By KATIE McLAUGHLIN Court TV
Five bodies in six years connected to one family.
Netflix’s new docuseries “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” doesn’t waste any time getting to the point: five people in South Carolina’s Lowcountry who met untimely deaths between 2014-2021 had a connection to the Murdaughs. Two of the deceased were Murdaughs.
If you’ve been following Court TV’s coverage of SC v. Alex Murdaugh, you may think you’re up to speed on all things Murdaugh. However, the documentary sheds light on certain topics that the jury has not yet heard or will never hear about in court.
BACKSTORY AND EVIDENCE PHOTOS: SC v. Alex Murdaugh: Murdaugh Family Murders
The three-part docuseries explores the prominent family’s potential involvement in the deaths of Mallory Beach, Gloria Satterfield and Stephen Smith; and the ways in which the Murdaughs may have used their clout to spin events in their favor.
DEATH OF MALLORY BEACH
Paul Murdaugh was awaiting trial on criminal charges at the time of his death. On February 24, 2019, Paul crashed his father’s boat into Archers Creek Bridge near Parris Island in Beaufort, South Carolina, killing 19-year-old Mallory Beach, who was a passenger on the boat. Paul, who was also 19 at the time, was indicted on charges of boating under the influence, causing great bodily harm, and causing death in connection to the accident.
The other passengers on the boat were Miley Altman, Morgan Doughty (Paul’s girlfriend at the time), Anthony Cook, and Connor Cook.
In the docuseries, Anthony Cook recalled that Paul was “out of his mind drunk” that night. The friends begged him to let either Connor or Anthony (Connor Cook and Anthony Cook are cousins) drive the boat back home. They suggested taking an Uber or getting a ride from a friend instead of taking the boat, but Paul was too proud.
Cook and Doughty recalled the treacherous boat ride, during which they say Paul left the boat unattended at high speeds.
Cook spoke through tears about desperately searching for Beach after the crash, even swimming against the current in efforts to locate her. It wasn’t until seven days later that rescue teams recovered her body.
At his arraignment, Paul pleaded not guilty and was released on a $50,000 bond. Beach’s family filed a wrongful death suit in March 2019, the month after the accident.
Paul was gunned down on June 7, 2021, three days before a hearing was scheduled to take place regarding the boat crash civil suit. The criminal charges pending against Paul were formally dropped in August 2021.
Earlier this year, Mallory Beach’s estate reached a settlement agreement with the estate of Maggie Murdaugh and her surviving son, Buster Murdaugh.
Morgan Doughty, who dated Paul Murdaugh for four years, spoke in the docuseries about how Paul’s grandfather, Randolph Murdaugh (Alex’s father), routinely cleaned up his messes. In addition to showing up immediately after the boat crash, Randolph was the first person Paul called after he drove his truck into a ditch when Morgan was a passenger.
Morgan recalled guns and beer cans flying everywhere. She said Maggie, Alex, and Randolph showed up and immediately cleaned everything out of the truck. She said they scolded her for calling 911 because Paul could have gotten in trouble.
Morgan also recalled having a hard time fitting in in Paul’s world, as her parents were working-class transplants from Long Island. She spoke about the Murdaugh’s multiple homes and how the Moselle hunting lodge had its own landing strip for the family’s plane, which was kept in a shed on the property. She also attended events like the Kentucky Derby and Final Four with the Murdaughs. Morgan noticed that, unlike her family, Paul’s family regularly drank to excess, and Paul’s excessive drinking didn’t phase them as it did her.
It was Paul’s drinking that eventually caused the pair to part ways. In one instance, Doughty claimed Paul began kicking her after a night of drinking during celebrations for Buster Murdaugh’s graduation. She said Paul punched her and grabbed her by the throat.
Morgan said that on the night of the boat crash, she cried when Paul said her father couldn’t support his family, and Paul slapped her.
DEATH OF STEPHEN SMITH
Stephen Smith’s body was found in the middle of a rural Hampton County road on July 8, 2015. His vehicle was discovered nearby. Investigators presumed he’d run out of gas or had car trouble, set off on foot, and been struck by a passing motorist.
Smith had suffered severe head trauma, and upon further inspection, investigators concluded that the condition of his body was not consistent with a vehicular accident. For example, his clothes were untorn, his loose-fitting shoes were on his feet, and his cell phone was intact and in his pocket.
In the docuseries, journalist Will Folks is quoted as saying, “Victims of vehicular strikes are not typically found in the middle of the road.”
Responding officers reported suspicions of foul play. The report also contained the name Buster Murdaugh.
When the case went cold, Smith’s mother hired private investigator Steve Peterson. In exploring the case, Peterson noted that Buster’s name came up multiple times. In the docuseries, Peterson states that many of the people he interviewed said they’d heard Buster was involved with Smith’s death. Smith was openly gay. Others told investigators that Smith and Buster had a relationship and were more than friends.
According to the docuseries, some schoolmates of Smith and Buster reported Smith was having car trouble and was comfortable enough with Buster to call him for help.
What happened next is unclear, but a friend of Smith’s named Olivia stated in the docuseries:
“I believe that he picked Stephen up and was fooling Stephen into thinking they were taking him home but I think they got a little ways down the road and that’s when it all started to unravel. I believe that the Murdaughs did whatever the hell it took to keep everyone’s mouth shut that night.”
Smith’s sister Stephanie recalled Alex Murdaugh’s brother Randy Murdaugh phoned the family the day Stephen died and said he wanted to take the case free of charge.
Peterson was frustrated because the case quickly began to fade, and although Buster’s name was mentioned several times on the highway patrol tapes, Buster was never interviewed by authorities.
Smith’s heartbroken family, meanwhile, implored the community for answers of any kind. Media reports stated a prominent, well-known family was involved, but they could not name the Murdaughs for fear of lawsuits.
Stephen’s case was reopened not long after Maggie and Paul’s deaths. The investigation into Smith’s death is ongoing.
DEATH OF GLORIA SATTERFIELD
Three years after Smith’s death, in February 2018, the Murdaughs longtime housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, suffered a head injury while walking up the brick steps at Moselle.
Satterfield’s family was told Gloria tripped over the Murdaugh’s dogs and fell backwards down the steps, striking her head. She was taken to the hospital and died of complications from the fall 24 days later. Satterfield was 57 years old, and had worked for the Murdaughs since Paul was a baby. She left behind two sons.
Morgan Doughty recalled in the docuseries that Paul sobbed when Satterfield died. She said Paul considered Satterfield like a second mother. Doughty went so far as to describe Paul’s actual mother, Maggie, as “detached” from Paul but loving toward Buster, saying “Gloria gave Paul what Maggie didn’t.”
According to Doughty, Paul felt like he was a disappointment to his parents, so love and acceptance came from Satterfield.
Anthony Cook recalled that Satterfield “took care of Paul like no family member ever did. Miss Gloria would’ve walked off the end of the moon for Paul Murdaugh.”
Doughty’s mother, Diane Doughty stated that the only person Paul carried a picture of in his wallet was Satterfield.
Doughty, who spent a lot of time at Moselle when she was dating Paul, recalled a 2018 incident in which Satterfield became concerned after finding a stash of Alex’s pills. According to Doughty, Satterfield talked to Paul about it because she was afraid to go to Maggie.
Doughty’s father, Bill Doughty, stated in the docuseries under no uncertain terms that Satterfield died because she “knew too much.”
Rumors had circulated that Maggie or Paul pushed Satterfield, but Cook vehemently insists Paul would never hurt Satterfield.
Doughty remembered Alex telling Paul he was going to sue himself for wrongful death and give Satterfield’s sons the settlement money. This gave Paul comfort. But, Alex lied. He ended up stealing the Satterfield boys’ insurance money, recovering over $4 million.
Doughty, however, couldn’t help but wonder if there was a connection between Satterfield finding the drugs and her death, simply saying “I think something happened to her, and I don’t think it was handled properly.”
Satterfield’s family does not believe she was murdered, and has publicly stated that they are upset that Netflix is suggesting she may have been killed. Satterfield’s attorney spoke to Court TV about it:
The Satterfields did agree that Gloria’s body could be exhumed to further investigate the circumstances surrounding her death. That investigation is still ongoing.
DEATHS OF MAGGIE MURDAUGH AND PAUL MURDAUGH
Alex Murdaugh is currently on trial for the June 7, 2021 murders of his wife and son. Earlier that same day, Alex was confronted by his law firm about $792,000 in missing funds. Additionally, Alex was facing a June 10 hearing regarding the civil case stemming from the boat trial.
Prosecutors contend Alex killed Maggie and Paul to buy himself some time and divert attention away from his financial misdeeds. He maintains his innocence.
On February 23, 2023, Alex Murdaugh made the decision to take the stand in his own defense. Court TV is carrying the proceedings, gavel-to-gavel.