Double murder, a failed hit and stolen millions: A bizarre family saga

·5-min read

Numerous twists and turns have emerged in an investigation into the mysterious murders of a mum and son from a prominent, yet turbulent, legal family, including a fake death plot, a secret opioid addiction and embezzlement.

Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and her son Paul Murdaugh, 22, from South Carolina in the US, were found shot several times outside their rural holiday home on June 7.

Alex Murdaugh, Maggie’s husband reportedly found their bodies and called 911.

Although no one has been arrested for their deaths, Mr Murdaugh’s attorney Richard Harpootlian, told NBC's Today show this week that he and the 53-year-old’s other lawyer Jim Griffin have conducted their own investigation.

He said they have zeroed in on an “individual or individuals they believe may have some culpability”.

Paul Murdaugh, 22, Maggie Murdaugh, 52, Alex Murdaugh, 53 and Buster Murdaugh, 25.
A fake death plot, a secret opioid addiction and embezzlement have plagued the investigation into the deaths of Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and her son Paul Murdaugh, 22. Source: Facebook/Maggie Murdaugh

“We think we'll know this week whether the one suspect we're looking at bears further scrutiny, and we'll make that available to law enforcement,” he said during a live TV interview.

Mr Harpootlian said he couldn’t reveal what the motive was because it would “reveal who that person is”, but he did say that “the motive would be personal”.

The news comes after it was reported Mr Murdaugh had tried to arrange his own death earlier this month so his remaining son, Buster, 25, would receive a $10 million life insurance payment.

Prominent lawyer hires man to kill him

On September 4, Mr Murdaugh called police to say someone had shot at him while he checked on a flat tyre on his Mercedes SUV on a rural road.

The bullet grazed his head and he was able to call 911 for help.

However, it was reported on Wednesday (local time) the prominent attorney had allegedly staged the entire event and hired a man to kill him.

The alleged shooter, Curtis Edward Smith, has been charged with assisted suicide, insurance fraud and several other counts, the State Law Enforcement Division said in a statement.

Mr and Mrs Murdaugh posing on a boat.
Mr Murdaugh's attorneys have insisted he had nothing to do with the murders of his wife and son. Source: Facebook/Maggie Murdaugh

Mr Murdaugh gave Smith the gun to kill him and he followed the 53-year-old to Old Salkehatchie Road, firing one shot at the lawyer as he stood in the road, a state agent said in a sworn statement.

Mr Murdaugh’s lawyers said that he confessed to them about the assisted suicide and they have shared the information with police. 

A warrant was issued for his arrest on Wednesday (local time) and Mr Murdaugh is planning to turn himself in over the incident on Thursday (local time), his attorney Jim Griffin told Fox News.

"We have been informed that there is a warrant for his arrest for conspiracy to commit insurance fraud," Mr Griffin said.

"He plans to voluntarily surrender tomorrow, and the arraignment and bond hearing will be held at 4pm at the Hampton County magistrates court."

Just two days after the fake death plot, it was revealed the 53-year-old had allegedly been struggling with a 20-year opioid addiction and that he had siphoned millions of dollars from his law firm to pay for drugs.

Alex Murdaugh accused of stealing from law firm 

Mr Murdaugh’s PMPED law firm announced he had misappropriated money from the business and was no longer associated with the firm. Exactly how much money might be missing has not been made public.

The news broke just hours after Mr Murdaugh issued his own statement saying he was going into rehab for an opioid addiction.

“I have made a lot of decisions that I truly regret,” he said without giving details.

Police at the scene after Alex Murdaugh was shot in the head. Source: Live 5 News
Mr Murdaugh called police to say someone had shot at him while he checked on a flat tyre on his Mercedes SUV on a rural road. Source: Live 5 News

“The murders of my wife and son have caused an incredibly difficult time in my life.”

His attorney, Mr Harpootlian, told NBC’s TODAY show that Mr Murdaugh had spent most of the money he took on drugs and emphatically denied he had anything to do with the murders of his wife and son.

“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,” Mr Harpootlian and Mr Griffin said in a statement.

The lawyers claim the shooter Mr Murdaugh had hired, Curtis Smith, had previously sold the 53-year-old drugs.

“One of those individuals took advantage of his mental illness and agreed to take Alex's life, by shooting him in the head,” they said.

Curtis Edward Smith. Source: Colleton County Sheriffs Office via AP
Police say Mr Murdaugh hired Curtis Edward Smith (pictured) to kill him. Source: Colleton County Sheriffs Office via AP

Multiple investigations surround turbulent family

There are several ongoing police investigations surrounding the Murdaugh family. 

When Paul was shot and killed he was awaiting trial on a charge of boating under the influence causing death in a 2019 crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach.

State police also said the deaths of the Murdaughs led them to reopen the 2015 death of a 19-year-old man that was called a hit-and-run. 

Investigators haven’t said what led them to reopen that case, but the victim’s mum has maintained for the six years since he was found dead on a two-lane road that she thought her son was beaten to death.

On Wednesday, state police opened another investigation into Mr Murdaugh and his family, looking into the 2018 death of a housekeeper and nanny who, according to a wrongful death settlement, was killed in a trip-and-fall accident at the Murdaugh home that was never reported to the local coroner and was listed as a natural death.

With AP

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