Inside mysterious Murdaugh Murders – from tragic boat death and brutal shootings to ‘£16m’ fraud and drug addiction | The Sun

THEY were one of the most powerful dynasties in South Carolina – but a tragic boating accident in 2019 and two subsequent murders saw the Murdaugh family plunged into scandal.

Mallory Beach, 19, died when Paul Murdaugh, also 19, crashed his boat into a bridge after a long drinking session with friends.

Two years later Paul and his mum Maggie were blasted in the head in the grounds of the family mansion.

And in September 2021, millionaire lawyer dad Alex survived a separate roadside shooting, despite being hit in the head by a bullet.

Alex has since been charged with the murders of his son and wife, and with hiring a hitman to kill him as part of an £8million insurance scam.

The murders sparked an investigation into two more suspicious deaths, and decades of fraud and corruption linked to the influential lawyer, who siphoned off millions meant for bereaved families to feed his drug habit.

Now the shocking case is the subject of the new Netflix docuseries, The Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal, out today.

It includes haunting CCTV footage of the fateful night of the crash, as well as interviews with friends who were on the boat, including Mallory’s boyfriend Anthony Cook and Paul’s girlfriend Morgan Doughty.

Tragic accident

On the night of February 23, 2019 the four teenagers, along with two other friends, Connor Cook and Miley Altman, met at the Murdaugh’s riverside home in Hampton, where they started drinking at 6.30pm before taking the boat to a nearby house party.

They then went to a bar before getting back in the boat to travel home. Anthony says Paul was “out of his mind drunk” and was zig-zagging through the water and spinning the boat in circles.

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Paul with girlfriend Morgan, who appears in the documentary
The wealthy family were hugely influentialCredit: Facebook Maggie Murdaugh

Despite pleas to let Connor or Anthony take the wheel, Paul -described as a "nasty drunk" – refused and allegedly slapped Morgan when she begged him to stop.

At 2.22am, the speeding boat crashed into a bridge.

“All I heard was screaming and then the bow of the boat stood up,” Anthony recalls. “Then there was a scream and a loud bang.”

Mallory was tipped into the dark water from the back of the boat and, while the others made it onto the bank, she never surfaced. Tragically her body was recovered a week later.   

In chilling footage, Paul is seen laughing as a distraught Anthony yells: “Why you f*****g smiling? My f*****g girlfriend is gone.”

Despite Paul arriving at hospital “grossly intoxicated” he was not tested at the site or handcuffed – causing some to suspect Alex Murdaugh used his considerable influence to protect his son.  

“This is a family you didn’t want to mess with. They could have something swept under the rug and no one would ever know about it,” say Connor’s parents, Marty and Christine Cook.

“He wanted to make sure lips were sealed.”

Influential family

The family’s influence on the local judicial system stretched back a century to 1920, when Alex’s great-grandfather became the sole prosecutor in Hampton – a position held by direct descendants until 2006. 

Alex, the fourth generation in the dynasty of lawyers, ran the family firm and specialised in personal injury litigation from 2000.

Morgan tells the Netflix documentary Paul’s pals were concerned about his excessive drinking before the crash and recalls a telling incident when he insisted on driving after another boozy party, and crashed their truck into a ditch.

They asked if I had called 911 and when I said I did, Alex said ‘Why would you do that? You could have got our son in trouble.' We nearly died

He was furious when she called 911 and she says, before police arrived,  Alex, Maggie and Paul’s older brother Buster turned up to remove the “tons of guns” and “empty beer cans” from the truck.

“They asked if I had called 911 and when I said I did, Alex said ‘Why would you do that? You could have got our son in trouble.' We nearly died,” she says.

She also claims Alex tried to intimidate her into lying about who was piloting the boat as she lay in hospital awaiting surgery for extensive injuries, and told her parents he would be her legal representative.

Connor, who had several operations on his jaw following the accident, says the family told police he had been behind the wheel. 

Paul was eventually arrested and charged with three felonies, and released on bail.

Double murder

The 22-year-old was still awaiting trial when he and mum Maggie, 52, were shot dead in the grounds of their sprawling £3.9m family home, which stands in 1,700 acres of land, on the night of June 7, 2021. 

Alex, 54, made an emergency call at 10pm, claiming he had found his wife and son lying dead by the dog kennels when he returned home late, and told police the family had been receiving threats over the death of Mallory. 

In the audio of the call, played on the documentary, Alex is heard saying, “My wife and child have been shot badly. It's really bad. They’re not moving.”

Maggie was shot five times with an automatic rifle and Paul was shot twice – once in the head and once in the chest – with a shotgun. 

Cousins Connor and Anthony reveal they were initially the chief suspects.

But it soon transpired that, in the wake of Paul’s arrest, investigators had begun to look into Alex Murdaugh’s financial affairs and, in the weeks before the murders, he was under considerable pressure.  

Roadside shooting

Three months after the deaths of Maggie and Paul, an employee at Alex’s law firm discovered a cheque that should have been paid to the firm was instead made out to Alex. 

When he was challenged, Alex resigned. The following day, on September 4, 2021, in another bizarre twist, Alex was shot in the head as he was changing a flat tyre on a country road near his house. 

He was treated for a “minor shotgun wound” and claimed he had been alone but police soon discovered he had been with a friend and distant cousin, Curtis Edward Smith.

With his story unravelling, Alex admitted he had hired Curtis to shoot him in the head, to make his suicide look like murder, so that his surviving son Buster, 26, could profit from an £8.25million life insurance.

He then booked himself into rehab, revealing a longstanding addiction to painkillers. On his release he was charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and filing a false police report. 

The State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) then began investigating allegations Alex had been misappropriating funds from his law firm.

Hit and run?

In a new twist, they reopened investigations into the deaths of19-year-old Stephen Smith, Buster's close friend, and the family’s former housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield.   

Stephen was found dead on a road in Hampton on the morning of July 8, 2015.

The death was ruled as a hit and run, and reports indicated he died from a blunt force trauma to the head. But some police at the scene reported the injuries were consistent with gunshot wounds.

Although no official link to the death has ever been made to the Murdaugh family, case files showed 10 of the 18 people interviewed suggested the relationship between Stephen, who was openly gay, and Buster should be looked into . 

No details have been released as to why the Smith case was reopened.

Death in ‘fall’

Gloria Satterfield, 57, worked as housekeeper and nanny for the family for over 20 years and died as the result of a "trip and fall" accident in 2018. 

According to court documents, Alex told Gloria’s sons he was personally responsible for the fall and that he would "sue himself" to pay the family compensation and leave them financially secure. 

After her funeral he introduced her two adult sons to a fellow lawyer, Cory Fleming, who would represent them.

He reached a settlement of £3.5m with insurers and the family were due to receive £2.8m, after fees, but never saw a penny. 

Instead, it’s alleged the money went straight to Alex Murdaugh, and in September 2021, the family launched a wrongful death suit against him. 

SLED also found evidence Alex has defrauded other clients, many of whom had lost loved ones. 

Lawyer Justin Bamberg, who represents eight victims including the bereaved families of road accident victims Hakeem Pinckney, Sandra Taylor and Blondell Gray, estimates he stole up to £16.5m from injury claims. 

Murdaugh's attorney Richard Harpootlian told NBC his client suffered from oxycodone addiction and the "vast majority" of the stolen funds were used to buy opioids and that there were "cheques written to drug dealers".

As part of the new investigation, SLED announced that the housekeeper’s body would be exhumed. 

Arrest for murders

As the net tightened, in July 2014 Alex Murdaugh was charged with the murder of his wife and son and pleaded not guilty.

The murder trial, which began last month, is ongoing but interesting details have emerged in both the prosecution and defence cases.

A housekeeper who cleaned the house the day after the murders, at the behest of Alex, found Maggie’s wedding ring under the seat of her car – possibly contradicting his claims that the pair had no marital problems. 

Several guns and rifles were found at the family’s home, and SLED Firearms Examiner Paul Greer is set to testify that several rifle cartridges and shotgun shells found at the murder scene, Moselle, match ammo found elsewhere on the Murdaugh property, including the family’s shooting range.

Defence lawyers have pointed to strands of brown hair found in Maggie’s hand after her death.

Maggie was blonde, her sons were redheads and Alex is strawberry blonde; the defence team will argue that the hair could belong to the true killer.

Unknown DNA evidence was also found under Maggie’s fingernails.

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Yesterday Buster testified that Paul and Maggie had found a stash of opiates at the house a month before they died, and had confronted Alex, but he insisted there was "no violence" in the family.

The Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal is on Netflix from February 22.

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