Murdaugh murders: a southern scandal

Alex Murdaugh receives his life sentence in the double murder trial of his wife and son

Alex Murdaugh receives his life sentence in the double murder trial of his wife and son

Kylie Rowe, Contributing Writer

On Thursday, March 2, a jury found Alex Murdaugh guilty of the murder of his wife, Maggie, and youngest son, Paul, as well as guilty of possession of the two weapons that were used in the killings. 

Netflix released a new true-crime documentary, “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal,” that follows the Murdaugh family murders and this family’s transgressions, cover-ups and downfall.  

For almost a century, the Murdaughs’ family law firm has been in legal power in Hampton, South Carolina. Through the years, the Murdaugh family name had become well known and well connected due to their family fortune. 

Before the death of Maggie and Paul, the family had been connected to three fatalities, but their affluence has protected them from taking responsibility in the involvements of these deaths. 

“Having too much money makes people feel empowered and that they can get away with mistreating people,” said Rose Wagner, a senior mass communication major. “It’s good that they are being held accountable, but why did it take so long for that to happen?” 

The first murder case involving the Murdaughs took place in 2015 after Stephen Smith, an openly gay teenager in Hampton, was found dead. The oldest Murdaugh brother, Buster, was rumored to have something to do with the boy’s death. Ultimately, he was never prosecuted, and Smith’s death was classified as a hit-and-run.

Three years later, the family would be connected to a second death after their housekeeper and nanny, Gloria Satterfield, was found dead from blunt force trauma in the Murdaugh family home. Maggie Murdaugh reported to the police that Satterfield died from tripping over the family’s dogs and falling backwards down the stairs.  

Before this tragedy, Satterfield had discovered that Alex Murdaugh had been recreationally using opioids, and she told Paul about his father’s drug use. According to Paul’s girlfriend, Morgan Doughty, Paul had been forcing his father to detox. It is speculated that Alex and Maggie found out that Satterfield told Paul this information, and then they murdered Satterfield. 

Though Satterfield was taken to the hospital before her death, there is no recorded autopsy, and Maggie and Paul Murdaugh are the only witnesses.  

A year later, the Murdaugh family was at the center of another death. In February 2019, Paul Murdaugh was driving a boat while severely intoxicated, and he crashed into a bridge, resulting in the injury of four passengers and the death of Mallory Beach. 

The Murdaugh family claimed Connor Cook, another passenger on the boat, was actually the person driving the boat at the time of the accident. Through an investigation, this claim was determined to be false. Paul was charged and put on trial for Beach’s death, but he was found not guilty. 

The Netflix documentary shows footage of Anthony Cook, a survivor of the crash and Beach’s boyfriend, making a statement that emphasizes the power that this family had. 

“You know who that is?” Cook said. “That is Alex Murdaugh’s son. Good luck.”  

After the trial, the family went to live on their hunting estate that they called “Moselle.” Life for the Murdaughs seemingly went on as normal for a few years until yet another murder occurred, but this time was different. The Murdaughs were now the victims. 

In June 2021, Paul and Maggie Murdaugh were found shot to death at the dog kennels at Moselle. 

When investigating their murders, it was found that Alex had taken out life-insurance policies on both of them, and both weapons used in their murders were owned by the Murdaughs. 

Three months after the murders, on Sep. 4, 2021, Alex Murdaugh made a 911 call claiming that he had been shot in the head. However, it has been confirmed that Murdaugh hired Curtis Smith, a former law firm client, to shoot him, in the hopes that this would make Smith look responsible for the murders. However, this scheme did not go according to plan. Alex Murdaugh was charged for the murders of his wife and son, and he turned himself into the Hampton County Detention Center on Sept. 16. 

Murdaugh claimed that he was not home at the time of the murder, and he found the victims after he returned home. This was proven to be false when a video surfaced of Paul and his dad at the kennels right before the murdered occurred. When this evidence was presented at the trial, Murdaugh admitted that he lied to the police. 

“All those things, coupled together after finding them, coupled with my distrust for (the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division), caused me to have paranoid thoughts,” Murdaugh said. “I wasn’t thinking clearly. I don’t think I was capable of reason. And I lied about being there, and I’m so sorry that I did.” 

The Netflix documentary has been very popular since its release. Liliann Pittman, a senior biology major, watched the documentary because the town of Hampton is less than 100 miles from where she grew up. 

“The town being so small with old families in power reminds me of the dynamic of my town,” Pittman said. “It added a sense of uneasiness to hear about the case and realize that could very easily be people I knew.” 

This case has intrigued the nation with all of its controversies, unexpected developments and surprising turns of events.

Murdaugh will serve two consecutive life-sentences without the possibility of parole for the murders of his wife and son.