COLUMBIA, S.C. — There's another twist in the continuing saga of the prominent Murdaugh family in Hampton County. On Wednesday, the South Carolina's State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced it was opening a criminal investigation into the death of Gloria Satterfield, a Murdaugh family employee.
SLED officials are probing the death of Satterfield, a household employee at the Murdaugh family home, and the handling of her estate based on a request from the Hampton County coroner along with information they gathered during the course of SLED's other ongoing investigations involving Alex Murdaugh.
Satterfield was injured in a fall at the Murdaugh estate on February 2, 2018. She later died on February 26 of that year.
In a letter to SLED dated September 15, 2021, Hampton County Coroner Angela Topper requested SLED investigate the matter due to inconsistencies surrounding handling of Satterfield's death.
Referencing a lawsuit filed in the matter, Topper said, "According to a 'Petition for Approval of a Wrongful Death Settlement' in the Court of Common Pleas in Hampton County, South Carolina, the decedent, Gloria Satterfield died as a 'result of injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident, in Hampton County.' The defendant was Richard A. Murdaugh."
Topper goes on to say that Satterfield's death was never reported to the coroner's office, nor was an autopsy performed. Additionally, Topper said, "On the death certificate the manner of death was ruled 'natural,' which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident."
The new development comes a day after SLED announced the arrest of Curtis Smith in the September 4 shooting of Alex Murdaugh, saying Murdaugh admitted to planning the shooting so that his son would collect life insurance money. Agents said Murdaugh provided Smith with a firearm and asked Smith to shoot him in the head, according to authorities, to allow payment of approximately $10M in life insurance benefits to his son.
Lawyers for Murdaugh responded to the SLED arrest, saying their client has an addiction to drugs, and that explains his suicide attempt that led to criminal charges for Smith. The attorney statement said Murdaugh has been in a low place since the killing of his wife and son earlier this year, and also has an opioid addiction.
They also suggested they may have information in the killing of the man's wife and son. In an interview with NBC's "the Today Show," high-powered attorney Dick Harpootlian said Murdaugh's legal team has been investigating someone that may have some involvement in the slayings. Harpootlian wouldn't go further, but said the individual's motivation would be "personal." Harpootlian also said his client did not kill his family
SLED is currently still investigating the deaths of Murdaugh’s wife Maggie and her son Paul. According to the Associated Press, Murdaugh found his wife and son shot several times outside a home on the family’s Colleton County land after checking on his seriously ill father.
AP also reports that Paul's death came as he was awaiting trial for boating under the influence and causing a 2019 crash that killed a 19-year-old woman, Mallory Beach. He had pleaded not guilty.
Earlier this summer, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) reopened a case from 2015 when the body of 19-year-old Steven Smith was found in the middle of the road in Hampton County.
“The murders of my wife and son have caused an incredibly difficult time in my life," Murdaugh said. "I have made a lot of decisions that I truly regret. I’m resigning from my law firm and entering rehab after a long battle that has been exacerbated by these murders. I am immensely sorry to everyone I’ve hurt including my family, friends and colleagues. I ask for prayers as I rehabilitate myself and my relationships.”
Hours later, according to reports by The Associated Press (AP), Murdaugh's law firm later released a statement saying that Murdaugh had been taking money from the company.
The PMPED law firm said it will hire an accounting firm to fully review its books. It didn’t say how much money might be missing, but said Murdaugh was no longer associated with them in any way.
“This is disappointing news for all of us. Rest assured that our firm will deal with this in a straightforward manner. There’s no place in our firm for such behavior,” the law firm said in a statement.
Last week, the South Carolina Supreme Court suspended Murdaugh's law license. The Supreme Court issued an order that said Murdaugh's license to practice law is suspended until further notice.
On Monday, SLED announced it has opened an investigation into claims that attorney Alex Murdaugh misappropriated money from the law firm where he worked.
State agents confirmed late Monday they've begun a probe into the allegations which were made by Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, & Detrick (PMPED), a law firm based in Hampton, South Carolina.
Over three generations, a member of the Murdaugh family served as the 14th Circuit Solicitor, leading prosecutions for Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties in the southern part of South Carolina.