This Alex Murdaugh case keeps getting more strange…
As we’ve been reporting, the former South Carolina lawyer has been the center of mysterious behavior and legal activity following the death of his wife Maggie and son Paul Murdaugh, who were shot dead outside the family property on Islandton in June. Alex has denied any involvement in the case.
But just three months later, he admitted to hiring a hitman to kill him so that his son Buster would receive a $10 million insurance policy. Since getting caught, he checked into rehab for addiction issues that have reportedly skyrocketed since his loved one’s untimely deaths. While away working on himself, authorities reopened two pivotal cases: a 2015 investigation into the death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith (whose body was uncovered miles from the Murdaugh home) and a 2018 trip and fall death of their housekeeper Gloria Satterfield.
Now, Alex has been arrested and charged with misappropriating insurance settlement funds in Gloria’s wrongful death lawsuit.
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On Thursday morning, the South Carolina Law Enforcement (SLED) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement picked up the longtime attorney from a drug rehab facility in Orlando, Florida, according to a SLED press release. The 52-year-old has been charged with two felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses. He has yet to enter a plea at this time. Alex will be taken to Orange County Corrections until he receives an extradition hearing. Afterward, he will be brought back to SC for a bond hearing. The police department shared his alleged connection to Gloria’s family’s suit, adding in their statement:
“These charges stem from a SLED investigation into misappropriated settlement funds in the death of Gloria Satterfield.”
Satterfield, who was just 57, notably worked for the Murdaugh family for years before she passed away in their house in 2018 after tripping over the family’s dogs. It was initially dubbed an accident, but her sons Michael “Tony” Satterfield and Brian Harriot filed a wrongful death lawsuit at Alex’s suggestion anyway.
According to their attorney Eric Bland, while the sons settled with Cory Fleming, the lawyer who had represented them, they “never saw a dime of” the settlement. Reports suggest that Alex was a bit manipulative with the way he handled Gloria’s sons and the lawsuit, which could explain this most recent arrest and why the sons never received their portion of the settlement. On September 15, Bland filed a lawsuit against Murdaugh that claimed he had referred the sons to Cory Fleming but neglected to inform them of their close bond. Eric told People:
“After the funeral, he came up to the two sons and said, ‘Hey, look, I’m going to recommend that you go see this attorney Cory Fleming, and he’s going to represent you two in the estate and bring claims in connection with your mother’s death.’ He doesn’t tell the boys, ‘Oh, by the way, this is a lawyer that was my best friend, my college roommate.’”
TBH, there’s a lot that seems wrong with this recommendation. Gloria’s children — if truly suspicious about her death — probably shouldn’t have taken Alex’s advice on the matter; there’s just a major conflict of interest from the get-go. But Fleming, as the legal professional, should have had the good fortune to refer Tony and Brian to someone else as well.
The death settlement was approved for $505,000, according to Bland, but his clients “haven’t been paid one dime since this was settled in 2020.” There’s also a lot more money missing. In his court filing last month, Eric said he had discovered a missing judge’s order approving his clients of a $4.3 million settlement. They were signed by a judge but never filed. Via the Order Approving Settlement filed in 2019 in the Hampton Court of Common Pleas, the sons were supposed to get $2.765 million of that fund. Eric would not share how much the sons would make after paying Fleming and his law firm, but the Order Approving Settlement stated $1.435 million would go towards attorney fees.
Bland and his partner Ronnie Ritcher claimed the men accused Fleming of withholding the money from them. In a statement to People, the attorneys insisted an agreement between the Satterfield estate and Fleming, his law firm, and their insurance carrier had been reached “in connection with the pending lawsuit.” They alleged:
“Mr. Fleming and his firm agreed that the Estate will be paid back all legal fees and expenses Mr. Fleming and his law firm received from the $4,300,000 they recovered for the Estate in connection with the claims asserted against Alex Murdaugh for the death of Gloria Satterfield.”
The duo also shared:
“In addition, their malpractice insurance carrier agreed to pay to the Estate their full policy limits of insurance.
Promising a “more comprehensive join statement” from all those involved later in the week, the statement concluded:
“Mr. Fleming stepped forward and did the right thing by the Estate. Mr. Fleming and his law firm maintain, they — like others — were victims of Alex Murdaugh’s fraudulent scheme.”
Hmmm… So these attorneys are really putting all the blame on Alex here. Inneresting.
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This case is far from over as well. In September, a large reason SLED reopened Gloria’s case was because a coroner had recently found inconsistencies surrounding her death. So, more could come to light in the future… For now, Bland and Richter announced it was “a bittersweet day for the Satterfield and Harriott families” following Alex’s arrest. They also noted “avarice and betrayal of trust are at the heart of this matter,” adding:
“Lawsuits and claims are not vehicles for lawyers, defendants, and/or friends to enrich themselves at the expense of their clients. These belong to the clients and the clients only. This is the sacred trust that lawyers and fiduciaries owe their clients.”
As Gloria’s loved ones continue to work through this complicated and harrowing situation, they are also grappling with the fact that “their loved one’s death was used as a vehicle to enrich others.” The statement insisted:
“It is not over. A very good start to holding everyone accountable who either participated knowingly or breached their duties. The bottom line is no one is above the law.”
Whoa… We’re so sorry Tony and Brian have had to suffer through this legal mess while grieving their mother. It’s so awful that these professionals would allegedly conspire to gain fortune meant for innocent individuals just seeking justice.
We continue to hope more information comes to light to ensure the criminals still on the loose for these many deaths face the consequences of their actions.
[Image via Hampton County Detention Center & Brice W. Herndon And Sons Funeral Home]