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Alex Murdaugh Murdered His Family to ‘Escape Accountability’ For Stealing $8M in Wrongful Death Settlements, Prosecutors Claim

If you’re a fan of true crime documentaries and are following the double-homicide trial enveloping a prominent South Carolina legal family, the question of why Alex Murdaugh murdered his family—if a jury finds he’s responsible for their deaths—is ongoing.

As of February 2023, the disgraced former injury attorney hasn’t been convicted of any crimes, but he has been charged with the murder of his son Paul, 22, and wife Margaret, 52. He has pleaded not guilty and maintains his innocence. The trial coincided with the release of Netflix’s Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal, which is available to stream now.

The victims were found with multiple gunshot wounds on June 7, 2021, after 911 dispatchers received a call from Murdaugh at around 10pm. “I’ve been gone,” Murdaugh, his voice quivering, told a dispatcher, NBC reported at the time. “I just came back.” He later told investigators he’d been spending the day with his mother, who has dementia, and her caregiver that day. On September 6, Murdaugh released a public statement to say he’d resigned from his family’s law firm, Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrickhe, saying he’d “made a lot of decisions that I truly regret” (per WCSC) and cited a substance abuse problem. Shortly after, the firm released its own statement alleging Murdaugh had misappropriated funds. This story gets wilder, so read on.

What did Alex Murdaugh do?

What did Alex Murdaugh do? As mentioned, the former attorney hasn’t been convicted of any wrongdoings but is facing charges for a double homicide of his wife and son, who died from multiple gunshot wounds on June 7, 2021. These are in addition to 100 or so financial charges. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and maintains his innocence. The prosecution contended Murdaugh shot his wife and son to “escape accountability” for more than 100 financial crimes including fraud, money laundering, tax evasion and forgery.

Alex Murdaugh; Morgan Doughty; Paul Murdaugh and Maggie Murdaugh

Alex Murdaugh; Morgan Doughty; Paul Murdaugh and Maggie Murdaugh. Courtesy of Netflix

But there are more layers to this story. On September 4, 2021, Murdaugh was injured in a roadside shooting in Hampton County. His lawyer Jim Griffin told news outlets at the time that Murdaugh’s car, a Mercedes-Benz SUV, had a flat tire and he’d pulled over when someone opened fire, Murdaugh escaped with a superficial headwound. Two days later, Murdaugh resigned from his law firm.

“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 in a statement, citing a substance abuse problem. “I’m resigning from my law firm and entering rehab after a long battle that has been exacerbated 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.”

A little over a week later, authorities looking into the roadside shooting said Murdaugh had hired someone to kill him so that his surviving son, Buster, could collect on a $10m life insurance policy. In a written statement, Murdaugh’s legal team Griffin and another attorney, Richard Harpootlian, said it had become “clear Alex believed that ending his life was his only option. Today, he knows that’s not true. 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,” the statement said, according to NBC. “One of those individuals took advantage of his mental illness and agreed to take Alex’s life, by shooting him in the head.”

Over the next few months, Murdaugh amassed a, frankly shocking, number of charges for financial crimes. By January 21, 2022, he faced 71 charges involving the theft of about $8.5 million over the course of 11 years. In July of the same year, a jury rules to indict Murdaugh for the murder of Paul and Margaret. Authorities believed a cell phone video placed Murdaugh at the scene of the slayings shortly before they took place and contradicted Murdaugh’s timeline of the events on the day his son and wife died. Murdaugh pleads not guilty to the murder charges. By December 2022, Murdaugh faced over 100 charges of financial crimes, including fraud, money laundering, tax evasion and forgery, in addition to two counts of murder.

Murdaugh’s trial began on January 23, 2023. In his opening statement, Creighton Waters, the state’s lead prosecutor in the case, noted that neither Paul nor Margaret had defensive wounds, “as if they didn’t see a threat coming from their attacker.” The details of the injuries suffered by Murdaugh’s wife and son are “gruesome”, Waters told the jury. He also noted cellphone data that placed Murdaugh at the scene of the crime just minutes before his family’s phones would “go silent forever”. Police also found a “wadded up” raincoat inside Murdaugh’s parents’ home that was “coated in gunshot residue.” Waters painted a picture of an increasingly desperate Murdaugh.

Alex Murdaugh

Alex Murdaugh. Image: Joshua Boucher/Pool/The State/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The prosecution alleged his decades of financial crimes created a “perfect storm” that led him to kill his son and wife as a way of garnering sympathy and diverting attention from the money he was accused of stealing. “You’re going to reach the inevitable conclusion that Alex murdered Maggie and Paul! He was the storm,” Waters told the jury in his opening statement. “It’s complicated. It’s a journey. There’s a lot of aspects to this case,” Waters said. “But like a lot of things that are complicated, we start to put them all together, piecing together like a puzzle—all the sudden, a picture emerges.”

Harpootlian, on Murdaugh’s defense team, insisted there were numerous holes in the prosecution’s case. “I want you to hear that 911 tape, a man hysterical and in grief,” he said, frequently referring to Murdaugh as a family man who loved Paul and Margaret deeply. “There’s no direct evidence. There’s no eyewitnesses. There’s nothing on camera. There’s no fingerprints. There’s no forensics tying him to the crime. None,” Harpootlian continued. If found guilty, Murdaugh faces up to 30 years to life in prison for the deaths of his son and wife. He’ll also face other trials in the future over the numerous financial crimes of which he’s been accused.

If you’re interested in learning more about the family, don’t miss Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal on Netflix. The synopsis of which is as follows: “The Murdaughs were one of South Carolina’s most prominent families, but the death of teenager Mallory Beach in a drunken boating accident began the unraveling of their legacy. When Paul Murdaugh – the alleged driver of the boat – and his mother Maggie are found brutally murdered, a century of corruption, power, and cover-ups in the Low Country is brought to light. The three-part series will feature first-hand accounts from those on the boat that fateful night, many of whom have not spoken about the crash or double homicide of Maggie and Paul until now, including Paul Murdaugh’s longtime girlfriend, Morgan Doughty; Mallory Beach’s childhood friends, Miley Altman and Connor Cook; Mallory’s boyfriend, Anthony Cook; and, several others.”

Netflix’s Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal is available to stream now.

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