Two murders, a suicide plot and mystery over a housekeeper's death -the questions swirling around US lawyer Alex Murdaugh

·3-min read

A disgraced US attorney has been charged with murder following the deaths of his wife and younger son, who were shot outside their home.

Alex Murdaugh is already in jail on dozens of other criminal charges that have piled up in the months since his wife Maggie, 52, and their 22-year-old son, Paul, were killed.

But until now he had not been charged in connection with their deaths in South Carolina in June last year.

Prosecutors claim 54-year-old Murdaugh killed them with a shotgun, something he has repeatedly denied.

Murdaugh's family has dominated the legal scene in their small neighbourhood of Hampton County for nearly a century.

Murdaugh's father, grandfather and great-grandfather were the area's elected prosecutors for 87 years.

He once worked for the firm, but it now claims he has been stealing money from the business.

If convicted of murder, Murdaugh would face 30 years to life in prison without parole. Prosecutors could also choose to seek the death penalty under state law because more than one person was killed.

However, a statement from Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian, his defence team, said: "Alex wants his family, friends and everyone to know that he did not have anything to do with the murders of Maggie and Paul.

"He loved them more than anything in the world."

They claimed it was "very clear from day one" that police were "focusing on Murdaugh and no one else".

Why did he ask a friend to kill him?

Murdaugh was also charged on Thursday, with possession of a weapon during a violent crime.

The June 2021 deaths prompted authorities to look into all corners of Murdaugh's life.

At least six investigations resulted in charges that he stole $8.5m (£7.2m) from people who hired him and that he lied to police by saying he was shot by a stranger on a roadside when, officials say, he actually asked a friend to kill him.

He did this, they say, so his surviving son could collect a $10m (£8.5m) life insurance policy, just days after the family firm determined he was stealing money.

And state police said information they gathered in the Murdaugh investigations also led them to review what was initially reported as the hit-and-run death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith in July 2015.

Questions over housekeeper's death

Agents also exhumed the body of the Murdaugh's housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who the family said died in the hospital several days after a fall in 2018.

Prosecutors said Murdaugh got his home insurers to pay more than $4m (£3.4m) in wrongful-death claims in Satterfield's case by saying he was negotiating for her family - but they claimed he in fact, did not give them any of the money.

In June, Murdaugh was indicted in what prosecutors said was an eight-year money laundering and painkiller supply ring that also involved the same friend and former client charged with trying to help him commit suicide.

Further indictments claim Murdaugh wrote 437 cheques worth $2.4m (£2m) that his friend cashed over eight years, keeping some of the money for himself and giving the rest for wide-ranging illegal activities.

The South Carolina Supreme Court has disbarred Murdaugh.

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