Maid’s son tells judge Alex Murdaugh took $4M for her death
WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC) - 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.
BLOG: Day 10: Judge hears more on Murdaugh’s financial situation without jury
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.
SPECIAL SECTION: The Murdaugh Cases
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.
Judge Clifton Newman heard testimony about the nearly 100 financial crimes of which Murdaugh is also accused as he decides whether the jury in the murder trial will be allowed to hear those accusations.
The additional charges range from money laundering to stealing millions from clients and the family law firm, tax evasion and a plot to get a man to fatally shoot him so his surviving son could collect a $10 million life insurance policy.
Prosecutors insist Murdaugh committed the murders as a distraction to the other crimes. The defense filed a motion before the trial began to suppress testimony on the other charges, calling the state’s claim that the murders were a cover-up for Murdaugh’s financial misdeeds completely fabricated.
The first two witnesses to testify Friday were Palmetto State Bank President and CEO Jan Malinoswski.
Malinowski testified to Murdaugh’s financial state at the time of the June 7, 2021, killings.
Malinowski testified that a deposit from an off-the-books loan for $400,000 was put into Murdaugh’s account on Aug. 9, 2021, when his account was $347,000 overdrawn.
Also on Aug. 9, Norris Laffitte sent an email asking about the bank’s relationship with Murdaugh, Malinowski testified.
Malinowski testified that Murdaugh’s total liability to the bank at that time was more than $3.5 million.
On July 15, 2021, a $350,000 wire transfer was made to Wilson Law Group, Malinowski testified.
Malinkowsi said paperwork showed a loan originated on July 15, 2021, in the amount of $750,000, but that the numbering was inconsistent with a loan that would have been created in July.
During an Aug. 17, 2021, board meeting, Malinowski said the loan was discussed and that Murdaugh’s Edisto Beach home and a share of Green Swamp, Inc. stock were used as collateral. Malinkowski testified that the mortgage was never placed on the property and the stock had already been used as collateral in another loan.
In cross examination, Jim Griffin asked about overdrawn accounts and if Murdaugh had ever been denied a line of credit with the bank.
Malinowski testified only one account had a negative balance and that no loans or lines of credit were denied until September 2021.
Griffin then asks if Murdaugh had ever defaulted on any of his loans.
Malinkowski said Murdaugh had defaulted on two loans that had been written off, but he was still sporadically making payments.
Before the jury was brought in Friday morning, the court heard testimony from Carson Burney.
Burney, a forensic accountant from the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, testified about tracing money going in and out of Murdaugh’s bank accounts.
Burney said he tracked money from the Satterfield case and found payments to multiple names connected to Curtis Eddie Smith, credit card payments and money moved from the fake Forge account into Murdaugh’s personal accounts.
When Burney is asked if the documents shown in court reflect that all the money that Murdaugh took went to his personal use and benefit he answers yes.
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.
The first witness testimony they heard was Tom Darnell, a fingerprint examiner from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
Darnell testifies that he could only collect prints from Paul’s phone but those prints didn’t contain enough detail to compare.
Darnell said he collected DNA swabs from the guns he was presented with.
In cross examination, Dick Harpootlian asks if Darnell was called to the crime scene and if he would have expected a detailed analysis of the crime scene.
Darnell testifies if he had been called to the crime scene he would have taken detailed notes.
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.
Greer tested the firearms collected from the property. He also compared the markings on casings collected around the property the .300 Blackout casings found around Maggie Murdaugh’s body.
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.
“I’m unable to determine if they were fired by that firearm or a firearm with similar characteristics,” Greer says.
Griffin also asks if the matching mechanism markings proved the casings were all fired through the same gun.
Greer explained that they had all been cycled through the same rifle, but he couldn’t say they were all fired from the same rifle.
Griffin closed by asking Greer if he were 100% certain of his findings.
Greer said, in his opinion, the findings were accurate.
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.
The jury is set to return to the courtroom at 11:30 a.m. Monday.
Copyright 2023 WCSC. All rights reserved.