On Wednesday, Alex Murdaugh’s longtime paralegal testified that Alex’s demeanor changed after his son’s deadly boat crash in 2019.
Annette Griswold, who was Alex’s paralegal for nine years, said Alex became distant and was often absent following the incident involving his son Paul. Griswold said his demeanor became more concerning in early 2021, which she believed was due to mounting pressure surrounding the boat crash.
In February 2019, Paul reportedly crashed his boat into Archer’s Creek Bridge in Beaufort County. Passenger Mallory Beach, 19, was ejected from the boat and killed; five other people aboard were injured. Paul was charged with felony boating under the influence in connection with Beach’s death, but he was murdered before he could face trial.
Griswold testified for years Alex had her address checks to Forge. Alex is now accused of misappropriating funds to his personal Bank of America account — which he named Forge so his firm believed the money was being sent to a company named Forge Consulting, which sometimes assisted with structured settlements.
Griswold explained that her role required her to search for liens and payments that needed to be made in regard to disbursements in civil trials the firm handled. Alex allegedly became irate at Griswold when she would write “Forge Consulting” on disbursement sheets.
“Think of it like Forge Consulting is the large company and Forge is kind of under the umbrella under it,” he said, according to Griswold.
Those disbursements reportedly became a point of contention in December 2020 when Griswold realized that a disbursement check in a worker’s compensation case was being sent to Forge, even though the funds were not available yet. Alex allegedly claimed he got the OK to send the money to Forge so it could accrue interest for a year.
Griswold went on to testify how management planned to speak with Alex regarding the misappropriation of funds on June 7, 2021 — hours before his wife and son were murdered. Griswold said that employees at the firm were fearful that workers at the firm were being targeted and that they wanted to protect Alex and his brother, Randy, who is also a partner at the firm.
Griswold said Alex stealing funds from the firm was not reexplored until September 2021.
Alex was formally ousted from the law firm in September 2021 — months after his wife and son’s murders and days before he was shot in the head in an apparently botched suicide-for-hire plot.
While in rehab, Alex allegedly sent an email to Griswold and a co-worker in which he apologizes for his actions.
While we're waiting, here's the full text of Alex Murdaugh's 9/26/21 message to his former paralegal, Annette Griswold.
Defense attorney Jim Griffin had Griswold read this in court.
Special thanks to @JSCollinsAP for clipping the audio. pic.twitter.com/5GpoXzbyp8
— Avery G. Wilks (@AveryGWilks) February 8, 2023
Griswold’s testimony appears to be consistent with statements made by the law firm’s chief financial officer, Jeanne Seckinger, who accused Alex of stealing $2.8 million.
Seckinger claimed that Alex was sending client settlements to a fake “Forge” account with Bank of America to make it appear as if a company they worked with for disbursements, named Forge Consulting, was handling the settlements. In actuality, it was an account being used for Alex’s personal use, she explained.
When misappropriating funds, Alex often did not disclose any payouts or settlements to his clients so he could move the funds to the fraudulent account, according to Seckinger.
Seckinger also recounted a 2017 ordeal which reportedly entailed Alex cashing a $121,000 check twice that was mistakingly made out to him and was really for his brother. Alex allegedly cashed both checks but claimed he misplaced them. He eventually repaid the money.
Seckinger claimed that less than five hours before the slayings, Alex called and asked about his 401(k) assets in regard to financial disclosures that would be called into question during the boat crash civil lawsuit. A hearing, in that case, was scheduled for June 10, 2021 — three days after Maggie and Paul’s murders.
According to Sekinger, two partners at the law firm eventually confronted Alex about the allegations — to which he confessed and resigned.
Prosecutors claimed Alex was motivated to kill his wife and son because he wanted to distract from his financial crimes.
Alex is believed to have acted alone in the 2021 slayings, allegedly shooting Maggie with a rifle and killing Paul with a shotgun on their Colleton County family property. He was reportedly filmed driving away from the lodge an hour before he called 911 to report their deaths. He allegedly carried out the double slaying after visiting his mother.
Last week, Colleton County detective Laura Rutland testified that there were no footprints located in the blood near Paul Murdaugh’s body even though Alex claimed he turned him over twice and checked his pulse.
Rutland also testified that she saw no blood on Alex — including on his shoes and hands. During cross-examination, Rutland would not say if, to her, Alex appeared to be the person who had just killed his son on their family’s property.
SLED agent Melinda Worley said she swabbed 10 different areas in Alex’s car and all of them returned presumptive positive results. She said she also photographed a 16-gauge shotgun shell located on the rear floorboard of his vehicle.
Prosecutors said cell phone data and forensic evidence tie Alex to the slayings. Meanwhile, Alex’s attorney, Dick Harpootlian, said the cell phone records were incomplete and asserted that Alex would be covered in blood if he killed his wife and son at close range. Harpootlian said no blood was found on Alex’s clothing.
In September 2021, months after Paul and Maggie’s slayings, Alex suffered superficial head wounds when he allegedly had former client Curtis Smith, 61, shoot him in the head so his surviving son, Buster, would receive a $10 million insurance payout.
A day before the shooting, Alex was forced out of his family law firm amid allegations he misappropriated funds.
Two days after the apparent botched suicide, Alex announced he was entering rehabilitation for drugs. Shortly thereafter, he was charged with insurance fraud in connection with the September 2021 suicide-for-hire plot and released on bail.
However, in October 2021, Alex was rearrested upon leaving a rehabilitation center in Florida for allegedly stealing $4.3 million from the estate of his former housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who suffered a fatal fall on his property in February 2018.
In that case, he was accused of stealing insurance payouts that were intended for Satterfield’s family. Authorities plan to exhume her body amid an ongoing investigation regarding her death.
In addition to the murder charges, Alex faces more than 100 criminal counts related to fraud.
In June 2022, Alex and Smith were indicted for allegedly purchasing and distributing oxycodone in multiple counties. In December 2022, Alex was indicted for tax evasion for allegedly failing to claim the $6 million he allegedly earned through illegal acts between 2011 and 2019.
Alex was charged with Maggie and Paul’s murders days after he was formally disbarred by the South Carolina Supreme Court.
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[Featured image: Annette Griswold/Twitter video screengrab]