ABC 20/20 special: 'A long road ahead' in the complicated Murdaugh crime saga

UniqueThis 15 Jan 14

There are families out there, still waiting for justice, waiting for answers, waiting for closure.

There are victims whose killer or killers are still at large.

Alex Murdaugh is currently in jail, on a $7 million bond that he has yet to meet, facing 51 charges for financial crimes, and multiple lawsuits.

Families, entire communities are still reeling, years away from healing.

A broken system still needs mending.

This saga is extremely complicated, with much more to come. But for victims and their families, it boils down to simply wanting what they are owed. For some, that would be money. For some, justice. For all, answers.

Follow the USA TODAY Network's coverage of this ongoing and tragic crime saga as we strive to discover these answers together.

Murdaugh makes the first of many court appearances

Murdaugh, detained in the Richland County jail, makes the first of many court appearances, trying in vain to get a bond that he can afford, even as lawsuits pile up and his assets are frozen.

"There is a long criminal road ahead for Alex Murdaugh," DeWitt told ABC.

Murders, mystery, money: Here's a timeline of the Murdaugh family killings

10:52 p.m.

"He has fallen from grace"

Details begin to emerge in the events of the Labor Day weekend. Murdaugh attorneys say that Alex partnered with his former drug dealer, Curtis Smith, in the assisted suicide scheme, a statement that Smith's lawyer denies.

ABC talks to family members of the late Gloria Satterfield, who said they knew "something was kind of strange here."

Details - and criminal charges - begin to emerge in the Satterfield legal scheme.

Criminal charges begin to pile up - as do the civil suits.

A complicated financial scheme emerges, involving alleged betrayal of client trust, stolen settlements, a fraudulent bank account.

For the first time in the Murdaugh dynasty's legal history, a Murdaugh wears an orange jail jumpsuit and handcuffs.

"Your honor, he has fallen from grace," one of Alex Murdaugh's attorney's tells a judge.

More lawsuits: Alex Murdaugh facing eight more potential lawsuits over allegations of stolen money

Richard Alexander "Buster" Murdaugh's senior quote in the WHHS High School yearbook.
The family of Richard Alexander "Buster" Murdaugh Jr. bought a full-page ad in his high school year as a tribute during his senior year.
Buster Murdaugh, wearing number 17, was coached partly by his grandfather, Randolph Murdaugh III (in red, third from left) on the Wade Hampton High School baseball team.

10:42 p.m.

Alex Murdaugh's world begins to unravel - with a bullet to his head

Labor Day Weekend, 2021:

Who would think a bullet to head incident could get worse? Well it did, and quickly, for Alex Murdaugh.

A whirlwind of events kicks off in early September. Alex Murdaugh reports being shot in the head, in what police later say was a scheme to net $10 million in insurance money for his son, Buster.

The law firm that his great-grandfather founded in 1910 severs all ties with Murdaugh, releasing a statement accusing him of stealing from his clients and his partners.

"I've made a lot of decisions I truly regret," Alex said in a statement, revealing that he is addicted to opioids.

The first of 51 criminal charges begins to roll in for Alex Murdaugh.

Meanwhile, old skeletons just won't stay in the closet - SLED announces that it is opening a criminal investigation into Gloria Satterfield's death.

Meanwhile, Smith's death, and the death of Paul and Maggie, remain unsolved.

10:33 p.m.

Gloria Satterfield death: yet another lawsuit

Family members of Alex Murdaugh's housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, talk about the circumstances behind Gloria's death, and the lawsuit it sparked.

911 call released: SLED releases 911 call on fatal Gloria Satterfield fall at the Murdaugh residence

Did you know?

Randolph Murdaugh III was presented the Order of the Palmetto in 2018, S.C.’s highest civilian honor. It was the same year Alex Murdaugh’s housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, fell at Alex’s home and later died.

Another Murdaugh connection to Stephen Smith's case

A member of Stephen Smith's family told the S.C. Highway Patrol that the second person to call Stephen's father was Randy Murdaugh - to offer legal services.

Why would Randy Murdaugh call Smith's father right after Stephen's death, offering his legal services? Investigators and family members still wonder.

"I know of no connection whatssoever of Buster or my family to Stephen Smith's death," Randy told ABC.

Stephen Smith death: Satterfields add Curtis Eddie Smith to list of lawsuit defendants in Murdaugh case

Did you know?

Stephen Smith’s grave site is less than 50 feet from Sandy Run Road – the same road where was body was found in 2015.

On Nov. 26, 2015, The Hampton County Guardian ran a front page story and editorial, pleading with the community to come forward with any information on the death of Stephen Smith. No one came forward.

10:21 p.m.

Stephen Smith homicide investigation reignites

S.C. state police say that they found something during the course of the Murdaugh double homicide investigation that led them to reopen the probe into Stephen Smith's death.

Smith, who left behind a grieving mother and twin sister, was found dead in the middle of Sandy Run Road in rural Hampton County.

His family told ABC that Stephen, who was openly gay, was very special, was not afraid to be himself, and wanted to be a doctor.

"God made me, and God don't make no mistakes," were favorite words from Stephen, Sandy Smith told ABC.

On Nov. 26, 2015, The Hampton County Guardian ran a front page story and editorial, pleading with the community to come forward with any information on the death of Stephen Smith. No one came forward.

Some police officers said early on that his death did not look like a hit and run, which was what it was ruled.

Sandy Smith did not believe it either,

"A mother knows her child," she said, explaining he would not have been walking in the middle of the road at night.

"The county is alive with gossip," DeWitt tells ABC.

The most common rumor mentioned "the Murdaugh boys."

A roadside marker reaches for the sky in Hampton County - marking the spot where Stephen Smith's body was found.
Did you know? Stephen Smith’s grave site is less than 50 feet from Sandy Run Road – the same road where was body was found in 2015.

Speaking of homicide, did you know?

Randolph Murdaugh III tried more than 200 murder cases – and once earned two murder convictions in the same week.

10:10 p.m.

Maggie and Paul Murdaugh: A mother and son die together

The latest segment reveals the moment that this regional South Carolina crime story becomes an international murder mystery: the shooting deaths of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh.

"On the night of June 7, 2021, the world changed for the Murdaugh family, and for Hampton County," DeWitt told ABC.

Viewers hear what appears to be a chilling, emotional call to 911 from Alex Murdaugh after reportedly finding his wife, Maggie, and youngest son, Paul, shot multiple times and killed.

"Neither one of them is moving!" Murdaugh told the 911 operator.

They were reportedly gunned down and found in the dirt by the family's dog kennel.

"I couldn't believe it was true," said Randy Murdaugh to ABC, recalling how Alex tried to call him, but his brother was crying.

Randy Murdaugh also tells ABC that Alex was visiting their mother, Libby, during the time of the shootings. Other reports, however, have indicated that Alex was visiting his father in the hospital.

"There is no possible way he could have anything to do with the shootings," Randy said.

But did law enforcement have a suspect? They put out a release stating that "There was no danger to the community."

Randy Murdaugh tells ABC that the Murdaughs didn't have any enemies.

Meanwhile, other homicides begin to emerge.

The front entrance to Moselle, where Maggie and Paul were found shot and killed.

9:56 p.m.

The first of many lawsuits

Renee Beach tells ABC about the wrongful death lawsuit filed in Hampton County against Alex Murdaugh and other parties they say were responsible for providing the alcohol to the underage boaters.

This civil suit would be a foreshadowing theme in the saga of this family. Alex Murdaugh is now facing seven civil suits, with at least eight more pending, according to attorneys for his victims.

Meanwhile, Randolph Murdaugh IV tells ABC that he doesn't think his family is a dynasty, or has power at all.

"This was a group of friends who went out on a boat and some very bad things happened...Paul was very sad that one of his friends was killed," said Randy Murdaugh.

Weeks after the boat crash, however, no one had stepped forward to take responsibility for Mallory's death.

When Paul Murdaugh is finally charged, he receives a "gentleman's treatment," DeWitt told ABC. An officer with handcuffs is waved away.

For weeks, The H.C. Guardian would run headlines that said "no arrests" following the 2019 boat crash.

9:46 p.m.

A time to wonder and worry

For a week, Mallory's family wondered if her body would be found.

For weeks after, people in the community wondered if anyone would be arrested for this fatal crash.

Randy Murdaugh and John Marvin Murdaugh say family did not influence investigation

Randy and John Marvin Murdaugh tell ABC that they did not try to influence the investigation, and had no knowledge that any other family member did.

Meanwhile, back at the crash site, Philip Beach tells ABC he and his family went to the riverside every day, hoping that Mallory would be found.

Phones were ringing all over Hampton County

In the hour after the crash, phones are ringing all over Hampton County.

The boat crash survivors are taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital, but witnesses tell us that Alex and Randolph Murdaugh III respond quickly, allegedly telling survivors not to talk to police, and that they would take care of everything.

No field sobriety tests were ever given, but Paul Murdaugh's blood was drawn for medical reasons.

9:35 pm.

Missing evidence, an angry and allegedly under the influence Paul Murdaugh

Boat crash survivors testify that Paul Murdaugh grew angry and belligerent, and reports abound about missing evidence from the crash site.

9:30 p.m.

The parents of Mallory Beach speak out publicly

This segment will touch the readers' hearts in a sad way, as ABC 20/20 hears emotional statements from Phillip and Renee Beach, and talks to people that knew her, including one of her former teachers. We also hear from attorneys for one of the boat crash survivors, Connor Cook.

There is an angry scene, where Anthony Cook speaks to a Beaufort County deputy, cursing at Paul Murdaugh, and giving police an early indication of who was allegedly driving the boat that fateful February night.

But from the beginning, boat crash survivors were worried if the son of Alex Murdaugh, the grandson of a former 14th Circuit Solicitor, would ever be charged.

Mallory Beach case: Family files suit alleging social media harassment, conspiracy

Mallory Beach as a child.
The logo for a nonprofit founded in memory of Mallory Beach.

Did you know?

Mallory Beach was an animal lover and a nonprofit was founded in her memory after her death to benefit the Hampton County, S.C., animal shelter.

Did you know?

The Murdaughs are so well known and well connected in the 14th Circuit, that more than one officer that responded to the scene had some connection to the family - from playing golf with them, to hunting with them, to family members working for them.

9:22 p.m.

Boat accident, Mallory Beach: 'There's a girl in the water'

The second segment focuses on testimony and interviews with the boat crash survivors, their family members, and attorneys.

In the background of the 911 call, you can hear them screaming for the lost teen, Mallory Beach.

This photo of Mallory Beach's gravesite was used as an exhibit in a wrongful death suit.
Mallory Beach's high school yearbook photo (bottom, second from left).

Settlement reached: Attorneys reach settlement for former Murdaugh family housekeeper's sons in civil case

9:17 p.m.

The influence of alcohol

The first segment of the show focuses on the alleged boating under the influence of Paul Murdaugh, which brought his family into the regional and state spotlight.

Interesting fact: Almost every passenger on the Murdaugh boat that night was from Hampton County.

Did you know?

Alcohol has been a factor in previous generations of the Murdaugh family. Paul's great-grandfather, Randolph "Buster" Murdaugh Jr., was once charged in connection with a moonshine conspiracy. He was not found guilty.

Evidence of alcohol on board the Sea Hunt following the 2019 fatal boat crash.
Randolph "Buster" Murdaugh Jr.
It was the boat crash heard around the world, reported The Guardian.

9:10 p.m.

What you need to know about Hampton County?

Named after: Former Confederate general Wade Hampton, who later became Governor of S.C.

Pop: 18,561 people, living in 6,993 households, with a majority Black population of 53.1 percent

Location: Southeast corner of South Carolina

The Town of Hampton was known mainly for its Watermelon Festival - until the Murdaugh crime saga emerged into the public light.

Founded: in 1878, split from Beaufort County during reconstruction

Known for: The Hampton County Watermelon Festival, billed as the oldest continuing festival in South Carolina.

Interesting facts:

- During the Civil War, while the coastal areas of Beaufort County were occupied by federal troops, many planters fled to the area that became Hampton County. Union General Tecumseh Sherman's troops passed through the county in 1865, fighting several skirmishes with Confederate troops.

A historical marker in Hampton County speaks to its origins.

- Until recently, the Town of Hampton was technically named The Town of Hampton Courthouse – and previous local leaders didn’t even know it. The name was a holdover from previous documents that never got changed.

- Athlete Lucile Ellerbe Godbold (1900-1981), who won two gold medals in track and field at the 1922 Olympics, grew up in Hampton County, and writer Vertamae Grosvenor was also born there. John Dwight Smith, Sr., a former Major League Baseball outfielder with the Chicago Cubs, California Angels, Baltimore Orioles and the Atlanta Braves between 1989 and 1996, was born in Tallahassee, Fla., but later moved to Varnville, S.C., and graduated from Wade Hampton High School in 1982.

9:06 p.m.

Setting the stage

The show name is taken directly from Michael DeWitt's opening statement, "This is the Fall of the House of Murdaugh."

9:02 p.m.

From the journalist behind the camera

Prior to tonight’s episode, The Hampton County Guardian editor had the opportunity get a few comments from ABC News Correspondent Eva Pilgrim about tonight’s 20/20.

Here is what she had to say.

“We started working on this story the morning after the double murders. A source sent me a message about it and I immediately started reaching out to other people I know in South Carolina to find out what was going on.”

“I’m from South Carolina. I graduated from USC and my whole family still lives there. As a journalist it is always important to me to tell every story in a respectful, unbiased way.”

“We hear from many of the victims and their families, some who have never talked before, in the 20/20 telling of this story. It’s them in their own words.”

Tonight, ABC "20/20" is airing "The Fall of the House of Murdaugh," a two-hour special on the ongoing Murdaugh crime saga in South Carolina, and the USA TODAY Network will be following along.

Even as state police investigate the unsolved deaths of his wife and youngest son, suspended S.C. attorney Richard "Alex" Murdaugh is facing 51 criminal charges, seven lawsuits, and has connections to two more deaths and a fatal boat crash in a series of alleged schemes that threaten to bring down other attorneys and may entangle at least two local bankers.

What we know: Timeline of Murdaugh murders and the lawyer father's botched insurance fraud plot

Look inside: Alex Murdaugh 911 calls from the alleged botched suicide-for-hire incident

Photos: A look at the Murdaugh family

This program documents the latest details in the developing story on the Murdaugh family homicides, the alleged financial crimes of Murdaugh, and other events surrounding the family. The show also features exclusive new interviews with members of the Murdaugh family, as well as many of Murdaugh’s alleged victims, some who are speaking out for the first time.

During tonight's true-crime program, this live blog offers commentary, behind-the-scenes information, interesting facts and insights of our original reporting from "ground zero" of the crime saga and home of the Murdaugh family - Hampton County, S.C.

The Hampton County Guardian Editor Michael M. DeWitt Jr. has covered the Murdaugh family for his entire career and reported on this saga since 2015. Guardian editors have covered the Murdaugh family - both accolades and accusations - since 1879. DeWitt has a personal knowledge of all of the key players in this case.

This blog will be updated throughout the episode. Please refresh for updates.

This article originally appeared on Greenville News: ABC 20/20 tonight: Live updates on SC Murdaugh family crime saga


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