Murdaugh killings in South Carolina unsolved 6 months later

FILE - Alex Murdaugh awaits the beginning of his bond hearing in the Richland Judicial Center in Columbia, S.C., Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. Murdaugh was indicted Friday, Nov. 19, on 27 additional charges involving financial crimes. Prosecutors say Murdaugh stole nearly $5 million in settlement money he had obtained for his dead housekeeper, an injured state trooper and other people as well as fees meant for his law firm. (AP Photo/Lewis M. Levine, Pool)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — More than six months after the wife and son of a prominent South Carolina lawyer were gunned down at the family’s estate, their killings remain unsolved.

But while little is said about the deaths, the legal drama around Alex Murdaugh continues, from lawsuits demanding tens of millions of dollars to attorneys fighting over whether they are violating ethics standards in national TV and podcast interviews.

The lawyer whose father, grandfather and great-grandfather were prosecutors and whose family founded one of the more prestigious law firms in South Carolina called 911 on June 7 after finding the bodies of his wife and son.

That seven-minute phone call  from a deeply upset and agitated Murdaugh and pages of heavily redacted police reports contained few new details about the crime — and marked the last release of any information by state agents in charge of the investigation.

No suspects have been named and no one ruled out — at least publicly — by State Law Enforcement Division agents. The agency has repeatedly said the investigation continues and it will release information when it is prudent.

A $100,000 reward offered by Murdaugh’s law firm — before it accused him of stealing money and fired him — expired without any apparent takers.

Through his lawyers, Murdaugh has said he regrets that the unsolved killings of his wife, Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22, have been overshadowed by his own problems: three different indictments for financial crimes and an attempt to arrange his own death  so his surviving son could get a $10 million life insurance benefit.

Murdaugh has been held without bond for more than seven weeks — a judge said it was for the defendant’s own safety after his arrest on charges he stole $3.4 million in insurance money meant for the sons of his housekeeper Gloria Satterfield. She died after a fall at one of the family’s homes in 2018. Murdaugh’s lawyers are appealing the no bond decision to the state Supreme Court.

Murdaugh will be in court again Friday for a virtual bond hearing on the latest charges against him: 27 counts for what prosecutors said were schemes to steal nearly $5 million in settlement money from a trooper injured on the job and other clients. 

Even with so little said about the deaths, Murdaugh has remained in the news the past six months. First, there was the September shooting in which police said Murdaugh was trying to arrange his own death. Murdaugh told investigators that a family friend agreed to kill him. The friend, who was charged with assisted suicide, insurance fraud and several other counts, said he was trying to wrestle the gun away from a suicidal Murdaugh when it fired.

Lawsuits have also kept the once-prominent attorney in the spotlight. Murdaugh had his assets turned over from his surviving son to independent monitors  after attorneys argued he was trying to hide money from them in a wrongful death suit over a boat crash in which Paul Murdaugh was charged with boating under the influence causing death.

This week, Satterfield’s sons, who already sued Murdaugh, also sued Bank of America, saying the company should have detected Murdaugh was using their bank accounts to divert money from a company called Forge Consulting, which handles legal settlements, to one he created called “Alexander Murdaugh d/b/a Forge.”

Bank of America “was at all times just one question away from finding out the truth had they simply asked, ‘What is the nature of ‘Forge’s’ business’?’ as was their duty to do,” the attorneys for the sons wrote in their lawsuit.

They are asking a jury to award more than $4 million — the amount of insurance claims  Murdaugh’s policies were set to pay Satterfield’s estate — and to levy punitive damages against Bank of America for triple that amount. 

The bank will ask the court to dismiss the suit, a spokesman said.

“The wrongdoer here was Mr. Murdaugh, and the diversion of these funds occurred away from Bank of America,” Bill Halldin said in a statement. “We had no knowledge of any theft and followed standard procedures in account openings for a sole proprietor business.” 

Meanwhile, a war of words is also escalating. Murdaugh’s attorneys have asked a judge to order one of the lawyers for Satterfield’s family, Eric Bland, to stop talking publicly and requested he be disciplined for statements disparaging them and jeopardizing Murdaugh’s right to a fair trial.

Bland called the request an “illusionist’s attempt to distract attention.”

Also in the past week, the boyfriend of 19-year-old Mallory Beach, a woman who was killed in the February 2019 boat crash involving Paul Murdaugh, has sued. Anthony Cook joins lawsuits by Beach’s estate and his cousin Connor Cook, who was also on the boat. Connor Cook said Alex Murdaugh and other family members tried to make it look like he was driving the boat.