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Alex Murdaugh, the beleaguered South Carolina scion of a legal dynasty who survived a gunshot wound to the head over Labor Day weekend, surrendered to authorities today after they alleged that the shooting was, in fact, a botched suicide plot to cash in on a $10 million life insurance policy.
Murdaugh, 53, arrived at the Hampton County Law Enforcement Center at about 11:30 a.m. He was charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and filing a false police report, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. He was given a $20,000 personal recognizance bond and surrendered his passport.
On Wednesday, Jim Griffin, Murdaugh’s attorney, told People that his client intended to surrender himself, saying "We have been informed that there is a warrant for his arrest for conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. He plans to voluntarily surrender tomorrow.”
Earlier on Thursday, a Hampton County judge set bail at $55,000 for Curtis Edward Smith, the man allegedly hired by Murdaugh to shoot him, local station WSAV reported. On Tuesday, SLED announced the arrest of the 61-year-old Smith on charges of assisted suicide, insurance fraud, and several other charges in connection to the Sept. 4 shooting on Old Salkehatchie Road in Hampton County.
Investigators say Murdaugh recruited Smith to kill him by assisted suicide, providing Smith with a firearm and instructing him to shoot him in the head as he stood along the road, according to an affidavit released by SLED and obtained by Oxygen.com. Murdaugh survived with a superficial wound to the head and was later airlifted to a hospital for treatment.
After the shooting, investigators said Smith fled the area and disposed of the gun, according to the affidavit.
Murdaugh admitted to the plot to investigators on Monday, saying he’d hoped his death would have allowed his surviving son, 25-year-old Buster Murdaugh, to collect on a $10 million life insurance policy, authorities said. Smith also admitted on Tuesday to “being present during the shooting” and “disposing of the firearm,” authorities said.
Murdaugh had represented Smith several times in the past including during a 2015 lawsuit Smith filed against a forest management company and in 2013 for a speeding ticket, The New York Times reported.
Griffin and Dick Harpootlian, another attorney representing Murdaugh, said in a statement to Oxygen.com this week that they believed Smith took advantage of Murdaugh’s mental illness and addiction to opioids.
“On Sept. 4, it became clear Alex believed that ending his life was his only option,” the attorneys said. “Today, he knows that’s not true.”
This latest twist in the ongoing Murdaugh case comes a week after the attorney, whose wife and son were found shot to death at the family’s property in June, resigned from the South Carolina firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltztoth & Detrick and announced plans to enter a drug rehab treatment program. The personal injury firm had announced last week that it planned to hire a forensic accounting firm to conduct a thorough investigation after allegations surfaced that Murdaugh had misappropriated potentially millions in funds.
For decades the Murdaugh family, including Alex’s father and grandfather, ran the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office while maintaining the private firm.
On June 7, Murdaugh reported he'd found his wife, Margaret Murdaugh, 52, and their son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh, shot and killed on the family’s hunting property in Colleton County.
Harpootlian appeared on NBC's TODAY this week and said Murdaugh's legal team was investigating an "individual or individuals" they suspect maybe have been involved in the double homicide, though he provided few other details.
At the time of his death, Paul Murdaugh was facing three felony counts, including boating under the influence, after a February 2019 boating crash in which 19-year-old Mallory Beach died. Last month, the 2020 deposition of Connor Cook, Paul Murdaugh's friend who was injured in the crash, was made public. In the deposition, Cook stated that while he was in the hospital being treated for a broken jaw, Alex Murdaugh approached him in a corridor, at which point Cook was allegedly told by him to “keep my mouth shut and tell them I didn't know who was driving” the boat at the time of the accident.
Rumors around the family have intensified after it was reported that Alex Murdaugh had settled a wrongful death claim in the 2019 death of the family's housekeeper, 57-year-old Gloria Satterfield, who died after what court documents call a “trip and fall” in Hampton County. Murdaugh's insurer was to pay out a sum of $500,000 for personal liability and $5,000 in a medical payment, according to the settlement document.
On Wednesday, SLED opened a criminal investigation into Satterfield’s death. The local medical examiner told the agency that Satterfield’s “death was not reported to the Coroner at the time, nor was an autopsy performed,” the New York Post reported.
“On the death certificate the manner of death was ruled ‘Natural,’ which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident,” Hampton County Coroner Angela Topper wrote in a letter to law enforcement officials.
Satterfield’s sons, Brian Harriott and Tony Satterfield, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in the wrongful death of their mother.
“To date, Tony and Brian have not received any monies from any claims or settlements with Murdaugh and his insurance carriers following their mother’s death – not one dime,” their attorney, Eric Bland, said in the lawsuit. “The plaintiffs are victims. The plaintiffs are vulnerable. The plaintiffs are scared.
“By this action, the plaintiffs seek real answers surrounding the death of their mother and the disposition of the monies supposedly paid for their benefit,” the lawsuit said.
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