Alex Murdaugh, the South Carolina attorney at the center of a web of deaths and crimes that has drawn international attention since the June murders of his wife and youngest son, will remain behind bars pending trial, a judge ruled Tuesday.
At a hearing in a Richland County courtroom, Judge Clifton Newman said he was not satisfied Murdaugh would not be dangerous to himself or others if released.
"There is no amount of bond that the court could set that could safely provide protection to Mr. Murdaugh [and] the community," Newman said.
The judge also ordered that Murdaugh undergo a psychiatric evaluation, hinting that he might reconsider his decision at a later date.
Murdaugh was arrested Oct. 14 and charged with two felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses for allegedly taking insurance settlements totaling more than $3.3 million that were intended for the sons of his late housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield.
Satterfield had worked for the Murdaugh family for more than 20 years, helping to raise their two sons. She died in 2018 after tripping over the family's dogs, hitting her head, and suffering a stroke at one of the Murdaughs' homes.
Prosecutors say Murdaugh, 53, convinced her sons to hire one of his friends in order to sue himself to seek insurance payouts, but the Satterfield family never received a dime.
Instead, the money was allegedly sent to a bank account that Murdaugh had created for himself.
"This is the tip of the iceberg," Creighton Waters with the South Carolina Attorney General's Office told the court. "This is an ongoing investigation and I think there is going be more far more that we will reveal as we review these records."
Murdaugh was taken into custody last week after completing treatment for opioid addiction at a facility in Orlando, Florida.
He subsequently waived his extradition hearing and was booked into the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center in Richland County.
Wearing a blue jail uniform, a blue face mask, and bright orange sneakers, Murdaugh appeared in court with his feet in shackles. He spoke only once, telling the judge he had no words to say.
Members of Satterfield's family sat in the front row of the courtroom, which was also full of news cameras and reporters.
Murdaugh defense attorney Dick Harpootlian said his client was not a flight risk and had willingly surrendered to authorities.
He said Murdaugh needed further treatment for his drug addiction of more than 20 years, telling the court that "much of the conduct that we're talking about here today occurred because of that, some of it to fuel that."
Eric Bland, an attorney representing the Satterfield family, urged the judge not to grant bond to Murdaugh, describing him as a "clear and present danger to the citizens of this state."
"Alex Murdaugh stained our profession," Bland said. "He also put a black eye on this state."
Ronnie Richter, another Satterfield family attorney, said that in recent weeks Murdaugh had been trying to dispose of assets, including a $115,000 boat and a financial interest in a gun club, and had also granted power of attorney and financial control to his surviving son.
This is the second time Murdaugh has faced court in as many months.
In September, he was arrested and charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, and filing a false police report after he allegedly orchestrated his own botched killing so that his surviving son, Buster, would receive a $10 million insurance payout.
He allegedly hired a former client, Curtis Smith, to shoot him on a rural road on Sept. 4, but then survived and told police he'd been shot by a passerby.
Smith, 61, was arrested and charged with assisted suicide, assault and battery, and insurance fraud.
Prosecutors told the judge on Tuesday that Murdaugh's behavior showed he was "unmoored and very dangerous" and should be considered as part of the bond deliberations.
"A man who is a danger to himself is a danger to others," said Waters.
Murdaugh has denied any involvement in the murders of his wife, Maggie, 52, and son, Paul, 22, who were found shot to death at the family's hunting lodge in June.
As part of their investigation into the Murdaugh murders, detectives also began reexamining the circumstances of Satterfield's death, as well as the 2015 death of Buster's classmate Stephen Smith, who was found dead on a highway but with little evidence to suggest he had been hit by a car.
At the time of his death, Paul Murdaugh was facing charges in connection with the 2019 death of Mallory Beach, a friend of his who had died when he was allegedly boating at night under the influence of alcohol.
Murdaugh, a longtime lawyer working in South Carolina, is part of a highly influential family that have worked as prosecutors in Hampton County for more than three generations.
His law license was suspended and he left his former firm, having been accused of taking more than $10 million to fund his drug addiction.