Bubba, Buster, Paw-Paw – who’s who in Murdaugh murder trial

Maggie and Alex MurdaughImage source, Maggie Murdaugh/Facebook
Image caption,

Maggie Murdaugh, pictured here with Alex, was said to be a devoted mother

In the southernmost corner of South Carolina, a balmy, rural stretch known as the Lowcountry, the Murdaugh family enjoyed a rarefied space – masters of the privileged and powerful class that controlled the area.

But two years ago that life began to unravel when Alex Murdaugh – the fourth generation scion of a local legal dynasty – called police to report his wife Maggie and son Paul had been shot on the grounds of their family estate.

After a six-week trial the former lawyer was found guilty of both murders.

Murdaugh’s case, a tale of death, deception and drugs, became one of the most closely watched in the country.

Here’s a look at the main characters of this story, now a family torn apart.

Alex Murdaugh – guilty of double murder

The central figure in this saga is a wealthy lawyer who worked at the private litigation firm founded by his great-grandfather.

Colleagues have said the 52-year-old was a loud and frenetic presence, always late and always in a rush.

And in keeping with the family tradition, Murdaugh was a powerhouse in the local legal circuit, winning his clients lucrative settlements which fed his affluent lifestyle.

But the patina of success hid a number of seedy secrets – Murdaugh was stealing from his clients and colleagues, as much as $3.7m (£3m) in a single year alone. Testifying at his murder trial, he confessed to the theft, blaming a desperate and expensive addiction to oxycodone.

At trial, Murdaugh said he spent up to $50,000 each week on his habit. “I’m not quite sure how I let myself get where I got,” he said.

Murdaugh now faces life behind bars for both the murders of Maggie and Paul and for nearly 100 additional financial charges.

Maggie Murdaugh – his wife

Maggie grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, before moving to South Carolina for university, where she met her husband, Alex.

Friends and family testified at trial that before her death in 2021, aged 52, Maggie Murdaugh was sweet and relaxed.

A full-time homemaker, she was described as an adoring mother to her two sons. Her sister, Marian Proctor, said at trial: “Buster and Paul were her world.”

Image source, Maggie Murdaugh/Facebook
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The Murdaugh family once enjoyed an affluent lifestyle

Mrs Murdaugh was a “girl’s girl”, her family said, not naturally predisposed to the activities favoured by her husband and sons – hunting and fishing – but she was said to have jumped right in.

“She just wanted to do what they were doing,” Mrs Proctor said.

Paul Murdaugh – the youngest son

At the time of his death, “Paw Paw”, as his father called him on the stand, was an undergraduate student at the University of South Carolina.

Family and friends described Paul, 22, as inquisitive and kind, taking particular care with his elderly grandparents.

“He was one hundred percent country boy, he was tough… but he took care of so many,” his father said at the trial.

Image source, Facebook/Maggie Murdaugh
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Alex Murdaugh (right) is accused of murdering his wife, Maggie, and his youngest son Paul

But there were some very troubling moments in Paul’s short life.

At the time of his death, he was facing three charges all related to a 2019 boat wreck, including an accusation that he was driving under the influence during the crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach. 

Paul pleaded not guilty but died before he could face trial.

All of the survivors except for Paul would testify that it had been him behind the wheel at the time of impact. He had been drunk, they said, descending into a cruel and angry alter ego that friends had nick-named “Timmy”, and who allegedly hit his girlfriend the night of the accident.

Buster Murdaugh – the eldest son

The 26-year-old graduated from Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and had plans to follow his father into the family firm, in what would have been the fifth generation of Murdaugh men.

He has been a constant presence at his father’s trial, sitting quietly just a few rows behind Murdaugh every day. But he briefly found himself in hot water after reportedly passing his father a John Grisham novel, which was later deemed contraband.

Buster testified in his father’s defence, describing him as as a loving presence who was “destroyed” by the murders of Maggie and Paul.

Image source, Joshua Boucher/The State/Pool
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Buster Murdaugh was a fixture at his father’s trial

Curtis ‘Cousin Eddie’ Smith – the failed suicide plot

He features in a particularly bizarre part of the Murdaugh family saga.

Mr Smith, a handyman and former logger, frequently did odd jobs for his distant cousin, Alex Murdaugh. One of these jobs, according to Alex Murdaugh and his lawyers, was to act as Murdaugh’s “personal drug dealer” and regularly supply Murdaugh with pills. Both the men were indicted in June of last year by a state grand jury on drug-trafficking charges. Neither has yet entered a plea in this case.

But the strangest request came in September 2021, three months after Maggie and Paul’s murders, when Murdaugh asked Mr Smith to meet him on the side of a rural road one Saturday, and shoot him in the back of the head.

What happened next depends on who you ask – but both men agreed the scheme was originally cooked up by Murdaugh, who wanted to make his death look like a murder, so that his surviving son Buster might be able to collect on his life insurance policy.

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Watch: Four dramatic moments from Alex Murdaugh trial

Both have been charged in the botched scheme.

Mr Smith was initially out on bail, but was ordered back to jail when a judge ruled that he had broken the conditions of his bond.

Gloria Satterfield – the housekeeper

The 57-year-old worked as the Murdaugh family’s housekeeper for more than 20 years, becoming a fixture in the family.

Ms Satterfield “spent more time with the Murdaughs than she probably did with her own kids”, said Eric Bland, a lawyer who represented Ms Satterfield’s sons.

In 2018, she died in what was reported by the Murdaughs as a trip-and-fall on the front steps of their home.

At her funeral, Murdaugh approached her sons, Tony and Brian, and told them they should file a wrongful death suit against him, and that his home insurance would pay compensation.

Two of Murdaugh’s insurance policies paid out to a tune of $4.3m, but the Satterfields did not receive a dime. Alex Murdaugh, as he admitted in court, had pocketed it.

Last year, after Murdaugh’s arrest, South Carolina law enforcement announced they would exhume Ms Satterfield’s body. No new findings or arrests have yet been announced.

Mallory Beach – the boating accident victim

The 19-year-old was on the Murdaugh family boat with Paul Murdaugh and four other friends late in the evening on 23 February 2019 when it rammed headlong into a bridge. Mallory was thrown overboard and died, with her body recovered days later in a marsh several miles away.

Image source, Mallory Beach/Facebook
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Mallory Beach died after a 2019 boat wreck involving Paul Murdaugh.

The former University of South Carolina student was described by friends and family described as a bright light.

She was close friends with Paul Murdaugh’s former girlfriend, Morgan Doughty.

In a Netflix documentary about the Murdaugh case, Morgan says Mallory tried to warn her about Paul, saying he would become mean and violent when drunk.

Bubba Murdaugh – the family dog

The Murdaugh’s yellow Labrador has been mentioned several times in Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial, described as stubborn and as a favourite of Maggie.

But he’s also played a fairly significant role in the prosecution’s case.

Image source, Maggie Murdaugh/Facebook
Image caption,

Bubba was beloved by the Murdaugh family.

A mobile phone video taken at the Murdaughs’ dog kennels by Paul about five minutes before prosecutors say the killings took place features the voice of Murdaugh talking to Bubba.

The video contradicted Murdagh’s claims that he had not joined his family at the kennels that night, but had stayed home to nap. Mr Murdaugh admitted on the stand he had lied about where he was.

Bubba is now living with Blanca Turrubiate-Simpson, a former employee of the Murdaugh family.

Francis McGee

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