A man's hands in cuffs

A once-prominent South Carolina attorney has been charged with stealing millions from his clients, running a narcotics ring, and recently killing his wife and son.

A prominent South Carolina attorney is at the center of a sinister web that has only grown more complex over the course of the past year. Officials believe Alex Murdaugh stole millions from his clients, fronted a narcotics ring, and hired a hitman to stage his own murder. He’s now also been charged with killing his wife Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22.

Their deaths last year triggered a sprawling investigation into Murdaugh, leading to his indictment on a series of financial crimes and prompting police to reexamine the deaths of several people who had been in Murdaugh’s orbit. It’s a remarkable fall from grace for the fourth-generation attorney, the scion of a powerful legal dynasty that’s produced a number of elected prosecutors who had come to dominate South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Here’s a timeline of the whole saga:

July 2015: 19-year-old Stephen Smith is found dead about 15 miles from Murdaugh’s residence. Police said Smith was likely hit in the head by the mirror of a semi-truck, but his mother was convinced that he was beaten to death and that someone had covered it up, per the AP.

“The way his body was laying in the road, with his arm dislocated and bent back behind his body, I just don’t believe that he was struck by the mirror of a vehicle,” she told a local newspaper at the time.

After Murdaugh’s wife and son were found dead, police reopened the investigation into Smith’s case, but didn’t disclose how Murdaugh may be connected.

February 2018: The Murdaughs’ longtime housekeeper Gloria Satterfield falls into a coma and dies; Murdaugh said she tripped and fell in their home. But her death was never reported to the coroner and an autopsy was never performed, CBS reports. A criminal investigation was opened last year.

Murdaugh allegedly steered Satterfield’s family to hire a friend as their attorney in a wrongful death suit. That friend then secretly sent Murdaugh millions in insurance settlements, money which was intended for Satterfield’s family, prosecutors say.

February 2019: Paul Murdaugh (Alex’s son) crashes a boat into a bridge pier while drunk, killing one of the passengers, 19-year-old Mallory Beach. Others on the boat say Murdaugh told them not to tell police Paul was the one behind the wheel, per ABC. State authorities are now looking into whether Murdaugh and his connections tried to obstruct the investigation.

June 7, 2021: Murdaugh calls 911 to report that he found his wife and son dead on his 1,700-acre hunting estate in Colleton County. Murdaugh appeared distraught as he told officials that Maggie and Paul had both been shot multiple times.

September 4, 2021: Murdaugh arranges for a distant cousin, Curtis Edward Smith, to shoot him and stage it as a murder, hoping to secure a $10 million life insurance payment for his surviving son, Buster. But Smith missed, only grazing Murdaugh’s head.

Murdaugh calls police, reporting that he’d been shot in the head by an unknown assailant who pulled up next to his car while he was fixing a flat tire. He came clean about the scheme a week later. In a statement, his attorneys said Murdaugh was struggling with addiction and “believed that ending his life was his only option.”

October 14, 2021: Murdaugh is arrested at a rehab facility in Orlando, Fl. for stealing $4 million in insurance settlements from Satterfield’s family.

November 17, 2021: Prosecutors charge Murdaugh with stealing almost $5 million from clients of his law firm and Satterfield’s family. Murdaugh was also accused of concealig money from attorneys suing over Beach’s death.

January 21, 2022: Another round of indictments against Murdaugh is revealed, as prosecutors say he stole nearly $8.5 million in settlements, the AP reports.

June 28, 2022: Murdaugh is charged in a money laundering and drug trafficking scheme, which authorities say he ran with Smith for eight years. They accused Murdaugh of being involved in a “distribution network” for oxycodone.

July 14, 2022: Murdaugh is charged with shooting his wife with a rifle and his son with a shotgun. Police have not released any new details about the case and haven’t disclosed a motive for the murders.

July 20, 2022: Murdaugh pleads not guilty to murdering his wife and son. His attorneys say he can’t afford to post bond and are requesting a speedy trial because he “believes the killer or killers are still at large.” Murdaugh has been held since October.

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