A South Carolina judge on Tuesday denied bond for Alex Murdaugh on charges related to insurance settlements obtained in connection to the death of his longtime housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield. Murdaugh was also ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
During the hearing at the Richland County courthouse in Columbia, S.C., Judge Clifton Newman, who is considered an at-large judge in the South Carolina Circuit Court, said a psychiatric evaluation must be prepared for Murdaugh because he allegedly tried to organize his own death so that his surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, could collect on a $10 million life insurance policy.
Murdaugh was previously charged in connection to the alleged Sept. 4 botched suicide scheme, but Hampton County Judge Tonja Alexander granted a $20,000 personal recognizance bond on Sept. 16 and allowed Murdaugh to travel back to an out of state rehabilitation facility without GPS monitoring to treat his opioid addiction. Murdaugh was taken into custody again in Orlando, Florida Thursday upon his release from a drug rehabilitation facility.
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“No amount of bond court can be set to satisfy protections to Mr. Murdaugh and the community,” Newman said Tuesday.
Newman issued the decision after hearing attorneys describe how Murdaugh used portions of $3.4 million in insurance payments to pay off his father, personal credit card bills and checks to himself. The payments were supposed to go to the sons of his longtime housekeeper, who died in 2018 a few weeks after falling at the family’s home. The judge said he was denying bond because of Murdaugh’s financial resources and unstable mental health.
He ordered a psychiatric evaluation for Murdaugh, and said he will reconsider his decision after that is conducted. Before taking a 15 minute recess, Newman said he would not consider granting a personal recognizance bond, which the defense had requested so that Murdaugh could go to further drug rehab. He said he would weigh whether to grant a surety bond or deny Murdaugh bond altogether.
State prosecutor Creighton Waters, with the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, asked for a $200,000 surety bond and GPS monitoring for Alex Murdaugh. Meanwhile, attorneys for Satterfield’s estate, Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter, asked for a high bond with strict conditions should any bond be granted at all. Bland told the judge Alex Murdaugh “does not deserve bond,” calling the disgraced legal scion “a liar and a cheat.”
Another Satterfield estate attorney, Ronnie Richter, told the court the South Carolina BAR is getting calls every day from other lawyers across the state reacting to Alex Murdaugh’s misconduct allegations.
“We get calls every day with one unified sentiment – outrage,” Richter said.
One of Murdaugh’s defense attorneys, Dick Harpootlian, briefly tried to argue that Murdaugh was not acting as the lawyer in the Satterfield insurance settlements, but rather as the defendant, because he was the one being sued over her wrongful death. He implicated that Corey Fleming, who is Murdaugh’s close friend as well as the former lawyer representing Satterfield’s estate, was responsible for any wrongdoing. Bland quickly shot back that Murdaugh, “very much acted as a lawyer in this case,” arguing documents submitted to the court prove that Murdaugh and his paralegals prepared personal representative documents so one of the housekeeper’s two sons, Tony Satterfield, could become power of attorney.
“The Alex Murdaugh who is not hooked on drugs has lived a good, fruitful life — a law-abiding life,” Murdaugh’s other attorney, Jim Griffin, said. “Only when he got hooked on opioids did things turn south and he truly regrets his conduct.”
At a press conference after the hearing Tuesday, Harpootlian told reporters his team has already been in contact with a medical detox center in Atlanta, Georgia and a rehabilitation facility in Orlando, Florida where Alex Murdaugh has received evaluations from mental health professionals over the past six weeks. He said they would prepare a report with a local psychiatrist and submit that to the court by the end of this week or early next week.
SLED Agent Turner told the judge state police is also investigating the 2015 roadside death of Stephen Smith and the actual cause of Gloria Satterfield’s death, among several other financial fraud allegations. More charges might be coming in the future, but no more at this time, he said. He did not name the June 7 deaths of Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, which also remained under investigation by the agency. No suspects have announced.
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Prosecutors argued Murdaugh has been selling assets, including his boat and an interest in the Green Swamp Club, a hunting club in Jasper County. They asked that if the judge grants a bond, that it include stipulations to prevent his surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, from helping his father financially.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.