Alex Murdaugh is finally stuck in jail.
South Carolina Judge Clifton Newman denied the disgraced legal scion bond on Tuesday and ordered him to remain at Richland County Detention Center on charges stemming from an alleged scheme to steal millions from the family of his former housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield.
The judge’s decision went beyond the prosecution’s request for Murdaugh to be held on a $200,000 surety bond and a GPS monitor. And he rejected entirely the defense’s request for a personal recognizance bond for the lawyer to go back to drug rehab in Florida.
Now, Murdaugh, whose family has been tantamount to the law in the South Carolina Lowcountry for decades and whose wife and son were murdered last spring, must undergo psychiatric evaluation. Newman said Tuesday that he would reconsider his stance on bail after the evaluation.
“Murdaugh is a danger… A man who is a danger to himself is a danger to others,” Assistant Attorney General Creighton Waters said at the Tuesday bond hearing in Richland County Court. “This is the tip of the iceberg. There is far more we will reveal soon.”
Prosecutors allege that after Satterfield “fell and hit her head” on Murdaugh property in 2018—and later died from a stroke and cardiac arrest—the lawyer coordinated with the housekeeper’s family “to sue himself in order to seek an insurance settlement.”
But even though Satterfield’s two sons were set to receive a chunk of the $4.3 million settlement, they have not received a dime after Murdaugh allegedly negotiated in secret and ultimately pocketed the cash for his “own use.”
The charges came less than a month after Murdaugh was charged in a doomed plot to kill himself so his surviving son, Buster, could collect a $10 million insurance payout of his own.
That elaborate scheme also included the patriarch’s alleged drug dealer, and came just three months after Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, and son Paul were found murdered outside their Hampton County estate. At the time, Paul was facing charges for a 2019 boat crash that killed a teenage girl.
Murdaugh also has been implicated in a series of lawsuits, ranging from allegations he conspired to influence the 2019 investigation to claims that he swindled millions from Satterfield’s wrongful death lawsuit meant for her sons.
At the time of his latest arrest last Thursday, Murdaugh was at a drug facility in Orlando, Florida for opioid addiction—and already out on bond for the insurance fraud charges.
During the latest bond hearing, Murdaugh’s lawyers opined about their client’s various legal woes—and his progress battling addiction. In arguing for Murdaugh’s release back to Florida to continue treatment, defense attorney Dick Harpootlian said that his client could not be considered a flight risk because he “really has nowhere to go.”
“The Alex Murdaugh who is not hooked on drugs has lived a good, fruitful, lawful life,” defense attorney Jim Griffin added. “He truly regrets his conduct.”
Harpootlian added that Murdaugh had struggled with his opioid addiction for “more than a decade” and wanted to continue the drug detox and treatment he has been doing for the last six weeks. Flanked by his two lawyers at the defense table and wearing a navy blue prison jumpsuit and mask, Murdaugh remained silent throughout the hearing and declined Judge Newman’s offer to speak for himself.
An attorney who represents the Satterfield family, however, slammed Murdaugh’s defense team—and argued the lawyer should be held without bail after he has “stained our profession and put a black eye on this state.”
“Today is the day that Alex Murdaugh needs to get comfortable being uncomfortable,” Eric Bland told the court. “Our position is, he does not deserve bond. He stole. He’s a liar and a cheat.”
While Murdaugh’s arrest warrant provides few details into his alleged scheme to steal millions from the Satterfield settlement, a lawsuit previously filed by Bland on behalf of Tony Satterfield and Brian Harris made some damning allegations. Among them: that after Satterfield’s death, Murdaugh encouraged her sons to use lawyer Cory Fleming to help take legal action against him—without disclosing that the attorney was his college roommate and best friend.
“At the funeral of Ms. Satterfield, Mr. Murdaugh tells the family, ‘Hey, she fell at the house, it was because of the dogs, it was my fault and I’m going to take you to a lawyer so y’all can file a claim and get some compensation for the death of your mom,’” Assistant AG Waters said.
In reality, Waters added, Murdaugh created a false bank account that was “nothing more than an illusion, a fabrication” to make it look like those checks were going to a settlement company—and not his own pocket.
Fleming has since been suspended from practicing law pending an investigation into his involvement in the Satterfield settlement and has admitted he made “material mistakes” while representing the housekeeper’s sons. He has not been charged with any crime.
After the settlement was finalized, the lawsuit alleges, Murdaugh diverted millions paid by his insurance company into a fake bank account. The warrants also allege that Murdaugh “directed Fleming to write the check” to the secret account under the name “Forge” in an attempt to “facilitate and conceal his misappropriation of the funds.”
The name appeared to refer to Forge Consulting LLN, a financial firm that has previously done business with Murdaugh’s old law firm. Last month, Forge denied involvement with Murdaugh and said when it heard about the alleged account bearing its name, it reported those details to law enforcement.
Prosecutors on Tuesday stated that Murdaugh had set up the fake bank account in 2015. The account was also allegedly used to funnel millions from his former law firm and clients, according to a lawsuit filed by Murdaugh’s old employer.
In addition to the financial fallout of her death, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced last month it was investigating Satterfield’s demise itself, which was initially described in a wrongful death settlement as a “trip and fall accident.”
The investigation came at the request of Hampton County Coroner Angela Topper, who said there were “inconsistencies” surrounding Satterfield’s death—including that no autopsy was ever performed.