WASHINGTON, Sept 17 — A prominent US lawyer who allegedly attempted to stage his own murder was charged on Thursday with insurance fraud and lying to the police in the latest twist in a bizarre crime saga.
Alex Murdaugh, 53, whose wife and son were murdered in June of this year, is accused of paying a man to shoot him so his surviving son could collect on a US$10 million (RM42 million) insurance policy.
Murdaugh survived the September 4 shooting on the side of a country road in South Carolina and surrendered on Thursday to face charges of insurance fraud and filing a false police report.
Hampton County Judge Tonja Alexander granted Murdaugh’s release on a personal recognisance bond of US$20,000 to allow him to get treatment at a rehabilitation facility for what his lawyer said was a “tremendous opioid addiction.”
Murdaugh, who appeared in court in handcuffs and wearing an olive-coloured jump suit, replied “Yes ma’am” when asked by the judge if he understood the conditions of his release.
Murdaugh’s lawyer, Dick Harpootlian, told the court that Murdaugh was “not a danger to his community.”
“The only person he’s a danger to is himself,” Harpootlian said. “This crime involved his attempt to have himself shot so that his son could collect insurance.”
Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, 52, and their son Paul, a 22-year-old college student, were shot dead on June 7 at the family’s sprawling hunting lodge in Islandton, in southwestern South Carolina.
No arrests have been made in connection with their deaths.
One line of speculation surrounding the murders is related to the fact that Paul Murdaugh, at the time of his death, was awaiting trial on charges stemming from a February 2019 boat crash that left a 19-year-old woman dead.
‘Put him over the edge’
Harpootlian said Murdaugh had a 20-year opioid addiction and “financial issues,” and the deaths of his wife and son had “put him over the edge.”
Disconsolate, Murdaugh had paid a man to kill him so his surviving son, Buster, could collect on the insurance policy, he said.
But Curtis Smith, the hit man hired by Murdaugh, botched the job. He shot him in the head but the bullet only grazed his skull.
Smith, 61, has been charged with assisted suicide, aggravated assault and battery, and insurance fraud.
Murdaugh’s lawyers said Smith was a former client of Murdaugh’s who had supplied him with opioids in the past.
Murdaugh’s staged murder attempt came a day after he was forced out of his law firm for allegedly embezzling millions of dollars. Police are investigating Murdaugh in that case for misappropriating funds.
In another development, police announced on Wednesday that they have opened an investigation into the 2018 death of Gloria Satterfield, 57, a housekeeper at the Murdaugh home.
Her death was initially ruled to be the result of a fall.
The Murdaugh family has deep roots in law enforcement in South Carolina. Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served as regional prosecutors. — AFP