The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced Wednesday that the agency has opened an investigation into the 2018 death of Gloria Satterfield, a former housekeeper for the Murdaugh family.
It marks just the latest criminal probe associated with the embattled legal dynasty whose patriarch, Alex Murdaugh, conspired with a former drug dealer in a botched assisted-suicide attempt last week, according to police and his own attorneys.
Murdaugh, a once high-powered lawyer who along with his relatives also worked as a prosecutor in the South Carolina Lowcountry for decades, has not been charged with any crimes. Still, from the horrific double-murder of his wife and son this spring to the suicide plot, he has been caught up in a seemingly never-ending saga of crime and chaos.
Satterfield, the Murdaughs’ 57-year-old longtime housekeeper, died on Feb. 26, 2018, “as a result of injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident” in a Hampton County home that belongs to the family, according to a settlement Alex Murdaugh reached with her estate.
“She had been a housekeeper for the Murdaughs for 25 years. She had been a fabric of the family,” attorney Eric Bland, who is representing Satterfield’s two sons, told The Daily Beast. “The Murdaughs certainly viewed Gloria as part of the family.”
In a letter to SLED, which was obtained by The Daily Beast, Hampton County Coroner Angela Topper requested that state authorities open an investigation into Satterfield’s death due to “inconsistencies” surrounding it.
Topper added that not only was Satterfield’s death not reported to the coroner at the time of her death, but an autopsy was never performed.
“On the death certificate, the manner of death was ruled ‘Natural’, which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident,” Topper said. “In light of these inconsistencies noted above, I feel that it is prudent to pursue an investigation into Gloria Satterfield's death.”
The probe comes just hours after Satterfied’s sons, Brian Harriott and Tony Satterfield, filed a lawsuit against several individuals—including Murdaugh—over a $500,000 settlement for her death they say they never received.
According to SLED, the latest probe will also interrogate the handling of Satterfield’s estate, which the lawsuit filed Wednesday suggests was effectively orchestrated by lackeys of Murdaugh.
Specifically, the suit says, Murdaugh guided the sons to have a close friend, attorney Cory Fleming, sue Murdaugh for damages. The suit also raises a slew of questions about what happened to an alleged insurance payout.
“It was Alex’s idea to take these boys to Cory Fleming,” Bland, the attorney representing the sons of the late houskeeper, told The Daily Beast. “It was an unusual situation to bring a claim against Alex personally so that Alex could turn it over to his insurance.”
Representatives for Murdaugh did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Fleming also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Murdaugh, 53, has been mired in national scrutiny in recent weeks, most recently after his alleged former drug dealer was arrested for an assisted-suicide and insurance scheme.
On Tuesday, SLED said Murdaugh had admitted to orchestrating the Sept. 4 attack, which involved the lawyer providing Curt Edward Smith, 61, with a gun to shoot him in the head. According to an arrest affidavit for Smith, Murdaugh had hoped his death would lead to a $10 million insurance payout that would go to his sole surviving son, Buster.
Smith, who has been arrested, admitted his role in the scheme, police say.
Since the allegedly staged shooting, Murdaugh has been pushed out and accused of misappropriating funds by his old law firm, an allegation the top law-enforcement agency in the state said it was also investigating Monday.
The developments come just months after Alex Murdaugh’s wife Maggie and other son, Paul—who was facing charges for a fatal boat accident—were shot and killed at the family estate. No one has been charged in connection with their deaths.
For Bland, the renewed focus on what happened to Satterfield is directly related to the ongoing drama surrounding the Murdaugh family.
The case “never would have come into the presence of the public without initial murders and the boating accident, and now everyone is digging,” he said.
If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741