(NewsNation) — The death of a woman who served as a housekeeper and nanny for the Murdaugh family helped unravel one of the biggest pieces of the Alex Murdaugh moneymaking scheme.
Gloria Satterfield was an integral part of the Murdaugh family. She was their housekeeper, nanny and cook but also much more than that. As is the custom in some rich southern families, she helped raise the Murdaugh sons, Buster and Paul. She went on vacations with the family, celebrated Christmas with them and her own children. She was seemingly part of the family.
But Gloria Satterfield’s death was one of the first of several mysterious deaths linked to the Murdaugh family.
According to the family, Gloria Satterfield came by to get her check at the family’s hunting lodge in 2018. A family dog jumped at on her at the top of a flight of stairs, causing her to fall.
Recordings of a 911 call made after Gloria Satterfield’s death include reports that she had hit her head and was bleeding out of her left ear.
The 57-year-old woman died at the hospital. Her family said Alex Murdaugh, a prominent lawyer, approached them at the funeral and suggested Gloria Satterfield’s sons, Tony and Brian Satterfield, sue him for insurance money.
The Satterfield family thought he was looking out for them, helping them out after Gloria Satterfield worked for the Murdaughs for more than 20 years.
“For her it was a badge of honor. She did not consider it to be just the job. She considered herself to be part of their family and she was proud of what she did. She never spoke about her tie in the house with the family, she wouldn’t reveal those secrets,” said attorney Eric Bland.
The family was set to get more than $4 million from her fall. But Tony and Bruce Satterfield say they never saw a cent of that money.
“We got a confession of judgement from Alex Murdaugh for the entire $4.3 million. That confession of judgement has been a very valuable tool for a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons. Once we got that confession of judgement, Alex was disbarred the next day by the South Carolina bar,” Bland said.
That was when Alex Murdaugh’s web of lies began to unravel. Prosecutors say his money schemes began as early as October 2015.
They believe Alex Murdaugh’s MO was to defraud victims out of settlement money. So far, prosecutors say he took $8.5 million and that number could keep growing.
It’s unclear what Alex Murdaugh was using the money for. His lawyers have suggested he was spending it on opioids.
“We’re really not going to know where the money went. We do know that based of the charges a couple of weeks ago for income tax evasion that Alex made a lot of money from 2010 to 2019, some years as much as $2.5 million,” Bland said.
Alex Murdaugh allegedly diverted money intended for victims, laundering it for his own use. One of the alleged victims was a state police officer injured on the job.
The Murdaughs’ umbrella insurance policy and family assets will help pay future judgements and a conservatorship was appointed to protect any source of money for potential victims.
The family’s assets were substantial, according to local estimates. Maggie Murdaugh’s estate was valued at $5 million, with Alex Murdaugh as the beneficiary. Alex Murdaugh’s retirement fund was estimated at $2 million and his father’s will, still in probate, was valued around $1 million. Once again, Alex Murdaugh was the beneficiary.
While the Satterfield case is one of the few already settled, a criminal investigation into her death has been opened.
Bland said after Gloria Satterfield’s death, her son Brian Satterfield was living in a mobile home financed by the bank. Alex Murdaugh was aware of the proceedings when the bank foreclosed on Brian Satterfield’s home.
“He sat back and watched Brian lose a mobile home and get pushed out onto the street, to have to go live with family members while he was sitting on $3.5 million of their money,” Bland said.
Alex Murdaugh settled with the Satterfield family for $4.3 million. The family has set up a foundation, Gloria’s Gift, with some of the funds. In honor of Gloria Satterfield’s favorite holiday, Christmas, the foundation helps families that can’t afford gifts during the holidays.