A judge in South Carolina denied bond Tuesday for attorney Alex Murdaugh on the second set of charges he has faced since finding his wife and son dead last June.
Circuit Judge Clifton Newman issued the decision after hearing attorneys describe how Murdaugh used portions of $3.4 million in insurance payments to pay off his father, personal credit card bills and checks to himself.
The payments were supposed to go to the sons of his longtime housekeeper, who died in 2016 a few weeks after falling at the family’s home. The judge said he was denying bond because of Murdaugh’s financial resources and unstable mental health. He ordered a psychiatric evaluation for Murdaugh, and said he will reconsider his decision after that is conducted. Murdaugh’s lawyers asked for a personal recognizance bond so he could go to further drug rehab, but Newman rejected that request.
Murdaugh is already out on a personal recognizance bond after his arrest in September on insurance fraud and other charges after police said he tried to arrange his own death so his surviving son would get a $10 million insurance policy. The would-be fatal shot only grazed his head, authorities have said.
The housekeeper's insurance isn't the only six-figure case being investigated by state police. Murdaugh's former law firm — founded by his great-grandfather a century ago — has accused him of stealing possibly millions of dollars.
Murdaugh's attorney, Dick Harpootlian, said last week that Murdaugh plans to do what he can to right his financial wrongs, and has accepted that he will probably spend time in prison. Each charge of obtaining property by false pretenses carries a sentence of up to 10 years. The three felony charges from the botched attempt to arrange his own death could bring up to 20 years in prison if he's convicted.
Murdaugh continues to insist he had nothing to do with the June deaths of his wife, Maggie, 52, and their son Paul, 22. Murdaugh said he returned to their rural Colleton County home to find them shot to death. Tight-lipped state police have neither named any suspects nor ruled anyone out.
Murdaugh's housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, died from a stroke and heart attack in February, more than three weeks after being hurt in a fall at the Murdaugh home. No autopsy was performed, and a coroner said her death was improperly described as “natural” on her death certificate.
Murdaugh told Satterfield's sons he would help them get insurance settlements for her death, recommending they hire attorney Cory Fleming without telling them Fleming was a family friend, according to a lawsuit filed by the sons.
Murdaugh negotiated more than $4 million in payments, then had the checks — minus fees and attorney payments — sent to his bank account, authorities said.
A lawyer for the sons said they haven't seen any money from the settlements.
Fleming has promised to return any money he received to the sons and pay them an unspecified amount from a malpractice insurance policy.
The state Supreme Court has temporarily suspended the law licenses of both Fleming and Murdaugh.
In addition to all of the other cases, state police are looking into whether Murdaugh has connections to a 2015 hit-and-run death and whether he or other family members tried to obstruct the investigation into a boat crash involving Paul Murdaugh that killed a 19-year-old woman in 2019.
The Murdaugh family has dominated the legal community in Hampton County for nearly the past century. Murdaugh's father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were elected prosecutors and the family founded and built a prestigious law firm known for suing railroads.
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