By JEFFREY COLLINS
For much of disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh’s double murder trial, witnesses have talked about a generous and loving man — but prosecutors want jurors to know that same man stole over $4 million from his housekeeper’s relatives after she died at work, and killed his wife and son to cover up his crimes.
Prosecutors asked a judge Friday to consider allowing the son of Murdaugh’s longtime housekeeper to tell jurors about how after she died in a fall at Murdaugh’s home, he promised her family to take care of them and then stole millions in settlements with his insurers.
Tony Satterfield said his mom cleaned the Murdaugh home, but also babysat their two sons and did anything else they asked over 20 years. She died at age 57 a few weeks after hitting her head in a fall in February 2018 on steps at the family’s house.
“Did you ever get one cent from Alex Murdaugh?” prosecutor Creighton Waters asked Friday.
“No,” Satterfield answered.
Murdaugh, 54, is standing trial in the shootings of his 52-year-old wife, Maggie, and 22-year-old son, Paul, on June 7, 2021, at their Colleton County home. He faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted of murder.
Prosecutors are asking Judge Clifton Newman to allow them to present evidence of Murdaugh stealing money from clients and his law firm to bolster their premise that Murdaugh killed his family to gain sympathy and buy time because his thefts and massive debts were about to be discovered.
Murdaugh is charged, but hasn’t been tried, with a range of about 100 other crimes, including the thefts, running a drug and money laundering ring, tax evasion and insurance fraud for trying to arrange his own death so his surviving son could collect $10 million in life insurance. Police said the would-be fatal shot only grazed Murdaugh’s head.
Newman hasn’t ruled yet how much if any of the financial crimes evidence he will allow jurors to hear. The issue of whether jurors can hear testimony about financial misdeeds has been its own mini trial within the double murder proceedings.
Satterfield testified that after Murdaugh promised to take care of his housekeeper’s family, he suggested they hire one of his friends — who was also a college roommate and godfather to one of his sons — to be the executor of his mother’s estate.
Satterfield heard little from Murdaugh until they spoke in June 2021. He said Murdaugh told them they were working on a settlement hopefully by the end of the year. Court records show Murdaugh’s insurers had already paid more than $4 million for the fall.
“Did you give him permission to steal your money?” Waters asked Satterfield.
“No,” he replied.
Griffin asked only a few question in cross-examination, but honed in on how Satterfield didn’t know the exact date in June 2021 the conversation took place. Murdaugh’s wife and son were killed on June 7, 2021. Paul Murdaugh was shot twice with a shotgun and Maggie Murdaugh was shot four or five times with a rifle.
Even though Gloria Satterfield died in an accident, her death was never reported to the Hampton County coroner. State Law Enforcement Division agents exhumed her body about a year after the deaths of Murdaugh’s son and wife, but never announced any findings of reopening the investigation into her death.
Other lawyers came in to help the Satterfield family and they have collected more than $4 million in settlements from Murdaugh’s friend, the bank involved with Murdaugh and others.
The jury returned to the courtroom late Friday morning to hear from several state agents who collected fingerprints and DNA samples, and also tested guns, ammunition and shotgun pellets found in the bodies of the victims.
Markings on the cartridges found near Maggie Murdaugh’s body matched markings found on fired cartridges discovered near a gun range on the property and elsewhere, implying they could have been fired from the same Blackout rifle, State Law Enforcement Division agent Paul Greer testified.
But the rifle that fired all those bullets has not been found, Greer said.
During cross examination, defense attorney Jim Griffin asked a number of questions based on scientific advances in matching guns to fired bullets. The defense argues that based on the new science, ballistics experts can’t say with 100% certainty that there are unique markings linking a gun to a cartridge loaded into a Blackout rifle.
Greer said the bullets recovered from Maggie Murdaugh’s body and bullets found fired at other places on the property weren’t suitable to test to see if they came from the same gun.
“You aren’t here to tell the jury that any of the weapons in this courtroom were used, in your opinion, to murder Maggie or Paul, correct?” Griffin asked Greer to start his cross examination.
Greer answered almost all of Griffin’s yes or no questions with long explanations saying test results were inconclusive or he hadn’t studied every Blackout rifle in the world.
This story has been corrected to show that Satterfield’s first name is Tony, not Michael.
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