#UPDATE (AP) – A judge in South Carolina has denied bond 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 Tuesday 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.
Newman also ordered a psychiatric evaluation for Murdaugh.
He said he’ll reconsider his decision after the evaluation.
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP/WSPA) — Lawyers for prominent South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh plan to ask a judge on Tuesday to grant bond for their client, who has spent five nights in jail following his second arrest in about a month.
Murdaugh, whose wife and son were shot to death months ago in a killing that is still unresolved, stole $3.4 million of insurance money that was meant for the sons of his housekeeper, who died after falling in his home, according to sworn statements by the State Law Enforcement Division.
Murdaugh is already out on a recognizance bond for a September arrest on insurance fraud charges after state agents said he tried to arrange his own shooting death on a roadside so that his surviving son could collect a $10 million life insurance policy. The would-be fatal bullet only grazed him.
Murdaugh’s latest bond hearing on two new charges of obtaining property by false pretenses is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday. He was arrested at a drug rehab center near Orlando, Florida, on Thursday and brought back to South Carolina.
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.
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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.