But now, the family has been closely connected to a bloody tragedy, allegations of embezzlement and a bizarre murder-for-hire plot to score millions in life insurance.
The latest blow to the family’s name came this week as Alex Murdaugh was indicted on a charge of murder for the 2021 killings of his wife and son.
So what were the twists and turns that led to this point? Here’s a timeline of everything we know about the Murdaugh family saga:
Over three generations, a member of the Murdaugh family has served as the 14th Circuit Solicitor, which leads prosecutions for Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties in the southern part of South Carolina.
Randolph Murdaugh Sr. was elected to the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office in 1920 and served in the position until his death in 1940.
His son, Randolph Murdaugh Jr., then took over the position and served until his retirement in 1986.
Murdaugh Jr.’s son, Randolph Murdaugh III, was then elected to the role in 1987 and served through the end of 2005. Alex Murdaugh is his son.
Gloria Satterfield, a housekeeper for the Murdaugh family, dies in what is described as a “trip and fall accident” at the Murdaugh home, according to attorney Eric Bland, who is representing her estate.
After Satterfield’s death, a $500,000 wrongful death claim was filed against Alex Murdaugh on behalf of her estate, Bland said.
A boat crashes at a bridge near Parris Island in Beaufort County, South Carolina, on February 24, killing 19-year-old Mallory Beach, according to the South Carolina Attorney General in documents obtained by CNN.
Six people were on board the boat at the time of the crash, including Alex Murdaugh’s 19-year-old son, Paul. Murdaugh owns the boat.
Stone, the solicitor, recuses himself from the case because of personal connections.
Paul Murdaugh is indicted in April on charges of boating under the influence (BUI) causing great bodily harm and causing death in connection to the crash, court records show. He pleads not guilty.
June 15: The state law enforcement division releases basic information about the June 7 killings, saying Alex Murdaugh called 911 at 10:07 p.m. and investigators collected evidence that night and the next morning.
June 22: The state law enforcement division reopens an investigation into the unsolved death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith, whose body was found on the road in 2015 in Hampton County. The agency says the probe is being reopened based on information gathered while investigating the deaths of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.
June 25: Alex Murdaugh and his other son, Buster, announce a $100,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible for the killings of Maggie and Paul.
September 3: Alex Murdaugh resigns from the law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick (PMPED), according to the firm.
September 7: The law firm says Murdaugh resigned “after the discovery by PMPED that Alex misappropriated funds in violation of PMPED standards and policies.”
“This is disappointing news for all of us. Rest assured that our firm will deal with this in a straightforward manner. There’s no place in our firm for such behavior,” the law firm says in a statement. PMPED says it plans to retain a forensic accounting firm “to conduct a thorough investigation” and has contacted law enforcement and the South Carolina Bar.
September 8: The South Carolina Supreme Court issues an order suspending Alex Murdaugh’s license to practice law in the state.
According to the court, his license “is suspended until further order of this Court.” The 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office also confirmed to CNN that Murdaugh was stripped of his privilege of prosecuting cases as a volunteer.
September 10: A family spokesperson issues a statement about Alex Murdaugh’s shooting that indicates the injury was more serious than a superficial wound.
“After the shooting, Alex had an entry and exit wound, his skull was fractured and it was not a self-inflicted bullet wound,” according to the statement.
The spokesperson also added more details about what led up to the incident.
“Alex pulled over after seeing a low tire indicator light. A male driver in a blue pickup asked him if he had car troubles, as soon as Alex replied, he was shot,” the statement said.
September 13: The state law enforcement division releases a statement announcing it has opened an investigation into Alex Murdaugh “based upon allegations that he misappropriated funds in connection to his position as a former lawyer with the Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, & Detrick (PMPED) law firm in Hampton, South Carolina.”
Curtis Edward Smith, 61, who allegedly shot Murdaugh, was charged with assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, according to the state law enforcement division.
Cook — who filed the lawsuit — also alleges that Alex Murdaugh should have been aware that his underage son, Paul, had alcohol issues and should not have been allowed to use his boat. The lawsuit claims that Alex Murdaugh was negligent in his actions and that he intentionally inflicted emotional distress on Cook.
September 26: The law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick, where Alex Murdaugh was once a partner, issues a statement claiming he “lied and stole from us.”
“We were shocked and dismayed to learn that Alex violated our principles and code of ethics. He lied and he stole from us,” PMPED said in a statement on their website. They said no member of the firm was aware of “Alex’s scheme” or his drug addiction, acknowledged by his attorney in an interview previously with NBC’s “Today.”
The firm also said it still has “lots of questions about Alex and what has recently come to light” and vowed to continue assisting law enforcement.
After Satterfield died, a $500,000 wrongful death claim was filed against Murdaugh on behalf of her estate, Bland told CNN. The estate has not received any of the money owed as the result of a 2018 civil settlement, according to attorney Eric Bland, who is representing her estate.
The firm’s complaint read, in part: “PMPED has determined that Alex Murdaugh was able to covertly steal these funds by disguising disbursements from settlements as payments to an annuity company, trust account or structured settlement for clients or as structured attorney’s fees that he had earned when in fact they were deposited into the fictitious account at Bank of America.”
The complaint also claims Murdaugh “used firm assets in an unauthorized manner and without the consent or knowledge of his other shareholders to further his scheme to defraud.”
He was charged with two felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said.
October 15: Alex Murdaugh waives an extradition hearing in Florida, according to the Orange County Corrections Office, and returns to South Carolina a day later to face charges related to the misappropriation of settlement funds.
The waiver of extradition, provided by Orange County Corrections, said Murdaugh agreed to “waive the issuance and service (warrant) and all other procedures incidental to extradition proceedings,” and agreed to remain in custody without bail.
“There is no way this court can set a bond at this time,” Judge Clifton Newman said. “I am therefore denying bond at this time and will require Mr. Murdaugh to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to be submitted to the court for further consideration at a later date.”
October 22: State police in South Carolina release an audio recording of the 911 calls made after Alex Murdaugh was shot on a roadway in September in what authorities allege was a failed insurance fraud scheme.
The recordings include two calls made by Murdaugh himself and a third made by passersby, who told the 911 dispatcher they did not stop because the scene “looks like a setup.”
“The Satterfields and the law firm have reconciled their differences,” attorney Eric Bland, who represents the Satterfield estate, told CNN at the time.
“After considering the arguments of counsel, the (psychiatric) evaluation submitted, pending charges and other investigations, and the apparent character and mental condition of the defendant, the Court finds that the Defendant is a danger both to himself and the community,” Newman’s order reads.
The indictments include four counts of breach of trust with fraudulent intent; seven counts of obtaining signature or property by false pretenses; seven counts of money laundering; eight counts of computer crimes; and one count of forgery.
“Altogether, Murdaugh is charged with respect to alleged schemes to defraud victims and thereafter launder $4,853,488.09,” said the Attorney General’s office in a news release.
The additional indictments bring the total number of charges faced by Murdaugh to 48 after a state grand jury investigation. All the charges stem from an alleged wide-ranging scheme that sought to defraud victims of more than $6 million.
The fresh indictments allege Murdaugh stole more than $2.2 million meant for four clients. The new charges include 19 counts of breach of trust with fraudulent intent and four counts of computer crimes.
Murdaugh now faces a total of 71 charges stemming from accusations he defrauded victims of nearly $8.5 million in various schemes.
The exhumation stems from a Hampton County coroner’s request that led to the state law enforcement division opening a criminal investigation into Satterfield’s death.
“The decedent’s death was not reported to the Coroner at the time, nor was an autopsy performed. On the death certificate the manner of death was ruled ‘Natural,’ which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident,” the coroner’s request to the law enforcement division said.
June 28: Alex Murdaugh and former acquaintance Curtis Edward Smith are indicted on two counts of criminal conspiracy by a South Carolina state grand jury, according to an announcement from South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.
Smith allegedly shot Murdaugh in an attempted insurance scam in June 2021, according to SLED.
The indictment provides details of Murdaugh giving Smith “hundreds of checks with the common understanding that SMITH would convert the checks into cash.” The indictment states that over a number of years, the proceeds went to Murdaugh’s “benefit with the intent of carrying on and concealing myriad unlawful activities.”
The charges against the two men involved “approximately 437 checks totaling approximately $2.4 million that went from Murdaugh to Smith from October 7, 2013 through February 28, 2021,” said a news release from Wilson’s office.
Smith was also indicted on four counts of money laundering over $100,000, forgery and “three other drug offenses, including allegedly trafficking over ten grams of methamphetamine,” the release said.