COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Lawyer Alex 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. The shooter only grazed him.
A defense attorney said Murdaugh was deeply depressed with a drug addiction worsened by his discovery of the bodies of his wife and son, who were shot multiple times at the family’s home on June 7. Those killings remain unsolved.
The three felony charges against Murdaugh, 53, include insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and filing a false police report. He arrived at the Hampton County jail about five hours before his bond hearing. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of all charges, but there is no minimum sentence.
The killings of Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, and son Paul in June remain unsolved.
Murdaugh’s surrender culminates a tumultuous 36 hours for a man whose father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all elected prosecutors in the area. A giant law firm in town was founded by his family more than a century ago.
His former client was arrested late Tuesday on an assisted suicide charge, and then state police opened a sixth investigation into him and his family — this time involving a housekeeper and nanny who died in his home in 2018.
Murdaugh told his lawyers on Monday that he had arranged his own shooting, and they then spoke to police.
“He didn’t want law enforcement spending more time on this fake crime instead of focusing on solving the murders of Maggie and Paul,” attorney Dick Harpootlian told the “Today” show on Wednesday.
Murdaugh asked Curtis Edward Smith to kill him with a shot to the head on Sept. 4 so his surviving son could collect a $10 million life insurance policy, authorities said.
Murdaugh bought drugs from the former client, attorney Dick Harpootlian said.
Murdaugh’s lawyers said he has spent the past 10 days or so in drug rehab after his law firm fired him over missing money that could total millions of dollars..
It all started June 7, when Murdaugh found the bodies of his 52-year-old wife, Maggie, and their 22-year-old son Paul shot multiple times after returning to their Colleton County home after visiting his sick father, who would die days later from cancer.
Those killings remain unsolved, and Murdaugh’s lawyers have said he is adamant he had nothing to do with their deaths.
On Sept. 3, Murdaugh was fired by the PMPED law firm founded by his family after the firm determined he took money.
Murdaugh’s lawyers said he decided to kill himself the next day, but have someone else shoot him. Murdaugh gave Curtis Edward Smith a gun and they headed to lonely Old Salkehatchie Road. Smith fired one shot that only grazed Murdaugh’s head, a State Law Enforcement Division agent said in a sworn statement.
Murdaugh was able to call 911 and his initial story was someone in a passing pickup truck shot at him as he checked a tire that was low on pressure.
Smith, 61, remained jailed Thursday on charges of assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, distribution of methamphetamine and possession of marijuana. He didn’t have a lawyer or speak about the charges at a hearing where his bond was set at $55,000.
Along with the killings of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh and the shooting of Alex Murdaugh, the State Law Enforcement Division is also investigating the missing money, whether anyone tried to obstruct an investigation into a 2019 boat crash for which Paul Murdaugh was eventually charged and a July 2015 hit-and-run death in Hampton County.
The agency also announced Wednesday that they are now investigating Gloria Satterfield’s death at the request of Hampton County Coroner Angela Topper, who said her death certificate lists describes natural causes, which is inconsistent with a trip-and-fall accidental death. She said her office did not perform an autopsy because it was not informed.
Satterfield’s two sons filed a lawsuit Wednesday saying they haven’t seen any of the $500,000 wrongful death settlement that Murdaugh had friends arrange.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.