Prosecutors Share Alex Murdaugh's Alleged Motive

Prosecutors: He killed wife, son just as evidence of financial crimes was likely to be exposed
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2022 10:13 AM CST
Prosecutors: Tragedy Befell Murdaugh at Opportune Times
Alex Murdaugh, center, talks with his defense attorney Dick Harpootlian after a hearing in Colleton County on Monday, Aug. 29, 2022.   (Grace Beahm Alford/The Post And Courier via AP, File)

Alex Murdaugh killed his wife and son at the precise moment his financial crimes threatened to be revealed, prosecutors say in a motion filed Thursday—and they say Murdaugh's own shooting followed a remarkably similar pattern. After the recession of the early 2000s and a "series of bad land deals" took a toll on his finances, prosecutors allege the South Carolina lawyer launched a scheme that would see him steal $8.7 million from law partners and clients over 15 years in an attempt to keep his "fantasy persona of wealth, respectability, and prominence alive," per the Daily Beast. Then in 2019, his 19-year-old son allegedly crashed a boat while drunk, killing a passenger, whose family sued. A hearing on their request to see Murdaugh's financial records was set for June 10, 2021, per the Washington Post.

The hearing wasn't Murdaugh's only concern: He'd been given until June 7 to explain how $792,000 had disappeared from his law firm. It was "a perfect storm that was going to expose the real Alex Murdaugh to the world," prosecutors write, and they allege Murdaugh shot Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and Paul Murdaugh, 22, on the grounds of the family's lodge on June 7 to deflect attention. "The murders served ... to shift focus away from himself and buy himself some additional time to try and prevent his financial crimes from being uncovered" so as to avoid "personal, legal, and financial ruin," reads the motion, which asks that evidence of financial crimes be allowed in next month's murder trial. "People immediately treated [Murdaugh] as the victim of an unspeakable tragedy."

That only lasted so long. On Sept. 3, 2021, colleagues told Murdaugh they had found a check that was improperly written to him. Prosecutors say the next day, he arranged his own suicide-for-hire, intending for his surviving son to collect on a $10 million life insurance policy; Murdaugh survived that shooting. "People initially rallied to his aid again. Only this time the facts came to light a lot quicker," reads the motion, calling Murdaugh "an allegedly crooked lawyer and drug user who borrowed and stole wherever he could to stay afloat and one step ahead of detection," per Fox News. Murdaugh, who has pleaded not guilty to murder, is charged with more than 80 additional counts including forgery, money laundering, and conspiring to purchase and distribute oxycodone. (Read more Alex Murdaugh stories.)

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