Alex Murdaugh Gets Life in Prison: What to Know and Watch About the Multiple Deaths Associated With the Family

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The legal drama surrounding the Murdaughs came to a crescendo on Thursday, when South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh was found guilty in his double murder trial. On Friday, he was sentenced to life in prison.

This is the latest development in a long and complex story, as the Murdaughs have been at the center of a seemingly never-ending scandal after a number of deaths in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina became associated with the American legal dynasty, helping to unravel the power they had over these local counties and expose the corruption in the legal battle that has since followed. 

Following the unsolved 2015 hit-and-run of gay teen Stephen Smith and the 2019 boat accident that resulted in the drowning of Paul Murdaugh's high school friend, Mallory Beach, as well as the unexpected 2018 death of the family's longtime housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, lawyer Alex Murdaugh was accused of killing his wife, Maggie, and their youngest son, Paul, in 2021. 

Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal

Since January 2023, Alex has been standing trial for the murders of his two family members while also being accused of a number of other alleged crimes, with the disgraced patriarch facing charges for a murder-for-hire suicide scheme as well as embezzlement and fraud. In total, the state has brought 99 charges against Alex, alleging he defrauded many of his legal clients out of millions of dollars.

While Alex denies responsibility for the killings or the other charges lobbied against him, he did admit to lying when he was on the stand. "I didn’t shoot my wife or my son any time -- ever,” he said, while the New York Times reports that he blamed paranoia fueled by his painkiller addiction for not disclosing the truth of his whereabouts the night of Maggie and Paul's deaths. "Once I told a lie -- then I told my family -- I had to keep lying."

However, when both sides had rested, the jury deliberated for just under three hours before returning a guilty verdict. After Alex was sent to prison for life, Brian Buckmire, a felony trial attorney and Law&Crime host, reacted to the disgraced attorney's sentence.

"The judge could have been very soft-handed and said, 'We'll give you 30 years, run concurrently'... and he could get out in 30 years. He'd still be in his mid-eighties, but there's a potential there," Buckmire said. "But that's not what Judge Newman did. Judge Newman sent a message and sentenced him to two life sentences to run consecutively. That is a firm message about how the judge felt about these crimes, and how disgusting and how malicious he perceived them to be."

As for why this case riveted the nation, Buckmire said, "Probably most people have never seen a case where someone's charged with the murder of their wife and son with, as the prosecution put it, a motive to clear up financial crimes of 19 indictments and 99 charges, where you can do centuries in jail."

"[There was] mystery, no smoking gun, strong circumstantial evidence, of all of this chaos," he added. "... All this chaos in the background just kept people glued to the screen, and it was just so entertaining. You just wanted to know what happened for this man, this prominent attorney, to fall from grace, and have so much death and chaos around him."

In the years since the Murdaughs have been a national news sensation, two docuseries have detailed the deaths and other alleged crimes committed by Alex and his family. Here's what to watch to learn more about what's going on in Lowcountry: 

Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty 

First debuting in November 2022, the three-part HBO Max documentary explores "the legacy of the Murdaugh family, whose decades of powerful influence over the legal system in the South Carolina lowcountry unravel amid accusations of fraud, deception, and murder."

Through interviews with friends of the Murdaughs, the surviving family members of Stephen and Mallory as well as legal authorities that investigated those accidents, the docuseries recounts how Paul's involvement in the boating incident "thrust a level of scrutiny on the family’s actions and legacy, revealing a bizarre and deadly chain of events." As a result, their unchecked power of privilege has been called into question ever since. 
"This case has captivated the country for over a year, and it would be quite an understatement to say, 'There’s much more to the story.' In this series, we were able to offer new perspectives, new details and much-needed context to these infamous, both alleged and proven, accidents and crimes," executive producer Ross Dinerstein said of the series. 

Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal

Released in February 2023, in the midst of Alex's trial, the Netflix docuseries features "first-hand accounts from those on the boat that fateful night, many of whom have not spoken about the crash or double homicide of Maggie and Paul until now, including: Paul Murdaugh’s longtime girlfriend, Morgan Doughty; Mallory Beach's childhood friends, Miley Altman and Connor Cook; Mallory's boyfriend, Anthony Cook," and others.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, filmmakers Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason said they uncovered even more crimes associated with the family that stretches "to the state and the federal level." According to the magazine, "they uncovered previously unreported skeletons in Alex’s closet -- so many that they were unable to fit them all into their three-episode framework." 

"There are additional crimes that have occurred that we have the scoop on -- corruption that goes far wider than Hampton, South Carolina," Furst said.


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