The prominent American lawyer Alex Murdaugh plotted his own death so that his son could receive $10 million (BRL 52 million) in life insurance, says the police.
The defense now confirms that Murdaugh hired an assassin for hire to shoot him, in the expectation that his surviving son could receive the insurance proceeds.
The incident comes just three months after Murdaugh’s wife and another son were found gunned down, the latest twist in a series of tragedies and scandals that have plagued the family.
Check out what is known about the case below.
Alex Murdaugh, 53, is a descendant of a well-connected family with a history in the area of law in the state of South Carolina, in the United States. For three generations, his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father served as the lead promoter of a five-county region in the state.
In June, Murdaugh’s wife Margaret, 52, and son Paul, 22, were found murdered near their home.
At the time of his death, Paul also faced criminal charges stemming from a 2019 incident in which authorities say he, while intoxicated, caused a boat accident that left a woman dead.
Murdaugh was shot in early September. No arrests were made in the incident, which came a day after Murdaugh resigned from his law firm.
The law firm later claimed that he embezzled funds — which he allegedly used primarily to finance an opioid addiction, according to his lawyer. Murdaugh was admitted to a rehab clinic days after he was shot.
Murdaugh was found with “superficial” head wounds after being shot on a road on September 4th.
Originally, Murdaugh’s lawyers claimed he was changing a tire when an unidentified assailant shot him.. He was discharged from the hospital two days later.
Now the police allege — and Murdaugh’s lawyers admit — that he hired a hit man to shoot him. so that your surviving child could receive the insurance money.
The shooter, a 61-year-old former client named Curtis Edward Smith, now faces a range of criminal charges, including conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, assault and battery, assisted suicide and drug possession. Smith pleaded guilty.
Although Murdaugh has not been charged with committing crimes, police say additional charges are expected.
Murdaugh’s lawyer said on Wednesday that he crafted the plan in the mistaken belief that his son would not be able to collect the insurance money if he took his own life.
“He called this guy, who found him on the side of the road and agreed to shoot him in the head,” lawyer Dick Harpootlian told US broadcaster NBC. “It was an attempt on his part to do something to protect his son.”
Harpootlian added that Murdaugh is cooperating with authorities and did not want a “false crime” to distract them as they investigate the murder of his wife and son.
Are crimes connected?
Police have not charged anyone for the murders of Paul and Margaret Murdaugh in June and have not suggested that Murdaugh is involved.
Speaking to NBC’s Morning show on Wednesday, Harpootlian denied that Murdaugh had anything to do with their deaths. “He’s totally upset. He didn’t kill them.”
The Murdaugh case also prompted police to open an investigation into the 2015 death of Stephen Smith, a 19-year-old found dead in the same county, less than 10 miles away.
His death was initially considered by firearms, but later classified as probable being run over. Police did not say what information was recovered during Murdaugh’s investigation that led them to investigate the Smith case.
Who killed Paul and Margaret Murdaugh?
Police did not comment on possible suspects in the deaths of Paul and Margaret in June.
After the murders, Murdaugh’s brothers Randy and John said they did not know if the family had enemies, although they claimed that Paul had received threats.
On Wednesday, Murdaugh’s lawyer said he doesn’t know who killed his family. However, Harpootlian added that he is investigating “an individual, or individuals, who we believe have some guilt or have done so.”
“We think we’ll know this week if the suspect we’re looking at needs further scrutiny,” the lawyer said. “We will make this information available to law enforcement authorities.”
Although he declined to give further details, the lawyer said the “reason would be personal”.