A beige SUV containing Murdaugh pulled up to the Hampton County Law Enforcement Center late Thursday morning, and Murdaugh was seen exiting the vehicle shortly after it pulled through a gate. He is expected to appear in court Thursday.
According to court documents, Murdaugh arranged for a former client to kill him so his surviving son could collect a life insurance payout of about $10 million.
In a statement Thursday, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) confirmed agents had arrested Murdaugh, who was booked at the Hampton County Detention Center. He faces charges of insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and filing a false police report, the statement said, and the case will be prosecuted by the state Attorney General’s office.
“I can assure you that SLED agents will continue working to bring justice to anyone involved with any criminal act associated with these ongoing investigation,” SLED Chief Mark Keel said in the statement. “The arrests in this case are only the first step in that process.”
Murdaugh decided to end his own life but believed his life insurance policy had a suicide exclusion, his other attorney Dick Harpootlian said, and that the scheme “was an attempt on his part to do something to protect” his eldest and only living child.
The killings of his wife and son on June 7 have not been solved, and Murdaugh has denied responsibility.
Former client charged in suicide scheme
Smith, 61, was charged Wednesday with assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
On Thursday, Hampton County Magistrate Judge Tonja Alexander set bond for Smith at $55,000. Asked if he was interested in a public defender, Smith replied, “I’m probably going to look at one, yes,” adding he would likely apply for one early next week.
Alexander ordered Smith to appear for roll call on October 25 at the Hampton County courthouse. Smith must obtain an attorney within 15 days or his bond will be revoked, Alexander said, and he must keep the court notified of any changes of address.
The Colleton County Sheriff’s Office said Smith had a separate bond hearing on Wednesday morning and received a $5,000 cash surety bond for a meth charge and a personal recognizance bond for a marijuana charge. He was transferred to Hampton County custody Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.
Authorities initially described Murdaugh’s injury as a “superficial gunshot wound to the head,” though Murdaugh’s attorneys said his skull was fractured in the shooting.
Murdaugh allegedly provided Smith with a firearm and directed Smith to shoot him in the head. Smith admitted Tuesday to being present at the shooting and to disposing of the firearm afterward, the affidavit states.
Murdaugh had represented Smith as his attorney on at least two occasions dating back to 2010, according to court records from the Colleton County 14th Judicial Circuit.
He first represented Smith in a personal injury lawsuit that Smith brought against a land management company, and Murdaugh is also listed as Smith’s attorney for a 2013 traffic infraction, the court documents show.
Questions remain over housekeeper death, attorney says
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced on Wednesday that it was opening a criminal investigation into the February 2018 death of Gloria Satterfield and the handling of her estate.
Satterfield was the Murdaugh family housekeeper for more than two decades before dying in 2018 after what was described as a “trip and fall accident” at the Murdaugh home, according to attorney Eric Bland, who is representing her estate.
SLED said it is opening an investigation based upon a request from the Hampton County coroner that highlights inconsistencies in the ruling of Satterfield’s manner of death, as well as information gathered during SLED’s other ongoing investigations involving Murdaugh.
“The decedent’s death was not reported to the Coroner at the time, nor was an autopsy performed. On the death certificate the manner of death was ruled “Natural,” which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident,” the coroner’s request to SLED said.
Bland filed a lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of Satterfield’s estate against Alex Murdaugh, the estate’s former attorney Cory Fleming, as well as Palmetto State Bank.
Bland told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday that following her death, her family trusted Murdaugh to help them bring a lawsuit against himself on behalf of the estate.
“Certainly there were questions by my clients because after she unfortunately fell, she was airlifted to a hospital and she had a traumatic brain injury, she never was able to communicate with them for the next three weeks until she died,” Bland told Cuomo. “So, it was Alex Murdaugh who told the story of that she had tripped and fell down the stairs over his dogs.”
“They trusted him,” Bland said. “He hand-walked them to his best friend and college roommate to bring a lawsuit against himself on behalf of the estate.”
According to Bland, a number of claims were made which all contributed to a settlement, but none of those settlements ever ended up in court, except one for around $500,000 from Lloyds of London insurance.
“There’s no court orders approving any of these settlements. And it’s required under the law, if you have a wrongful death or survival case, a judge has to approve the settlements. None of that exists in the court record, and our clients never found out that these cases had settled these claims, until it was printed in the paper by investigative reporters,” Bland said.
According to the attorney, the claims were settled for more than $2 million, of which his clients have received no part. “It’s our job to get them answers, and get them their money back,” Bland added.
SLED said the probe was being reopened based on information gathered while investigating the double homicide.
CNN’s Amanda Watts, Gregory Lemos, Melissa Alonso, Angela Barajas, Caroline Kenny and Christina Maxouris contributed to this report.