Murdaugh murders and mysteries timeline: Key events in the South Carolina family's scandals and deaths

Alex Murdaugh was convicted of murdering his wife and younger son.

November 28, 2023, 3:26 PM

A string of bloody killings and mysteries involving a prominent South Carolina family has been filled with a wild chase full of twists and turns -- culminating in a murder conviction against the family's patriarch.

At the center of it is Alex Murdaugh, 54, a former lawyer who comes from a legacy of prominent attorneys in South Carolina, where three generations of the family had been state prosecutors in the Hampton County area for more than a century.

The saga began when his younger son, Paul, was involved in a fatal boat crash in 2019. A year and a half later, Murdaugh's wife, Margaret "Maggie" Murdaugh, 52, and Paul, 22, were found fatally shot on the family's rural hunting estate.

Since then, there have been curveballs in the investigation -- including Alex Murdaugh's alleged money misuse that led to his disbarment, an admitted opioid addiction, an assisted-suicide attempt involving an alleged $10 million insurance fraud scheme and a high-profile murder trial.

Here's a timeline of the key events in the Murdaugh murders and scandals:

PHOTO: In this booking photo released on Sept. 16, 2021, by the Hampton County Detention Center, Alex Murdaugh is shown.
In this booking photo released on Sept. 16, 2021, by the Hampton County Detention Center, Alex Murdaugh is shown.
Hampton County Detention Center

Feb. 24, 2019: Paul Murdaugh involved in deadly boat crash

Paul Murdaugh, then 19, is alleged to have been boating under the influence when he is involved in a crash that killed a 19-year-old woman, Mallory Beach of South Carolina. The wreck led to some questioning whether his family's ties to the legal system in the area affected the investigation, local newspaper The Island Packet reported at the time.

Within weeks of the boat crash, Mallory Beach's mother filed a civil lawsuit against the convenience store where Paul Murdaugh purchased alcohol the night of the crash and against Alex Murdaugh, who owned the boat, and his older brother, Buster Murdaugh, whose I.D. Paul Murdaugh used.

April 18, 2019: Paul Murdaugh charged

Paul Murdaugh was charged with multiple felonies, including boating under the influence, in connection with the boat crash. He had pleaded not guilty to all charges and faced up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

June 7, 2021: Margaret and Paul Murdaugh are found dead

Margaret and Paul Murdaugh were found dead near dog kennels at the family's home near Islandton, South Carolina, police said. The Colleton County sheriff's department said both victims suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

Their bodies were discovered by Alex Murdaugh, police said. He told authorities he had been out at the time of the shooting and found his wife and son dead when he arrived home, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) said in a later news release.

At the time Paul Murdaugh was awaiting trial for the deadly boat crash.

Duffie Stone, the 14th circuit solicitor appointed in 2006, the first non-Murdaugh to hold the position since 1920, recused himself from the case because of personal connections.

PHOTO: In this undated file photo, Alex Murdaugh, fourth generation of a powerful South Carolina dynasty and owner of a boat involved in a fatal accident, leaves a hearing in a personal injury lawsuit at the Richland County Courthouse.
In this undated file photo, Alex Murdaugh, fourth generation of a powerful South Carolina dynasty and owner of a boat involved in a fatal accident, leaves a hearing in a personal injury lawsuit at the Richland County Courthouse.
John Monk/The State/TNS via Newscom, FILE

June 17, 2021: Alex Murdaugh's brothers speak on "Good Morning America"

John Marvin Murdaugh and Randolph "Randy" Murdaugh IV spoke with "Good Morning America" about the deaths of Maggie and Paul, saying they didn't believe their brother was involved in their killings.

"My brother loved Maggie and loved Paul like nothing else on this earth, just like he loves Buster," Randy said, naming Alex's other son. "So there's no possible way he could have anything to do with this, I can assure you."

June 22, 2021: SELD opens probe into 2015 death of Stephen Smith

SLED announced it opened an investigation into the death of a man named Stephen Smith, 19, after new evidence was gathered during the course of the investigation into the Murdaugh double homicide.

Smith was found dead in the middle of a road in Hampton County in 2015 and investigators believed he was hit by a vehicle but no suspects were ever apprehended, a local ABC affiliate in North Carolina, WTVD, reported.

June 25, 2021: Murdaugh family announces $100,000 reward for information

Alex Murdaugh and his son Buster announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of assailants involved in the murders of Maggie and Paul.

"I want to thank everyone for the incredible love and support that we have received over the last few weeks," Murdaugh said in a statement at the time. "Now is the time to bring justice for Maggie and Paul. Buster and I, along with Maggie's mother, father and our entire family, ask that anyone with helpful information should immediately call the SLED tip line or Crime Stoppers."

Sept. 3, 2021: Alex Murdaugh resigns from law firm

Murdaugh officially resigned from the law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, & Detrick based in Hampton, South Carolina, on Sept. 3 but publicly announced his resignation days later.

PHOTO: In this June 11, 2021, file photo, Buster Murdaugh, center, receives a hug in the rain during the funeral service for his brother, Paul, and mother, Maggie, in Hampton, S.C.
In this June 11, 2021, file photo, Buster Murdaugh, center, receives a hug in the rain during the funeral service for his brother, Paul, and mother, Maggie, in Hampton, S.C.
Kacen Bayless/The Island Packet via AP, FILE

Sept. 4, 2021: Murdaugh calls 911 saying he was shot

A major twist in the case came when Alex Murdaugh called authorities saying he was shot in the head in Hampton County on Sept. 4.

A family spokesperson told ABC News at the time that he was changing a tire when a car passed him. The vehicle turned around and "someone in the car shot him," the spokesperson said to ABC News.

SLED said in a statement at the time that he was shot on Old Salkehatchie Road near Varnville, South Carolina. He was transported to a hospital in Savannah, Georgia, for "treatment of a superficial gunshot wound to the head," SLED said.

The family's spokesperson later offered a clarification regarding the shooting, saying, "Alex had an entry and exit wound, his skull was fractured and it was not a self-inflicted bullet wound. 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."

Sept. 6, 2021: Murdaugh announces resignation, enters rehab

Alex Murdaugh publicly announced that he resigned from his law firm and will enter rehab.

"The murders of my wife and son have caused an incredibly difficult time in my life. I have made a lot of decisions that I truly regret. I'm resigning from my law firm and entering rehab after a long battle that has been exacerbated by these murders. I am immensely sorry to everyone I've hurt including my family, friends and colleagues. I ask for prayers as I rehabilitate myself and my relationships," he said.

Sept. 7, 2021: Law firm says Murdaugh left due to money misuse

Alex Murdaugh's former law firm, Peters Murdaugh Parker Eltzroth & Detrick, released a statement saying Murdaugh formally resigned Sept. 3 and that "he is no longer associated with PMPED in any manner."

"His resignation came after the discovery by PMPED that Alex misappropriated funds in violation of PMPED standards and policies. A forensic accounting firm will be retained to conduct a thorough investigation."

The firm said that it contacted law enforcement and the South Carolina Bar.

Sept. 8, 2021: Brother "shocked" by Murdaugh allegations; Alex Murdaugh's law license suspended

Alex Murdaugh's older brother Randy Murdaugh, who is also still employed by the firm, released a statement saying he was "shocked" to learn of his brother's "settling of money," as well as "drug addiction."

"I love my law firm family and also love Alex as my brother. While I will support him in his recovery, I do not support, condone, or excuse his conduct in stealing by manipulating his most trusted relationships. I will continue to pursue my client's interests with the highest degree of honesty and integrity, as I always have," he said.

The South Carolina Supreme Court also issued an order suspending Alex Murdaugh's license to practice law in the state.

Sept. 13, 2021: SLED investigates missing money from law firm

SLED confirmed they are the law enforcement agency investigating the missing money from the law firm.

Sept. 14, 2021: Police charge man in Alex Murdaugh shooting

SLED announced the arrest of Curtis Edward Smith, 61, in connection with the shooting incident involving Alex Murdaugh on Sept. 4 in Hampton County.

PHOTO: This photo provided by the Colleton County sheriff's office shows Curtis Edward Smith.
This photo provided by the Colleton County sheriff's office shows Curtis Edward Smith.
Colleton County Sheriffs Office via AP

Smith was charged with assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high-aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.

Sept. 15, 2021: Lawyers say Murdaugh set up his own shooting, police open criminal investigation into 2018 death of Gloria Satterfield

Alex Murdaugh enlisted Curtis Smith to shoot and kill him while in his mentally ill, drug-addicted and grieving state, Murdaugh's attorneys Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian said in a statement on Sept. 15, a day after Smith was charged.

"On September 4, it became clear Alex believed that ending his life was his only option. Today, he knows that's not true. For the last 20 years, there have been many people feeding his addiction to opioids. During that time, these individuals took advantage of his addiction and his ability to pay substantial funds for illegal drugs. One of those individuals took advantage of his mental illness and agreed to take Alex's life, by shooting him in the head," the statement said.

"Fortunately, Alex was not killed by the gunshot wound. Alex is fully cooperating with SLED in their investigations into his shooting, opioid use and the search to find the person or people responsible for the murder of his wife and son. Alex is not without fault but he is just one of many whose life has been devastated by opioid addiction," the lawyers' statement continued.

Also on Sept. 15, the sons of a former Murdaugh housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, filed a lawsuit against Alex Murdaugh, Corey Fleming and others for allegedly swindling them out of receiving settlement money.

Satterfield reportedly died after a falling accident in the Murdaugh family home in February 2018, the lawsuit states.

In the civil lawsuit, Satterfield's surviving sons claimed Alex Murdaugh approached them after she died, proposing the sons sue him so they would get a life insurance settlement on their mother's behalf, the complaint states.

The court papers said that Murdaugh personally introduced them to fellow attorney Corey Fleming with the recommendation that Fleming should represent them "in filing legal claims against Murdaugh for the wrongful death of their mother."

The alleged conspiracy led to a $505,000 settlement, but Satterfield's sons claim they haven't gotten any of that settlement money, which was agreed upon in December 2018, the lawsuit claimed.

SLED then said they were opening the investigation into Satterfield's death at the request of the Hampton County Coroner's Office and due to information gathered during the course of other ongoing investigations involving Alex Murdaugh.

Sept. 16, 2021: Alex Murdaugh surrenders

Murdaugh turned himself in at the Hampton County Detention Center.

PHOTO: Lawyer Alex Murdaugh walks into his bond hearing, Sept. 16, 2021, in Varnville, S.C.
Lawyer Alex Murdaugh walks into his bond hearing, Sept. 16, 2021, in Varnville, S.C.
Mic Smith/AP

He was arrested in connection to the Sept. 4 shooting incident "in which he conspired with Curtis Edward Smith to assist him in committing suicide for the explicit purpose of allowing a beneficiary to collect life insurance," SLED said in a statement.

The affidavit said Murdaugh provided a statement to SLED on Sept. 13: "Admitting to the scheme … for the purpose of his son collecting a life insurance policy valued at approximately $10 million." A day later, Smith admitted to being present during the Murdaugh shooting and disposing the firearm afterward.

Murdaugh was charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, along with filing a false police report. The case will be prosecuted by the attorney general's office.

"I can assure you that SLED agents will continue working to bring justice to anyone involved with any criminal act associated with these ongoing investigations," said SLED Chief Mark Keel. "The arrests in this case are only the first step in that process."

Earlier on Sept. 16, Curtis Edward Smith appeared in front of a Hampton County Judge for a bond hearing on charges where he agreed to a public defender and had his bond set at $55,000 for the attempted assisted suicide of Alex Murdaugh.

Sept. 18, 2021: $20,000 bond

In a bond hearing in Hampton County court on Thursday, Sept. 18. Alex Murdaugh was ordered held on a $20,000 personal recognizance bond. Murdaugh will return to rehab, according to his attorney, and will change to an out-of-state rehab facility afterwards. If he leaves the rehab facility, there will be a bench warrant issued for his arrest, Judge Tonja Alexander said.

Oct. 6, 2021: Murdaugh sued by former law firm

Alex Murdaugh's former law firm filed a lawsuit alleging that he funneled stolen money from clients and the law firm into a fake bank account for years.

In response, one of his attorneys called it a "very sad development."

"Alex holds every member of the Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, Detrick law firm in very high esteem," Griffin said on Twitter. "He has pledged his full cooperation to the firm."

Oct. 14, 2021: Murdaugh arrested, charged in connection to settlement funds from housekeeper's death

Alex Murdaugh was taken into custody upon his release from a Florida rehab facility and charged with two felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses, SLED announced.

"These charges stem from a SLED investigation into misappropriated settlement funds in the death of Gloria Satterfield," SLED said in a statement.

A bond hearing was scheduled for Oct. 15 in Beaufort County, South Carolina, his lawyers said.

"Alex intends to fully cooperate with this investigation, as he has with the investigation into the murder of his wife and son," his lawyers said in a statement.

Satterfield's family members, who have alleged that Alex Murdaugh stole more than $4 million in insurance settlements for her death, called the development "bittersweet" and a "very good start to holding everyone accountable."

"Avarice and betrayal of trust are at the heart of this matter," the families said in a statement through their lawyers. "Since early September the families are dealing with the betrayal of trust and that their loved one's death was used as a vehicle to enrich others over the clients."

Oct. 15, 2021: Lawyer said Murdaugh had drugs in his system day he was shot

Murdaugh's lawyer Dick Harpootlian said on "Good Morning America" Friday that health records show Murdaugh had drugs in his system when he was shot on Sept. 4.

"Those medical records show he was positive for opiates and barbiturates on the night that he was taken to the Savannah hospital," Harpootlian said. "He has a long-term Oxycontin opiate addiction … that put him in a position where he did those stupid and illegal things."

Dec. 13, 2021: $7 million bond

A judge set Alex Murdaugh's bond at $7 million on nearly 50 financial crimes charges.

June 28, 2022: Indicted for conspiracy

Murdaugh and Smith were indicted by the state's grand jury on two conspiracy counts, including a narcotics count related to Oxycodone.

July 12, 2022: Alex Murdaugh disbarred

The Supreme Court of South Carolina officially disbarred Alex Murdaugh from practicing law in the state based on his "admitted reprehensible misconduct."

July 14, 2022: Alex Murdaugh indicted for murder

A grand jury indicted Alex Murdaugh on two counts of murder for the fatal shootings of his wife and son.

July 20, 2022: Not guilty plea

Alex Murdaugh pleaded not guilty to the murder charges at a bond hearing. Judge Clifton Newman denied bond.

Dec. 16, 2022: Alex Murdaugh indicted on tax evasion

A grand jury indicted Alex Murdaugh on nine counts of tax evasion, alleging he failed to pay nearly $490,000 in state income taxes over nearly a decade. He now faces over 100 criminal charges.

PHOTO: Defendant Alex Murdaugh is cross examined by prosecutor Creighton Waters while testifying during his murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, S.C., Feb. 24, 2023.
Defendant Alex Murdaugh is cross examined by prosecutor Creighton Waters while testifying during his murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, S.C., Feb. 24, 2023.
Joshua Boucher/The State via AP, POOL

Jan. 23, 2023: Murder trial begins

The double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh begins with jury selection in the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina.

March 2, 2023: Guilty verdict

A jury found Alex Murdaugh guilty of murdering his wife and son after deliberating for nearly three hours.

March 3, 2023: Sentenced to life in prison

Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to life in prison. The life sentences for each murder will run consecutively.

March 10, 2023: Notice of appeal filed

Alex Murdaugh's attorneys filed a notice of appeal for his convictions and sentences in the South Carolina Court of Appeals.

March 21, 2023: Stephen Smith probe now a homicide

Lawyers for Stephen Smith's mother announced that South Carolina authorities are now conducting a homicide probe into his 2015 death. SLED also confirmed to ABC News that they are investigating the death, which was initially determined to be highway vehicular manslaughter, as a homicide.

May 24, 2023: Alex Murdaugh indicted on federal fraud charges

A grand jury has indicted Alex Murdaugh on federal fraud charges in connection with several alleged schemes while he worked as a personal injury attorney, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of South Carolina announced.

Sept. 5, 2023: Alex Murdaugh seeks new trial

Alex Murdaugh's attorneys filed a motion for a new trial, alleging jury tampering.

Sept. 21, 2023: Alex Murdaugh pleads guilty to federal fraud charges

Alex Murdaugh pleaded guilty to all federal charges.

Nov. 17, 2023: Alex Murdaugh pleads guilty to state financial charges

Alex Murdaugh pleaded guilty to 22 of his 101 state financial charges, as part of a plea agreement in which the state sought a 27-year prison sentence.

Nov. 28, 2023: Alex Murdaugh sentenced for state financial crimes

Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to 27 years in prison on the state financial crimes. Under the plea agreement, Murdaugh will be guaranteed to serve at least 85% -- more than 22 years -- of the sentence.

ABC News' Eva Pilgrim, Alexandra Faul, William Gretsky, Janice McDonald, Jen Leong and Mike Repplier contributed to this report.