In the Murdaugh family scandal, a shaken small South Carolina town

HAMPTON, SC (AP) – Ask one of the 2,600 residents of this South Carolina town if he knows Alex Murdaugh, and you’ll probably get a quick nod. Almost everyone does it in Hampton, a small place where each road has only two lanes.

Ask them to tell you about Murdaugh, however, and you’ll get a firm nod, followed by, “You’re not going to quote me, are you?” No one wants to talk about the influential lawyer whose wife and son were killed and who is now accused in a series of controversies – at least not in the open.

Over the past century, the Murdaughs have ruled much of the legal world in this remote corner of South Carolina – north of Savannah, Georgia, and away from the freeway or whatever. Running the DA’s office and a large civilian law firm has allowed the Murdaughs to do it quietly, until recently.

Murdaugh’s wife Maggie and son Paul were killed on June 7, shot several times in the vast family estate. No one was arrested in his death, which has brought scrutiny into every corner of Murdaugh’s life.

Six investigations are underway, into murders, stolen money, cover-ups of deaths and a shootout on September 4 in which a bullet grazed Murdaugh’s head on a lonely highway. Police said he tried to stage his own death and make sure that a $ 10 million life insurance policy would pay off for his surviving son.

The man accused of shooting Murdaugh is Curtis “Eddie” Smith, a former client of a workplace accident. Smith said they had become friends and he was stunned to find himself rejected as a callous drug dealer by Murdaugh’s lawyers.

“With a friend like that, who needs enemies,” Smith said as he limped around his property in Walterboro, checking his store and rescuing the dogs. He wouldn’t say more, insisting that he was done discussing Murdaugh and the case – for now.

Like many people in town, Smith mingled with the Murdaughs in a courtroom in Hampton County, 20,000, where the family is used to being in power., not being called into question.

If you stole something or had something stolen from yourself, the Murdaughs made your case for the state. Alex Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather were elected prosecutors for 87 years in a row.

If you were injured on the job, the Murdaughters would take you as a customer. The family founded a law firm a century ago. Today it employs several dozen lawyers and its brick head office occupies an entire city block. There is no front panel; everyone knows it’s the Murdaughs firm.

And if you had a charity or some other cause, the Murdaughs made a donation. The family has donated millions to all kinds of projects. Alex Murdaugh’s father was the grand marshal of the town’s Watermelon Festival parade several years ago.

But a lot of people are whispering stories of what happened if the Murdaughs were crossed paths.

Connor Cook said that in 2019 he knew his friend Paul Murdaugh was intoxicated while driving a crashed boat, killing a 19-year-old passenger. But the Murdaughs tried to pin him down as a driver, Cook said, according to a wrongful death lawsuit.

In a deposition, Cook said he feared the family: “Everything they come in, they go out. I’ve always been told that.

The night of the accident, Alex Murdaugh and his father went to the hospital. Murdaugh examined a board where staff kept track of patients and tried to speak to everyone who had been on the boat, nurses told investigators.

The crash attracted the kind of attention the Murdaughs always tried – and managed for decades – to avoid. It took months to accuse Paul Murdaugh of sailing under the influence causing death, the local newspaper noted. Many around town have questioned whether the family wields their considerable influence.

Paul Murdaugh was awaiting trial when he died. Now state police are investigating whether the Murdaughs obstructed this investigation. They are also investigating the 2018 death of family governess Gloria Satterfield.

She died after falling in the Murdaugh house, but the death was not reported to the coroner. Documents appear to show Murdaugh’s insurance paid over $ 4 million in wrongful death claims. But an attorney for the Satterfield sons said they haven’t seen a dime since agreeing to use a lawyer who was Murdaugh’s college pal to handle the legal work and another banker friend in as executor.

The documents have signatures believed to be from judges, but some have never been entered into publicly available court records. Others do not appear to have followed state rules for settlements.

Although they remain out of the headlines for a long time, the Murdaughs are no strangers to their own legal issues. Alex Murdaugh’s great-grandfather Randolph founded the family law firm and in 1920 became the elected attorney for the five-county area which includes Hampton County. Randolph Murdaugh died when his car was hit by a train on his way home from a game of poker in 1940.

His son, Randolph “Buster” Murdaugh Jr., took over the law firm and the post of prosecutor; he served for 46 years, except for several months awaiting federal trial for telling a local bugle to move his still. Eighteen of the 23 defendants were found guilty.

But “Buster” was acquitted and returned to duty – although the judge noted that, if he was Murdaugh, he “could not go back and face his people let alone resume public office,” according to federal archives.

“Buster” was larger than life in court, reprimanded more than once by the state Supreme Court for inappropriate arguments – telling juries he would not try another death penalty case or that he would release rapists awaiting trial if the verdicts did not go his way.

Randolph Murdaugh III followed his father, taking over in 1986 and serving almost 20 years. Neither of his sons followed him into the lawyer’s chair, although Alex Murdaugh worked as a pro bono prosecutor before his lawyer’s license was suspended in September when he was fired from the law firm PMPED of the family. over millions of dollars that have gone missing.

In civil law, the Murdaughs were known to have sued the railroads. A now repealed South Carolina law allowed anyone who wanted to sue a railroad to choose any county of state. The Murdaughs found sympathetic juries and publicized Hampton County for seven-figure verdicts.

PMPED has dozens of attorneys and firms in all 46 counties of South Carolina. Its website lists 14 cases with prices over $ 1 million – railroad companies that did not cut vegetation at level crossings, a cancer patient injured by chemotherapy, a 9-year-old child burned by the gasoline tank of an SUV.

Alex Murdaugh’s brother, Randolph Murdaugh IV, still works at the company. He did not respond to an email regarding his family.

The law firm released a statement saying many of their lawyers grew up in the region and are closely involved in their communities and churches. The company said no one it had spoken to knew Alex Murdaugh was addicted to drugs and that no employees were involved in his “plan.”

“He lied and he stole from us,” the PMPED statement said.

Alex Murdaugh, 53, remains in an out-of-state drug rehab center awaiting trial on insurance fraud charges and filing a false police report.

Through his lawyer, Murdaugh has categorically denied having anything to do with the deaths of his wife Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22. Morning America.

As people around Hampton remain cautious when talking about the Murdaughs, clues to their influence emerge. An addendum at the top of the wrongful death trial regarding the governess’s death includes these lines, in all capital letters.

“COMPLAINANTS ARE VICTIMS. COMPLAINANTS ARE VULNERABLE. THE COMPLAINANTS ARE AFRAID.

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.



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