A grand jury in South Carolina handed down indictments last week for disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh and his alleged hitman, amplifying criminal charges already filed in connection to the alleged botched suicide plot that occurred along a rural road Labor Day weekend.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, a Republican, announced Thursday that a Hampton County Grand Jury issued indictments for Alex Murdaugh for conspiracy, false claim or payment in the amount of $10,000 or more and filing a false police report in connection to a Sept. 4 shooting allegedly meant to allow his son, Buster Murdaugh, to collect on a $10 million life insurance policy.
The Hampton County Grand Jury also issued indictments for the alleged hitman, Curtis Edward Smith, for pointing and presenting a firearm, conspiracy, assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high aggravated nature and false claim or payment for an amount of $10,000 or more.
Murdaugh conspired with Smith “to assist in Murdaugh’s suicide in the area of Old Salkehatchie Road for the purpose of defrauding an insurer,” the indictments say. “To that end, Murdaugh provided Smith a firearm and directed Smith to shoot Murdaugh in the head, which would thereby conceal the suicidal character of the homicide, and thus cause the beneficiary of Murdaugh’s life insurance policy to submit a false claim to the insurer, who they believed would disallow a claim against a policy which resulted from suicide. Smith followed Murdaugh to a location along Old Salkehatchie Road and shot Murdaugh.”
An indictment for Murdaugh notes that he “survived and thereafter provided false information to the Hampton County Sheriff’s Office and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.”
This comes after Smith and his lawyer, Jonny McCoy, made several national television appearances arguing that Smith had no prior knowledge of any insurance scheme when he met Murdaugh on the road that day. They claimed Smith tried to wrestle Murdaugh, who appeared high on opioids, for the gun when it then went off and Murdaugh had later set up Smith to take the fall for his crimes.
But the grand jury argues there’s enough evidence to suggest Murdaugh and Smith “did willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously unite, combine, conspire, confederate, agree and have tacit understanding and agreement between himself and one or more other persons, to accomplish an unlawful object and a lawful object by unlawful means,” according to the indictments on the conspiracy charges.
Smith allegedly “did knowingly and unlawfully assist, solicit and conspire with another person to cause to be presented with a false claim for payment to an insurer transacting business” in South Carolina.
On the assisted suicide charge, an indictment for Smith notes that on Sept. 4 he “did have knowledge that another person intended to commit and attempt to commit suicide and intentionally provided the physical means by which another person attempted to commit suicide, and did have knowledge that another person intended to commit and attempt to commit suicide and intentionally participated in a physical act by which another person attempted to commit suicide.”
Murdaugh’s attorney, Dick Harpootlian, has painted Smith as Murdaugh’s longtime drug dealer who has taken advantage of the disgraced legal scion’s over 20-year-long opioid addiction, but Smith, who is also distant cousin of Murdaugh, has insisted he considered Murdaugh a close friend for whom he would do almost anything. Murdaugh previously represented the handyman in a personal injury case years ago.
After Murdaugh appeared in a Sept. 16 Hampton County court hearing without any visible head injuries, widespread speculation circulated that the disgraced attorney was never truly shot. But medical evacuation and hospital records allegedly support that Murdaugh was treated for a graze wound.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) also later released 911 call audio of the Sept. 4 incident, including a female driver passing by who described to a dispatcher seeing a bloodied man on the side of the road – but also affirming she didn’t stop because the scene “looks like a set-up.”
After being treated and released from the hospital, Murdaugh’s lawyer said he completed medical detox for his opioid addiction at a facility in Atlanta and later continued his treatment at another rehabilitation facility in Orlando, where he was arrested again on new charges last month alleging he stole more than $3.4 million in settlement funds related to the 2018 death of his housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield.
Last week, a South Carolina judge acted to freeze the assets of Murdaugh and his son, Buster, appointing receivers to analyze the family’s finances. The move was meant to protect future financial settlements possibly to be obtained on behalf of the family of 19-year-old Mallory Beach, who was killed in a crash on Murdaugh’s boat which prosecutors said his late son, Paul Murdaugh, was driving while intoxicated and underage in February 2019.
A different South Carolina judge denied bond for Murdaugh after his most recent arrest on charges connected to the Satterfield settlement money and ordered a psychiatric evaluation performed – thought that report remains to be seen by the court.
Still no suspects have been named in the June 7 murders of Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, 52, and their son Paul, 22. Murdaugh said he returned to their rural Colleton County hunting estate to find them shot to death. State police have since opened five more criminal investigations into Murdaugh, including related to the 2015 roadside death of another 19-year-old, Stephen Smith, who was once Buster’s classmate.
In court filings last week, Murdaugh admitted to owing John E. Parker of PMPED law firm, which was founded by Murdaugh’s great-grandfather, nearly $500,000 in loans made earlier this year. He also admitted to owing his brother, Randy Murdaugh, some $50,000 in loans made to cover an overdrawn account at Palmetto State Bank. The confessions sparked concern from some, including Satterfield’s lawyers, who believe the filings will serve as further shady financial maneuvering so Murdaugh’s family can shell away assets.