A prominent US lawyer who allegedly attempted to stage his own murder was on Thursday charged with insurance fraud and lying to the police in the latest twist in a bizarre crime saga.
Alex Murdaugh, 53, whose wife and son were murdered in June, is accused of paying a man to shoot him so his surviving son could collect on a US$10 million insurance policy.
Murdaugh survived the Sept. 4 shooting on the side of a country road in South Carolina and on Thursday surrendered to face charges of insurance fraud and filing a false police report.
Hampton County Judge Tonja Alexander granted Murdaugh’s release on a personal recognizance bond of US$20,000 to allow him to seek treatment at a rehabilitation facility for what his lawyer said was a “tremendous opioid addiction.”
Murdaugh, who appeared in court in handcuffs and wearing an olive-colored jump suit, replied: “Yes ma’am,” when asked by the judge if he understood the conditions of his release.
Murdaugh’s lawyer, Dick Harpootlian, told the court that Murdaugh was “not a danger to his community.”
“The only person he’s a danger to is himself,” Harpootlian said. “This crime involved his attempt to have himself shot so that his son could collect insurance.”
Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, 52, and their son Paul, a 22-year-old college student, were shot dead on June 7 at the family’s sprawling hunting lodge in Islandton, in southwestern South Carolina.
No arrests have been made in connection with their deaths.
One line of speculation surrounding the murders is related to Paul Murdaugh, who at the time of his death was awaiting trial on charges stemming from a February 2019 boat crash that left a 19-year-old woman dead.
Harpootlian said that Alex Murdaugh had a 20-year opioid addiction and “financial issues,” and the deaths of his wife and son had “put him over the edge.”
Disconsolate, Alex Murdaugh had paid a man to kill him so his surviving son, Buster, could collect on the insurance policy, he said.
Curtis Smith, the hit man hired by Alex Murdaugh, botched the job. He shot him in the head, but the bullet only grazed his skull.
Smith, 61, has been charged with assisted suicide, aggravated assault and battery, and insurance fraud.
Alex Murdaugh’s lawyers said that Smith was a former client of Alex Murdaugh’s who had supplied him with opioids in the past.
Alex Murdaugh’s staged murder attempt came a day after he was forced out of his law firm for allegedly embezzling millions of dollars. Police are investigating him in that case for misappropriating funds.
In another development, police on Wednesday announced that they have opened an investigation into the 2018 death of Gloria Satterfield, 57, a housekeeper at the Alex Murdaugh home.
Her death was initially ruled to be the result of a fall.
The Murdaugh family has deep roots in law enforcement in South Carolina. Alex Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served as regional prosecutors.
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