Alex Murdaugh jailed for life after being found guilty of murdering his wife and son in case that gripped US

Alex Murdaugh jailed for life after being found guilty of murdering his wife and son in case that gripped US

A high-profile lawyer who shot dead his wife and son to distract from a multi-million-dollar fraud and his impending financial ruin has been jailed for life after being convicted of double murder in a case that has gripped America.

Alex Murdaugh, 54, killed wife Maggie and son Paul at the family’s 1,700-acre estate before trying to pin the murders on vigilantes he said had been hounding his powerful family.

Judge Clifton Newman on Friday sentenced Murdaugh to life in prison without parole for each murder count and said these will be served consecutively.

At the time of the killings Murdaugh was deep in debt and had stolen more than $10 million from clients and colleagues in a fraud that was about to be uncovered.

Alex Murdaugh is led to the Colleton County Courthouse by sheriff's deputies for sentencing (AP)
Alex Murdaugh is led to the Colleton County Courthouse by sheriff's deputies for sentencing (AP)

He was also due in court to face a lawsuit over his son’s drunken boat crash two years earlier in which a teenage girl had died.

At a six-week trial which became the subject of a Netflix documentary, Murdaugh insisted that he was not responsible for the shootings. He continued to maintain his innocence at sentencing.

He had earlier put forward a false alibi, claiming he had been sleeping on the sofa at the time of the murders and only discovered the bodies after visiting his sick mother.


But that was undone by video footage taken by Paul minutes before the killings, in which his father’s voice could be heard in the background. Murdaugh was convicted by a jury of double murder on Thursday and was jailed on Friday.

“The evidence of guilt is overwhelming,” said South Carolina circuit court judge Newman, adding: “All of the evidence pointed to one conclusion.”

Murdaugh was a powerful figure in Hampton County, South Carolina, where three previous generations had served in the solicitor’s office.

Such was his influence that the area around his home was dubbed “Murdaugh County” by locals. During the trial, it emerged that Murdaugh had a two decade-long opioid addiction and had betrayed many of those close to him with financial crime.

Newman referred to the addiction during sentencing when Murdaugh maintained his innonence again, saying: “It might not have been you. It might have been the monster that you become when you take 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 opioid pills. Maybe you become another person. I have seen that before. The person standing before me was not the person who committed the crime, though it is the same individual.”

Judge Newman said that Murdaugh’s trial was “one of the most troubling cases” for him as a judge, as well as for the state, defence team and the community.

“It is also particularly troubling, Mr. Murdaugh, because as a member of the legal community ... we have seen each other at various occasions throughout the years,” Newman said. “And it was especially heartbreaking for me to see you go, in the media, as a grieving father who lost a wife and son to being the person indicted and convicted of killing them.”

On the day of the murders, he had been confronted over $800,000 that had gone missing during a recent case. Investigations after the shootings revealed more than $10 million had been stolen, with the sons of Murdaugh’s housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, among the victims. Mrs Satterfield died in a 2018 fall at the Murdaugh home and an investigation into her death has now been reopened by police.

The Murdaughs were a powerful Southern family (Facebook)
The Murdaughs were a powerful Southern family (Facebook)

Murdaugh murdered his wife and son with an assault rifle on June 7, 2021. At the time, he was facing a $30 million lawsuit from the family of 19-year-old Mallory Beach, who died when Paul Murdaugh crashed the family boat into rocks in February 2019.

Murdaugh’s frauds were on the brink of discovery and prosecutor Creighton Waters told jurors: “The pressures on this man were unbearable and they were all reaching a crescendo the day his wife and son were murdered by him.”

The trial also heard about a botched assisted suicide plot hatched by Murdaugh after the murder when he tried to organise his own death to secure a $10 million life insurance payout for his surviving son Buster.

When Murdaugh gave evidence at the trial last week he suddenly abandoned his alibi, admitted lying to investigators, and confessed to stealing money from his law firm. But he continued to insist: “I did not kill Maggie and I did not kill Paul. I would never hurt Maggie and I would never hurt Paul, ever, under any circumstances.”

Murdaugh’s lawyers will almost certainly appeal the conviction based on the judge allowing evidence of the financial crimes, which they contend were unrelated to the killings and were used by prosecutors to smear Murdaugh’s reputation.