paul Murdaugh, were found shot to death at the family’s Colleton County property in late spring. Alex Murdaugh has not been named as a suspect or person of interest by authorities in their deaths; however, last week his attorney told local news station WHNS that Murdaugh has always been a person of interest in the double homicide. He also assured producers that his client did not kill his wife and son. 

Now, South Carolina and local authorities are investigating Satterfield’s supposed trip and fall accident, as inconsistencies have been discovered regarding what happened after she died; her death was not reported to the local coroner at the time, nor was an autopsy performed, according to Hampton County Coroner Angela Topper, who also recently revealed that her cause of death was labeled “natural,” which is incongruous with a death resulting from a brain injury. 

Meanwhile, Murdaugh’s former law firm, Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick has filed a lawsuit against him alleging that he was diverting client and the firm’s money for his own personal use while providing legal services at the firm; Murdaugh's great grandfather founded PMPED in 1910. 

Murdaugh is facing up to 10 years in prison for each charge of obtaining property by false pretenses. The separate felony charges related to the supposed botched suicide attempt could bring him up to 20 years in prison.

You can watch "Alex Mudaugh. Death. Deception. Power." here or on Peacock starting January 6.