Death, Drugs & Deceit: A Timeline of the Murdaugh Family Mystery

Alex Murdaugh found his wife and son murdered in June, but his troubles started years earlier.

September 22, 2021
Lawyer Alex Murdaugh walks into his bond hearing, Thursday, September 16, 2021, in Varnville, South Carolina

Lawyer Alex Murdaugh walks into his bond hearing, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, in Varnville, S.C. Murdaugh surrendered Thursday to face insurance fraud and other charges after state police said he arranged to have himself shot in the head so that his son would get a $10 million life insurance payout.

Photo by: AP Photo/Mic Smith

AP Photo/Mic Smith

Lawyer Alex Murdaugh walks into his bond hearing, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, in Varnville, S.C. Murdaugh surrendered Thursday to face insurance fraud and other charges after state police said he arranged to have himself shot in the head so that his son would get a $10 million life insurance payout.

By: Aaron Rasmussen

Alex Murdaugh made national news in June after his wife, Margaret, and their son, Paul, were discovered dead on the family’s South Carolina estate. But the double homicide was one of the many dark mysteries and problems plaguing the family — both past and present — that were about to come to light. A timeline detailing the extent of the family’s troubles stretches back years.

February 2018: The Murdaughs’ housekeeper takes a fatal fall.

The Murdaughs’ housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, 57, reportedly fell at the family’s home and suffered a traumatic brain injury in winter 2018. Alex Murdaugh allegedly told emergency responders Satterfield may have tripped over a dog and tumbled down the stairs, according to CNN. The housekeeper never regained consciousness, and she passed away three weeks later. An autopsy was never conducted and her death went uninvestigated. On Sept. 15, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division announced that it had opened a new probe into Satterfield’s death, USA Today reported.

February 24, 2019: Alex Murdaugh’s son is involved in a deadly boating accident.

Before his death, Paul Murdaugh was facing trial on charges of boating under the influence causing bodily injury and BUI involving death in connection to a boat accident he got into that killed one of his five passengers, 19-year-old Mallory Beach. Paul Murdaugh, then 19, pleaded not guilty, but his blood alcohol level was allegedly three times the legal limit, WSAV-TV reported.

June 7, 2021: Murdaugh’s wife and son are murdered on their country estate.

In late spring, Alex Murdaugh called 911 at 10:07 p.m. after he returned home and discovered the bodies of his wife, Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, and son Paul, 22, dead outside the family’s home near Islandton, South Carolina. The two had been shot multiple times, authorities said. The double homicide remains unsolved and the investigation continues.

September 3: Murdaugh quits his high-profile job.

On Sept. 3, Murdaugh resigned from Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, & Detrick, the prestigious law firm in Hampton, South Carolina, his family founded three generations prior.

September 4: Murdaugh is shot and calls 911.

Murdaugh was on a country road near Varnville in Hampton County, South Carolina, on Sept. 4 when he pulled his car over after noticing a low-tire indicator light, a family spokesperson claimed at the time. “A male driver in a blue pickup asked him if he had car troubles, as soon as Alex replied, he was shot,” the spokesperson told ABC News, noting Murdaugh “had an entry and exit wound, his skull was fractured, and it was not a self-inflicted bullet wound.”

September 6: Murdaugh announces he’s checking into rehab.

After a hospital in Savannah, Georgia, treated Murdaugh’s injuries from the shooting, he released a statement publicly announcing his resignation from the law firm and his decision to enter rehab. “The murders of my wife and son have caused an incredibly difficult time in my life. I have made a lot of decisions that I truly regret,” he said. “I’m resigning from my law firm and entering rehab after a long battle that has been exacerbated by these murders. I am immensely sorry to everyone I’ve hurt including my family, friends and colleagues. I ask for prayers as I rehabilitate myself and my relationships.”

September 7: Murdaugh’s law firm makes a surprise announcement.

Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick made a statement of their own regarding Murdaugh’s job. “His resignation came after the discovery by PMPED that Alex misappropriated funds in violation of PMPED standards and policies,” the statement reads. “A forensic accounting firm will be retained to conduct a thorough investigation.” Murdaugh’s brother, Randy, still works at the firm and said in a separate statement that while he loves his younger sibling and “will support him in his recovery,” he will “not support, condone, or excuse his conduct in stealing by manipulating his most trusted relationships.”

September 14: Police make an arrest in connection to Alex Murdaugh’s shooting.

Authorities took Edward Smith, 61, into custody on Sept. 14 for allegedly shooting Murdaugh 10 days earlier. He faces charges of assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high-aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, according to ABC News. His bond was set at $55,000 and he is scheduled to next appear in court on Oct. 25.

September 15: Murdaugh explains why he set up the shooting, and he faces a new lawsuit.

Murdaugh’s lawyers released a statement to explain why their client allegedly conspired with Smith in the alleged suicide scheme. “For the last 20 years, there have been many people feeding his addiction to opioids. During that time, these individuals took advantage of his addiction and his ability to pay substantial funds for illegal drugs. One of those individuals took advantage of his mental illness and agreed to take Alex's life, by shooting him in the head,” the statement reads, noting Murdaugh is cooperating with the “investigations into his shooting, opioid use and the search to find the person or people responsible for the murder of his wife and son.” That same day, investigators reopened the investigation into the 2018 death of Murdaugh’s housekeeper, Satterfield, and her surviving sons filed a civil lawsuit against Alex Murdaugh, claiming he allegedly swindled them out of a $505,000 life insurance settlement.

September 16: Murdaugh surrenders to authorities.

Murdaugh was arrested after he turned himself in at the Hampton County Detention Center. Officials charged him with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, and filing a false police report after they said he allegedly admitted to conspire with Smith for help committing suicide “for the purpose of his son,” Richard Alexander “Buster” Murdaugh Jr., “collecting a life insurance policy valued at approximately $10 million.”

September 18: Murdough goes back to rehab.

At a Sept. 18 hearing, Murdough was held on a $20,000 personal recognition bond, and his lawyer said his client planned to return to rehab.

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