This past week, former South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh was convicted of murdering his wife and son in 2021 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
On March 2, Murdaugh, 54, was found guilty on four counts: the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, as well as two counts of possession of a weapon during a crime. The jury needed less than three hours of deliberation to deliver a verdict in the high-profile case, which has been the subject of documentaries on Netflix and HBO Max. The trial began on January 23 in Walterboro, South Carolina.
There has been a great amount of national interest in the case because of the family’s prestige, as well as its prior legal troubles. Here’s what you need to know about Alex, Maggie, Paul, and Buster Murdaugh.
Who Is Alex Murdaugh?
Richard Alexander Murdaugh is a member of a prominent legal family in the South Carolina lowcountry. Three generations of his family—his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father—served over 87 years as solicitor for the 14th Judicial Circuit. The elected position oversees prosecutions throughout the area. Because of its prosecutorial legacy, the family gained a reputation for its power and ability to wield influence.
Murdaugh followed the family example by becoming a lawyer. He worked as an attorney in a local prosecutor’s office and also at the law firm of Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick (PMPED). The firm was founded in 1910 by Randolph Murdaugh Sr., Alex’s great-grandfather.
Murdaugh and his family lived in Hampton, South Carolina, before relocating to their sprawling Moselle property in nearby Islandton. At around 1,700 acres, the complex contained the Murdaugh house, dog kennels, a cabin, and stretches of swamp land.
In light of his legal troubles, the South Carolina Supreme Court disbarred Murdaugh in July 2022. He is still facing 99 criminal charges not related to the murders. State prosecutors have accused Murdaugh of stealing more than $8.7 million from clients at his law firm and others in fraud schemes. Family members of Gloria Satterfield, the Murdaughs’ housekeeper who died in a trip and fall accident at the Murdaugh home in 2018, are among the potential victims included in the state grand jury indictments. The family reached a settlement with the PMPED firm in 2021, according to Live 5 news in Charleston, South Carolina.
In September 2021, three months after the murders of Paul and Maggie, Alex Murdaugh allegedly conspired to pay Curtis “Eddie” Smith to kill him so that his surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, would inherit a $10 million insurance windfall. Alex initially claimed he was ambushed in a drive-by shooting but later confessed to orchestrating the plot after his story unraveled.
Attorney Richard Harpootlian revealed, upon Murdaugh’s 2021 arrest, that his client was a 20-year opioid addict. Murdaugh also admitted this during the murder trial.
Who Was Maggie Murdaugh?
Maggie Murdaugh, born Margaret Kennedy Branstetter, graduated from the University of South Carolina, where she met Alex Murdaugh, in 1991. She was a member of Kappa Delta Sorority. The pair married on August 14, 1993, and later had two sons, Paul and Buster. The full-time homemaker was described as a dedicated mother, according to the BBC.
According to a November 2021 New York Post article, Maggie and Alex Murdaugh had sold their house in Hampton, South Carolina, prior to the murders and split their time between Edisto Beach, South Carolina, and the Moselle hunting lodge.
On June 7, 2021, Maggie was shot to death with a rifle at the family’s Moselle estate. She was 52.
In September 2021, People reported that Maggie had met with a divorce lawyer six weeks prior to the murders, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation.
Maggie Murdaugh’s sister, Marian Proctor, spoke in front of the jury on February 14. The Post and Courier reported that, in her testimony, she said Alex Murdaugh “never talked” about finding the person responsible for killing Maggie and Paul in the weeks after their deaths. Meanwhile, Proctor said the rest of the family lived in fear of the unknown killer.
Who Was Paul Murdaugh?
Paul Murdaugh, Alex and Maggie’s younger son, was an undergraduate student at the University of South Carolina. Family and friends described Paul, known as “Paw Paw” by his father, as inquisitive and kind, according to the BBC. He took particular care of his elderly grandparents. However, his ex-girlfriend, Morgan Doughty, shared that Paul could be violent in the Netflix docuseries Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal.
The 22-year-old was also shot to death, likely with a shotgun, on June 7, 2021. He was found near his mother at the Moselle property.
Paul had previously been in the spotlight as the suspected driver in a fatal boating accident in Beaufort County, South Carolina, in 2019 that resulted in the death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach.
At the time of the accident, six people were on the boat, which was owned by Alex Murdaugh. According to testimony from four others on the boat, Murdaugh became agitated and got into an altercation with his ex-girlfriend. After returning to the wheel of the boat, he accelerated. Records indicate the boat hit the front of a bridge and then a pylon before beaching itself. Beach was thrown overboard, and an autopsy showed she died of blunt force trauma to the head and drowning, according to authorities.
Surveillance video showed Paul using his older brother’s ID to buy alcohol at a local gas station earlier that night. The Post and Courier reported that hospital tests found his blood alcohol concentration was over 0.28 at the time of the accident, more than three times the legal limit to drive a car.
Paul was indicted on charges of boating under the influence, causing great bodily harm, and causing death in the crash. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment, according to ABC 4, but was unable to stand trial for any of the charges because of his murder.
Who Is Buster Murdaugh?
Richard Alexander “Buster” Murdaugh Jr., Alex and Maggie Murdaugh’s elder son, graduated from Wofford College in 2018 and had plans to follow his father into the family law firm, according to the BBC.
However, the Wall Street Journal reported in September 2021 that Buster was expelled from the University of South Carolina’s School of Law for plagiarism, according to court documents.
The Post and Courier reported that the bulk of Alex Murdaugh’s jailhouse phone calls went to Buster, with their conversations ranging from small talk to the son’s potential return to law school. The calls also revealed the family had paid a Columbia lawyer, Butch Bowers, around $60,000 to help secure Buster’s readmittance.
Buster, 26, was consistently present at the trial and testified that his father was “destroyed” by Paul and Maggie’s murders. He put his head in his hands as the jury delivered its guilty verdict.
Mallory Beach’s family named Buster in a civil lawsuit over the boat accident that caused her death. However, his name was removed from the case as part of a settlement approved in January 2023, according to ABC 4.
Buster has also been linked to the unsolved hit-and-run death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith in 2015, but no official allegations or charges have been brought against anyone in the case. Smith, who was openly gay, was found dead on the side of a Hampton County road. According to Newsweek, South Carolina Highway Patrol files indicate that 10 people interviewed about the incident suggested that Buster should be questioned. However, rumors of his involvement in the death or potential relationship with Smith remain unfounded.
Buster currently lives with his girlfriend, lawyer Brooklyn White, in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
Tyler Piccotti joined the Biography.com staff in 2023, and before that had worked almost eight years as a newspaper reporter and copy editor. He is a graduate of Syracuse University, an avid sports fan, a frequent moviegoer, and trivia buff.