Alex Murdaugh Arrested, Charged with Insurance Fraud and Filing a False Police Report 

The once-prominent attorney is charged in connection with an alleged suicide-for-hire plot that went awry when the suspected hitman failed to kill him, say police

Alex Murdaugh
Alex Murdaugh Mugshot. Photo: Hampton County Detention Center/AP/Shutterstock

Alex Murdaugh has been arrested and charged in connection with the alleged botched suicide-for-hire plot he hatched to claim a $10 million life insurance payout for his son, authorities announced.

On Thursday, agents of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) arrested Murdaugh, 53, of Islandton, "in connection to a shooting incident on Sept. 4 in which he conspired with Curtis Edward Smith to assist him in committing suicide for the explicit purpose of allowing a beneficiary to collect life insurance," the state's highest law enforcement agency said in a news release.

Murdaugh is charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, and filing a false police report.

"I can assure you that SLED agents will continue working to bring justice to anyone involved with any criminal act associated with these ongoing investigations," said SLED Chief Mark Keel in the release. "The arrests in this case are only the first step in that process."

Murdaugh was booked at the Hampton County Detention Center, which had requested the investigation. He was released on $20,000 bond, WBTV reports.

The case will be prosecuted by the Attorney General's Office.

Attorneys for Murdaugh did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's requests for comment.

Murdaugh's attorneys had issued a statement on Wednesday saying they learned of a warrant for his arrest and that he planned to voluntarily surrender on Thursday. They said the arraignment and bond hearing will be held at 4 p.m. at the Hampton County magistrate court.

Murdaugh, whose wife and youngest son were murdered in June, and whose law firm had accused him of stealing money on Sept. 3, had asked a former client to kill him so his other son, Buster Murdaugh, 25, could claim a $10 million payout for his death, police allege in a warrant obtained by PEOPLE.

The alleged plan went awry when Murdaugh survived the Sept. 4 shooting, called 911, was airlifted to a hospital and then announced that he was entering rehab for an admitted opioid addiction when he was released, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) said.

Murdaugh's arrest came after SLED announced the arrest of Curtis Edward "Eddie" Smith, 61, of Walterboro, on Tuesday. He was charged with assisted suicide, aggravated assault and battery, and insurance fraud in connection with the Sept. 4 shooting.

Curtis Edward Smith
Curtis Edward Smith. Colleton County Sheriff's Office/AP/Shutterstock

On Wednesday, one of Murdaugh's attorneys, Dick Harpootlian, said on NBC's Today show that the June 7 murders of his client's wife, Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and Paul Murdaugh, 22, and the death of his father, Randolph "Buster" Murdaugh Jr., 81, of cancer three days later, had left him in a "massive depression."

On the day of the shooting, Murdaugh was in the midst of a withdrawal from opioids, Harpootlian told Today.

Murdaugh, who had been accused the day before of stealing funds from the law firm his great-grandfather founded a century earlier, "clearly knew what he's done was wrong," Harpootlian said.

Harpootlian told Today that Murdaugh had wanted his son to claim life insurance monies, but "believed that $10 million policy had a suicide exclusion."

"Suicide exclusions are only good for two years, and he didn't realize that. So he arranged to have this guy shoot him," Harpootlian added.

A Family Drama That Has Riveted the Nation

Murdaugh's arrest follows an almost unbelievable series of events that has captured the attention of the South Carolina low country, where the saga is taking place — and the rest of the nation.

On Monday, SLED announced that it had opened an investigation into allegations that Murdaugh stole funds from the prestigious law firm his great-grandfather started more than 100 years ago.

The state's highest law enforcement agency opened the investigation "based upon allegations that he misappropriated funds in connection to his position as a former lawyer with the Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, & Detrick (PMPED) law firm in Hampton, South Carolina," it said in a statement.

The announcement came a week after Murdaugh, scion of a local legal dynasty that has dominated the low country for more than a century, resigned from PMPED following allegations that he stole money from the practice, The New York Times reported.

In early June, Murdaugh was thrust into the national spotlight when he came home and found his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and son, Paul, 22, shot and killed on the grounds of their family hunting lodge.

He made headlines again on Sept. 4, when he called 911 to say he'd been shot on the side of a rural road while changing a tire. After being released from the hospital two days later with a superficial wound, according to authorities, he announced that he was resigning from the firm and entering rehab for substance abuse.

Amid the accusations of theft from the firm, on Sept. 8, he had his law license suspended by the state's highest court. He is also prohibited from prosecuting cases as a volunteer Solicitor in the 14th Judicial Circuit, The Island Packet reported.

This came as yet another blow to the family's reputation, since a succession of Murdaughs had served as Solicitor in the 14th Judicial Circuit, prosecuting criminal cases in four counties, for decades, starting in 1920.

With so many people interested in the powerful family's ever-changing drama and wanting answers, SLED Chief Mark Keel stressed in the statement that the probe will take time.

"I continue to urge the public to be patient and let this investigation take its course. Investigative decisions we make throughout this case and any potentially related case must ultimately withstand the scrutiny of the criminal justice process," Keel said in the statement. "As with all cases, SLED is committed to conducting a professional, thorough, and impartial criminal investigation, no matter where the facts lead us."

Shocking Family Drama Grips the Low Country

Throughout the summer, theories abounded about who shot and killed Murdaugh's wife and son at Moselle, their 1,770-acre property.

At the time of his murder, Murdaugh's son was awaiting trial in connection to the 2019 death of Mallory Beach, 19, who was killed when Paul allegedly drove his family's boat into a bridge piling while drunk.

The murders shed light on a string of other deaths connected to the family. This led to speculation about the murders and whether the family's actions from the past were somehow connected to them.

Then, on Sept. 4, Murdaugh was shot, which led to more speculation including whether someone was, in fact, targeting the family — and even whether he pulled the trigger himself, which his spokesperson denied in a statement, saying the shooting was not self-inflicted.

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On Sept. 6, when Murdaugh got out of the hospital, he released a statement — but not about the shooting.

"The murders of my wife and son have caused an incredibly difficult time in my life," he said in the statement, which was obtained by The Island Packet. "I have made a lot of decisions that I truly regret. I'm resigning from my law firm and entering rehab after a long battle that has been exacerbated by these murders.

"I am immensely sorry to everyone I've hurt, including my family, friends and colleagues," he said in the statement. "I ask for prayers as I rehabilitate myself and my relationships."

Murdaugh's law firm released a statement, saying, "This is disappointing news for all of us," adding that it had cut all ties with Alex. "Rest assured that our firm will deal with this in a straightforward manner. There's no place in our firm for such behavior."

Jim Griffin, one of Murdaugh's attorneys, told PEOPLE that "Alex resigned from the firm after being accused of diverting lawyer fees. These allegations prompted him to confront his dependency and he voluntarily checked into an in-patient substance abuse rehab facility after being discharged from the hospital Monday."

On Wednesday, Murdaugh's older brother, Randolph Murdaugh IV, 54, spoke out for the first time since the resignation, expressing his dismay about the situation.

"I was shocked, just as the rest of my PMPED family, to learn of my brother, Alex's, drug addiction and stealing of money," he said in the statement.

No arrests have been made in connection to the shootings of his wife and son as police continue to investigate.

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