MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Now to a crime drama that has South Carolina riveted. And we want to note, this story does discuss suicide and gun violence. At the center of the drama, Alec Murdaugh. He is a prominent attorney who says he found the bodies of his wife and son at the family’s home. This was June. They had been shot. Then, on September 4, Alec Murdaugh was shot. A bullet grazed his head. He called 911 and said he was checking his tire when someone passing by in a pickup truck shot him. Now police say Murdaugh has confessed to a scheme of asking a former client to shoot him so that another son could collect on a $10 million life insurance policy. And the latest twist – today, Alec Murdaugh has turned himself in. Well, joining me now is reporter Jeffrey Collins of The Associated Press. He is covering this saga from Columbia, S.C.
JEFFREY COLLINS: Hello. How are you today?
KELLY: I am all right. Sounds like y’all are having a time of it down there. Tell us what happened today. He turned himself in willingly. He’s now in custody.
COLLINS: Yes. Along with his attorneys, Alec Murdaugh decided to turn himself in in Hampton County, S.C., today on charges of insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and filing a false police report.
KELLY: OK. And walk us through again what his lawyers now say actually happened on September 4.
COLLINS: They say that Alec Murdaugh was in a very deep depression and was using drugs, you know, after the deaths of his wife and his son, as well as his father died of cancer a few days after that. He fell into this deep depression and decided on September 4 that he wanted to end his life, but he wanted to make sure his son got that $10 million life insurance payment. He wasn’t sure whether or not it would pay if he actually committed suicide himself. So they said that he went to a former client who was also supplying him with drugs and asked that person to shoot him in the head so, presumably, he’d be able to get that life insurance payment.
KELLY: To the central question of who killed the wife and the son back in June – this is Maggie and Paul Murdaugh. Are authorities there any closer to figuring that out?
COLLINS: That actually, of all the things that are surrounding this case, may be what we know the least amount about. Authorities haven’t given any suspects or haven’t even excluded anyone, haven’t given any indication of what direction the investigation might go. Is there a motive? Nothing up to this point.
KELLY: As my mother-in-law would say, there are more twists and turns to this story than a twisty-turny thing because there are also new questions about the circumstances of the death of the Murdaughs’ housekeeper. This is a woman named Gloria Satterfield. She died at the Murdaugh family house in 2018. And the story was that she slipped and fell.
COLLINS: Yes. In a wrongful death lawsuit, they say that the housekeeper died from a trip and fall injury. But on her death certificate, it listed it as a natural death instead of an accidental death or something else. That got the coroner’s attention, and she asked state and police to investigate because there was no autopsy and the death wasn’t reported to her.
KELLY: I suppose we should note, the backdrop to all of this is quite how well-known the family is. Three generations of Murdaughs have served as elected prosecutors in South Carolina – Alec Murdaugh’s father, grandfather, great grandfather. This is a family with many connections in legal and law enforcement circles.
COLLINS: Yes, they go way back. And Hampton County is one of our smaller counties in South Carolina. I think it’s about 15 to 20,000 people. It’s one of those places where the Murdaughs were involved in every facet of life. Whatever thing you needed from the legal system, the Murdaughs had an opportunity to probably either be against you or for you.
KELLY: So are people in South Carolina following along all of this with their jaws on the floor?
COLLINS: Yes. I mean, all that information that comes out, it’s like those crime dramas – that trope where you have the whiteboard and all the circles and lines, except for there’s just so many circles and lines. And the other thing I tell people is if Faulkner was writing about this, it’d be like a 748-word sentence.
KELLY: That is Jeffrey Collins of The Associated Press in Columbia, S.C.
Thank you for your reporting.
COLLINS: You’re welcome. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.