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South Carolina authorities have opened a new investigation into the death of Alex Murdaugh’s long-time housekeeper Gloria Satterfield, three years after she died as the result of an alleged “trip and fall” accident at the family’s home in 2018.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced it had opened the new criminal investigation after a request from Hampton County Coroner Angela Topper, who noted a number of inconsistencies surrounding Satterfield’s death.
According to a settlement the Murdaugh family reached with her estate, the 57-year-old died on Feb. 26, 2018 “as the result of injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident” at the family’s home, according to a letter Topper wrote to investigators.
“The decedent’s death was not reported to the Coroner at the time, nor was an autopsy performed,” Topper wrote in the letter obtained by Oxygen.com. “On the death certificate the manner of death was ruled ‘Natural,’ which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall incident.”
In light of the “inconsistences,” Topper said it was “prudent” that law enforcement open an investigation into the death of a woman who had once been an instrumental figure in the family’s lives.
“She had been a housekeeper for the Murdaughs for 25 years. She had been a fabric of the family,” attorney Eric Bland, who is representing Satterfield’s two sons, told The Daily Beast. “The Murdaughs certainly viewed Gloria as part of the family.”
In a statement on his firm’s website, Bland said Satterfield’s sons, Michael Satterfield and Brian Harriott, were initially told that she had tripped on some stairs at the family’s former Hampton home on Feb. 16, 2018.
“They were told the Murdaugh’s dogs caused her to trip—causing a fall which resulted in her sustaining a traumatic brain injury,” he said.
According to Bland, it's unclear whether the family called 911 after the accident or how Satterfield was transported to the hospital, where she died and 10 days later.
Bland told The Daily Beast that following her death, Murdaugh had actually encouraged her sons to bring a lawsuit against him for damages in the death.
“It was an unusual situation to bring a claim against Alex personally so that Alex could turn it over to his insurance,” Bland said.
Murdaugh reportedly reached a settlement in December 2018 to pay the family $500,000 liability and $5,000 medical costs, according to court documents obtained by The New York Post, yet the family’s attorneys now claim in a new lawsuit filed Wednesday that they never received the money.
“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,” Bland wrote in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also names Corey Fleming, who represented the brothers in the wrongful death claim after Murdaugh allegedly introduced them to him.
“Unbeknownst to Tony and Brian, Fleming was the former college roommate of Alex Murdaugh and was his best friend,” the lawsuit alleges.
Bland said the Satterfield's family decided to file the lawsuit against Murdaugh in an attempt to seek “real answers” about the circumstances of their mother’s death.
It’s the latest in a series of legal woes facing Murdaugh, a prominent attorney who hailed from one from one of South Carolina’s most prestigious legal families.
Earlier this week, SLED announced Murdaugh was suspected of orchestrating his own Sept. 4 shooting in an elaborate attempt to leave his only surviving son $10 million in life insurance money.
Investigators say Murdaugh recruited Curtis Edward Smith to help him commit suicide by giving Smith a gun and instructing him to shoot him in the head as he stood along Old Salkehatchie Road, according to an affidavit in the case obtained by Oxygen.com.
Although Murdaugh was struck in the head, he survived the ordeal and later received treatment at an area hospital.
Smith was charged Tuesday with assisted suicide, insurance fraud and a slew of other charges in connection to the incident.
Although Murdaugh has not been formally arrested in connection to the botched suicide plot, his attorneys told People on Wednesday that they were aware a warrant had been issued for his arrest for conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.
“He plans to voluntarily surrender tomorrow (Thursday) and the arraignment and bond hearing will be held at 4 p.m. at the Hampton County magistrate court,” attorney Jim Griffin told the outlet in a statement.
SLED is also investigating Murdaugh for suspected misappropriation of funds at his law firm, Peters Murdaugh, Parker, Elztoth & Detrick (PMPED), after allegations surfaced that the 53-year-old had been taking money to feed his addiction to opioids.
Murdaugh has struggled with addiction for more than 20 years, according to an earlier statement to Oxygen.com from Griffin and fellow Murdaugh attorney Dick Harpootlian.
Authorities are also still trying to piece together who killed Murdaugh’s wife Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22, were found shot to death at the family’s Colleton County property on June 7.
Murdaugh had placed a 911 call to officials that night around 10 p.m. to report that he had discovered the dead bodies outside near the family’s dog kennels.
Harpootlian insisted during an appearance on NBC's TODAY that the double homicide was not connected to Murdaugh’s recent shooting. He said he believed the motive for Maggie and Paul’s deaths had been “personal,” but declined to elaborate any further.
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