Murdaugh Murders: The true story behind Netflix's crime docuseries
The new true crime documentary looks at the boating death of Mallory Beach and the murders of Paul Murdaugh and his mother Maggie.
Last week, Netflix’s Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal made its streaming debut with the three-part docuseries looking into a variety of cases associated with the Murdaugh family — a prominent family in South Carolina.
From the death of the family’s housekeeper Gloria Satterfield to a boat crash that resulted in the death of Mallory Beach, the documentary explores how a series of tragedies led to the unravelling of the Murdaugh legacy.
Episode 3 focuses on the murders of Paul Murdaugh and his mother Maggie, which resulted in the arrest of the family’s patriarch Alex Murdaugh. Alex initially pleaded not guilty to the killings of his wife and son, but on Thursday 2nd March, he was found guilty of two counts of murder.
Here's everything you need to know about the true story behind Murdaugh Murders and the latest news following Alex Murdaugh’s six-week trial. You can also read more about the death of Mallory Beach here.
True story behind the Murdaugh murders
In June 2021, Alex Murdaugh – the father of Paul – called 911 to report that he'd found his wife Maggie and son Paul shot dead outside their home in Islandton, South Carolina.
After more than a year, during which time multiple charges of financial crime were brought against Alex Murdaugh and his law licence was indefinitely suspended by the South Carolina Supreme Court, a grand jury announced an indictment against him on double murder charges for the deaths of Paul and Maggie.
While Murdaugh claimed that he returned home after visiting his mother to find Paul and Maggie's bodies at their dog kennels, he was indicted on two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
NBC News wrote: "Two sources close to the investigation say that authorities have cellphone video that they believe not only puts Murdaugh at the scene of the slayings shortly before they took place, but also contradicts a previous timeline of events provided on the day of the killings."
In July 2022, Murdaugh pleaded not guilty to the murder charges and in December, state prosecutors claimed that he killed his wife and son to gain sympathy and "escape accountability" for his financial crimes, later announcing they will seek life in prison without parole.
Murdaugh's murder trial began at the end of January 2023 at Colleton County Courthouse, South Carolina, with the prosecution claiming that mobile phone records place Alex Murdaugh at the dog kennels minutes before Paul and Maggie were shot despite telling "everyone he was never there", according to The Independent.
The publication also reported that the prosecution claimed video footage taken of a dog by Paul minutes before his murder features three voices in the background. The prosecution argued that one of the voices belongs to Alex Murdaugh.
Meanwhile, in the defence's opening statement, Murdaugh's lawyer stated that the mobile phone records from that night are "incomplete" and that Maggie's phone was thrown half a mile from the family's estate while Murdaugh was at the property.
More like this
While the defence is arguing that Paul and Maggie Murdaugh's murders are related to the 2019 boat crash, with Alex Murdaugh telling police that Paul had been receiving threats "for months and months and months", the prosecution is claiming that it was Alex Murdaugh who killed them.
During the trial, they've argued that Murdaugh accidentally confessed in a police interview in 2021, stating that audio records show he said about his son: "I did him so bad. I did him so bad." However, doubts have been raised over what Murdaugh actually says in the recording, with it being unclear whether he says "I" or "they" before "did him so bad".
Over the last few weeks, the jurors have heard various pieces of evidence, including Special Agent Jeff Croft's testimony that the firearms and ammunition from the Murdaugh's home that matched the gun and bullets used to kill Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, the defence's theory that there could have been two shooters responsible for the killings, doubts about the crime scene's preservation by police, video footage showing Alex Murdaugh in different clothing hours before the murders, and testimony that data is missing from Alex Murdaugh's call log.
The jurors have also heard of Alex Murdaugh's financial fraud, with prosecutors arguing that the crimes are key to proving a motive. Murdaugh is facing approximately 80 charges for embezzlement and other fraud, including being accused of stealing money from his clients, according to the South Carolina Attorney General. Meanwhile, Tony Satterfield, the son of the Murdaugh family's housekeeper Gloria, who died in a trip and fall accident on the Murdaugh property in 2018, told the court that Alex Murdaugh allegedly stole nearly $4 million in a wrongful death lawsuit payout.
Meanwhile, a forensic scientist told the court that 38 gunshot residue particles were found on the inside of a blue raincoat allegedly hidden in the home of Alex Murdaugh's parents, while a friend of Murdaugh's testified that he lied to him about going to the dog kennels that night. The Murdaugh family housekeeper, Blanca Turrubiate-Simpson, testified that she was asked to clean the family home on the morning after the murders, and that Maggie Murdaugh had told her of her concerns over the family's finances. Later on, a detective from Colleton County Sheriff’s Office said that no blood was confirmed on the white shirt Murdaugh was wearing on the night of the murders.
Murdaugh's lawyers also told the court that he spent $50,000 on drugs, while the jury were shown a video of Murdaugh being interviewed by police, reportedly showing discrepancies between his alibi and witness accounts.
While the trial is currently ongoing, the judge recently ruled that jurors could hear testimony about a roadside shooting in September 2021, where Murdaugh claimed he had been ambushed and shot in the head but confessed to orchestrating the plot with his cousin Curtis 'Cousin Eddie' Smith as part of a life insurance scheme, The Independent reports.
More recently (Saturday 18th February), car data placed Alex Murdaugh at the location where his wife's phone was found with the car having left the family home at 9:07pm, just minutes after Paul and Maggie Murdaugh were shot.
Meanwhile, phone data has shown that 17 seconds passed between Murdaugh arriving at the dog kennels and calling 911.
In other evidence, a voicemail message revealed that Maggie and Paul Murdaugh had found "bags of pills" in Alex Murdaugh's bag a month before their deaths, with the message showing Paul confronted his father about the discovery.
Murdaugh's surviving son Buster recently took to the stand, stating that Alex was "destroyed" by their deaths, while a defence witness recently claimed that the gunman was likely to be 5'2" and not 6'4" like Alex Murdaugh.
Did Alex Murdaugh kill his wife and son?
After contemplating for almost three hours, the jury in the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh found the 54-year-old guilty of murdering his wife Margaret and son Paul.
Alex was also found guilty of two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime in the killings of his wife and son on 7th June 2021.
Judge Clifton Newman set sentencing for Friday at 9:30am (EST) in South Carolina’s Colleton County. Prosecutors have stated that they will seek life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders, foregoing the death penalty.
Alex’s only remaining son, Buster Murdaugh, could be seen crying as the verdict was read, during which Alex appeared to mouth the words “I love you” before being handcuffed.
The verdict came after a six-week trial which looked into the brutal crime, phone forensics, and Alex’s alleged extensive financial misconduct.
“Justice was done today,” lead prosecutor Creighton Waters said yesterday (Thursday 2nd March). “It doesn’t matter who your family is. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, or people think you have. It doesn’t matter… how prominent you are. If you do wrong, if you break the law, if you murder, then justice will be done in South Carolina.”
Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal is available to stream on Netflix now. Check out more of our Documentaries coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.
Try Radio Times magazine today and get 12 issues for only £1 with delivery to your home – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times View From My Sofa podcast.