Alex Murdaugh Remains in Jail as Bond Denied – and Authorities Say More Charges Are Possible
Alex Murdaugh will remain in jail pending a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation after a judge denied bond for the once-prominent South Carolina attorney accused of masterminding a $4.3 million insurance payout scheme.
For the second time in the past several weeks, Murdaugh, 53, appeared in a South Carolina courtroom for a bond hearing — this time on felony charges for allegedly misappropriating an insurance settlement meant for the sons of his family's late housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield.
Dressed in a dark-colored prison uniform, with his hands and feet shackled, Murdaugh listened as Richland Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman denied him bond, saying he was concerned about "safety issues that were present not only to Mr. Murdaugh but the community."
Citing Murdaugh's alleged 20-year addiction to opioids, his botched attempted suicide in September, accusations of stealing millions and "pending investigations" by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), Newman said he would not be giving Murdaugh "a bond at this time."
He ordered Murdaugh to undergo a psychiatric evaluation "to be submitted to the court" for "consideration at a later date."
Before the hearing, Murdaugh sat alone on the side of the courtroom, looking down and rocking nervously in his seat before officers led him to a table where he sat with his lawyers.
Telling the judge that Murdaugh's "professional life is coming apart at the seams," state prosecutor Creighton Waters asked the judge to consider a surety bond, a GPS monitor, and other conditions — and to "treat him by the book."
Satterfield helped raise Murdaugh's sons when she worked as the family housekeeper for more than 20 years, Waters told the court. When she died after tripping at the Murdaugh family home, her own two sons trusted Murdaugh when he told them to sue him for her wrongful death.
Instead, he allegedly took the insurance money meant for them, using it, for example, to pay off a "credit card balance of $100,000" and funneling millions more into bank accounts he'd set up for this purpose, Waters said.
Murdaugh allegedly stole more than $2.7 million from the sons, Waters said.
The only money he gave them "was an $84 check he wrote" to one of Satterfield's sons, Waters alleged.
Murdaugh's attorneys argued for him to be released on a personal recognizance bond, saying he was not a flight risk, that he has appeared in court every time he has been asked and that he posed no danger to the community.
"A public recognizance bond is what he is entitled to," his attorney Jim Griffin told the court.
Murdaugh, he told the judge, lived a "good fruitful life and a law-abiding life," until he got "hooked on opioids."
Eric Bland, one of the attorneys representing Gloria Satterfield's sons, got up and argued that Murdaugh "is a clear and present danger" to his clients.
As members of Satterfield's family sat in a row behind Bland, he went on to say that not only did Murdaugh allegedly use a gun in his alleged Sept. 4, 2021, botched assisted suicide attempt, but "he used a pen to steal" millions from his clients.
"It's no different than somebody walking into a bank and using a gun," said Bland. "We need to make sure that when somebody steals with a pen - that it's the same as if they're stealing with a gun."
He said he preferred no bond for Murdaugh but asked for a high bond, saying, "Today is the day Alex Murdaugh needs to get comfortable getting uncomfortable."
During the hearing, the judge heard from a SLED officer who said that the law enforcement agency is investigating "multiple" cases that potentially involve Murdaugh, including "the actual cause of Miss Satterfield's death" and "numerous other cases dealing with fraud."
While he said that the felony charges Murdaugh is facing in court on Tuesday were "appropriate to bring before you today," he added, "that's not to say there won't be additional charges brought forth."
Back to Jail
After the hearing, officers took Murdaugh back into police custody, and to a Richland County detention center, where he has been held since Thursday. His second arrest came after he left a drug rehabilitation facility in Orlando, Fla. He was charged with two felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses.
He is accused of misappropriating insurance settlement funds in the wrongful death suit that followed the mysterious trip and fall death of Satterfield, his longtime housekeeper, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
On Saturday, he was extradited to South Carolina from Florida, where he was booked into Columbia's Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, where he remained until Tuesday's bond hearing.
Satterfield worked as the housekeeper for the Murdaugh family for years before her death. Her sons filed a wrongful death lawsuit — allegedly at Murdaugh's suggestion, Bland said. "But they never saw a dime of it," Bland said.
Last Friday, one of Murdaugh's attorneys, Dick Harpootlian, appeared on Good Morning America, saying his client is going "to right every wrong, financial wrong and others that he may have committed."
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Harpootlian also acknowledged that Murdaugh knows he'll go to prison for his actions involving the Satterfield insurance settlement. "He understands that," Harpootlian said. "He's a lawyer."
Murdaugh's two arrests follows an almost unbelievable series of events that have captured the attention of the South Carolina low country, where the saga is taking place, as well as the rest of the nation.
On June 7, Murdaugh found his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and their son, Paul Murdaugh, 22, shot to death on the property of their hunting lodge in Islandton.
Three days later, Murdaugh's father, Randolph "Buster" Murdaugh Jr., 81, died of cancer.
Awash in what Harpootlian describe as a "massive depression," Murdaugh began to spiral downward.
In early September, he was fired from his job at his family's law firm after he was accused of embezzlement.
On Sept. 4, he called 911 to report that he'd been shot in the head.
After being released from the hospital shortly after, he entered rehab for an opioid addiction, his attorneys said.
But on Sept. 16, the reason for his shooting came to light when he was arrested for conspiring with a former client, Curtis Edward Smith, "to assist him in committing suicide for the explicit purpose of allowing a beneficiary to collect life insurance," SLED wrote in a release.
He allegedly wanted Smith to kill him so his oldest son Buster could cash in on a $10 million life insurance policy. Murdaugh's lawyers have admitted that the SLED allegations are true.
Smith was arrested on September 14 and charged with assisted suicide, aggravated assault and battery and insurance fraud in connection with the shooting.
Smith's attorney, Jonny McCoy, told Today on Thursday that his client was "set up by a person who is a drug addict who is going through horrific withdrawals, 20 years' opioids use, and I think that he is doing exactly what people with addict behavior do."
Smith said on Today that he did not pull the trigger on Sept. 4.
"I didn't shoot him," Smith said. "I'm innocent. If I'd have shot him, he'd be dead. He's alive."