Small town in South Carolina shaken by Murdaugh family scandal

Ask any of the 2,600 South Carolina residents if they know Alex Murdaugh . They'll likely give a quick answer. In Hampton, where there are only two lanes on every street, almost everyone knows.

Small town in South Carolina shaken by Murdaugh family scandal

You can ask them about Murdaugh and they'll give you a stiff head shake. Then, you'll hear: "You're going to not quote me." No one wants to speak about the prominent lawyer, whose wife was killed, and who is now charged in a series of controversies -- at least not in public.

The Murdaughs have managed much of South Carolina's legal system for the past century. They are located north of Savannah, Georgia and far away from any interstate. The Murdaughs managed the prosecution's office as well as a large civil law practice, which allowed them to keep it quiet until recently.

Murdaugh's widow Maggie and her son Paul were shot multiple times at their sprawling estate on June 7,. Murdaugh's death brought about scrutiny of every corner of his life.

Six investigations are ongoing into Murdaugh's murders, theft, death coverups and a Sept.4 shooting in the which a bullet touched Murdaugh's head while he was driving on a lonely road. According to police, he attempted to plan his own death and ensure that his $10 million life insurance policy would be paid for his son.

Curtis Smith (or "Eddie") is the man accused of shooting Murdaugh. Smith was a former client in a case involving a workplace accident. Smith claimed they became friends and were shocked when Murdaugh's lawyers dismissed Smith as a drug dealer.

Smith said, "With a friend such as that, who needs enemies?" He limped through Walterboro checking on his shop, rescue dogs, and other items. Smith refused to say more, insisting that he was done with Murdaugh's case and would not speak about it again.

Smith, like many others in the town, got into a dispute with the Murdaughs in Hampton County. The county is home to 20,000 people . This is where Smith's family is used to being in control and not being questioned.

The Murdaughs handled your case if you were accused of stealing or having something stolen from. Alex Murdaugh's grandfather, great-grandfather and father were the elected prosecutors over 87 years.

The Murdaughs would take you on as a client if you were hurt while on the job. A century ago, the family established a law office. The brick headquarters, which occupies a whole block of a city block, now has several dozen employees. It doesn't have a sign at the front, but everyone knows that it is Murdaughs'.

The Murdaughs will donate to any charity that you choose. They have donated millions to many different projects. Alex Murdaugh was the grand marshal for the parade at the town's marquee Watermelon Festival many years ago.

Many people will tell you hushed stories about what would have happened if Murdaughs were crossed.

Connor Cook stated that in 2019, he knew that Paul Murdaugh, his friend, was drunk when he drove a vessel that crashed killing a 19 year-old passenger. Cook claimed that the Murdaughs tried unsuccessfully to identify him as the driver. This was according to a wrongful-death lawsuit.

Cook stated that he was afraid of his family in a deposition. That is what I have been taught all my life."

Alex Murdaugh visited the hospital the night before the crash. Murdaugh inspected a board that staff used to keep track of patients. He tried to speak to all those who were on the boat, according to nurses.

The crash attracted the same attention that the Murdaughs tried and, for decades, failed to avoid. The local newspaper reported that it took several months to indict Paul Murdaugh for boating while under the influence of alcohol. Many wondered if the Murdaugh family was leveraging their large influence.

Paul Murdaugh was in the midst of his trial at the time he died. The state police are now investigating whether the Murdaughs interfered with that investigation. They are also investigating the 2018 death Gloria Satterfield, Gloria's family housekeeper.

After falling in the Murdaughs home, she died. However, the death was not reported to the coroner. According to documents, Murdaugh's insurer paid $4 million for wrongful-death cases. Satterfield's sons argued that they haven’t seen any money since using a Murdaugh college friend to handle the legal work, and another banker friend to act as executor.

Although the signatures appear to have been signed by judges, some of these documents were not entered into publicly searchable court records. Others appear not to have followed state settlement rules.

The Murdaughs have been largely invisible, but they aren't strangers in their own legal problems. Randolph Murdaugh, Alex's great-grandfather founded the family law practice and was elected as the prosecutor of the five-county region which includes Hampton County in 1920. Randolph Murdaugh was killed in a train accident while returning from a game of poker in 1940.

Randolph Murdaugh Jr. took over as the prosecutor and law firm head. He served 46 years with the exception of a few months waiting for a federal trial regarding a tip that a local moonshiner was moving his still. 18 of the 23 defendants were found guilty.

However, "Buster" was cleared and returned to office. The judge also noted that if Murdaugh were to have confronted him, he would not be able to go back to face them, much less to resume public office. Federal records show this.

"Buster" was bigger than life in court. He was admonished by the state Supreme Court multiple times for making improper arguments. Jurors were told that he would not try another death penalty case and would release rapists who were awaiting trial if he wasn't successful.

Randolph Murdaugh III succeeded his father and took over the office in 1986. He served almost 20 years. Although his sons did not follow him to the solicitor's seat, Alex Murdaugh was a volunteer prosecutor until his law license was suspended in September after he was dismissed from his family's PMPED legal firm due to the discovery of millions of dollars missing.

The Murdaughs were well-known for their civil litigation against railroads. South Carolina's law that allowed railroad owners to sue any county in the state, was now repealed. The Murdaughs found sympathetic jury members and made Hampton County famous for its seven-figure verdicts.

There are many lawyers at the PMPED firm and they have offices in every one of South Carolina's 46 counties. Its website lists 14 cases that have received awards in excess of $1 million -- railway companies that didn’t cut vegetation at crossings; a patient with cancer who was treated with chemotherapy; and a 9-year old burned by the gas tank of an SUV.

Randolph Murdaugh IV is Alex Murdaugh's older brother and still works for the firm. An email asking him about his family was not answered by him.

According to the law firm, many of its lawyers were raised in the region and are involved in their local churches and communities. According to the firm, no one knew Alex Murdaugh was addicted and no employees were part of his "scheme".

The PMPED statement stated that "He lied, and he stole from ours".

Alex Murdaugh (53), is currently in an out-of state rehab facility, awaiting trial on insurance fraud and falsely filing a police report.

Murdaugh, through his lawyer, adamantly denied any involvement in the deaths of his wife Maggie, 52, as well as son Paul, 22, and daughter Maggie. Murdaugh had just returned from visiting his dying father when he found his bodies. His brothers told "Good Morning America" that Murdaugh was shocked to find their bodies.

Although Hampton residents are careful about speaking out about the Murdaughs' influence, there are hints. These lines are included in the addendum to the wrongful-death lawsuit relating to the death of the housekeeper.


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