Alex Murdaugh has apologized to the family of his late former housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, and has agreed to pay them $4.3 million as judgment in a lawsuit filed after Murdaugh reportedly stole insurance settlement money meant for Satterfield's surviving sons.
Dick Harpootlian, defense attorney for Alex Murdaugh, announced Murdaugh's intention to confess judgment in the Satterfield civil case during a bond hearing for Murdaugh on Monday morning. Dec. 13, 2021. The announcement came as Murdaugh faces criminal charges related to the Satterfield settlement theft, and similar theft cases spelled out in state grand jury indictments.
Eric Bland, one of the attorneys representing Satterfield's estate, says Murdaugh and his attorneys are following through on their agreement to pay back the Satterfield family as of Friday, March 25, 2022. According to Bland, Murdaugh's attorneys filed a petition with the Hampton County Clerk of Court. earlier in the week for confession of judgment in the amount of $4.3 million.
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Symbolically, $4.3 million is how much money state prosecutors and civil attorneys claim Murdaugh and two associates deprived the Satterfields of as part of a years-long, expansive money laundering and fraud scheme Murdaugh was running.
Before December's announcement Murdaugh was agreeing to confess judgment in the Satterfield case, Murdaugh's attorneys had filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Satterfield's attorneys, Bland and Ronnie Richter.
Murdaugh's attorneys, Dick Harpootlian and co-counsel Jim Griffin, even argued Alex shouldn't have to pay the Satterfield estate any money because Satterfield's attorneys had already recovered about $6.5 million in settlements from others directly and peripherally involved in the case — more than Murdaugh is accused of stealing to begin with.
Changing course, Harpootlian went on record with the proposal for a settlement during Monday morning's bond hearing in front of Judge Alison Lee, even extending an apology to the Satterfield estate on Murdaugh's behalf.
Court-appointed overseers of Murdaugh's finances still must to approve the judgment payment to Satterfield's family due to an October injunction that essentially froze the Murdaugh's assets, but Satterfield's attorneys are pleased with the turn of events.
"As the players in this sad tragedy have one by one sought to make their amends, there has remained the Alex Murdaugh piece of the puzzle that has required atonement. The family is pleased that Mr. Murdaugh has finally expressed his apologies and has taken a positive step toward resolution by agreeing to confess judgment to Gloria’s sons," the Satterfield family said in a statement released by Bland and Richter Monday.
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Gloria Satterfield died in February 2018 after a fall at the Murdaugh's home in Colleton County, during which she suffered head trauma that led to a cascade of health problems including a stroke that compounded to result in her death two weeks later.
Court records and state grand jury indictments have shown Murdaugh came up with a scheme after Satterfield's death, in which he convinced Satterfield's sons to sue him so they'd get a wrongful death settlement from Alex's insurance company.
Murdaugh told Satterfield's sons he'd admit fault in the accident, and referred his former housekeeper's sons to an attorney he assured them would do a good job on their behalf, Cory Fleming.
Fleming was a longtime friend of Murdaugh's, his roommate in law school, and godfather to Alex's now deceased son, Paul. None of that was disclosed to the Satterfield family at the time, attorneys say.
Soon after Fleming took on the Satterfield case, attorneys claim he convinced Gloria's sons to appoint Chad Westendorf — a local banker and friend of Murdaugh and Fleming — as personal representative of the family in the court proceedings in order to handle business matters beyond Gloria's sons experience.
Instead of acting in the Satterfield family's best interests, attorneys claim Westendorf kept the family totally in the dark about the case and settlements they received. Fleming, meantime, is accused of breaking with proper court filing procedures in order to hide moves he, Westendorf and Murdaugh were making.
After Westendorf and Fleming collected fees from the $4.3 million in settlements, Fleming is accused of signing over the remaining money — roughly $3 million — to Alex Murdaugh by writing checks to a fraudulent bank account meant to mimic a legitimate fee and settlement structuring business both attorneys were familiar with.
Murdaugh, according to state grand jury indictments, used his fraudulent and ironically named "Forge" account to steal north of $6.2 million from friends, clients and colleagues over the course of seven years from 2015 to 2021.
Judge Alison Lee, presiding judge over state grand jury cases, set bond Monday at $7 million for Murdaugh on the 48 total charges related to his various money laundering and fraud charges, including the Satterfield case.
Satterfield's estate appears singularly to have lost the most total money in Murdaugh's many similar schemes hatched around the "Forge" account.
As of Monday, Bland and Richter said they've now recovered about $7.5 million in total for Satterfield's family, not including the $4.3 million Harpootlian announced Murdaugh is now offering to pay.
You can read the Satterfield family's full statement on Monday's developments below.
Upon entering into this litigation, the Satterfield family had only questions. At the heart of the matter was one simple question: What happened? What happened to Gloria? What happened to the promises of help from those that they trusted? What happened to the money?
As painful as it has been to learn the truth, the Satterfield family has its answers.
As the players in this sad tragedy have one by one sought to make their amends, there has remained the Alex Murdaugh piece of the puzzle that has required atonement.
The family is pleased that Mr. Murdaugh has finally expressed his apologies and has taken a positive step toward resolution by agreeing to confess judgment to Gloria’s sons.
As devout Christians, the Satterfield family is guided by their belief that in order for them to be forgiven by their heavenly Father, they in turn must forgive others who have sinned against them.
But forgiveness, like faith, is not always easy and the family prays for God’s grace to unburden their hearts of the weight created by Alex Murdaugh.
As for earthly justice, the family remains committed to the criminal process, but will leave and entrust Mr. Murdaugh’s fate to the State of South Carolina, to this Honorable Court and to a future jury who will pass judgment on his crimes.
The family will continue to seek accountability from the Bank of America and others who may have facilitated Mr. Murdaugh, as they also try to return to the quiet lives that they so enjoyed before these events thrusted them uncomfortably into the spotlight.
To be certain, the family is exhausted, but resolute. For those who have reached out and upheld the family through kind words, thoughts and prayers, the Satterfields are humbled and grateful.