VARNVILLE, S.C. - Prominent attorney Alex Murdaugh surrendered Thursday after authorities, and his own defense, say he attempted "to have himself executed" so his son could collect a $10 million life insurance policy.
Murdaugh, 53, arrived at the Hampton County Law Enforcement Center, which houses both the sheriff's office and magistrate court, at about 11:30 a.m. and changed into jail grab for a late afternoon bond hearing.
Murdaugh, whose bail was set at $20,000, was charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and filing a false police report.
The attorney-turned-defendant agreed to surrender his passport and waive any extradition, as he'll be undergoing addiction treatment out of state.
Prosecutor Creighton Waters argued that Murdaugh is a danger to the community and asked Hampton County Judge Tonja Alexander to set bail at $100,000.
"While the charges here under the law are not violent the underlying facts are violent," Waters said.
Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian agreed to virtually all allegations made against his client, but blamed an opioid addiction for Murdaugh's actions. He insisted Murdaugh is not a threat to the community.
"This crime involved his attempt to have himself shot, so his son could collect insurance money. The only violence he's ever been involved in is this, which was to have himself executed," Harpootlian told the court.
"So he's not a danger to the community. The only person he's a danger to is himself."
Hours earlier, a judge set bail at $55,000 for the man suspected of pulling the trigger in Murdaugh's alleged suicide-for-hire plot.
Curtis Edward Smith, 61, was shackled and wore a beige jail jumpsuit during his initial court appearance, as Judge Alexander read allegations against him.
He's been charged with conspiracy, pointing and presenting a firearm, assisting a person in suicide, assault and battery of a high aggravated nature, conspiracy and insurance fraud.
Smith answered basic questions and signed forms, affirming that he understood the proceedings against him. Alexander asked Smith if he'll apply for representation by a public defender.
"I'm probably going to go for one, yes," he responded.
Murdaugh was shot in the head on Sept. 4, three months after the unsolved slayings of his wife and adult son, but suffered a superficial wound. His attorney said Murdaugh was depressed and enlisted a man to kill him, believing his life insurance had a suicide clause.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division also said it opened a criminal investigation into the 2018 death of a longtime housekeeper and nanny for the Murdaugh family.
“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,” SLED Chief Mark Keel said in a statement shortly after Murdaugh surrendered. “The arrests in this case are only the first step in that process.”
Catie Beck reported from Varnville, South Carolina, and David K. Li from New York