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Lawyer Alex Murdaugh plans to surrender after arranged shooting plot revealed

His woes continued when the family of a former housekeeper filed a lawsuit accusing him and others of failing to pay a wrongful death settlement.
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South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh will surrender to authorities on Thursday, a day after a man was arrested for allegedly attempting to stage Murdaugh's suicide so his son could collect a $10 million life insurance policy, his legal team said.

The development came on the same day that the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said it opened a criminal investigation into the 2018 death of a longtime housekeeper and nanny for the Murdaugh family.

Murdaugh, 53, has not been charged with a crime. His legal team said that he will surrender to authorities in Hampton County and they expect him to faces charges related to conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.

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 and survived. Murdaugh's attorney said Murdaugh was depressed and enlisted a man to kill him, believing his life insurance had a suicide clause.

On Wednesday, there was another unexpected turn in the case when the state law enforcement division, or SLED, said it was opening a criminal investigation into the death of housekeeper Gloria Satterfield. The agency said the decision was based on a request from the Hampton County coroner and on "information gathered" during a separate investigation involving Alex Murdaugh.

Image: Gloria Satterfield
Gloria Satterfield.Brice W. Herndon and Sons Funeral Home

Satterfield's death "was not reported to the coroner at the time, nor was an autopsy performed," Hampton County Coroner Angela Topper wrote in a letter to state investigators in her request. "On the death certificate, the manner of death was ruled 'natural,' which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident."

Her family said in a statement that it was a "sad day" for them following the announcement of the investigation.

"The news of the opening of a criminal investigation causes more questions at a time when the family just wanted answers regarding the claims that were asserted in connection with the death of their mother and any settlements reached," the statement said. "Today this nightmare escalated for the family with the news of the opening of the criminal investigation into the death of Gloria Satterfield."

Earlier Wednesday, an attorney for Satterfield's family filed a lawsuit in Hampton County court accusing Murdaugh and others of breach of fiduciary duty in failing to pay them as part of a wrongful death settlement.

Satterfield was 57 when she died in February 2018 from injuries sustained from a fall in the Murdaugh home, where she was employed for more than two decades. According to the suit, "the exact details of the fall remain unclear" to her two sons, Michael "Tony" Satterfield and Brian Harriott, who were supposed to get $475,000 in direct payment to "compensate them for the grief, sorrow and mourning associated with the loss of their mother."

The home was insured through Lloyd's of London, according to the suit. Murdaugh initially pledged that he was "going to take care of the boys," the suit added, by suing himself to collect on personal liability insurance through Lloyd's. But nearly two years after a partial settlement was reached through Lloyd's, a "stipulation of dismissal" was filed in October 2020, purportedly ending the estate's claims against Murdaugh. He also signed the stipulation, according to an exhibit attached to the suit.

Ronald Richter Jr., an attorney for Satterfield's family, told NBC News they've received "not a dime."

Another attorney, Eric Bland, said Satterfield's sons didn't previously want to make waves.

"It's hard. One of our clients is special needs, the other lives in a small Southern town ... and they didn't ask questions," he said. They previously "tried to call their lawyers and didn't get a response, but they didn't take it beyond that. They were scared."

A Murdaugh family spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The latest investigation surrounding the family comes after state investigators and lawyers for Murdaugh revealed he used a gunman to attempt to stage his own death so that a $10 million life insurance policy can be paid to another son.

The bizarre plot unraveled, however, when the lawyers said the man, Curtis Edward Smith, only grazed Murdaugh's head with a bullet during the Sept. 4 roadside shooting, and days later, Murdaugh's law firm accused him of misappropriating money.

Jim Griffin, one of Murdaugh's lawyers, said that his client did not tell state investigators that he paid Smith and that Smith "willingly shot him without pay," The Post and Courier reported. He also said Smith was the "primary" drug dealer for Murdaugh, who had been dealing with an addiction to painkillers.

Smith, 61, was charged with assisted suicide, insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and other counts, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said in a statement. Murdaugh, who was listed as a co-defendant, was not immediately arrested; another of his lawyers, Richard Harpootlian, said on NBC's "TODAY" show that he expects charges to be filed.

Court documents show that Murdaugh had first represented Smith in a personal injury lawsuit in 2012 and then for a speeding ticket in 2013. Other details surrounding their connection, and whether the shooting might also be tied to the unsolved slayings of Murdaugh's wife, Margaret, and son Paul remain unclear.

Harpootlian said Murdaugh was "distraught" over their deaths and overcome by emotions exacerbated by a 20-year opioid addiction, but insisted he did not play a role in their killings.

From left, Paul, Margaret and Alex Murdaugh.
From left, Paul, Margaret and Alex Murdaugh.via Facebook

Harpootlian said they're doing their own investigation, and "we think we'll know this week whether the one suspect we're looking at bears further scrutiny, and we'll make that available to law enforcement."

Smith was also charged with distribution of methamphetamine and possession of marijuana. Court records indicate he has traffic violations in Colleton County going back to 1995, and it was not immediately clear if he currently has an attorney.

The family's powerful legal connections were in the spotlight after Paul Murdaugh was indicted in a boat crash in 2019 that left Mallory Beach, 19, dead. A police report said people on the boat were "grossly intoxicated."

Paul Murdaugh, who had pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of boating under the influence, was awaiting trial at the time of his death.

In addition, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division announced in June that it was opening an investigation into the death of another 19-year-old, Stephen Smith, who was found on a rural road in Hampton County in 2015. Investigators said the case was opened after information was found while investigating the double homicide of Margaret and Paul Murdaugh.