Suspect in Alex Murdaugh's Botched Suicide Plot 'Took Advantage' of His Mental Illness: Lawyers
"Alex is not without fault but he is just one of many whose life has been devastated by opioid addiction," reads a statement from Alex Murdaugh's lawyers
Following explosive allegations that Alex Murdaugh paid a man to kill him so his son could claim a $10 million life insurance policy, Murdaugh's lawyers claim the alleged hitman was one of many people who exploited the South Carolina man's drug addiction and mental health problems.
"On September 4, it became 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," reads a statement from Murdaugh's lawyers obtained by PEOPLE.
"During that time, these individuals took advantage of his addiction and his ability to pay substantial funds for illegal drugs. One of those individuals," the statement alleges, "took advantage of his mental illness and agreed to take Alex's life, by shooting him in the head. Fortunately, Alex was not killed by the gunshot wound."
"Alex is fully cooperating with SLED in their investigations into his shooting, opioid use and the search to find the person or people responsible for the murder of his wife and son. Alex is not without fault but he is just one of many whose life has been devastated by opioid addiction," the statement concludes.
One of Murdaugh's attorneys, Dick Harpootlian, admitted to the botched plot Wednesday on the Today show. According to attorney Harpootlian, Murdaugh's addiction and his depression following the June murders of his wife and son drove him to concoct the scheme.
Murdaugh, 53, "clearly knew what he's done was wrong," Harpootlian told Today. Harpootlian added that at the time of the Sept. 4 shooting, Murdaugh was in "a massive depression" and was in withdrawal from opioids.
Harpootlian told Today his client 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 said.
Murdaugh was shot on a rural road. At the time, he told police the shooting happened after he stopped to change a tire. Police described his bullet wound as "superficial."
On Tuesday, Curtis Edward Smith, 61, the man Murdaugh allegedly hired to kill him, was arrested by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and charged with assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.
In a statement, SLED referred to the shooting as a botched "assisted suicide."
According to Smith's arrest affidavit, which was obtained by PEOPLE, Murdaugh allegedly provided Smith with a firearm and directed him to shoot him in the head in order for his son to claim the policy.
Authorities allege that Murdaugh admitted to the scheme with Smith to SLED agents on Monday. The following day, Smith allegedly admitted to being on the scene when the shooting took place and to disposing of the gun afterward.
No charges against Murdaugh have been announced, but police say additional charges involving the case are expected to come as the investigation continues.
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Smith was also charged with distribution of methamphetamine and possession of marijuana, according to SLED. He is currently being held at the Colleton County Detention Center.
As of now it is unclear if Smith has obtained legal representation.
SLED is also investigating allegations that Murdaugh stole funds from the prestigious law firm his great-grandfather started more than 100 years ago. Prior to his shooting, members of the Hampton law firm, Peters Murdaugh Parker Eltzroth & Detrick, confronted Murdaugh about missing money, which could exceed $1 million, before notifying law enforcement and the South Carolina Bar Association.
Jim Griffin, another attorney for Murdaugh, told PEOPLE in a statement at the time 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."
Following the allegations, Murdaugh was suspended from practicing law in South Carolina. On Sept. 8, five days after being accused of diverting funds from his law firm, the South Carolina Supreme Court placed him on an interim suspension, according to an order obtained by PEOPLE.
Murdaugh's shooting also came less than three months after his wife Margaret "Maggie" Murdaugh and son Paul Murdaugh were murdered on the grounds of the family's 1,770-acre hunting lodge.