Alex Murdaugh, the disgraced former attorney who was heir to a powerful legal dynasty in South Carolina, was charged with murder Thursday in the deaths of his wife and younger son, who were fatally shot outside their home more than a year ago.
Murdaugh is already jailed and faces dozens of criminal charges that have piled up in the months since his wife Maggie, 52, and their 22-year-old son, Paul, were killed. But until now he had not been charged in connection with his wife and son's deaths.
Get South Florida local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC South Florida newsletters.
The indictments handed up by a grand jury in Colleton County, where the shootings happened, contend Murdaugh killed his wife with a rifle and his son with a shotgun. They include no details on how police linked Murdaugh to the deaths after 13 months of investigation. More details may be released in a bond hearing, which has not been scheduled.
“Over the last 13 months, SLED agents and our partners have worked day in and day out to build a case against the person responsible for the murders of Maggie and Paul and to exclude those who were not. At no point did agents lose focus on this investigation. From the beginning I have been clear, the priority was to ensure justice was served. Today is one more step in a long process for justice for Maggie and Paul,” said the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel.
Murdaugh, 54, has repeatedly denied any role in the deaths, saying he was visiting his mother and ailing father and discovered his son and wife slain when he returned to their estate.
More Alex Murdaugh Coverage:
Two sources close to the investigation told NBC News that authorities have cellphone video that they believe not only puts Murdaugh at the scene of the slayings shortly before they took place, but contradicts the previous timeline of events provided on the day of the slayings.
In a statement, Murdaugh's attorneys accused the attorney general of "prematurely concluded that Alex was responsible for the murder of his wife and son" and maintained their client denies any involvement in their murder.
"Alex wants his family, friends and everyone to know that he did not have anything to do with the murders of Maggie and Paul. He loved them more than anything in the world," attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin said.
Murdaugh's family has dominated the legal scene in tiny, neighboring Hampton County for nearly a century. Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather were the area’s elected prosecutors for 87 years straight.
Murdaugh once worked for the century-old, family-founded law firm, which discreetly boasted of securing million-dollar verdicts for accidental deaths, product liability or workplace safety cases. The firm said in September that he was stealing money.
The June 2021 deaths prompted authorities to look into all corners of Murdaugh's life. At least a half-dozen investigations resulted in charges that he stole $8.5 million from people who hired him and that he lied to police by saying he was shot by a stranger on a roadside when, officials say, he actually asked a friend to kill him so his surviving son could collect a $10 million life insurance policy just days after the family firm determined he was stealing money.
State police said information they gathered in the Murdaugh investigations also led them to review what was initially reported as the hit-and-run death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith in Hampton County in July 2015, although they didn't provide more details.
Agents also exhumed the body of the Murdaugh's housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who the family said died in the hospital several days after a fall in 2018. Prosecutors said Murdaugh got his home insurers to pay more than $4 million in wrongful-death claims in Satterfield's case by saying he was negotiating for her family but didn't give them any of the money.
In June, Murdaugh was indicted in what prosecutors said was an eight-year money laundering and painkiller ring that also involved that same friend and former client charged with trying to help him commit suicide.
Murdaugh wrote 437 checks worth $2.4 million that his friend cashed over eight years, keeping some of the money for himself and giving the rest for wide-ranging illegal activities, according to the indictments unsealed last month.
Murdaugh has been in jail since October, held on a $7 million bond.
The South Carolina Supreme Court disbarred Murdaugh on Tuesday, confirming the inevitable after Murdaugh’s attorneys declined to contest arguments at a June disbarment hearing.
Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were shot several times between 9 and 9:30 p.m. the night of June 7, 2021, outside their home on the family’s land near Islandton, authorities said. Their bodies were found near dog kennels, according to Colleton County Coroner Richard Harvey.
At the time, authorities reported that Alex Murdaugh discovered the bodies and called 911. Murdaugh sounded deeply upset and agitated on the call, immediately identifying himself and telling the operator his “wife and child have been shot” on his property.
“I’ve been up to it now. It’s bad,” Murdaugh said.