Buster Murdaugh refutes reporter’s suggestion he supports dad facing murder charges
State (Columbia, SC)
Buster Murdaugh, the sole surviving son of disgraced former South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh, denied in a rare public statement this week that he is supporting his father.
In addition to facing multiple financial and drug-related charges, Murdaugh is charged with murdering his wife, Maggie, and youngest son, Paul.
Buster, 26, has maintained a low profile since his mother and younger brother were shot and killed at his family’s Colleton County estate, called “Moselle,” the night of June 7, 2021.
But he recently spoke to The Daily Mail outside a Hilton Head home owned by his girlfriend where he lives, according to the news outlet.
When asked by the outlet if he’s supporting his father, Buster said, “I don’t want to see it written anywhere that I’m supporting my father,” according to the Daily Mail.
Despite further questions from the outlet, that was all he would say on the matter.
“I have no interest in saying anything. I have no comment,” Buster said before going inside the home, the Daily Mail reported.
Buster has tried to stay out of the spotlight since his mother and brother were killed.
In December 2021, he was recorded speaking with his father, who’s being held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center in Richland County. Those recordings were released to media outlets through a public records request.
On the call, Buster expressed concern that a search warrant might not have been properly served on his father.
“I understand that you’ve done some illegal s---,” Buster said to his father. That doesn’t mean investigators, he said, “can turn a cold shoulder to the laws of the United States.”
“Allegedly done illegal stuff,” Murdaugh said and chuckled. “I’m kidding. ... It is what it is.”
The two were speaking after Murdaugh called his son from the jail. Inmates must pay to make outside calls, which are subject to monitoring and recording.
During the call, the father and son also discussed media coverage and public scrutiny they face. Buster said that people had been harassing him in public.
“Some redneck fellow” had “cussed me out” at a gas station, Buster said, prompting Murdaugh to call the stranger an “a—hole.”
Getting Buster back in law school
That’s not the only instance of Murdaugh trying to offer help for his son from behind bars.
Murdaugh has been recorded in jailhouse phone calls fretting about getting Buster back into the University of South Carolina’s law school.
Buster had not been allowed to return after his first year, because of what court records show were low grades and reported plagiarism.
There are no criminal allegations against Buster.
Dozens of jailhouse tapes contain snippets of conversations showing the incarcerated father’s quest to get Buster back in the first stage of a legal career by offering tips and how he used a high-powered lawyer to quietly convince law school officials to give his son another chance.
During the phone calls from jail, Murdaugh urged Buster to chat up law school administrators and to keep touching base with Karl “Butch” Bowers, the prominent lawyer the family had paid $60,000 to help Buster behind the scenes.
Bowers would be retained for an initial $30,000 and get a total of $60,000 if he could get Buster back in law school.
In one December 2022 conversation, Buster asked, “Was Butch paid all the money that he was owed?’‘
Murdaugh replied, “It was upfront. It was 30 up front and 30 if he was ...”
Buster interrupted, “I know the contingency.”
Ultimately, the effort failed — at least for the time being — and it remains to be seen whether the Murdaughs will keep trying to get Buster back into the law school.
USC declined to comment except to say Buster was not enrolled this semester.
According to a Dec. 1, 2021, phone conversation between Buster and his father, Bowers collected the bonus.
Alex Murdaugh, the father
Law school wasn’t the only issue Buster was dealing with that concerned his father.
In addition to law school, Murdaugh was recorded in the calls discussing his son’s work at a business and how he’s handling the horrific tragedies and struggles the family has faced in the past year.
“There’s a lot to worry about,” Murdaugh said when Buster told him he’s OK. “Putting so much on you. I wish there was something I could do about it now.”
Murdaugh repeatedly told his son he loved him and was proud of him.
In one exchange between the two from early 2022, the father expressed remorse after Buster said he could not afford to keep his apartment in Columbia.
“I’m sorry you are having to do that, Buster,’’ Murdaugh said in a January conversation. “I’m sorry you are having to do everything you are having to do, bud. You are a good man. I’m proud of you.”
Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty to the murder charges.
On Nov. 17, his attorney Jim Griffin submitted an alibi for the court, which states Murdaugh contends he was not home when his wife and son were killed.
In his alibi, Murdaugh says he was on the property from 8:30 p.m. to shortly after 9 p.m., but left to visit his mother, who has dementia, in nearby Varnville.
The motion says that on his 20-minute drive to Varnville, Murdaugh had cellphone conversations with Buster; his brother, John Marvin Murdaugh; and his sister-in-law, Liz Murdaugh. The alibi also states he spoke to Chris Wilson, a longtime friend and lawyer, and C.B. Rowe.
Shortly after 9:20 p.m., Murdaugh arrived at his mother’s home, the alibi says, adding, he visited with his mother and a nurse’s aid, Muschelle “Shelly” Smith. The alibi says he stayed at the home until 9:45 p.m. and, while on the trip back to Mosselle, spoke to Wilson again.
The alibi says he returned to the property shortly around 10 p.m. and discovered the the bodies of Maggie and Paul approximately five minutes later.
The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office has said in court filings the murders took place after 8:30 p.m. and before 10:06 p.m.
Indictments state Murdaugh used a shotgun to fatally shoot his 22-year-old son Paul, and an assault rifle to murder his 52-year-old wife Maggie.
The indictments do not mention motive, nor do they mention how Murdaugh allegedly carried out the killings.
A trial in Colleton County is scheduled for Jan. 23 through Feb. 10.
The Murdaugh family, known as a Lowcountry legal dynasty in Hampton County, was thrust into the spotlight for two years before the murders following the death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach.
Beach was killed when a boat, allegedly driven by a drunk Paul, crashed into a bridge in February 2019.
Asking Buster for information
Murdaugh has also been hit with numerous state grand jury indictments for financial fraud in alleged thefts of more than $8.3 million from clients, his law firm colleagues and associates.
He has been locked up in the Richland County jail since October 2021, when he was charged with stealing the insurance settlement belonging to the family of his longtime housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield.
During one jailhouse call, he asked Buster about news stories regarding Satterfield’s death.
In June, state investigators announced plans to exhume the body of Satterfield, who was said to have died of injuries in a 2019 fall at Murdaugh’s house. Murdaugh has been indicted on charges he engineered a scheme to collect $4.3 million in liability insurance proceeds that were supposed to go to the Satterfield family.
“Are they still trying to say out there, like there is some mystery surrounding Gloria’s death, about how she died?’’ Murdaugh asked his son, who said he did not know.
Murdaugh also asked his son about the death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith, whose body was found on a rural Hampton County road in 2015. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division launched an investigation last year.
Murdaugh said there was no connection to the family.
“Did SLED ever come out and say there’s no connection?’’ Murdaugh asked.
Buster said, “No.”
On other calls, Murdaugh said he was concerned about upkeep at Moselle, which is listed for sale.
At one time, he suggested Buster make a hunting trip to the property, talking about the likely game to be found in the area. Buster said he did not want to go to the site of his mother’s and brother’s violent deaths.
But in a Dec. 30, 2021 call, Buster was leaving the Colleton County property when his father called.
“What are you doing out there?” Murdaugh asked.
“I come out here every so often to kind of grab stuff, … make sure nothing’s been (messed) with,” Buster said.
Buster then told his father the place looks fine but the grass needs cutting, so Murdaugh told him to hire somebody to cut the lawn.
“With what? With what money?” Buster asked his father. “I damn sure can’t pay somebody to cut it with what I got on something so arbitrary as cutting grass. … Money needs to be preserved — not to be spent on stupid s--- like that.”
In response, his father said, “I think keeping it cut helps with the price you get.”