Judge denies bond for Alex Murdaugh, asks for psychiatric evaluation

Crime & Safety

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSAV/AP) — A judge denied bond for Alex Murdaugh on his latest charges of obtaining property by false pretenses. The judge also ordered him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

The charges stem from Murdaugh allegedly taking millions of dollars in a wrongful death lawsuit involving their housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who died not long after what was described as a slip and fall accident at the Murdaugh home in 2016.

Attorneys for the Satterfield family spoke out about the judge’s decision outside the courthouse Tuesday calling today “a good day for justice in this country.”

Attorney Ronnie Richter added: “It’s important to demonstrate influence and power doesn’t create a second tier of justice in this state.”

The judge said the bond for Murdaugh will be reconsidered after further psychiatric evaluation.

Murdaugh’s attorneys told reporters they hope to have a psychiatric report for the judge by the end of the week or by early next week.

The lawyers for the prominent South Carolina attorney were seeking bond for their client, who had spent five nights in jail following his second arrest in about a month.

Murdaugh, whose wife and son were shot to death months ago in a killing that is still unresolved, stole $3.4 million of insurance money that was meant for the sons of his housekeeper, who died after falling in his home, according to sworn statements by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

Murdaugh is already out on a recognizance bond for a September arrest on insurance fraud charges after state agents said he tried to arrange his own shooting death on a roadside so that his surviving son could collect a $10 million life insurance policy. The would-be fatal bullet only grazed him.

Murdaugh’s bond hearing was for two new charges of obtaining property by false pretenses. He was arrested at a drug rehab center near Orlando, Florida, on Thursday and brought back to South Carolina.

The housekeeper’s insurance isn’t the only six-figure case being investigated by state police. Murdaugh’s former law firm — founded by his great-grandfather a century ago — has accused him of stealing possibly millions of dollars.

Murdaugh’s attorney, Dick Harpootlian, said last week that Murdaugh plans to do what he can to right his financial wrongs, and has accepted that he will probably spend time in prison. Each charge of obtaining property by false pretenses carries a sentence of up to 10 years. The three felony charges from the botched attempt to arrange his own death could bring up to 20 years in prison if he’s convicted.

Murdaugh continues to insist he had nothing to do with the June deaths of his wife, Maggie, 52, and their son Paul, 22. Murdaugh said he returned to their rural Colleton County home to find them shot to death. Tight-lipped state police have neither named any suspects nor ruled anyone out.

Satterfield died from a stroke and heart attack in February, more than three weeks after being hurt in a fall at the Murdaugh home, investigators said.

Murdaugh told Satterfield’s sons he would help them get insurance settlements for her death, recommending they hire attorney Cory Fleming without telling them Fleming was a family friend, according to a lawsuit filed by the sons.

Murdaugh negotiated more than $4 million in payments, then had the checks — minus fees and attorney payments — sent to his bank account, authorities said.

A lawyer for the sons said they haven’t seen any money from the settlements.

Fleming has promised to return any money he received to the sons and pay them an unspecified amount from a malpractice insurance policy.

The state Supreme Court has temporarily suspended the law licenses of both Fleming and Murdaugh.

In addition to all of the other cases, state police are looking into whether Murdaugh has connections to a 2015 hit-and-run death and whether he or other family members tried to obstruct the investigation into a boat crash involving Paul Murdaugh that killed a 19-year-old woman in 2019.

The Murdaugh family has dominated the legal community in Hampton County for nearly the past century. Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather were elected prosecutors and the family founded and built a prestigious law firm known for suing railroads.

The Associated Press and WCBD contributed to this article.

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