‘Murdaugh Murders’ examines the many deaths connected to powerful Southern family

As Alex Murdaugh stands trial for the fatal shootings of his wife and son, compelling Netflix doc looks at the case and the earlier suspicious deaths of his nanny and his son’s friend.

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Alex Murdaugh talks with his lawyer, Jim Griffin, on Thursday during his double murder trial in Walterboro, South Carolina.

Grace Beahm Alford/The Post And Courier via AP

For a full century, the Murdaugh family was famous in Hampton County, South Carolina, and the surrounding area, but largely unknown outside of that particular swath of Lowcountry land. Multiple generations of Murdaugh men held the powerful position of solicitor (aka the top prosecutor), and the clan’s reach extended far beyond the courtroom and into virtually every pocket of the county. They were wealthy, influential, privileged, and feared.

Over the last few years, the Murdaughs have become exponentially more well-known and have seen the family name splashed in countless national headlines — but there’s no doubt every surviving member of that family wishes that weren’t the case, as those headlines have covered a myriad of crimes. Just a few months after the excellent three-part HBO Max documentary series “Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty” told of the stunning series of events that blew up the family, we’re getting the three-part Netflix documentary series “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal,” which covers the same material in similar fashion.

The filmmakers rely on surveillance cameras; audio of 911 calls, police bodycam footage, interviews with friends and associates of the Murdaughs, dramatic re-creations and insights from journalists and law enforcement personnel, all to tell the stories of five deaths and an attempted murder that occurred over the course of six years — and how various members of the Murdaugh family were directly connected or allegedly connected to each of those events.

‘Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal’

Untitled

A three-part docuseries available Wednesday on Netflix.

Even if you’ve seen the HBO Max series and you’ve been following the current trial of Alex Murdaugh on charges of killing his wife and son, the story is so incredible, so bizarre and so chilling that the Netflix doc makes for a compelling viewing experience.

The first episode focuses on the 2019 accident in which a group of friends in their late teens were in a boat piloted by a heavily intoxicated Paul Murdaugh, who crashed into the Archers Creek Bridge, injuring several passengers and killing 19-year-old Mallory Beach. We hear from Mallory’s boyfriend, Anthony Cook; Mallory’s father, Phillip Beach; and Mallory’s best friend, Miley Altman, among others, as they recount how close the group was and speak of glowing terms of Mallory. We also get the back story on the Murdaugh clan and hear how Paul Murdaugh was a temperamental wild-card who felt he could get away with anything, and we see evidence of that as Murdaugh’s father and grandfather wield their clout in the immediate aftermath of the crash, even trying to claim Paul wasn’t behind the wheel at the time of the accident.

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Paul Murdaugh, Alex’s son, was piloting a boat that crashed, killing one of his friends and injuring others.

Netflix

Nevertheless, Paul Murdaugh was indicted on three felony counts of boating under the influence — but he was allowed out on bail and was often seen around town, having a good ol’ time.

This is just the beginning of the madness. On the night of June 7, 2021, Paul’s father, Alex Murdaugh, called 911 to report his wife, Maggie, and his son Paul had been fatally shot on his property. “It’s bad!” exclaims a hysterical Alex on the 911 recording. “My wife and my son … they’re on the ground …”

Things turned even stranger just three months later when Alex Murdaugh was shot in the head on the side of a rural road and claimed a stranger had tried to kill him, but soon admitted he had hired someone to take him out so his family could cash in his insurance policy. Turns out Alex Murdaugh, a lawyer, had a serious opioid addiction and was swimming in financial trouble, having allegedly embezzled dozens of clients out of millions of dollars. Prosecutors accuse him of killing his wife and son to cover up a slew of financial misdeeds.

In the final episode, we learn of even more suspicious events in Hampton County. (There are a stunning number of 911 calls played in this series.) On July 8, 2015, a young man named Stephen Smith was found dead on a rural road. At first it appeared Smith had been struck by a vehicle, but evidence pointed to him being beaten to death. There were all kinds of stories circulating about Smith’s association with Buster Murdaugh, older brother of Alex — but Buster has never been accused of any crime.

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Mallory Beach (left), who was killed in Paul Murdaugh’s boat crash, with friend Morgan Doughty.

Netflix

Then there’s the story of Gloria Satterfield, who had worked as a nanny and housekeeper for the Murdaughs for 20 years. In February of 2018, Gloria fell on the front steps of Alex Murdaugh’s home and subsequently died from her injuries. Ms. Satterfield’s family was to receive a $2.8 million settlement from Murdaugh and his insurers, but they never got a dime, and Alex Murdaugh was charged with crimes related to the missing money.

By the end of the series, we come full circle and hear from Mallory’s friends, who are still so young, still coping with the horrific death of their friend, still reeling from everything that has happened in Hampton County. “What justice looks like for me now is getting the answers that we need,” says Morgan Doughty, Paul’s former girlfriend and Mallory’s friend. “I want to know what happened to Gloria. I want to know who killed Paul and Maggie, and who killed Stephen. I still think Mr. Alex is hiding things, and if you ever meet him, I’m sure you’d get that feeling too.”

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