For two years, the family of Gloria Satterfield has watched Alex Murdaugh in the public eye, first as a grieving man whose wife and son were mysteriously murdered, then as a suspect in their deaths, and ultimately, as the convicted killer who continues to proclaim his innocence.
On Tuesday, the Satterfield family will be able to do something they have been waiting for: address Murdaugh directly.
Their once-trusted lawyer, who they believed was going to help them after Gloria Satterfield’s death in 2018, is set to be sentenced in a South Carolina court on almost two dozen counts of financial crimes, including money laundering, fraud and breach of trust, for schemes against his clients as well as his family’s law firm, according to state prosecutors.
Murdaugh’s victims expect to have the opportunity to speak, and a lawyer said one of Gloria Satterfield’s adult sons and her sister plan to do so. The lawyer, Eric Bland, also said he wants to confront Murdaugh, who had employed Satterfield as the family’s housekeeper before she died following a “trip and fall accident” at the Murdaughs’ home.
“I’m going to say that 'I heard you say that you wrongfully took ... no, you didn’t wrongfully take, you stole,'” Bland said. “‘I heard you say you misrepresented. No, you didn’t misrepresent, you lied. Yeah, let’s not sugarcoat what you did. You’re a thief and a liar.’”
The expected sentencing follows a deal with prosecutors in which Murdaugh agreed to plead guilty to 22 counts of financial crimes — one for each of his victims. But prosecutors allege the case actually spans 101 financial-related charges and an alleged loss of $8.8 million to those affected by his deception lasting over a decade.
In exchange for his guilty plea, state prosecutors have suggested a 27-year prison sentence, and it would run at the same time as his federal sentence for similar financial crimes that he pleaded guilty to in September. Murdaugh, 55, is already serving two consecutive life sentences for the fatal shootings of his wife, Margaret, and their younger son, Paul, in June 2021.
Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman said at a hearing this month, just days before the state’s case was set to go to trial, that he intends to accept the plea deal but would like to hear from victims.
“I agree that I wrongly took all of that money, your honor, and did all of those crimes,” Murdaugh, a now disbarred personal injury lawyer, told Newman as he pleaded guilty.
The victims include a woman who said she was defrauded twice by Murdaugh — once when she hired him in 2010 after her teenage son became paralyzed from the neck down in a car accident, and then again after he died. Another victim is a man who was injured in a 2011 car accident in which his wife was killed. In both cases, prosecutors say, Murdaugh pocketed money that should have gone to the victims.
Murdaugh was well known in legal circles in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, where three generations of family patriarchs wielded power as the region’s top prosecutor for decades. His family’s law firm, founded in 1910 in Hampton County, specialized in personal injury litigation, taking on large railroad companies. Murdaugh often represented poorer and working-class people seeking injury relief — clients normally far removed from the family’s influential orbit.
But in the case of Gloria Satterfield, she was not just employed by the Murdaughs as a housekeeper and nanny for more than two decades: she became like a “second mother,” those who knew the Murdaughs have said.
Satterfield was 57 when she died from injuries sustained in a fall in the Murdaugh home.
Her two adult sons were supposed to receive the money from life insurance proceeds related to the fall, but instead, prosecutors said, Murdaugh enlisted another lawyer, Cory Fleming, to help in the sons’ claim. Murdaugh directed Fleming to draft checks totaling almost $3.5 million to a bank account that he used for his own personal enrichment, while Satterfield’s sons received none of the money, prosecutors added.
Fleming pleaded guilty to his role and was sentenced in August to nearly four years in federal prison.
It was revealed earlier this year, in a lawsuit filed by Nautilus Insurance Co. accusing Murdaugh of life insurance fraud, that he lied when he initially said family dogs had caused Satterfield to fall in order to receive millions of dollars in a settlement from the company.
“In the Satterfield case, he stole every dime, every dime,” lead prosecutor Creighton Waters said at the hearing this month when Murdaugh pleaded guilty.
State law enforcement opened a criminal probe into the death of Satterfield in September 2021, part of a wider investigation into Murdaugh, who at the time was accused of trying to stage his own death in a life insurance plot that was meant to benefit another son, Buster. Murdaugh has said he stole money to feed a 20-year opioid addiction.
The financial crimes became a central part of the state’s case against Murdaugh in his double murder trial. Prosecutors said he killed his wife and son in order to gain sympathy and distract from his crumbling financial situation, which members of his law firm began to investigate.
Murdaugh is attempting to win a new trial on the murder charges, and his defense team has alleged the court of clerk engaged in jury tampering. She has denied those claims.
Murdaugh “feels very comfortable doing prison time for crimes he committed,” Jim Griffin, one of Murdaugh’s lawyers, told reporters this month. “He does not feel comfortable doing prison time for the murders of his wife and son, which he did not do.”
Bland said Satterfield’s family has already forgiven Murdaugh, leaning on their Christian faith. But while “they’re disappointed," he added, "they won’t forget.”
He said the chance to finally address Murdaugh is needed.
“It’s not over yet, but to be able to face this monster — and he’s going to have to listen,” Bland said. “He can smile and he can smirk, but he can hear, and the words are going to go in his ears and he’s going to listen.”