Alex Murdaugh, the prominent South Carolina lawyer whose wife and son were shot and killed in June, asked a former client to kill him this month so his other son could collect a $10 million insurance payment but survived being shot in the head, the police said Tuesday night.
It was the latest startling twist in a series of mysteries that have brought intense scrutiny to the Murdaugh family and the rural slice of South Carolina where their family has held sway for more than a century, though the central question of who killed Murdaugh’s wife and son remains unsolved.
The former client, Curtis Edward Smith, 61, of Walterboro, South Carolina, was arrested and charged with assisted suicide, aggravated assault and battery, and insurance fraud in connection with the shooting on Sept. 4, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said.
The state police agency said that Murdaugh, 53, had admitted to the scheme Monday and that Smith had admitted to being at the scene and getting rid of the gun. Murdaugh’s lawyer did not respond to inquiries about the arrest, and it was not clear if Smith, who was booked in the Colleton County jail, had a lawyer.
Murdaugh has not been charged, but he is referred to as a “co-defendant” in the charging documents for Smith; a police spokesman, Tommy Crosby, said without elaborating that the police expected to bring more charges in the case.
Murdaugh’s lawyer and spokeswoman had insisted that the shooting on a rural road in Hampton County, South Carolina, was not self-inflicted. They said that Murdaugh had stopped to inspect a flat tire when someone in a truck pulled up and shot him, causing a skull fracture. He was released from a hospital within several days.
A day before the shooting, Murdaugh had been pushed out of his family law firm, PMPED, which said it discovered that he had misused millions of dollars. Murdaugh issued a statement apologizing to his family and his colleagues, and his lawyer said he was entering a drug rehab program.
It was a stunning unraveling for Murdaugh, who is part of a legal dynasty that has amassed powerful ties in the South Carolina Lowcountry over the past century. His great-grandfather, grandfather and father sequentially served as the top prosecutor across a five-county region from 1910 until 2006.
Murdaugh represented Smith as recently as 2015 in a lawsuit that Smith had filed against a forest management company based in Charlotte, North Carolina. He had also represented Smith in 2013 when Smith was given a ticket for driving up to 10 mph over the speed limit.
The shooting of Murdaugh came nearly three months after he returned to his family’s large, rural property in Islandton, South Carolina, and discovered that his wife, Maggie, and son Paul, a 22-year-old college student, had been shot to death.
At the time of his death, Paul Murdaugh was facing charges that he had drunkenly crashed a boat in 2019, killing Mallory Beach, a passenger, and wounding others.
The killings also led the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to open an investigation into the 2015 death of Stephen Smith, a 19-year-old man whose body was found in a road 10 miles from the Murdaugh home and whose death was ruled a shooting and then a probable hit-and-run. No one has been charged in his death.