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Attorney Seeking $10 Million In Civil Suit From Alex Murdaugh Was Told He Was Broke, According To Testimony

Attorney Mark Tinsley testified that he "didn’t believe it at all" when he was told Alex Murdaugh, a once prominent attorney, would have to struggle to come up with $1 million as part of a settlement.

By Jill Sederstrom
The Alex Murdaugh Case, Explained

An attorney seeking $10 million from Alex Murdaugh in a wrongful death suit connected to his son's role in a fatal boat crash, testified Thursday that he was told Murdaugh was broke and would have to struggle to come up with even $1 million.

Mark Tinsley’s testimony came Thursday as prosecutors continue to paint a portrait of a man who was in dire financial straits the night Murdaugh’s wife Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22, were shot to death at the family’s Colleton County hunting compound.

Prosecutors believe Murdaugh, a once prominent attorney, killed his wife and son on June 7, 2021 in an attempt to gain sympathy and more time to try to conceal a series of alleged financial crimes about to come to light.

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Tinsley filed the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family of 19-year-old Mallory Beach, according to NBC News.

Beach was killed in February 2019 when a boat—which allegedly had Murdaugh’s son Paul at the helm—crashed into a bridge pylon and sent her flying into the water.

Paul was facing criminal charges of boating while intoxicated at the time of his death. Beach’s family was also pursuing the civil suit.

Alex Murdaugh listens to his friend Chris Wilson testify

Prosecutors said a hearing for the civil suit, which had the potential to force Murdaugh to reveal his financial activities, was scheduled for just three days after the double homicide, according to CNN.

On Thursday, Tinsley testified that he was seeking $10 million in the lawsuit, but was told Murdaugh was broke and would only be able to pull together $1 million.

“I didn’t believe it at all,” Tinsley testified, according to NBC News. “There’s no way.”

Tinsley said he doubted the claims because of Murdaugh’s generational wealth, existing real estate holdings and steady case flow as an attorney at the time.

Defense attorneys—who are expected to cross examine Tinsley on Friday morning—fought to keep Tinsley’s testimony out of the courtroom after it was revealed that he had donated to a GoFundMe campaign supporting another prosecution witness.

The children of caregiver Mushelle “Shelley” Smith set up a GoFundMe account to benefit their mother “for her bravery” after she testified against Murdaugh earlier this week, according to The Daily Beast.

Smith worked as a caregiver for Murdaugh’s mother at the time of the double homicide and testified that a “fidgety” Murdaugh came to the house the night of the murders for about 20 minutes—although he later asked her to say he had been at the home for a longer period of time, NBC News reports.

Smith also testified that Murdaugh returned a few days later with what looked like a blue tarp under his arm. Prosecutors said investigators later found a blue raincoat upstairs in the home that was covered in gunshot residue.

The “very first donation” to the GoFundMe account was a $1,000 contribution from Tinsley.

Murdaugh’s defense team argued that, as a result, Tinsley should be prohibited from testifying in the trial.

“He made a financial payment to a witness in the middle of a trial,” defense attorney Philip Barber argued.

Prosecutors acknowledged Tinsley made the donation before removing his name from the website.

Despite the defense team’s objection, Judge Clifton Newman opted to allow Tinsley to testify and said the issue could be brought up by the defense during cross-examination.

“That’ll be good fodder for cross-examination,” Newman said.

Also on Thursday, Murdaugh’s best friend Chris Wilson took the stand testifying that Murdaugh had admitted during a conversation in September of 2021 to stealing money from his law firm and clients to support a drug habit.

“He said, ‘I’m sorry I’ve had a drug problem, I’m addicted to opioids … for something like 20 years,’” Wilson testified, according to CNN. “He said he had a drug addiction and he admitted that he had been stealing money from his law firm and from clients.”

Wilson, a fellow attorney from Bamberg, South Carolina, testified that he and Murdaugh had worked on a personal injury case together and earned a $5.5 million verdict.

Each attorney's firms were slated to take home about $792,000 in fees, but Wilson said that rather than having the check written to Murdaugh’s law firm, he had requested the check be written to him personally.

Wilson agreed, saying “I’ve known him for 30-plus years and didn’t have any reason not to trust him.”

Murdaugh reached out to him later to ask that the check be written to his firm instead. Murdaugh wired him back $600,000 but was unable to come up with the rest of the money, Wilson said.

He was forced to cover the difference.

Wilson also testified that on the night of the murders, Murdaugh reached out to him repeatedly and they talked on the phone at 9:11 p.m., 9:20 p.m. and 9:53 p.m. Wilson said he called Murdaugh the final time at 9:53 p.m. after receiving a text asking him to call.

The pair spoke briefly and Murdaugh said he was driving home after visiting his mother. He allegedly said he was just returning home and asked to talk to Wilson later, according to WCBD.

Minutes later Murdaugh would place a frantic call to 911 to report that he discovered his wife and son dead on the property near the dog kennels.

Prosecutors believe Murdaugh killed the pair around 8:50 p.m. and then went to visit his mother in an attempt to establish an alibi. To support their theory, they played a video captured on Paul’s cell phone at 8:44 p.m. that night that appears to have Murdaugh’s voice in the background, despite his claim that he had never been to the dog kennels that night.

The defense has insisted that Murdaugh never killed his wife and son and only tragically stumbled upon the bodies after visiting his mother.

Also on Thursday, jurors heard from the son of the Murdaugh’s former housekeeper Gloria Satterfield. Gloria died in February of 2019 after the family said she slipped and fell on their property.

Tony Satterfield testified that Murdaugh encouraged him to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the Murdaugh family. A settlement of more than $4 million was reached, but Tony testified that he never received the money, which Murdaugh had allegedly kept for himself.