A Family Called Murdaugh

The small town of Hampton County, in South Carolina, has less than 20,000 inhabitants today, is just over 100 km from the capital, Charleston, and is at the center of world news thanks to the deaths of 5 people, all in some way connected to a single family: the Murdaughs.

For those of us who speak Portuguese, we miss the irony of the name’s pronunciation, which, with the southern accent, sounds like “murders” which is not even the most bizarre of a frighteningly impressive story. Hampton County is in what is called the Lowcountry, a swampy area that runs along the coast of South Carolina, including the Sea Islands, and is where the family of lawyers settled in the early 20th century. Known as the “Law” in the county, as they have traditionally established themselves as attorneys and district attorneys handling all criminal cases in the area. That in Hampton County they were equally feared, criticized, and admired, makes sense, but the crimes surrounding Richard “Alex” Murdaugh and his children won the world, especially with the documentaries available on Netflix. The most recent, The Murdaugh Murders, was made available even before Alex’s trial took place, and is rich in images and testimonials.

The entire universe and drama surrounding the Murdaughs remind – and a lot – of the first season of True Detective, which is about to return to HBO. Two of the 5 dead would not even have that much connection, but seen in perspective they trace a sociopathy of people raised in a universe of privileges.

The first crime that drew attention wasn’t even the first. In 2019, Paul Murdaugh, Alex’s youngest, was involved in a boating accident when he was drunk, causing the death of a teenager, Mallory Beach. The accident was fateful, but the fact that the Murdaughs covered up Paul’s guilt, trying to place the blame on another victim. If that wasn’t enough, Alex suffered an “attempted murder/suicide” a few years later, and in 2021, both Paul and his mother were found dead – by Alex – in the family’s summer residence. Both were shot dead. It is for these crimes that Alex is now in prison and on trial, but there is more.

In 2015, teenager Stephen Smith was found dead on a deserted road, with blunt trauma that the police classified as being run over. With no suspects, the case remained at that, but Stephen, who was openly gay, was friends with Alex Murdaugh’s eldest son, Buster, who was implicated in the crime by some witnesses. The case was dropped under the influence of the Murdaughs.

In 2018, prior to Mallory’s death and Alex’s “attempted murder/suicide”, police were called to the clan mansion after the housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield fell down the stairs and hit her head, subsequently dying as a result. of the accident. There was no investigation or autopsy, with Gloria officially dying of “natural causes”, despite the opinion of a coroner. Alex interfered in every police action, just as he later did with Mallory. To make matters worse, Alex was left with the $4.3 million insurance policy that was meant for Gloria’s heirs, diverting the insurance payment to his account.

With the murders of Paul and his mother, Maggie, it has become harder for Alex to exert more influence and he is answering for these crimes at his trial. Fiction loses for so many surprising turns. That’s why it’s worth – and a lot – to check out the Netflix documentary. Even to see the next chapters.

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