Criminal Justice

Shooting of 2 members of prominent legal family fuels speculation and a reopened probe

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Police have not identified a suspect or a motive in the June 7 shooting death of a lawyer’s wife and son in a case that has gripped South Carolina’s rural low country.

The lawyer, Alex Murdaugh, found the bodies earlier this month in Islandton, South Carolina, fueling speculation “about whether the family’s long and tangled history in the region could have a connection to the crime,” the New York Times reports.

Murdaugh has offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer, report the State and the Island Packet.

Murdaugh is the great-grandson of the area’s first elected chief prosecutor, Randolph Murdaugh, according to the New York Times. After his election 101 years ago, two more generations of the family held the job. Their hold on the office ended in 2006.

The slain son, Paul Murdaugh, a student at the University of South Carolina, had been charged with boating under the influence in a 2019 crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach, the Washington Post reports. Family members said the Murdaugh family began receiving death threats after the crash.

Since the murders of Paul Murdaugh and his mother, Maggie Murdaugh, police have reopened an investigation into the death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith, whose death was initially found to be the result of a probable hit-and-run incident. The case was initially investigated as a possible shooting, but there was no evidence of a bullet in the body, one report said.

“The local news media have published stories as each new detail has emerged,” the New York Times reports, “many of them raising questions about the Murdaugh family’s long history in the region and the equally long list of possible suspects and motives.”

The Island Packet looked at rumors surrounding the case in a recent article. Some of its conclusions:

• Paul Murdaugh did not appear to violate bond in the boating case when he was cited for speeding and for a minor boating infraction because there were no conditions of his release for him to violate.

• None of the boaters in the boat crash took sobriety tests after members of the Murdaugh family said they would be declined. Other boaters said in civil case depositions that Paul Murdaugh was intoxicated, and the boat crashed after an argument. His former girlfriend said he yelled at Beach after she expressed concerns about his driving.

• The elder Murdaugh faced a wrongful death lawsuit after the death of 57-year-old Gloria Harriott Satterfield. The suit, which settled, said Satterfield died in February 2018 following a trip-and-fall incident. An obituary said Satterfield loved Murdaugh and his wife “as her family.”

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