South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh was convicted Thursday in the double murder of his wife and son, capping a trial that has riveted the nation’s attention.
Murdaugh, 54, was accused of fatally shooting his wife, Maggie, and son Paul, who were found dead in June 2021 at the family’s hunting estate in Colleton County. Jurors deliberated for two hours and 50 minutes at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, S.C.
The disgraced lawyer was convicted on two counts of murder and two weapons charges in the case.
After the unanimous verdict was read Thursday evening, Murdaugh was taken into custody and led away in handcuffs as the courtroom remained silent. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for Friday at 9:30 a.m.
Each of the two murder charges carries a possible prison sentence of 30 years to life without parole.
Earlier on Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman removed a juror for what he called improper conversations outside the courtroom. Last week, Murdaugh took the stand in his own defense, testifying that he didn't murder his wife and son in what prosecutors alleged was a botched attempt to cover up his financial fraud.
“I didn't shoot my wife or my son anytime, ever,” Murdaugh said. He did, however, admit that he lied to investigators about the last time he saw his family members.
Before the trial, which began on Jan. 25, the Murdaugh family name had been synonymous with the legal profession in South Carolina’s Low Country. From 1920 to 2006, members of the family served as solicitors, or local prosecutors, in charge of prosecuting all criminal cases in a five-county district that locals refer to as “Murdaugh Country.” The family also founded a prominent law firm specializing in personal injury litigation.
But the image of power and influence surrounding the Murdaugh clan began to unravel in February 2019, when a boat allegedly driven by Alex Murdaugh’s then 19-year-old son, Paul, crashed near Parris Island, S.C., with five passengers. One of those on board, Mallory Beach, also 19, was killed. Four of the five survivors were hospitalized, and Paul Murdaugh’s blood alcohol level was found to be three times the legal limit, according to hospital records. He was later charged with three felony counts of boating under the influence and pleaded not guilty, but was killed by his father before he could stand trial.
The Beach family filed a wrongful death suit following the incident, which prosecutors say played a role in the motive for the eventual killings of Paul and Maggie. Prosecutors allege that Alex Murdaugh shot and killed Maggie, who was 52, and Paul, now 22, in a botched scheme to cover up his own financial fraud.
The Murdaugh murder investigation has led authorities to look into two other suspicious deaths in the area. In 2018, the Murdaugh’s former housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, died after a reported fall while at work. The Murdaugh family said she tripped over their dogs and hit her head.
According to the Satterfield family’s attorneys, Alex Murdaugh told Satterfield’s sons he was responsible for her death and pledged that he was “going to take care of the boys” by suing himself to collect on personal liability insurance. But the family said they never received any money from Murdaugh, and they filed suit against him in 2021. The New Yorker reported in January that Murdaugh stole the settlement money, which totaled more than $400,000. Following Murdaugh’s arrest, police opened a criminal probe into Satterfield’s death.
In July 2015, the body of 19-year-old Stephen Smith was found in the middle of a rural highway in Hampton County, S.C. His death was initially ruled a hit-and-run, but following the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, police have reopened that investigation.
People interviewed in the Netflix docuseries “The Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” link Alex Murdaugh’s eldest son, Buster, to Smith, and Buster is named in reports on the case filed by investigators with the highway patrol.