Disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh never told the family that he collected more than $4 million in insurance settlements after a housekeeper fell at their home, according to testimony. This is of course on top of his double murder trial for the killings of his wife and son.
Judge Clifton Newman heard testimony about Murdaugh’s alleged financial schemes as the court weighs whether to allow the admission of such evidence.
Prosecutors want the evidence of financial wrongdoing admitted to show that the scion of one of the state’s most powerful families was, in their words, a desperate thief on the verge of being exposed at the time of the 2021 murders of his wife and adult son.
Defense attorneys have portrayed the defendant as a loving father and husband being prosecuted after a poorly handled investigation while the real killers remain at large.
Michael Satterfield, a son of Gloria Satterfield, who worked as housekeeper for the Murdaugh family for more than 20 years, testified in the second week of the murder trial. She died a few weeks after a fall at the Murdaugh home in 2018.
Satterfield’s son told the court that Murdaugh offered to “go after my insurance company” to help their family with medical bills and other expenses.
Michael Satterfield testified that Murdaugh at one point said Satterfield and his brother could each get $100,000 from the insurance company. They never got the money, he testified. And Murdaugh never mentioned a $5 million umbrella policy that he had in addition to a policy for a smaller amount.
In June 2021, Michael Satterfield testified, his family heard their case was settled but Murdaugh did not disclose that he had collected on two settlements – one for more than $500,000 and another for $3.8 million.
In December 2021, an attorney for the Satterfield family said Murdaugh agreed to a $4.3 million settlement with the family. He also issued an apology to the Satterfields.
Malinowski, who testified at Laffitte’s trial, told the court that Murdaugh’s mounting debt to the bank was regularly covered, without justification, by loans from Laffite.
In August 2021, two months after the murders, Murdaugh’s account had an overdraft of more than $350,000, Malinowski testified. Laffitte responded with a $400,000 transfer to the defendant’s account.
Murdaugh at the time owed the bank more than $4 million.
Prosecutors, in pretrial filings, accuse Murdaugh of killing his wife, Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, and his 22-year-old son Paul Murdaugh to distract attention from alleged financial crimes, which the state contends were about to come to light when they were killed on June 7, 2021.
In addition to the murder counts, he faces 99 charges related to those purported schemes.
Under each case, Murdaugh faces the possibility of two sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
The chief financial officer of Murdaugh’s former law firm testified about confronting the now-disbarred attorney about missing funds the morning his wife and son were killed.
The morning of the murders, Seckinger confronted Murdaugh about $792,000 in missing funds, she said Thursday, testifying that legal fees should have been made payable to the law firm – renamed to Parker Law Group after Murdaugh’s ouster – and not to individual attorneys.
Finally, the court on Friday heard from a ballistics expert who told the court the .300 Blackout rifle cartridge casings found near Maggie’s body had identical markings to older casings found near the Murdaugh home as well as at a shooting range on their property.
The older casings found near the house and in the shooting range “had those same matching mechanism marks to conclude they’d been loaded into, extracted and ejected from the same firearm as those at the crime scene around Margaret Murdaugh’s body,” Paul Greer, a firearm examiner with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, testified.
The prosecution has said Maggie was killed with a .300 Blackout AR-15 rifle that was a “family weapon” but the weapon has yet to be found.
During cross-examination by the defense on Friday, Greer said it is “hard to say” whether different .300 Blackout rifles could create the same markings on casings – but reaffirmed he was confident in his findings.
Prosecutors have also said the Murdaughs owned other AR-style rifles, including one Murdaugh bought his son to replace another that went missing. The prosecution has said the replacement is “nowhere to be found.”
Greer had similar testimony when the defense asked if Paul was killed with the camouflage-patterned gun Alex Murdaugh had on him when first responders arrived at the crime scene. The expert said he test fired that gun and the results were inconclusive. Greer testified he could not tell whether the casings were a match, but that it was possibly the gun – or a weapon with similar characteristics.
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