A lawyer representing the two heirs to Alex Murdaugh’s deceased housekeeper and nanny said on Tuesday he had located the missing judge’s order that approved a $ 4.3 million settlement in a case where the heirs owed get $ 2.76 million but got nothing.
“I will hand this order over to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division,” said Columbia attorney Eric Bland., “In view of the fact that SLED is not only investigating the woman’s death household, but also on what happened to the money in the subsequent insurance settlement. “
The judge’s order that the late Gloria Satterfield’s two heirs were to get $ 2.76 million is important because those heirs – Satterfield’s sons – never actually received any money, Bland said.
A spokesperson for SLED could not be reached immediately for comment.
But last week SLED chief Mark Keel told The State his agency was looking not only at Satterfield’s death, but also what happened to the money supposedly going into insurance products.
“We’re going to follow the facts wherever they are,” Keel said.
An attorney for Alex Murdaugh declined to comment.
Satterfield, 57, died in February 2018 after falling at the Murdaugh House, where she worked for the Murdaugh family for more than 20 years.
After his death, Murdaugh and two friends – one a lawyer and the other a banker – helped Satterfield’s two sons file a wrongful death claim against Murdaugh with the insurance companies that covered his house, according to a lawsuit. that Bland filed against Murdaugh and his two friends last week.
Bland’s lawsuit said Satterfield’s two sons – Michael Satterfield and Brian Harriott – wanted an account of all the money going into settling their mother’s death. They also claim they never received any money out of the $ 4.3 million in insurance proceeds resulting from their mother’s death.
“A disbursement signed by the judge indicates my clients were supposed to get $ 2.76 million out of it,” Bland told The State. “Someone else got this money.
Bland said on Tuesday he received a copy of the judge’s order from an attorney representing Chad Westendorf, the Hampton banker and friend of Murdaugh who served as the personal representative, or administrator, of the Satterfield estate.
Westendorf, along with Murdaugh, is a defendant in the lawsuit Bland filed last week. Another accused is Corey Fleming, a Beaufort lawyer and longtime friend of Murdaugh, who handled the legal aspects of the insurance settlement.
The order, dated May 13, 2019, was apparently signed by South Carolina judge Carmen Mullen, Bland said.
Under the signature are the words “presiding judge”.
However, the signature is scrawled and is not immediately recognizable as Mullen’s. Mullen resides in the 14th Lowcountry Judicial Circuit which includes Hampton County as well as Beaufort County.
Mullen could not immediately be reached for comment.
The order and other documents supporting a lawsuit – what is called a “wrongful death” and “survival” action – have apparently never been filed in a state court, nor have it been filed. So there is no public record as to how the case was ultimately settled, Bland said.
“Nothing is on the court file,” said Bland, who said the judge’s order did not have a file number.
“It is very unorthodox for a judge to have had some type of approval hearing because there was apparently no pending petition for a $ 4.3 million approval,” said Bland.
Bland said he had no idea why the judge’s order was never filed and never became a public record.
State law sets out a series of public measures that judges and lawyers are expected to follow in wrongful death cases. Under state law, settlement documents are deemed to be a public matter filed in state court.
Bland’s trial and claims regarding the judge’s order approving $ 2.76 million for the Satterfield heirs are just the most recent events in a growing history of alleged unsolved crimes and puzzling events involving Murdaugh.
In recent months, events involving Murdaugh, a prominent well-to-do South Carolina lawyer, include the unsolved June murders of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul; his alleged embezzlement of millions of dollars from his former Hampton County law firm; its recognition of a costly dependence on oxycodone; and his hiring a hitman to stage his suicide so that Murdaugh’s surviving son, Buster, could get a $ 10 million life insurance policy.
Last week, the same day Bland filed the heirs’ complaint against Murdaugh and Westendorf, Hampton County Coroner Angela Topper wrote to Keel asking for an inquest into Satterfield’s death.
“According to a ‘motion for approval of a wrongful death settlement’ to the Common Pleas (state civil court) in Hampton County …” Tooper wrote. “The defendant in this case was Richard A. (Alex) Murdaugh.”
Satterfield’s death “was not reported to the coroner at the time, and no autopsy was performed. On the death certificate, the mode of death was deemed ‘natural’ which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident, ”the coroner wrote.
This is a developing story. It will be updated.