Murdered in South Carolina: Life and Death Among the Murdaughs Part 2

The rest of our story tonight  still takes place in the area of South Carolina known as Low Country. To catch your memory up, we got to know the prominent Murdaugh family who had essentially run the area as 14th circuit solicitors and other high social impact attorney positions for nearly 100 years. Most of the community agreed that the family was the kind of prominent you see in the movies. Their influence in the judicial system went far and wide because of the family’s long standing roles, but more than that, Alex Murdaugh and his family even barbecued with the local judges and law enforcement on the weekends. Outside of court, the rest of the family had a massive social sphere of influence as well. Alex’s wife Maggie and sons Buster and Paul often were the center of attention among their friends, using their money and toys to show their circles a good time. 

On February 23rd, 2019 the consequences of terrible decision making would finally begin to catch up with the youngest member of the Murdaugh family, 19 year old Paul. After Paul used his brother’s ID to purchase alcohol, he crashed his family’s boat injuring 3 of his friends, and pitching Mallory Beach off the boat into the dark of night. For 8 days the community searched for Mallory while the Beach family held their breath. On March 3rd, 2019 her body was found 5 miles up the river from the crash site. Mallory’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, but this was not the only lawsuit that came out of that crash. Connor Cook, another passenger whose jaw was painfully broken, has also filed suit against Alex Murdaugh for allegedly attempting to get him to lie and say that he was the one driving the boat that crashed and killed Mallory. 

On April 18th 2019, Paul Murdaugh was officially charged with three felony counts of boating under the influence leading to the death of Mallory Beach and serious injury of the other passengers. Paul pleaded not guilty to all of these charges and was out on bond awaiting trial. The Beach family, Paul’s former friends, and many members of the community felt increasingly frustrated by how Paul continued to enjoy a life of freedom while he was waiting for trial. He was given almost no restrictions so that he could carry on with his college education The case dragged and dragged, and I can’t help but wonder if the family’s pull had anything to do with that.  

But the Beach family would never know justice for Mallory, at least not here on Earth, and Paul would never get his day in court. 

On June 7th, 2021, more than 2 years after the fateful boat crash, at 10:07pm,  911 received a phone call from Alex Murdaugh. Take a listen. 

The home where first responders were summoned was the Murdaugh’s hunting lodge in Islandton SC. The property was called Moselle, so big it had its own road. The estate as well as a large multi-building dog kennel sat on almost 2,000 acres of secluded land. Local law enforcement responded promptly, but neighbors say it was hours of siren after siren arriving on scene. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, known mostly as SLED, arrived just before midnight. 

22 year old Paul Murdaugh had been shot and killed with a shotgun, once to the chest, and once in the head with a bullet that also went through his arm. I couldn’t find anything to verify this but it made me wonder if that was possibly in a defensive stance. 52 year old Maggie was reportedly shot multiple times with a semi-automatic rifle. Both were suspected to have been killed between 9 and 9:30pm 

The investigation swung into action, and Alex Murdaugh himself was quickly looked at as a person of interest. Police reported shortly thereafter that, while its normal to look at the husband first, Alex had an “ironclad alibi”. His father, Randolph Randy Murdaugh III was very ill and dying at the time, and Alex was visiting him which could be verified by many staff. Randy went on to pass away 8 days later. Sources close to the family announced publicly that Alex was not a suspect and that he was cooperating fully with the investigation. 

Police reports of the details of the investigation have been few and far between, and there’s still many things we don’t know. Later in June, the police released some reports but they were so heavily redacted that it didn’t tell the public much else. I’ve linked these documents in the sources on our website. One particular question that I can’t get my mind off of is about those guns. We do know that Moselle was a hunting lodge and was loaded with guns, all of which were seized as part of the investigation. Where did the guns come from? Did they belong to the Murdaughs? Were they taken by the killer or were they found on scene? How did you figure out what types of guns they were? Because I do know there were shells but no one has said to my research if there were guns. And maybe the biggest question for me is logistically speaking, does this mean there were two shooters?

Naturally Mallory Beach’s family had to be investigated for any involvement they may have had in this case, but were cleared completely. For them, this was a devastating blow. More loss of life did not equal justice in their minds. Over the course of the summer, while the investigation attempted to go on quietly, many small back and forth court proceedings happened regarding release of evidence to the public, and regarding Paul’s criminal charges since he was now deceased. In August, just two months after his death, Paul’s charges for Mallory’s death were dropped completely by the state. 

During the course of the investigation, which keep in mind is only months old still at this point, the world has discovered some suspicious older deaths which have been tied to the Murdaugh family. Let’s start with the death of Stephen Smith.

In 2015 Stephen Smith was 19 years old when he was found deceased in the middle of the road under unclear and heavily disputed circumstances. Stephen’s loved ones say he had a light, carefree personality. He and his mom were super close, and she called him her ray of sunshine. He wanted to be a doctor and was studying as a nursing student in college.

On July 8th, 2015 at 3:48 am a man driving down rural Sandy Run Road near Hampton South Carolina called 911 to report that he’d discovered a body in the street. He feared foul play of some kind, so he had gone around the body and driven another mile before stopping to make the emergency call.

 He said to the dispatcher “There’s a man lying in the road, I’m afraid somebody’s going to hit him, it’s dark.” The sheriff’s department was dispatched to the scene and found Stephen deceased, his body laying right on the yellow line in the middle of the road. His car was found 3 miles away with the gas cap unscrewed and not in working condition. 

The immediate first impression was that Stephen had run out of gas, begun walking to find some, and been the victim of a hit and run. However, the officers found no evidence of a hit and run to support this theory. When there’s a vehicular accident it almost always leaves some trace evidence- There were no tire treads or sudden break marks, no glass from broken lights or windows, no bumpers, fenders, not even any paint chips. 

He also only had one injury to his head, and very minor scraping on his arm which simply didn’t seem to line up with being hit by a car or truck, and in the scene investigation camera footage, you can hear the troopers say “this does not appear to be a vehicular accident in my opinion.” The coroner initially decided that Stephen’s death was a homicide because he thought the injury to his head was actually a gunshot wound. Despite the coroner’s opinion, Stephen’s case was moved up the chain to the forensic pathologist from the SLED department, she was the person who legally had to sign off on it, and she completely disagreed with the coroner. The pathologist said that no bullet fragments were found and she believed the wound to be blunt force trauma, likely from being struck by the mirror of a motor vehicle. His cause of death was officially ruled accidental. 

Many investigators were actually surprised and confused by this finding, and you can see police reports where officers contacted her directly to try to understand more about her decision. It was not a popular one, and these reports indicate that there were strong opinions about this. But because it was ruled a hit and run, the HIGHWAY PATROL DEPARTMENT was put in charge of an investigation that almost everyone in the Sheriff’s department believed to be HOMICIDE. The family and community continued to fight for justice for Stephen, and they continue to fight to this day. 

On June 23rd 2021, within weeks of the Murdaugh Murders, SLED released a statement that they were reopening the investigation into Stephen Smith’s death as a direct result of information uncovered during the Murdaugh double homicide investigation. SLED has not told us what that newly uncovered information is, but what we do know is that Buster and Stephen had a previous connection, and Buster’s name had come up back in 2015 as part of the investigation.

Buster Murdaugh and Stephen Smith were classmates graduating together at Wade Hampton Highschool. Official police reports in the investigation show that Buster’s name was mentioned during an interview with a family member of Stephen’s. She said that she was in the store after Stephen’s death and multiple people approached her saying “Oh you know Buster Murdaugh is behind this, he did it with some of his friends” 

The officer traced the rumor mill back to another mutual friend of theirs, saying that before Stephen even died there were whispers and rumors that he and Buster were together. Stephen was openly gay, but to the best of my knowledge Buster has never specified. I hate even having this conversation, but its something that people are pointing to as a potential motive for any of Buster’s alleged involvement. 

Other people who were interviewed have stated that they heard a group of guys, including Buster Murdaugh, were driving around, saw Stephen in the road and decided to taunt him, but someone accidentally hit him in the head with something. The source goes on to say that it was out of character for his lifelong friend Buster, but that he heard Buster was on drugs that night. He also said that knowing Buster, Buster would have demanded to be the one driving – if you remember this is exactly how Paul would act years later with the boat that killed his friend. The investigators ask this source who else was with Buster, and he said that this kind of behavior was right up Paul’s alley, so he should be looked at as well. 

Other friends went on to tell police they’d heard the rumor too, but one said that they’d beat him up and thrown him out the back of a truck, and police just haven’t publicly released any information that can tie anyone to anything thus far. I’ve also heard just as many interviews where people say they’re confused by it and don’t think they were even friends, let alone had a reason for this kind of animosity. There are other theories in Stephen’s tragic death which are worth investigating, in fact his mom doesn’t even believe he would willingly be out walking to get gas and that part of it might be staged, so please let me know if that’s something you want me to look into more thoroughly in a future episode. 

Back to the double homicide at the Moselle hunting lodge and what that investigation uncovered- Stephen Smith was not the only mysterious death that came up here. 

On February 2nd 2018 Maggie Murdagh had placed a call to 911 from their home on Moselle because their long-time housekeeper Gloria Satterfield had fallen down the stairs. The second speaker is believed to be Paul. Take a listen: 

Gloria was taken to the hospital where she was in critical condition for weeks until she died on February 26th 2018.

Gloria had worked for the Murdaugh’s for many years, and by all accounts she was very close with Paul and Buster especially. Gloria also had two sons, and Alex Murdaugh told them that he’d make sure they’d be taken care of. He said that since this happened on his property, he was responsible, and he’d sue himself and then give them the insurance payout. There’s a long convoluted explanation about how that makes sense, but the fact of the matter is Alex did NOT pay Satterfield’s sons, a fact that was only uncovered recently. Turns out Alex had hooked Satterfield’s family up with a lawyer to represent them- who was his best friend and former college roommate. 

The family also goes on to sue Alex as well, and that’s all under investigation still currently, listen to the end of the episode for the latest. 

Based on the double homicide of the Murdaughs in the same home, September 2021 police again report cause to reopen the investigation into Gloria Satterfield’s death. SLED has revealed next to nothing, but here is what we do know: The manner of death on Gloria Satterfield’s death certificate was listed as “natural” which, any way you slice it, is inconsistent with slipping and cracking your head.  

Failing to deliver the payout to Satterfield’s son’s was just the beginning of Alex’s financial troubles. In early September of 2021. The PMPED law firm where Alex was a partner confronted him after finding a suspicious check on his desk indicating he may have been laundering money from the firm for personal use, so he was asked to resign and told a full investigation would begin.

The next day, 911 received another call from Alex Murdaugh. I’m not going to play it for you, but he says that he was pulled over on the side of the road to change a flat tire when he was shot in the head. I don’t want to waste a lot of time on the details here because Alex has since confessed that this was a suicide attempt, though he denied it for a couple of weeks after. He went on and on with this crazy story and wasted tons of hours of tax payer time on the investigation. He now says that he hired his cousin Curtis Edward Smith (who goes by Eddie) to assist in his suicide so that his surviving son Buster would get his inheritance. Long story short, Cousin Eddie denies shooting Alex and says that he believes Alex did intend to die but was framing him. Cousin Eddie has been arrested and is facing his own slew of charges, but he still denies his advanced knowledge of the shooting.

Alex, who went to the hospital to recover from the fairly minor gunshot wound, released a statement saying that he’s been battling an opioid addiction for 20 years, and that cousin Eddie was his primary dealer. While he recovers, SLED ramps up their investigations into the insurance fraud claims from Satterfield’s death, and when Alex was released from the hospital he turned himself in to authorities in Hampton County. 

Later in that same month, SLED announced that they’ve uncovered more potential crimes in the course of their homicide and fraud investigations. Alex was released on bond, and went to rehab in Florida, but was taken back into custody on new charges of acquiring property on false pretenses in relation to Gloria Satterfield in October. Since then, Alex Murdaugh has been charged with 74 criminal charges so far, and without being charged for any deaths, he already faces up to 731 years in prison.

But what about Maggie and Paul? Who killed Alex’s wife and son?

People magazine released an article detailing conversations and evidence that may point at Alex’s motive, but Alex’s camp has released counter statements denying that. The article alleges that people close to the Murdaugh’s say their marriage was not very happy, and behind the fancy cocktail dresses was a lot of misery. Another article from People says that Maggie had seen divorce attorneys. Could this point toward a motive for Alex? But what about Paul, whose trial was fast approaching? What other motives were there? If not Alex, who? Why? 

We will all have to stay tuned and see. 

If you know anything about the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, or the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Stephen Smith and Gloria Satterfield, please call the anonymous tip line at (803) 896-2605


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