For 87 years, the Murdaugh family name came to represent a legal dynasty in coastal South Carolina, where three successive generations controlled the local prosecutor’s office.
But now, the family has been closely connected to a bloody tragedy, allegations of embezzlement and a bizarre murder-for-hire plot to score millions in life insurance.
The latest blow to the family’s name came this week as Alex Murdaugh was indicted on a charge of murder for the 2021 killings of his wife and son.
So what were the twists and turns that led to this point? Here’s a timeline of everything we know about the Murdaugh family saga:
Over three generations, a member of the Murdaugh family has served as the 14th Circuit Solicitor, which leads prosecutions for Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties in the southern part of South Carolina.
Randolph Murdaugh Sr. was elected to the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office in 1920 and served in the position until his death in 1940.
His son, Randolph Murdaugh Jr., then took over the position and served until his retirement in 1986.
Murdaugh Jr.’s son, Randolph Murdaugh III, was then elected to the role in 1987 and served through the end of 2005. Alex Murdaugh is his son.
In 2006, then-Gov. Mark Sanford appoints attorney Duffie Stone to serve as the 14th Circuit Solicitor, making him the first non-Murdaugh in the position. He has been elected to the position four times since, most recently in 2020, according to the solicitor’s website.
Gloria Satterfield, a housekeeper for the Murdaugh family, dies in what is described as a “trip and fall accident” at the Murdaugh home, according to attorney Eric Bland, who is representing her estate.
Satterfield spent more than two decades as a housekeeper for the Murdaugh family. She also served as a nanny, according to Bland’s website.
After Satterfield’s death, a $500,000 wrongful death claim was filed against Alex Murdaugh on behalf of her estate, Bland said.
A boat crashes at a bridge near Parris Island in Beaufort County, South Carolina, on February 24, killing 19-year-old Mallory Beach, according to the South Carolina Attorney General in documents obtained by CNN.
Six people were on board the boat at the time of the crash, including Alex Murdaugh’s 19-year-old son, Paul. Murdaugh owns the boat.
Stone, the solicitor, recuses himself from the case because of personal connections.
Paul Murdaugh is indicted in April on charges of boating under the influence (BUI) causing great bodily harm and causing death in connection to the crash, court records show. He pleads not guilty.
June 7: Alex Murdaugh, 53, calls 911 and reports he found his wife Margaret (known as Maggie), 52, and son Paul, then 22, shot dead outside of their home in Islandton, a small community about an hour north of Hilton Head Island, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
June 10: Randolph Murdaugh III dies peacefully at his home at age 81, according to his obituary.
June 15: The state law enforcement division releases basic information about the June 7 killings, saying Alex Murdaugh called 911 at 10:07 p.m. and investigators collected evidence that night and the next morning.
June 17: Alex Murdaugh’s brothers, John Marvin Murdaugh and Randolph “Randy” Murdaugh IV, speak to “Good Morning America” about the killings. They say Alex called them “distraught” with the news that his wife and son had been shot. They say they do not believe their brother is involved.
June 22: The state law enforcement division reopens an investigation into the unsolved death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith, whose body was found on the road in 2015 in Hampton County. The agency says the probe is being reopened based on information gathered while investigating the deaths of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.
June 25: Alex Murdaugh and his other son, Buster, announce a $100,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible for the killings of Maggie and Paul.
July 22: The state law enforcement division releases redacted audio of Alex Murdaugh’s 911 call the night of the killings. In the audio, a distraught Murdaugh advises dispatchers his wife and son had been shot, are on the ground and are not breathing.
August 11: Stone, the solicitor, writes a letter to South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson saying he intends to recuse himself from the Murdaugh death investigations, CNN affiliate WCSC-TV reports.
September 3: Alex Murdaugh resigns from the law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick (PMPED), according to the firm.
September 4: Murdaugh calls 911 and reports he was shot early Saturday afternoon on a road in Hampton County, according to a statement from state law enforcement spokesperson Tommy Crosby. He was taken to a hospital in Savannah, Georgia, where he was treated for a “superficial gunshot wound to the head,” the statement said.
September 6: Murdaugh releases a statement through his attorney, Dick Harpootlian, to WCSC saying he is resigning from the law firm and entering rehab. Murdaugh’s other attorney, Jim Griffin, later specifies that his client has an opioid addiction.
September 7: The law firm says Murdaugh resigned “after the discovery by PMPED that Alex misappropriated funds in violation of PMPED standards and policies.”
“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 says in a statement. PMPED says it plans to retain a forensic accounting firm “to conduct a thorough investigation” and has contacted law enforcement and the South Carolina Bar.
September 8: The South Carolina Supreme Court issues an order suspending Alex Murdaugh’s license to practice law in the state.
According to the court, his license “is suspended until further order of this Court.” The 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office also confirmed to CNN that Murdaugh was stripped of his privilege of prosecuting cases as a volunteer.
September 10: A family spokesperson issues a statement about Alex Murdaugh’s shooting that indicates the injury was more serious than a superficial wound.
“After the shooting, Alex had an entry and exit wound, his skull was fractured and it was not a self-inflicted bullet wound,” according to the statement.
The spokesperson also added more details about what led up to the incident.
“Alex pulled over after seeing a low tire indicator light. A male driver in a blue pickup asked him if he had car troubles, as soon as Alex replied, he was shot,” the statement said.
September 13: The state law enforcement division releases a statement announcing it has opened an investigation into Alex Murdaugh “based upon allegations that he misappropriated funds in connection to his position as a former lawyer with the Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, & Detrick (PMPED) law firm in Hampton, South Carolina.”
September 14: Court documents reveal Alex Murdaugh arranged for a former client to kill him so that his surviving son could collect a life insurance payout of about $10 million.
Curtis Edward Smith, 61, who allegedly shot Murdaugh, was charged with assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, according to the state law enforcement division.
September 15: The state law enforcement division announces it is opening a criminal investigation into the February 2018 death of Gloria Satterfield, a housekeeper for the Murdaugh family, and the handling of her estate.
September 16: Alex Murdaugh is arrested in connection to an insurance fraud scheme that court documents say involved Murdaugh arranging for his own killing so his surviving son could collect the life insurance payout. He was charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and filing a false police report, according to a law enforcement statement.
September 22: A survivor of the 2019 boat crash involving Alex Murdaugh’s son Paul files a lawsuit against the former attorney, claiming Murdaugh attempted to orchestrate a campaign to falsely blame Connor Cook for the boating crash that left one person dead.
Cook – who filed the lawsuit – also alleges that Alex Murdaugh should have been aware that his underage son, Paul, had alcohol issues and should not have been allowed to use his boat. The lawsuit claims that Alex Murdaugh was negligent in his actions and that he intentionally inflicted emotional distress on Cook.
September 26: The law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick, where Alex Murdaugh was once a partner, issues a statement claiming he “lied and stole from us.”
“We were shocked and dismayed to learn that Alex violated our principles and code of ethics. He lied and he stole from us,” PMPED said in a statement on their website. They said no member of the firm was aware of “Alex’s scheme” or his drug addiction, acknowledged by his attorney in an interview previously with NBC’s “Today.”
The firm also said it still has “lots of questions about Alex and what has recently come to light” and vowed to continue assisting law enforcement.
September 28: The children of Gloria Satterfield, the housekeeper of the Murdaugh family who died in 2018, file a motion for Alex Murdaugh’s arrest and detention until the money he allegedly embezzled from her estate is returned.
After Satterfield died, a $500,000 wrongful death claim was filed against Murdaugh on behalf of her estate, Bland told CNN. The estate has not received any of the money owed as the result of a 2018 civil settlement, according to attorney Eric Bland, who is representing her estate.
October 6: The law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick announces it is suing Alex Murdaugh to recover funds it alleges he stole from clients for his own personal use, according to a statement from the firm.
The firm’s complaint read, in part: “PMPED has determined that Alex Murdaugh was able to covertly steal these funds by disguising disbursements from settlements as payments to an annuity company, trust account or structured settlement for clients or as structured attorney’s fees that he had earned when in fact they were deposited into the fictitious account at Bank of America.”
The complaint also claims Murdaugh “used firm assets in an unauthorized manner and without the consent or knowledge of his other shareholders to further his scheme to defraud.”
Alex Murdaugh arrested on new charges after release from rehab center
October 14: After being released from a drug rehabilitation center, Alex Murdaugh is arrested in Orlando, Florida, on suspicion of misappropriating settlement funds in connection with the 2018 death of his family’s longtime housekeeper, authorities said.
He was charged with two felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said.
October 15: Alex Murdaugh waives an extradition hearing in Florida, according to the Orange County Corrections Office, and returns to South Carolina a day later to face charges related to the misappropriation of settlement funds.
The waiver of extradition, provided by Orange County Corrections, said Murdaugh agreed to “waive the issuance and service (warrant) and all other procedures incidental to extradition proceedings,” and agreed to remain in custody without bail.
October 16: A pair of affidavits are released that allege Alex Murdaugh coordinated with the family of Gloria Satterfield, his former housekeeper, to sue himself for insurance money that he then pocketed for himself.
October 19: A South Carolina judge denies Alex Murdaugh’s bond and orders him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
“There is no way this court can set a bond at this time,” Judge Clifton Newman said. “I am therefore denying bond at this time and will require Mr. Murdaugh to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to be submitted to the court for further consideration at a later date.”
October 22: State police in South Carolina release an audio recording of the 911 calls made after Alex Murdaugh was shot on a roadway in September in what authorities allege was a failed insurance fraud scheme.
The recordings include two calls made by Murdaugh himself and a third made by passersby, who told the 911 dispatcher they did not stop because the scene “looks like a setup.”
October 26: Attorneys for the estate of Gloria Satterfield, the Murdaugh’s housekeeper, say they’ve reached a settlement with his former law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick.
“The Satterfields and the law firm have reconciled their differences,” attorney Eric Bland, who represents the Satterfield estate, told CNN at the time.
November 10: South Carolina Judge Clifton Newman once again denies Alex Murdaugh’s bond on charges stemming from alleged misappropriation of settlement funds in connection with the death of his family’s longtime housekeeper.
“After considering the arguments of counsel, the (psychiatric) evaluation submitted, pending charges and other investigations, and the apparent character and mental condition of the defendant, the Court finds that the Defendant is a danger both to himself and the community,” Newman’s order reads.
November 12: Alex Murdaugh cites privilege against self-incrimination in declining to respond to allegations by his former law firm that he converted firm and client money to his own personal use, according to court filings.
November 19: South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s Office announces a state grand jury has issued five indictments with a total of 27 charges against Alex Murdaugh.
The indictments include four counts of breach of trust with fraudulent intent; seven counts of obtaining signature or property by false pretenses; seven counts of money laundering; eight counts of computer crimes; and one count of forgery.
“Altogether, Murdaugh is charged with respect to alleged schemes to defraud victims and thereafter launder $4,853,488.09,” said the Attorney General’s office in a news release.
December 10: Seven indictments with 21 criminal charges are filed against Alex Murdaugh, according to South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.
The additional indictments bring the total number of charges faced by Murdaugh to 48 after a state grand jury investigation. All the charges stem from an alleged wide-ranging scheme that sought to defraud victims of more than $6 million.
December 13: The bond for Alex Murdaugh is set at $7 million in a virtual bond hearing with Judge Alison Lee.
December 14: Alex Murdaugh agrees to a $4.3 million settlement with the family of Gloria Satterfield, his former housekeeper, according to family attorney Eric Bland.
January 21: Alex Murdaugh is charged with 23 more crimes in four new indictments returned by a grand jury, the state attorney general said.
The fresh indictments allege Murdaugh stole more than $2.2 million meant for four clients. The new charges include 19 counts of breach of trust with fraudulent intent and four counts of computer crimes.
Murdaugh now faces a total of 71 charges stemming from accusations he defrauded victims of nearly $8.5 million in various schemes.
June 3: South Carolina law enforcement officials announce they sought and received permission from the family of Gloria Satterfield, Murdaugh’s housekeeper, to exhume her remains.
The exhumation stems from a Hampton County coroner’s request that led to the state law enforcement division opening a criminal investigation into Satterfield’s death.
“The decedent’s death was not reported to the Coroner at the time, nor was an autopsy performed. On the death certificate the manner of death was ruled ‘Natural,’ which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident,” the coroner’s request to the law enforcement division said.
June 28: Alex Murdaugh and former acquaintance Curtis Edward Smith are indicted on two counts of criminal conspiracy by a South Carolina state grand jury, according to an announcement from South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.
Smith allegedly shot Murdaugh in an attempted insurance scam in June 2021, according to SLED.
The indictment provides details of Murdaugh giving Smith “hundreds of checks with the common understanding that SMITH would convert the checks into cash.” The indictment states that over a number of years, the proceeds went to Murdaugh’s “benefit with the intent of carrying on and concealing myriad unlawful activities.”
The charges against the two men involved “approximately 437 checks totaling approximately $2.4 million that went from Murdaugh to Smith from October 7, 2013 through February 28, 2021,” said a news release from Wilson’s office.
Smith was also indicted on four counts of money laundering over $100,000, forgery and “three other drug offenses, including allegedly trafficking over ten grams of methamphetamine,” the release said.
July 12: The South Carolina Supreme Court disbars Alex Murdaugh, according to an order released by the court.
July 14: Alex Murdaugh is indicted on two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime in connection with the 2021 killing of his wife and son by a Colleton County grand jury, according to South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel.