(CNN)A prominent South Carolina lawyer whose wife and son were shot and killed three months ago arranged for a former client to kill him so that his surviving son could collect a life insurance payout of about $10 million, according to court documents.
Alex Murdaugh, 53, was shot in the head in a roadway on September 4 but survived. A family spokesperson had previously blamed the shooting on an unidentified man in a blue truck. However, Murdaugh admitted to authorities Monday that he had conspired with the man to kill him as part of a suicidal fraud scheme, according to an affidavit to support charges against the alleged gunman.
Curtis Edward Smith, 61, was charged with assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
Murdaugh is described as a co-defendant in the affidavit, though no charges have been announced against him. Additional charges in the case are expected, SLED said.
Murdaugh, an attorney, had previously represented Smith in unrelated court proceedings, court documents show.
On NBC’s “Today” on Wednesday, Murdaugh’s attorney Dick Harpootlian acknowledged the scheme, saying his client was depressed and suicidal due to the recent deaths of his wife, son and elderly father, as well as his struggles with opioid addiction.
In a statement, attorneys Harpootlian and Jim Griffin said their client “is not without fault” but added his “life has been devastated by an opioid addiction.”
“For the last 20 years, there have been many people feeding his addiction to opioids,” the attorneys said. “During that time, these individuals took advantage of his addiction and his ability to pay substantial funds for illegal drugs. One of those individuals took advantage of his mental illness and agreed to take Alex’s life, by shooting him in the head.”
The admission and affidavit answer one part of a sprawling mystery involving one of the most powerful family dynasties in coastal South Carolina. Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather served for a combined 87 years as the 14th Circuit Solicitor, which leads prosecutions for Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties in the state. Murdaugh was an attorney for a local law firm.
More recently, though, the family has been embroiled in a series of bloody tragedies, including the fatal shootings of Murdaugh’s wife Margaret, 52, and son Paul, 22, in June. Murdaugh called 911 and reported he found them shot dead outside of their home in Islandton, a small community about an hour north of Hilton Head Island, according to authorities.
The killings have not been solved, and Murdaugh has denied responsibility. The investigation into their deaths also led authorities to reopen the 2015 unsolved death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith in Hampton County.
Murdaugh faces other legal and personal issues as well. His shooting on September 4 came a day after he resigned from his law firm amid allegations he had misappropriated funds. Two days after the shooting, Murdaugh released a statement saying he was entering rehab, and his law license has also been suspended.
“The murders of my wife and son have caused an incredibly difficult time in my life. I have made a lot of decisions that I truly regret,” he said in the statement. “I’m resigning from my law firm and entering rehab after a long battle that has been exacerbated by these murders. I am immensely sorry to everyone I’ve hurt including my family, friends and colleagues. I ask for prayers as I rehabilitate myself and my relationships.”
61-year-old charged with assisted suicide, conspiracy
Murdaugh was not fatally wounded when he was shot on September 4. Afterward, he called 911 to report he had been shot on a road in Hampton County, according to SLED, and he was taken to a hospital in Savannah, Georgia.
Authorities initially described Murdaugh’s injury as a “superficial gunshot wound to the head,” though Murdaugh’s attorneys said his skull was fractured in the shooting.
A family spokesperson initially issued a statement saying an unidentified man had shot Murdaugh. “Alex pulled over after seeing a low tire indicator light. A male driver in a blue pick-up asked him if he had car troubles, as soon as Alex replied, he was shot,” the statement said.
There is more to the story, however, according to the affidavit.
Murdaugh allegedly provided Smith, a 61-year-old from Colleton County, with a firearm and directed Smith to shoot him in the head, the affidavit states. The purpose of the scheme was for Smith to kill Murdaugh so that his son could collect the life insurance payout, according to the affidavit.
Smith admitted Tuesday to
Alex Murdaugh arranged for a man to kill him to collect $10M in life insurance for his son, authorities say
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