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State agents investigating Alex Murdaugh’s housekeeper’s death; sons sue for settlement money

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 4:34 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2021 at 11:43 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Authorities with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division are investigating the 2018 death of Alex Murdaugh’s housekeeper after a coroner found inconsistencies regarding her death following a reported accident at Murdaugh’s home.

SLED officials announced that they were opening a criminal investigation into Gloria Satterfield’s death as well as the handling of her estate after a request from the Hampton County Coroner’s Office as well as information gathered during the course of other ongoing investigations into Alex Murdaugh.

In a letter addressed to SLED Chief Mark Keel, Coroner Angela Topper requested the assistance of his agency in Satterfield’s death citing a petition involving a wrongful death settlement which stated that Satterfield died as a result of injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident in Hampton County.

Topper said Satterfield’s death was not reported to the coroner at that time and there was no autopsy performed.

In addition, Topper said that the death certificate manner of death was ruled “Natural” which she said was inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident. In light of those inconsistencies, Topper wrote she felt it was “prudent” to pursue an investigation into Satterfield’s death.

A copy of Satterfield’s death certificate was provided by Attorney Eric Blan, who represents Satterfield’s family, states the manner of death as “natural” but lists the causes of death as “acute subdural hemorrhage” and “ischemic CVA.” A CVA is a medical abbreviation for a cerebrovascular accident, which is more commonly referred to as a stroke.

Attorney Eric Blan, who represents Satterfield’s family, said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday night that Satterfield suffered a traumatic brain injury in the fall and died three weeks later. According to Blan, Murdaugh told the family that Satterfield had tripped and fell down the stairs over his dogs.

Gloria Satterfield’s sons suing Murdaugh for settlement money

Satterfield’s sons also filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against Murdaugh for a money settlement in their mother’s death that they claim they have not seen one dollar of.

Lawyers for Michael “Tony” Satterfield and Brian Harriott are suing Murdaugh, attorney Chad Fleming, Fleming’s law firm, and Chad Westendorf for breach of fiduciary duty, claiming that they have not seen any money from half-a-million-dollar settlement for the death of their mother.

Court documents state it was Murdaugh himself who told the brothers to sue him following the death of their mother.

Lawyers say Murdaugh introduced Gloria’s sons to Murdaugh’s friend, Corey Fleming, so that Fleming could help the sons in filing legal claims against Murdaugh for the wrongful death of their mother with the assistance of another friend of Murdaugh’s identified as banker Chas Westendorf.

According to court records, claims were brought against Murdaugh who then stated he was at fault for Satterfield’s death, and his insurance company paid $505,000 in settlement to the claims.

However, Satterfield and Harriott say they have not received any money from that settlement. The lawsuit states that Fleming’s law firm was paid $166,000 in attorney fees, although the remaining settlement funds remain unaccounted for.

Gloria Satterfield
Gloria Satterfield(Larry Blackmer/Brice W. Herndon and Sons Funeral Home)

Gloria Satterfield’s death

Before she died, Gloria Satterfield worked for Murdaugh and his family as a housekeeper and nanny for over two decades.

In February of 2018, Satterfield fell while working at Murdaugh’s home. Lawyers said the exact details of the fall remain unclear to her sons.

Then on Feb. 26, 2018, Satterfield, at the age of 57, died as a result of the injuries sustained in the fall. The lawsuit states that after Gloria’s death, Murdaugh told her sons’ uncle and aunt that he was going to take care of them because he was going to sue himself for Satterfield’s death.

According to the sons’ lawyers, after their mother’s funeral, Murdaugh personally introduced Tony Satterfield to Chad Fleming and encouraged the brothers to have Fleming represent them in bringing a lawsuit against himself in the connection with Gloria’s death.

Unbeknownst to the brothers, Fleming was Murdaugh’s former college roommate, his best friend, and Fleming was the godfather of Alex’s Murdaugh’s son, Paul Murdaugh, lawyers say.

The suit states Fleming engaged Westendorf to be the personal representative for the estate of Gloria Satterfield, however, the brothers were never explained that they had priority to serve as the personal representative of the estate.

When Fleming and Westendorf asserted claims against Murdaugh for negligence resulting in Gloria’s death, Murdaugh admitted that he was at fault, according to the lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, Murdaugh told his insurer that there was no defense to the claim and that the claim must be paid.

Lawyers claim partial settlement obtained

Without filing a lawsuit, Fleming, his law firm and Westendorf were able to get a partial settlement of claims associated with Gloria’s death in the amount of $505,000, lawyers said. The sons claim that they did not participate in the settlement negotiations, nor did they sign any settlement agreement, and were not told that the money was recovered for them.

On December of 2018, lawyers say Westendorf petitioned in court to approve the settlement. In the petition, the sons were identified as the sole heirs, according to the lawsuit.

The suit states that the majority of the settlement, $475,000, was a direct claim to the sons and should have been disbursed to them. Fleming and his firm were paid $166,000 in attorney fees, however, the remaining settlement funds remain unaccounted for, lawyers say.

According to the lawsuit, two years after the partial settlement on Oct. 5, 2020, Fleming filed a dismissal ending the estate of Gloria Satterfield’s claims against Alex Murdaugh who also signed the stipulation. The brothers said they were not consulted about the dismissal nor were they told of what additional actions were taken on their behalves in the years following the partial settlement.

They first learned that the money had been recovered from the death of their mother when it was reported in the press.

Family releases statement on SLED investigation

Ronnie Richter, lawyer for Tony Satterfield and Brian Harriott, said they learned about the SLED criminal investigation into Gloria’s death today.

“If ever a case begged for sunlight, it would be this,” Richter said. “The more investigation, the better.”

Attorney Eric Bland also released the following statement from Gloria Satterfield’s family:

“The Satterfield and Harriott families are grateful for the concerns and well wishes that many South Carolinians and beyond have extended to them. Today is a sad day for their family. The news of the opening of a criminal investigation causes more questions at a time when the family just wanted answers regarding the claims that were asserted in connection with the death of their mother and any settlements reached. Today this nightmare escalated for the family with the news of the opening of the criminal investigation into the death of Gloria Satterfield. Like everyone else now, they will see how it all unfolds. Eric Bland”

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