Death, Drugs & Deceit: A Timeline of the Murdaugh Family Mystery
On March 3, 2023, Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of the June 2021 murders of his wife and son.
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.
Alex Murdaugh made national news in June 2021 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.
On July 14, 2022, Murdaugh was charged for murder for the deaths of his wife and son. On March 2, 2023, he was found guilty and was convicted on all four counts that he was facing — two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon in the commission of a violent crime. He will spend the rest of his life in prison.
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, 2021, 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, 2021: 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, 2021: 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, 2021: 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, 2021: Murdaugh’s law firm makes a surprise announcement.
Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick (PMPED) 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, 2021: 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.
September 15, 2021: 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, 2021: 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, 2021: Murdaugh goes back to rehab.
At a Sept. 18 hearing, Murdaugh was held on a $20,000 personal recognition bond, and his lawyer said his client planned to return to rehab.
October 14, 2021: Murdaugh leaves a Florida rehab and returns to South Carolina.
Police in Florida took Murdaugh into custody after his release from an Orlando drug rehab facility. He was extradited a short time later and booked into the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center in Richland County, South Carolina.
November 18, 2021: Questions arise over alleged cashier’s checks.
In a report, The State claimed Murdaugh allegedly used 17 cashier’s check to pay $155,970 to Smith — the man accused of helping Murdaugh with his botched suicide — over the course of around six months, from October 2020 through the end of May 2021.
November - December 2021: Murdaugh is accused of stealing millions of dollars.
In November and again in December, grand juries indicted Murdaugh on a combined 48 counts of financial crimes for allegedly stealing a total of $6.1 million, The Island Packet reports. A judge ordered him held on $7 million bond in connection to the charges. At his Dec. 13 bond hearing, Murdaugh told the court his “head is on straighter” after 98 days of sobriety, according to the publication.
January 20, 2022: Murdaugh faces more allegations of financial misconduct.
For the third time in three months, Murdaugh was charged in connection to financial crimes. This time, a grand jury indicted him for allegedly stealing $2.27 million and he received an additional 23 counts against him, The Island Packet reported.
May 4, 2022: Murdaugh charged on a total of 30 criminal cases.
The South Carolina State Grand Jury indicted Murdaugh, former bank CEO Russell Lucius Laffitte, and Cory Fleming on a total of 30 criminal charges, including breach of trust, conspiracy, and computer crime.
May 31, 2022: Satterfield family awarded more than $4.3 million.
Murdaugh signed a confession of judgment in favor of the family of the Murdaugh family’s former housekeeper Gloria Satterfield, which awarded the Satterfield family $4.3 million, WJCL reported.
June 3, 2022: Family granted investigators permission to exhume the body of Gloria Satterfield.
An attorney representing the Satterfield family confirmed that the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division plans to exhume Gloria Satterfield's body as part of their investigation into her death.
July 14, 2022: Murdaugh charged with murders of wife and son.
Murdaugh was charged with the June 2021 murders of his wife Maggie, 52, and their 22-year-old son Paul. He was also charged with possession of a weapon during a violent crime. A grand jury in Colleton County, where the shootings happened, believe that Murdaugh killed his wife with a rifle and his son with a shotgun. According to the Associated Press, Murdaugh has denied any role in their deaths, claiming he was visiting his parents at the time of the murders.
March 2023: Murdaugh found guilty of double-murder.
On March 2, 2023, after deliberating for less than three hours, a jury found Alex Murdaugh guilty of the murder of his wife and son. The next day, he was sentenced to life in prison.
September 2023: Murdaugh pleads guilty to federal financial charges
In September 2023, according to a filed plea agreement, Murdaugh pleaded guilty to 22 federal charges alleging he stole millions of dollars from clients. Among the guilty charges are wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.
According to CNN, the plea is related to an alleged scheme in which Murdaugh and a bank employee allegedly defrauded his personal injury clients and laundered more than $7 million of funds, which he used for his “personal benefit."
For more on the Murdaugh family mystery, stream Murdaugh Murders: Deadly Dynasty on Max.
Buster Murdaugh, the son of disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh, has denied having anything to do with the July 2015 death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith, which has now officially been ruled a homicide.