South Carolina officials open investigation into 2018 death of Murdaugh housekeeper

Gloria Satterfield’s death certificate says she died of ‘natural’ causes, but a wrongful death settlement says she tripped and fell, then died of her injuries, county coroner says.

The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division has opened an investigation into the 2018 death of longtime Murdaugh family housekeeper Gloria Satterfield after the Hampton County Coroner asked the agency to step in.

Coroner Angela Topper wrote that Satterfield’s “death was not reported to the coroner at the time, nor was an autopsy performed,” according to SLED, which included her letter attached to its announcement.

SLED’s announcement came the same day that attorneys for Satterfield’ sons field a lawsuit claiming that they never received a payout from a $500,000 settlement reached with Alex Murdaugh after Satterfield alleged tripped and fell on the Murdaugh steps and died from her injuries, FITSNews reported.

“According to a ‘Petition for Approval of a Wrongful Death Settlement’ in the Court of Common Pleas in Hampton, South Carolina, Gloria Satterfield, who had been a housekeeper and nanny for the Murdaughs for 25 years, died as a result of “injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident,” Topper wrote to the state investigative agency on Wednesday.

“On the death certificate the manner of death was ruled ‘Natural,’ which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident,” she added.

SLED announced its investigation almost immediately.

“Based upon a request from the Hampton County Coroner earlier today, as well as information gathered during the course of our other ongoing investigations involving Alex Murdaugh, SLED is opening a criminal investigation into the death of Gloria Satterfield and the handling of her estate,” SLED spokesman Tommy Crosby said in a statement.

The Satterfield lawsuit names Murdaugh, attorney Cory Fleming, Fleming’s law firm, Chad Westendorf — the banker who represented Satterfield’s estate — and Palmetto State Bank, where Westendorf worked, FITS News said.

According to the lawsuit, Murdaugh introduced Satterfield’s sons, Tony and Brian, to his “good friend” Cory Fleming and urged them to hire him “so that Fleming could assist the sons in filing legal claims against Murdaugh for the wrongful death of their mother.” Murdaugh also selected Westerdorf to represent the estate.

The sons were not told the Fleming was Murdaugh’s former college roommate and Paul Murdaugh’s godfather, nor were they told that as Gloria Satterfield’s sons, they had priority to be the estate’s representative.

The lawsuit alleges that Fleming never filed a wrongful death suit for Glorida Satterfield and that the sons learned there was a settlement after media picked up the story when Westerdorf petitioned the court to approve the settlement.

Of the the settlement’s $500,000, Tony and Brian Satterfield say they never received any money, although Fleming’s law firm receive $177,500 in attorneys fees and expenses from Murdaugh’s insurance company.

Also on Wednesday, a man investigators say shot Alex Murdaugh on September 4 — at Murdaugh’s request — was taken into custody. Curtis Edward Smith, 61, was arrested on multiple charges, including assisted suicide and insurance fraud. Murdaugh survived a bullet graze to the head. Investigators reportedly believe that Murdaugh arranged the botched murder plot in order to get $10 million in life insurance money for his surviving son, as CrimeOnline previously reported.

The shooting took place the day after Murdaugh’s law firm, PMPED, forced him out after confronting him with his alleged misappropriation of the firm’s funds. Murdaugh was hospitalized briefly for a “superficial gunshot wound to the head,” SLED said, and entered rehab when he was released two days later.

SLED has been conducting that investigation as well as the probe into the murders of Alex Murdaugh’s wife and younger son, Maggie Murdaugh and Paul Murdaugh, on June 7. No arrests or suspects have been announced in that investigation.

In addition to the Satterfield lawsuit, Alex Murdaugh, along with his older son Buster, face another wrongful death lawsuit for the death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach, who was a passenger on a boat Paul Murdaugh was allegedly driving drunk on the winding creeks of Hampton County in 2019. Paul Murdaugh reportedly smacked into a bridge piling, throwing Beach from the boat. Her body was found a week later.

The Beach lawsuit, filed by her mother, accuses Alex Murdaugh and his son of condoning and allowing Paul Murdaugh’s at the time underage drinking. The suit alleges that Buster Murdaugh allowed his younger brother to use his ID to buy alcohol. A gas station that sold alcohol to the teen is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the ‘Crime Stories with Nancy Grace’ podcast

[Featured image: Gloria Satterfield/handout and Alex Murdaugh/Facebook]