Review: “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal”
Mar 27, 2023
The Murdaugh family has been a prominent judicial force in South Carolina since the early 20th century. Randolph Murdaugh Sr. founded the family’s firm, Parker Law Group, in 1910. Around 100 years later, Richard “Alex” Murdaugh would resign from his great grandfather’s firm, forever staining his family name.
In Netflix’s new docuseries, “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal,” disturbing truths from the mysterious family are revealed.
The first episode deals with the tragic murder of Mallory Beach and its connection to Paul Murdaugh, Alex’s son.
To begin, viewers get an in depth look at Paul Murdaugh’s reckless and abusive nature. Paul’s ex-girlfriend Morgan Doughty describes Paul’s drinking problem as ingrained very early on. It’s clear the Murdaughs don’t care about underage drinking. Lots of footage is shown of Paul with his mother and father, and a beer in hand.
“Something troubled him enough to make him drink the way he drank. You drink like that to escape something,” said Doughty’s father.
One recurring theme with Paul and Doughty’s relationship was abuse. Paul was said to be extremely physical towards Doughty, kicking, punching, and slapping her throughout their time together.
On one occasion, Paul was drunk driving with Doughty in the passenger seat when he crashed into a ditch. The two could’ve been severely injured according to Doughty.
When she tried to call 911, Paul hung up and threw her phone. He then called his dad and grandfather.
“Before they even checked on us they opened the back of the truck and they took out all the guns and they cleared the bed of the truck and the floors of all these beer cans,” said Doughty.
The senior Murdaughs then interrogated Doughty on why she called the cops, claiming she could’ve gotten their boy in trouble.
It is clear Paul had a perfect escape route. He could mess up majorly and all he had to do was call his grandpa and everything would be swept away. Perhaps this lack of fear for the law is what made the Murdaughs’ downfall so inevitable.
Later in the episode, Mallory Beach’s close friends describe the story of her last night alive. The memory is obviously still fresh.
Paul Murdaugh drove his friends to an oyster roast– Anthony Cook (Beach’s boyfriend), Miley Altman (Beach’s best friend), Connor Cook (Anthony’s cousin and Altman’s boyfriend) and the aforementioned Doughty (also best friends with Beach).
According to police reports, Paul purchased $50 worth of alcohol with his brother’s ID earlier that day. The group drank copiously at the oyster roast.
By the end of the night, Paul was so intoxicated that his friends insisted they Uber home. Paul, however, was adamant that he drive his boat, belligerently insisting he was sober enough, that it was his boat and he could do what he wanted.
The group finally gave in and began their journey home.
Paul, however, decided to stop at a bar on the way, getting further inebriated. It was reported that Paul’s BAC was three times the legal limit at this point.
“The way Paul was driving was honestly terrifying,” said Doughty.
“Paul would just leave the wheel unattended, Connor would have to come up and grab it,” said Altman.
Finally, the boat crashed into a bridge.
The kids swam to shore, but it was clear someone was missing– Mallory.
They called out, searching in the dark waters. Anthony refused to leave the river until his girlfriend’s body was recovered. Family was called, as well as paramedics. Still, Mallory was lost.
It was clear to the Cooks, Altmans, Doughtys and Beaches that the Murdaugh family was approaching this travesty differently than others.
“They were more worried about a coverup than they were about finding Mallory,” said Beach’s mother Renee.
“Mr. Randolph came to speak to me and I said, is there any word at all on where Mallory is, have they found anything? And he said, ‘who are you talking about?’ And I said ‘Mallory Beach, Mr. Randolph, Mallory.’ And he said, ‘Oh I’m pretty sure we know how that’s gonna end up,’” said Gina Altman, recounting the horrific night.
Immediately upon reaching the emergency room, the kids were bombarded by Alex and Randolf.
First, they aimed to frame Connor Cook for driving the boat, claiming they would take care of him in court. They continued to spread this lie to law enforcement officials.
It was clear the Murdaugh’s were plotting a new way to dig Paul out of yet another hole, only this time, somebody died– and there were angry witnesses.
The second episode of the documentary was one of the hardest to watch. Hearing Beach’s boyfriend and childhood best friends lament about her loss gave clarity to the depth of Paul’s mistake.
It is also abundantly clear that Beach’s death is the product of a long history of immunity from the law, substance abuse, and arrogance.
The Murdaugh family basically ruled the Lowcountry for years. They had friends in the right places. Michael Thomas, a DNR agent who oversaw the search for Beach, had close ties with the Murdaugh family.
“This man was like Alex Murdaugh’s b****,” said Doughty.
He was known to get Paul out of all kinds of scrapes due to his relationship with Paul’s uncle, John Marvin Murdaugh.
The night of the boat crash, there are records of John Marvin making numerous calls to Thomas.
John Marvin also contacted Austin Pritcher several times that same night. Pritcher was the officer responsible for interviewing the victims in the hospital.
Alex Murdaugh was not going to go down without using every scummy option available.
Eventually it was clear through physics as well as accounts from witnesses that Paul was in fact driving the boat.
Paul Murdaugh was charged with one count of boating under the influence causing death, and two counts of boating under the influence causing bodily injury.
Unfortunately, Paul never faced any repercussions, because Paul was killed on June 7, 2021.
The third episode of this series covers other controversies within the Murdaugh family prior to the death of Beach.
If a viewer was already familiar with Alex and Paul’s trials, this episode would be shocking even to them.
On July 8, 2015, Stephen Smith was found dead in the middle of a road. The location and positioning of his body as well as his injuries suggested foul play was involved. Nothing about Smith’s death matched a hit and run, however, it was declared as such by law enforcement
Rumors began circling about Buster Murdaugh being involved– that he and a few other young men were seen driving around that night, intoxicated.
When private investigator Steve Peterson looked into these rumors, he couldn’t trace them to any validity.
“It’s all rumor. Nobody claims to be the source of any information. They’ve all heard it from somebody else,” said Peterson.
Smith was one of the only openly gay kids in Hampton County. Supposedly, Buster and him were close and studied together often.
Could Buster have been drunk driving, saw Smith on the side of the road, and become tempted to commit a hate crime due to the rumors about their relationship? Homosexuality would be taboo in a family such as the Murdaughs.
On February 2, 2018, about one year before Paul crashed his boat, Gloria Satterfield, the Murdaughs’ housekeeper, allegedly tripped over the Murdaughs’ dogs, falling down the stairs and severely injuring her head. Gloria was unresponsive until February 26, when she eventually died.
Doughty claimed Paul had a very close connection with the woman due to a lack of parenting from Alex and Maggie.
This death occurred around the same time Alex was addicted to painkillers. Some investigators have suspected Satterfield’s death was related to her discovering Alex’s stash of drugs.
“There was this time where Miss Gloria had found drugs taped in little baggies under Alex’s bed…” said Doughty.
Supposedly, Satterfield went to Paul about this.
“She knew too much,” said Bill Doughty, Morgan’s dad.
Many rumors surrounded her death suggesting that Maggie Murdaugh pushed Satterfield down the stairs, afraid her family’s name would be disgraced.
The final murders of the Murdaugh family were internal.
On June 7, 2021, Alex Murdaugh called 911 claiming he had returned home from visiting his parents and found his son, Paul and wife, Maggie dead in a field outside their home.
“I’ve been up to it now, it’s bad,” said Murdaugh on the phone with a dispatcher.
For over a year, a suspect was not identified. Many suspected Beach’s friends who were present at her death, seeking justice, committed the murders.
In September of 2021, Alex called the police claiming he had been shot. It was soon clear that the man who had shot him was paid by Alex, in order for Buster to get an insurance payout. The assassination failed, and Alex was looking more guilty.
On top of this offense, Alex had embezzled over 9 million dollars from his law firm and various clients (including the Satterfields).
When a forensics team found remnants of Maggie and Paul’s blood on Alex’s shirt, one clear suspect was finally defined.
On September 16, 2021, Alex Murdaugh was arrested for the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.
Alex’s trial lasted up until this March, when he was sentenced to life in prison for embezzlement, computer crime, money laundering, conspiracy, and murder.
The case of Stephen Smith was reopened in 2021 following new information gathered during Alex Murdaugh’s trial.
Overall, I thought this show was very shocking. I began watching only knowing about Paul and Maggie’s deaths, so finding out about the web of conspiracies and killings throughout the family’s history was incredibly interesting.
I thought interviewing friends of the Murdaughs was quintessential to the show. Seeing accounts from the people who witnessed the events detailed in person helped viewers understand the emotional weight of the callous actions of Paul, Buster, and Alex.
I would highly recommend anyone, especially those interested in true-crime, to watch “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal.”