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SC Supreme Court names judge to oversee Alex Murdaugh cases

The South Carolina Supreme Court named a judge who will oversee all criminal court proceedings...
The South Carolina Supreme Court named a judge who will oversee all criminal court proceedings involving Alex Murdaugh.(Hampton County Detention Center)
Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 11:37 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 30, 2021 at 5:25 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Supreme Court named a judge who will oversee all pretrial matters in investigations related to prominent Lowcountry attorney Alex Murdaugh.

A court order filed Tuesday names Judge Clifton Newman to handle “pretrial matters relating to all pending and future criminal investigations” concerning the deaths of Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie Murdaugh; his son, Paul; the family’s longtime housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield; and Stephen Smith.

The order, signed by South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Beatty, states Newman’s oversight will include “any criminal charges which may hereafter be brought by law enforcement or the prosecutor” assigned.

Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and Paul Murdaugh, 22, were found shot to death on the family’s hunting property in the Islandton community of rural Colleton County on June 7. Alex Murdaugh called 911 saying he had discovered them.

During the subsequent investigation into their deaths, investigators with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said they were reopening the investigation into the death of Smith, who was 19 when his body was found along a rural road in Hampton County on July 8, 2015. Smith was initially believed to have died in a hit-and-run incident. SLED agents did not release any details on what led them to reopen the probe into his death.

Earlier this month, SLED confirmed it was looking into Satterfield’s death as well. Satterfield died after a “trip-and-fall” accident in 2018 at the Murdaugh family home, but Hampton County Coroner Angela Topper requested SLED investigate her death after her sons filed suit in a wrongful death settlement of which they claimed they were never made aware. Topper said Satterfield’s death was not reported to the coroner at that time and there was no autopsy performed. She also cited the death certificate, which listed Satterfield’s cause of death as “natural,” which would be inconsistent with a trip and fall injury.

Murdaugh himself was charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, and filing a false police report in connection with what investigators describe as a $10 million insurance fraud scheme. Investigators say Murdaugh provided a statement admitting that he provided another man, Curtis Smith, with a gun and instructed Smith to fatally shoot Murdaugh along a rural Hampton County road. Investigators say Murdaugh hoped his death would result in his surviving son receiving a large insurance payment.

The Murdaugh family has strong ties to the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office. Murdaugh’s father, Randolph Murdaugh III, was the third consecutive Murdaugh to serve as solicitor before he retired from that role to focus on his private practice at the Hampton County law firm his family started. The elder Murdaugh died just days after the shootings of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.

The day before Alex Murdaugh was shot, he resigned from that law firm after being accused of misappropriating money. In a statement, he said he would enter rehab for substance abuse.

The Supreme Court order gives Newman the authority to issue any search warrants, arrest warrants or subpoenas, as well as presiding over any pre-trial motions and issuing pre-trial orders in any case involving Murdaugh.

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