Alex Murdaugh – the disgraced former South Carolina attorney serving two life sentences for the murders of his wife and son – was sentenced to another 27 years in prison on Tuesday after pleading guilty to nearly two dozen state financial crimes, including money laundering, breach of trust, conspiracy, forgery and tax evasion.
Murdaugh pleaded guilty earlier this month in a deal that prosecutor Creighton Waters of the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office said would ensure Murdaugh remained “in state prison for a very long time.”
Prosecutors asked for the 27 years in prison, which Waters said would be independent of the two sentences of life without parole he is already serving. Murdaugh, 55, must serve at least 85% of that time (almost 23 years), according to the negotiated plea deal.
“I just want you to know that we are very satisfied that this is a very, very strong sentence that has been agreed to by the parties,” said attorney Eric “EB” Bland, who, along with his partner, Ronnie Richter, represents a number of Murdaugh’s victims.
“It sends a clarion bell signal to not only attorneys, but to anybody who wants to victimize the vulnerable.”
Murdaugh was facing dozens of state charges that accused him of carrying out a variety of schemes to defraud his clients, his law firm partners and other victims of millions of dollars.
In court Tuesday, Waters described the “morass” of crimes Murdaugh carried out over the course of years, relying on his own power, influence and the legacy of his family to deceive and steal from his victims.
“There were so many individuals that were trusting of Alex Murdaugh, and that is how this decadelong scheme was able to take place,” Waters said. “Ultimately we had people who came to Mr. Murdaugh for help, people that he told he was going to help. And in many instances, there was significant funds that Mr. Murdaugh paid to those individuals.”
“But that was how the scheme usually worked,” he said. “It was a sleight of hand. It was where he was handing them a check and had their focus on that, that he was able to steal money from them behind their back.”
One exception to that strategy was the case of Gloria Satterfield, the Murdaughs’ longtime housekeeper who died after a fall at the family’s home. Murdaugh coordinated with the family to sue himself and seek an insurance settlement for Satterfield’s family, according to affidavits released by state authorities.
But Satterfield’s sons never saw a dime, Waters said Tuesday. Instead, Murdaugh took the funds and used them to make payments on credit cards and various loans he’d taken from the bank, his father and law partners.
Murdaugh agreed to a $4.3 million settlement with Satterfield’s family in December 2021.
“You lied, you cheated, you stole, you betrayed me and my family and everybody else. And you did it at the cost of my mom’s death,” Tony Satterfield, Gloria’s son, told Murdaugh in court Tuesday.
“I want you to know that I forgive you. I will pray for you every day that God gets ahold of your heart” he said. “My heart is with you, my prayers are with you, and I just wish the best for you.”
Another emotional statement was given by Jordan Jinks, a childhood friend of Murdaugh’s who prosecutors said was defrauded of $150,000 by the former attorney after he was in a car accident. Jinks approached the microphone with tears already in his eyes, recounting memories the two had shared.
“The money you stole from me, you could have asked me for it and I would have gave it to you,” Jinks said. “That’s how I felt about you and your family.”
Jinks originally didn’t believe that Murdaugh had killed his wife and son, he said Tuesday. “But after sitting here today and hearing some of the devious things you did to people, these victims here, that changed my mind, bro.”
Ahead of sentencing, Murdaugh addressed the court in a lengthy statement, apologizing to his victims and saying, despite his actions, he cared for each of them.
“I am so sorry … I hate and am so bothered by the things that I did,” he said.
“I will tell you that while I am pleading guilty for a number of reasons, all of which I believe are valid, none, none of those reasons is more prominent than my hopes that seeing me punished will help each of you heal and begin to be able to put this behind you,” he said.
He also took the opportunity to again deny that he killed his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, at the family’s hunting estate in June 2021, saying while addressing Jinks, “I would never hurt Maggie and I would never hurt Paul. It is important to me that you know that, because she did love you.”
Judge Clifton Newman described Murdaugh as “empty” and said his apology rang hollow.
“You’re an enigmatic person. I don’t know if you understand yourself,” Newman said to Murdaugh.
Murdaugh separately pleaded guilty in September to nearly two dozen federal charges that similarly alleged he stole millions of dollars from his clients. He has not been sentenced on those charges.
While Waters said the state plea deal would bring “finality” to the matter of Murdaugh’s financial crimes, his legal saga could continue.
Murdaugh started the process to appeal his convictions of the murders of his wife and son.
But the appeal is on hold, while his defense team pursues a motion for a new trial based on allegations that Colleton County Clerk of Court Becky Hill tampered with the jury. She has denied those allegations.
Waters alluded to the ongoing proceedings Tuesday, telling the court prosecutors had asked for the 27 years sentence to ensure Murdaugh remained behind bars.
“Whatever happens with any other litigation, we ensure with this result here today that Mr. Murdaugh will stay in state prison for what is most likely the remainder of his life.”
On Tuesday, his attorneys said their client was “satisfied” with the negotiated financial crimes sentence and they are now focusing on their attempt to get him a new murder trial.
Attorney Dick Harpootlian told reporters after the sentencing that a judge has not yet been appointed to oversee the motion for a new trial and they do not know when a hearing will be scheduled.
Newman, who also oversaw the murder trial, recused himself from the post-trial proceedings associated with the motion for a new trial.
Attorney Jim Griffin suggested Murdaugh seems confident he’ll get a new trial — and could be out of prison when he completes the 27-year sentence he received Tuesday.
“He’ll be eligible for release and max out at like 75 and a half (years old). He’s 55 now, he gets credit for time served,” explained Griffin. “He’s already challenged me to a golf game. I’ll be 86, so he’ll probably win, if I live that long.”
CNN’s Morayo Ogunbayo contributed to this report.
Elaine Hadley is a dedicated journalist covering the ever-evolving landscape of U.S. news. With a keen interest in politics and a commitment to uncovering the truth, she provides insightful commentary and in-depth analysis on domestic issues. When not reporting, Elaine enjoys exploring the diverse cultures and landscapes of the United States.