The true crime docuseries on Netflix Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal reveals a series of unsolved deaths linked to a family in South Carolina. The documentary begins with the death of Mallory Beach, a young woman in a boating accident with a group of friends. The boat, owned by the Murdaugh family, was driven by Paul Murdaugh while heavily intoxicated. When the boat crashed into a bridge pier, Mallory and her friend Anthony were thrown overboard. Anthony made his way to shore and the others on the boat suffered injuries, but Mallory was nowhere to be seen.
Unfortunately, this was not the first death related to the Murdaugh family, nor the first attempted cover-up. This documentary explores how the series of deaths surrounding the Murdaughs went cold in their respective investigations due to the influence and power of the Murdaugh family. With ties to politics, the legal system and the police system, each death was swept under the carpet and left unsolved. That is until the most recent deaths of Margaret and Paul Murdaugh in 2021, which ultimately resulted in the arrest of Alex Murdaugh, whose trial concluded on March 2, with Alex found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
Mysterious Deaths Surrounding the Murdaugh Family
The first known case related to the Murdaugh family was the death of a young man named Stephen Smith in 2015, who was found dead in the middle of a road three miles away from his car. However, this was not the result of a car accident, as stated in the SLED report, but the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head. Stephen’s car was found and appeared to be out of gas on the highway. Detectives determined that Stephen Buster had called Murdaugh for a ride, and it was rumored that the two were not only friends, but may have been in a romantic relationship. What happened after Buster picked him up? Nobody knows.
In 2018, Gloria Satterfield, Murdaugh’s housekeeper, was reported to have tripped over the family’s dogs and fallen down a flight of stairs, where she hit her head and died. Investigations revealed several inconsistencies regarding the manner of death, the injuries sustained, and the circumstances surrounding her death. Gloria was close to the family and was aware of the problems within the Murdaugh household. She had discovered Alex Murdaugh’s stash of drugs and reported it to Paul. After her death, Alex Murdaugh filed a wrongful death claim to be paid out to Gloria’s family in the amount of half a million dollars, but mysteriously the money never got to any of her family’s members.
Then came the shocking deaths of Margaret and Paul Murdaugh, Alex’s wife and son. In 2021, the two were shot dead on Murdaugh’s property and Alex himself called an ambulance. Although he created an alibi for himself and later arranged an attempted shooting to establish his own innocence and frame someone else, he was arrested as the prime suspect. The Murdaughs owned the same guns used to kill Margaret and Paul, and they mysteriously disappeared from the collection.
How wealth and power created the cover-ups
The documentary is about how the family tried to cover up these crimes and the theories detectives formed based on each case’s strange connections, especially in their connection to the Murdaugh family. Evidence was withheld and the family used their wealth and power within the community to manipulate what had happened. This was demonstrated in the case of Mallory Beach, with each of the remaining boat crash survivors recounting what happened.
Immediately after everyone landed, Paul called his grandfather to tell him what had happened, claiming that another friend had been driving the boat. Then the family went to work to “handle” the situation and cover it up. The Murdaughs tried to tell a different story about what happened and even took the family lawyer to the hospital to try and manipulate those involved in the accident. They even towed the boat away before it could be examined.
The Murdaugh family’s long-established power in the justice system seemed to place them above the law. Those interacting with the family during these cases learned of the privileges the family received and the suspicious activity, but were afraid to speak out or get involved. Rumors of their ability to provide evidence and even make people disappear came true when they were able to silence, bribe and manipulate those within the justice system and law enforcement. But it all came crashing down around them with the murders of Margaret and Paul Murdaugh when outside detectives took on the case and could remain unaffected by the family’s power and wealth.