Murder and Mayhem in South Carolina’s Lowcountry: How One Prominent Family’s Crimes Have Come to a Head

alex murdaugh mug shots

We talked to a local journalist to get insider insight into the ongoing Murdaugh murder trial.

Corruption, mysterious deaths, small-town drama, family legacies — these are just some of the elements of what has been dubbed the “Murdaugh Murders,” a series of tragic and bizarre events surrounding a disgraced lawyer, Alex Murdaugh, and his family in South Carolina. It’s compelling enough to have inspired a Netflix docuseries.

Murdaugh’s family has dominated the legal landscape in the Lowcountry for 100 years — and now he’s on trial facing two counts of murder for the death of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, and two counts of use of a deadly weapon in a homicide. The double homicide, which occurred on the Murdaugh’s hunting property Moselle on June 7, 2021, is just the tip of the iceberg in this sordid Southern tale. It prompted police to reexamine the deaths of several people who had been in Murdaugh’s orbit and led to his indictment on a series of financial crimes: Officials now believe Murdaugh stole millions from his clients, fronted a narcotics ring, and hired a hitman to stage his own murder. We know, it’s dizzying.

We’ve broken down the timeline of events in the Murdaugh murders, but it’s hard to keep up with this ever-evolving case. To make sense of this complicated story and get the latest on the trial, we spoke to someone who’s been covering this story from the very beginning. Will Folks is the founding editor of FITSNews — a South Carolina digital media outlet known for its groundbreaking coverage of this case.

How would you bring someone who hasn’t been following what happened in the Murdaugh murders as closely as you up to speed?

The incident that really started it off was the death of Stephen Smith in the summer of 2015. Then, after the double homicide, the agency investigating the crime announced that they had officially opened an investigation into Smith’s death based on information they obtained from the double homicide crime scene. There’s also the 2018 death of [the Murdaugh’s] housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, after which Alex Murdaugh allegedly stole $4.2 million from her family. We still don’t know exactly what the circumstances of her death were.

And then there’s the boat crash: On February 24, 2019, Alex Murdaugh’s younger son, the late Paul Murdaugh, was allegedly driving his father’s fishing boat, which crashed, killing 19-year-old Mallory Beach.

Alex Murdaugh has also been indicted on income tax evasion charges and is currently facing 99 different fiscal crime charges alleging he’s stolen more than $10 million. The state’s theory is that Murdaugh was about to be exposed for a decade of theft and that he killed his wife and son to buy time to prevent that reckoning.

That’s a lot to digest, and it’s clearly a very complicated case. There’s a trial underway in Walterboro, South Carolina, which you’ve been covering — tell us what we need to know about that.

Murdaugh is currently on trial facing four charges — he’s facing two counts of murder and two charges of use of a deadly weapon in the homicide.

There is detailed cell phone data that paints a very damning picture of Alex Murdaugh. There is ballistic evidence that links the bullets that killed Maggie to a gun that’s owned by the family, which is missing. The clothing that [Alex Murdaugh] wore the night of the murders is missing. Murdaugh told police that he was nowhere near the scene of the murders at the time they were committed, but video evidence revealed that he was actually at the scene of the murders literally minutes before they were committed.

Can you elaborate on the video the prosecution presented that seemed to blow up Murdaugh’s alibi?

About five minutes before he was killed, Paul’s sent a Snapchat video to his friend Rogan Gibson. Gibson’s dog was in the kennels at Murdaugh’s hunting property. Something was wrong with the dog’s tail and Gibson asked Paul to send him a video of the tail so he could see what was wrong. In that video, you can hear Maggie Murdaugh and Alex Murdaugh in the background. Gibson testified he was 100 percent certain it was Alex Murdaugh. Will Loving, another one of Paul’s friends, also heard the video and testified it was Alex Murdaugh.

Do you think Alex Murdaugh will be convicted of the murders?

I’ve been in the courtroom almost every minute that the jury’s been in there. The jury was fixated on the cell data. They were absolutely stunned by the video that exploded Murdaugh’s alibi. You could see it on their faces. I don’t know if it’s enough to push it over the line. Without a murder weapon, it’s always going to be difficult, but I think the state’s doing what it needs to do so far. They just have to weather the pushback from Murdaugh’s attorneys because he’s got two of the best criminal defense lawyers in the state representing him.