The death three years ago of a longtime housekeeper and nanny for the Murdaugh family will be the subject of a criminal investigation, authorities in South Carolina said on Wednesday, setting an unexpected new twist to a case that entangled a prominent legal family.
A spokesperson for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said Gloria Satterfield’s death prompted scrutiny following a request from the Hampton County Coroner and based on the “information gathered “in a separate investigation involving Alex Murdaugh, the legal offspring whose wife and son were shot in June.
Satterfield’s death “was not reported to the coroner at the time, and no autopsy was performed,” Hampton County Coroner Angela Topper wrote in a letter to state investigators in his request. “On the death certificate, the mode of death was found to be ‘natural’, which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall.”
Earlier Wednesday, a lawyer for the Satterfield family filed a lawsuit in Hampton County Court accusing Murdaugh and others of breach of fiduciary duty by failing to pay them in a wrongful death settlement .
Satterfield was 57 when she died in February 2018 from injuries sustained in a fall at Murdaugh’s home, where she worked for more than two decades. According to the lawsuit, “the exact details of the fall remain unclear” for her two sons, Michael “Tony” Satterfield and Brian Harriott, who were supposed to receive $ 475,000 in direct payment to “compensate them for the heartache, grief and grief. mourning associated with the loss of their mother. “
The house was insured by Lloyd’s of London, according to the lawsuit. Murdaugh initially promised he would “take care of the boys,” the lawsuit added, suing himself to collect liability insurance through Lloyd’s. But nearly two years after reaching a partial settlement with the insurance company, a “termination stipulation” was filed in October 2020, ending the estate’s claims against Murdaugh. Murdaugh also signed the stipulation, according to an attachment to the lawsuit.
“Neither Tony nor Brian were consulted about the termination, and they were not informed of any further action taken on their behalf in the years following the partial settlement,” the complaint said. “Tony and Brian first learned that the money had been recovered from their mother’s death when it was reported in the press.”
Ronald Richter Jr., an attorney for the Satterfield family, told NBC News they received “not a dime.”
“We are informed that the settlement was $ 505,000, but the net proceeds of this settlement, we are told that they did not receive any of this money, although the matter is expected to be resolved in 2018,” said he declared.
Another lawyer, Eric Bland, said the Satterfield sons previously did not want to make waves.
“It’s difficult. One of our clients has special needs, the other lives in a small town in the south… and they didn’t ask any questions,” he said. Previously, they “tried to call their lawyers and did not get an answer, but they did not go any further. They were afraid.”
A spokesperson for the Murdaugh family did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
The latest investigation into the family comes after state investigators and Murdaugh’s lawyers revealed he used a gunman to attempt to stage his own death so that a life insurance policy of $ 10 million could be paid to another son.
The bizarre plot was unraveled, however, when lawyers said the man, Curtis Edward Smith, only grazed Murdaugh’s head with a bullet in the September 4 roadside shooting, and a few days later, Murdaugh’s law firm charged him with embezzlement.
Jim Griffin, one of Murdaugh’s attorneys, said his client did not tell state investigators he paid Smith and that Smith “intentionally shot him without pay,” The Post reported and Courier. He also said Smith was the “main” drug dealer in Murdaugh, who suffered from an addiction to pain relievers.
Smith, 61, has been charged with assisted suicide, insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and other charges, the Enforcement Division said. South Carolina law in a statement. Murdaugh, who was on the list of co-accused, was not immediately arrested; another of his attorneys, Richard Harpootlian, said on NBC’s “TODAY” that he expects charges to be laid.
Court documents show Murdaugh first represented Smith in a personal injury lawsuit in 2012 and then for a speeding ticket in 2013. Further details surrounding their link and whether the shooting could also be linked to the murders not Murdaugh’s wife Margaret and son Paul’s resolutions remain unclear.
Harpootlian said Murdaugh was “devastated” by their deaths and overwhelmed by emotions exacerbated by an opioid addiction 20-year-old, but insisted he played no part in their murders.
Harpootlian said they are conducting their own investigation and “we think we will know this week if the one suspect we are looking at merits further investigation, and we will make it available to law enforcement.”
Smith was also charged with distributing methamphetamine and possession of marijuana. Court records indicate he has traffic violations in Colleton County dating back to 1995, and it was not immediately clear if he currently had a lawyer.
Based on what investigators and his lawyers have already said, Murdaugh himself could face a number of charges, including conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, as well as charges related to theft of money. in his law firm and in the purchase of illegal drugs, according to Kenneth Gaines, professor of law at the University of South Carolina.
“When they take the covers off on this, there will be a lot of things that will fly away,” he said.
Harpootlian said in “TODAY” that Murdaugh remains cooperative with state investigators as he seeks treatment for his drug addiction at a drug rehab center. He said Murdaugh also provided investigators with his bank accounts and “told them how to find out how much he spent, where he went, where the bank accounts were, what went in, what went out,” as well as “checks written to dealers.
The family’s powerful legal ties were in the spotlight after Paul Murdaugh was charged in a 2019 boating accident that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach. A police report said those on the boat were “grossly intoxicated”.
Paul Murdaugh, who had pleaded not guilty to three counts of impaired boating, 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 the Hampton County in 2015. Investigators said the case was opened after information was found during the investigation into the double homicide of Margaret and Paul Murdaugh.