United States

South Carolina police arrest lawyer who allegedly plotted own shooting

2 minute read

Sept 16 (Reuters) - A prominent South Carolina attorney has been arrested and charged with conspiring to have himself shot dead so his son could collect a $10 million insurance payout, a state police agency said on Thursday.

Alex Murdaugh, who survived the Sept. 4 shooting, has admitted to plotting with Curtis Edward Smith, 61, to cause his own death, according to a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) affidavit. read more

Murdaugh, whose wife and son were murdered in June and who was recently fired from his law firm following embezzlement allegations, was arrested on Thursday and booked at the local detention center, SLED said in a news release.

Murdaugh, 53, was charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud and filing a false police report.

Local media reported that a Hampton County judge issued a $20,000 personal recognizance bond to Murdaugh during an afternoon court hearing. A personal recognizance bond means that he promised to return to court.

During the hearing, his attorney, Richard Harpootlian, told the court that Murdaugh is addicted to opioids and the murders of his wife and son "put him over the edge," the Island Packet newspaper reported.

“He has fallen from grace,” Harpootlian said, the newspaper reported.

Smith faces charges including assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high aggravated nature and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, police said. He was granted a $55,000 bond, the Island Packet reported.

"I can assure you that SLED agents will continue working to bring justice to anyone involved with any criminal act associated with these ongoing investigations," SLED Chief Mark Keel said.

On June 7, Murdaugh's wife Margaret, 52, and son Paul, 22, were shot and killed outside the family's hunting estate. Murdaugh reported their deaths to 911, and those killings remain under investigation.

The insurance payout was to benefit his surviving son, Buster.

Earlier this week, the police said they were investigating Murdaugh after his former employer, local law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, & Detrick, alleged he had misappropriated funds.

On Wednesday, the police said they had also opened a criminal investigation of the 2018 death of Gloria Satterfield, a longtime housekeeper for the Murdaugh family who, according to court records, died after a "trip and fall" accident in the Murdaugh home.

Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Conn., Brendan O'Brien in Chicago and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru Editing by Dan Grebler and Matthew Lewis

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