THE legal dynasty heir at the center of a grim saga of bloodshed and financial scandal admitted he’s battling a 20-year opioid addiction before posting $20,000 bail to return to rehab after appearing in court to answer for allegedly plotting to hire a hitman to murder him.
Alex Murdaugh, 53, whose wife and son were shot dead in a double murder back in June, won back temporary freedom after his attorney claimed his client is struggling financially and has also been battling an addiction to opioids for two decades.
ADDICTED BUT 'NOT VIOLENT'
State investigators suspect Murdaugh hired a hitman to kill him so his remaining son could inherit a $10million life insurance windfall.
But in court, he attempted to tie his drug affliction to the elaborate plot.
“He has and has had a significant opioid addiction which has led him into financial issues and no question into this situation,” his attorney Dick Harpootlian told Hampton County Judge Tonja Alexander.
Harpootlian confirmed that his legal defense bills are being covered by insurance and "not out of his pocket."
“I can tell you as a result of recent events: he is not a man of significant means anymore.
"Everything he owns is basically liened up."
He again pressed the underlying consequences of Murdaugh's battle with drugs – and blamed his addiction for his alleged embezzlement from his law firm to pay for opioids.
“This is a 20-year addiction, this is something he's struggling with every day.”
Harpootlian discussed how Murdaugh put only himself in danger.
“This crime involved his attempt to have himself shot so his son could collect insurance,” he said, according to WCIV video from Thursday’s bond hearing.
The attorney described Murdaugh as having "fallen from grace" and that was still reeling from "his wife and son" who were were "brutally murdered and that has had an extraordinary effect on him."
But he maintained that Murdaugh wasn't violent.
“The only violence he has been involved with is this, which was having himself executed."
He added: “So he’s not a danger to the community. The only danger he is is a danger to himself.”
Judge Alexander determined Murdaugh wasn’t a threat and permitted him to cash out on $10,000 personal recognizance, $5,000 for conspiracy and $5,000 bond for filing a false police report.
He's due back in court on Oct. 25.
BOTCHED HITMAN HIRE
On Sept. 4, Murdaugh was shot while changing a flat tire in Varnville, South Carolina.
But authorities allege he was actually trying to cash in a $10million insurance policy by paying a hitman to assassinate him after the double homicide of his wife and son.
According to the affidavit: "…Richard Alexander Murdaugh conspired with co-defendant Curtis Edward Smith in the area of Old Salkehatchie Road, for the purpose of Mr. Smith assisting Mr. Murdaugh to commit suicide."
Murdaugh allegedly confessed he supplied his 61-year-old assassin with the gun to carry out the failed assassination.
"Mr. Murdaugh admitted to providing Mr. Smith with the firearm used, and also to deflating his own tire with a knife," the affidavit states.
SLED investigators contend in the incident report that after Smith shot Murdaugh in the roadway, he drove to an unknown area to get rid of the gun.
The non-fatal shooting occurred a day after he was ousted from his leading legal firm over allegations he had misappropriated millions in company funds to afford his drug addiction.
Harpootlian described the impact of the shot as not "penetrating the skull."
"He was shot in the back of the head… and may have suffered a skull fracture," he told the judge on Thursday.
He further stated that Murdaugh was discharged after a week in the hospital and sought a detox center before he checked into a rehab facility.
The Sept. 4 shooting of Murdaugh led authorities to first nab Smith.
He was since charged for the near-deadly incident and booked into the Colleton County Detention Center.
Smith is facing charges of assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud, and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.
His bond was set at a total of $55,000 for the charges.
HEIR TO LEGAL DYNASTY
Murdaugh is an attorney and heir to Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Derrick – one of South Carolina’s most affluent legal dynasties that was founded by his great-grandfather back in 1910, according to the firm's website.
His biography details that Murdaugh also serves as a "part-time prosecutor for the 14th district" – which includes Colleton County.
After his shooting, Murdaugh – whose brother claimed suffers from opioid addiction – announced he would be checking into rehab.
HOUSEKEEPER DEATH PROBE
SLED announced on Wednesday it is reopening a cause-of-death probe into Murdaugh’s housekeeper Gloria Satterfield, who was originally believed to have fatally tripped and fallen in 2018.
“The decedent’s death was not reported to the Coroner at the time, nor was an autopsy performed,” wrote Hampton County Coroner Angela Topper.
“On the death certificate, the manner of death was ruled “Natural,” which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident.”
Investigators are also taking a closer look at what happened to her money and valuables after she died.
A SLED spokesman said: “Based upon a request from the Hampton County Coroner Earlier today, as well as information gathered during the course of our other ongoing investigations involving Alex Murdaugh, SLED is opening a criminal investigation into the death of Gloria Satterfield and the handling of her estate."
'TRIP AND FALL'
Satterfield had served as the Murdaugh family housekeeper and nanny for nearly 25 years when she reportedly took a mysterious spill that caused a fatal brain injury following inside the Murdaugh family home.
She held on for several weeks at Trident Medical Center before passing away, according to her obituary.
She was remembered as a tennis aficionado who also “loved kids and her favorite color was purple.”
“Most of all, she will be remembered for her laughter and her outgoing personality,” the obituary noted.
After the incident, Satterfield’s estate squared away a $500,000 wrongful death settlement for “a trip and fall accident,” WTOC reported.
“My client has not been paid one single dime since this was settled in 2020,” said Eric Bland, an attorney who represents Satterfield’s estate.
“My job is to get information and find out why these boys didn’t get any money when there was a settlement.”
SLED said that hit had opened a criminal investigation inter Satterfield's death based on a request from the Hampton County Coroner, as well as
Murdaugh settled a wrongful death claim with the housekeeper's family for $500,000 in 2018.
However, Satterfield's family sued Murdaugh, Wednesday claiming he had not paid out 'one single dime' of the settlement.
SLED’s pursuit to find out more about how the Murdaugh family’s nanny and housekeeper died comes after authorities have been circling the legal scion over his part in the untimely deaths of his wife Maggie and son Paul who were were shot dead at the family's hunting lodge on June 7.
The affluent lawyer told a 911 dispatcher that he came home to find the bullet-riddled bodies of Maggie Murdaugh, 52, their 22-year-old son Paul, lying in one of his kennels.
“I been up to it now – it’s bad,” a distressed Murdaugh said during the 10:07pm call on June 7 with a Colleton County dispatcher.
The unsolved case has dragged on for three months without any arrest.
THIRD MYSTERIOUS DEATH
The questionable death of Scatterfield is the third mysterious homicide case attached to the Murdaugh family, which gained national attention following the double murder of Paul and Maggie.
The Murdaugh family was already under duress as son Paul Murdaugh was facing charges he was under the influence in the 2019 boating death of teenager Mallory Beach.
Authorities accused Paul of killing a passenger in a boat that he crashed while heavily intoxicated.
Police have also investigated the family for possible ties to the 2015 death of gay teen Stephen Smith, which was ruled a hit-and-run, though no suspects have ever been named or charged.
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