‘Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal’ Explained: Who Were Stephen Smith & Gloria? Where Is Alex Now?


“Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” is an intriguing documentary miniseries by Netflix that tries to unfold the mystery revolving around the Murdaugh family in the state of South Carolina. In February of 2019, a teenage girl by the name of Mallory Beach died in a boat crash in South Carolina’s Lowcountry region due to what most of the survivors claimed to be drunk driving by a certain Paul Murdaugh. As it happened, Paul belonged to a highly reputed and established family of lawyers held in very high esteem all over the state. But ever since that fatal accident, terrible secrets and charges started to come out of the closet one after another, leading to a major fall from grace for the Murdaughs. While all criminal investigations and court trials regarding the cases are still ongoing, “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” presents a crisp and comprehensive detail of the grisly affair.

Who Is The Murdaugh Family?

Living in Hampton County, Lowcountry, South Carolina, the Murdaughs are an established family of lawyers and solicitors with a history dating back to 1920. Randolph Murdaugh Sr. became the first solicitor, or district attorney, during his time, and since then, it has been the Murdaughs who have held the role. The Murdaughs had originally begun with prosecuting criminal cases in the region and what is known as the 14th circuit district of the state. Having established themselves as the most prominent name in the field of law, the family then also branched out and formed a civil law firm, ensuring that all cases, whether criminal or civil, now came to them. Every prominent law enforcement authority in the region, starting from members of the police department to judges to common citizens who serve as jury members, all were respectful and admiring of the Murdaugh family, all until their horrific fall from grace.

What Had Happened To Mallory Beach?

“Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” begins with the accident that killed Mallory Beach and focuses mostly on interviews provided by the girl’s closest friends and family members. Mallory had been dating her childhood friend Anthony, who was very close friends with Paul, the youngest son of the influential Murdaugh family. Mallory’s two best friends, Morgan and Miley, were also close with the group since Morgan was dating Paul at the time, and Miley was romantically involved with Anthony’s cousin Connor. All six of the teenagers were very close friends, always hanging out and doing outdoor activities together, even though not all of them were fond of Paul. A teenager with access to almost unlimited money and privilege, Paul was a known troublemaker to his friends as well as to his girlfriend. Morgan recalls how she often felt Paul had an alcohol problem as the boy would turn violent and obstinate every time he was drunk, which was very unlike his sober self. She even tried talking to Paul’s mother, Maggie, about it, but Morgan’s worries were laughed off by the Murdaughs, who were used to drinking to the point of being drunk beyond their wits as something normal. Anthony had, in fact, even given a playful nickname to Paul’s drunk self, calling it his alter-ego Timmy. 

But all jokes and playfulness turned immensely serious on the night of February 23, when the group of six attended an oyster roasting party at one of their friends’ place. Paul was in charge of bringing the alcohol, and he insisted that they go to the party in his boat instead of by road. By the time they reached the party, the teenagers were already quite drunk, and their revelry continued throughout the evening. Even though many of their friends and some of the six wanted to stay back and be driven home, Paul insisted that they drive back in his boat. He even made the five others stop at a bar on their way back, and he was drunk beyond his wits by now. Despite all five of them telling him not to drive, Paul enforced his right to do so (since he owned the boat) and started doing so rather dangerously. Sometime later, the 911 emergency services received a call from the group saying that their boat had crashed under a bridge on Archer’s Creek. Although five of them survived with significant injuries, Mallory never made it out, as she drowned in the river and died.

What followed immediately after this was the entire community and administration apparently coming together to search for Mallory’s body. But, while everyone else was involved in this search, the Murdaugh family started to hide their tracks and somehow ensure that no criminal charge could be brought against their son Paul. Paul’s father, Alex, and his uncle, John Marvin, tried to convince the investigators, survivors, and parents of the other teenagers that they all needed to protect Paul from slander and criminal charges. They were fixed on trying to prove that it was Connor who was driving the boat during the accident, which was later deemed impossible from the nature of the injuries sustained by the six teenagers. Some even got the feeling that the Murdaughs did not even want Mallory’s body to be found since there could be no criminal charge without a dead body. This was not too uncommon for the family; in fact, Morgan recalls the Christmas of 2017 when the six of them got into a car accident due to Paul’s drunk driving.

When the Murdaughs were informed by Paul, they rushed to the spot and removed all guns and alcohol from the car before ensuring the teenagers’ safety, and they even reprimanded them for having called 911. Nonetheless, Mallory’s corpse was eventually found a few days after the accident, and a criminal lawsuit for a wrongful death was filed against Paul and his family. While Paul was released until the court trial, which is to be held in 2023, everything that followed was not at all expected by the people of the Lowcountry, as a series of revelations became instant national news.

What Happened To Paul After Mallory’s Death?

After the filing of the initial lawsuit, many claimed that Paul was receiving partial treatment due to his family name, and not wrongfully so. When Paul denied the claims in his first courtroom appearance after the accident, he was not handcuffed or treated with any usual harshness at all and was left to walk out with mere monetary repercussions. When Mallory’s parents hired a lawyer on their end, and he started his own investigation, the extent of the Murdaugh family’s influence became clear. None of the police officers who responded to the original 911 call on the night of February 23 questioned Paul in front of their car dashcams, as they were possibly scared of tainting the Murdaugh name. None of the police officers took any official alcohol level test of Paul, and it was only through the hospital’s records that it was proved that the boy was very intoxicated. Every other teenager had been questioned in this manner, but Paul was left out. In one of these questions, Anthony even told the investigating officer that it was Paul who had got his girlfriend killed, but this clip was intentionally left out of the official evidence. All the lead investigators involved were close to the Murdaughs, and they also continually kept in touch with the family, even though none of them contacted Mallory’s parents even once.

There was clearly a bias at play, but the Murdaughs still had to put up the pretense of punishing their son. They owned a log cabin over extensive lands at a place called Moselle, and Paul was made to settle there, perhaps far away from the public eye. However, his life had not really changed or been affected, as his friends (other than the four involved in the 2019 accident) visited him there, and they would party there. But what changed the scenario rapidly was the night of June 7, 2021, when Alex Murdaugh called the police to inform them that he had just found his wife Maggie and his youngest son Paul shot dead on his Moselle property.

The police started an investigation and found that two different guns had been used to shoot the mother and son. While Paul had been killed with a shotgun, Maggie had been shot with the use of a more sophisticated AR-15 rifle. Alex claimed that he had gone to visit his elderly parents during the evening and returned to the house at night to find his wife and son lying dead. The family did initially insist that the friends and well-wishers of Mallory Beach might be involved in this horrific double-murder, as they possibly wanted their revenge. But the reality turned out to be starkly different when forensic tests were conducted and residue from the AR-15 gunshot was found on Alex’s clothes from that night. While this did not prove that the man was the one to have killed his wife and son, it surely proved his presence at Moselle during the shooting on that night. In July of 2022, a criminal charge of two counts of murder was brought against Alex Murdaugh, as he is now widely believed to have killed his family members.

The exact motive for these murders is not yet clear, and this is what Alex and his team of lawyers have been harping on so far. But as far as theories go, Maggie Murdaugh was believed to have found out about a severe lack of funds from the family business and suspected her husband of some wrongdoing. She was also apparently consulting a divorce lawyer to end her marriage with Alex. The son, Paul, was always very close to the domestic help, Gloria, who had quite literally raised him since his childhood. Gloria had died in the family home under mysterious circumstances in 2018, and there had been enough doubts and rumors that the Murdaughs had something to do with this too. It could be that on this particular night, Paul and Maggie got involved in some altercation regarding all this with Alex, without any idea that the man would shoot them dead. Many, including Paul’s earlier girlfriend Morgan, have reported about how Alex was addicted to painkillers and would often stay high on such and other kinds of drugs.

Who Were Stephen Smith And Gloria Satterfield?

As fate would have it, major revelations during the Moselle murders investigation led the police and authorities to believe that the Murdaughs were involved in more murders earlier too. The first was that of a high school student, Stephen Smith, back in 2015. The young teenager was openly gay and was rumored to be involved in a romantic relationship with Paul Murdaugh’s elder brother, Buster. There was also a belief among the high school teachers that Buster used to regularly get his schoolwork done by Stephen. One evening when his car broke down, Stephen is believed to have called Buster for help, and the boy and a few of his friends reached the spot. It is widely believed that Buster and his friends then murdered Stephen and dumped his body in the middle of the road. In an uptight and conservative community like Hampton County, the Murdaughs did not really stick out as homophobes. While no lead could apparently be found during this time, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division reopened the case after finding enough evidence from their investigation at the Murdaugh house in Moselle.

Gloria Satterfield had been the domestic help at the Murdaugh family house for many years, and she was the one to raise Paul from his childhood. While Maggie was more proud of and invested in her elder son, Buster, due to his aspirations to continue with the family profession of law, Paul was somewhat neglected by his family. He was apparently so close to Gloria that he always kept a photograph of her in his wallet, which was also unlike him. On February 2, 2018, Maggie called 911 to inform them of an accident that had happened at their family house. Gloria had apparently tripped on the family dogs when she was climbing up the stone stairs, leading to a fatal fall and death.

The sheer coincidence of the matter and some false claims made it very likely that it was either Maggie or Paul or both who had pushed Gloria down the stairs and killed her. Alex kept stating that he was there at the spot of the event during that time, but information gathered from other sources claims that he was nowhere near the house at the time. No official autopsy had been done by the authorities, even though the cause of death was accidental and suspicious enough to warrant such a test. There was clearly some sort of cover-up that had been practiced by the Murdaughs in the case of Gloria’s death too. The suspected motive for having killed Gloria is that the housekeeper had apparently found drugs in the possession of Alex and had approached Paul and Maggie about this, which was not perceived well by them.

This death incidentally also brought out another, perhaps equally damning, matter against the shady character of Alex Murdaugh. The Murdaugh law firm, which was now bigger than just the family, found out that Alex had been misappropriating funds from clients for many years. They confronted Alex about it and forced him to resign from the firm, cutting all ties with the man whose reputation was now beyond shaky. After Gloria Satterfield’s death, Alex had publicly said that he would file a lawsuit against his own name, get hold of the entire insurance money that could be claimed for such an accident, and give it to Gloria’s sons to help them out.

As it turned out, the sons received no such money, but the insurance company had indeed paid out $3.4 million, and this money had been stolen by the lawyer in between, Alex Murdough. As is revealed at the end of “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal,” Alex had made this insurance policy on the property only a month before Gloria’s death, making it possible that he got the woman killed only to get hold of the money. Numerous other such embezzlement instances were found against the man, and multiple charges of financial fraud have been filed against him.

‘Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal’ Ending: What Happened To Alex? Where Is He Now?

Some three months after the murders of Maggie and Paul and after the Murdaugh law firm cut ties with him, Alex tried to stage his own murder. He hired his drug dealer, Curtis Edward Smith, to apparently approach him on the highway and shoot him dead. He had planned this as he was depressed and frustrated with life and wanted to end it but believed that his remaining son Buster would not receive his life insurance money if he simply committed suicide. Therefore, he hired Curtis to kill him instead, but it did not go according to plan, and Alex was only left injured by the whole shenanigan. He was issued with three legal charges for this as well and was taken into custody around October 2021.

The investigation into the murder of Stephen Smith is still ongoing, as is that of Gloria Satterfield, whose body has also been exhumed for an autopsy. The court trial of Mallory Beach has not yet started and is slated to take place later this year. The trial for charges of multiple financial frauds is ongoing, along with that of the murder of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh. He has been imprisoned at the Richland County Detention Center since October 2021 while the court trials and investigation still continue. If found guilty of the double murder of his son and wife, Alex Murdaugh will receive life imprisonment along with the charges of financial fraud that are also coming along the way.

“Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” is a 2023 Crime Documentary series streaming on Netflix.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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