The still unraveling story of Alex Murdaugh, the once powerful South Carolina lawyer, became even more bizarre this week with reports of the arrest of a man, Curtis Edward Smith, 61, accused of shooting him in the head . . . at the request of Murdaugh. Months ago, both his wife and son were gunned down at his home in a still unsolved double murder case. His late son Paul was accused of negligence and drunk driving in the boating death of a young woman, a case that many said was riddled with undue influence by the powerful family. What is interesting is the charge profile on both men in this latest development.
Murdaugh recently was reportedly forced out of this firm and reported to the bar for the alleged misuse of firm funds. He then ended up on the side of the road with a slight head wound and said that someone tried to kill him. It was strikingly implausible. Murdaugh claimed that he pulled over after his Mercedes SUV’s low tire pressure light came on and that a man in a pickup truck asked if he was having car trouble and then shot at him.
Police later arrested Smith and alleged that Murdaugh tried to arrange his own death this month so his surviving son would get $10 million in life insurance. However, the shot only grazed Alex Murdaugh’s head on Sept. 4. Murdaugh’s lawyers are reportedly accusing Smith of selling Murdaugh drugs and taking advantage of his mental illness and deep depression over the deaths of his wife, Maggie, and son Paul.
What is interesting is that Smith is charged with assisted suicide, insurance fraud and several other counts but not attempted murder. While Murdaugh allegedly invited his killing, the police did not treat the case as a murder under South Carolina law. The reason may be the absence of “malice aforethought” under the attempted murder provision:
Section 16-3-29 – Attempted murder
A person who, with intent to kill, attempts to kill another person with malice aforethought, either expressed or implied, commits the offense of attempted murder. A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony, and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned for not more than thirty years. A sentence imposed pursuant to this section may not be suspended nor may probation be granted.
Murdaugh announced he was going into rehab for an opioid addiction, but he will now turn himself to reportedly face charges of conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.
The Murdaugh family has long been a legal dynasty in the state with members holding a variety of high offices and running one of the largest legal firm. It is now a Southern Gothic right out of A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: