By Shawn Nottingham, Chuck Johnston and Emma Tucker, CNN
South Carolina law enforcement officials announced on Friday that they sought and received permission from the family of Gloria Satterfield, a former housekeeper for suspended attorney Alex Murdaugh, to exhume her remains.
Satterfield, who spent more than two decades as a housekeeper for the Murdaugh family, died in 2018 in what was described as a “trip and fall accident” at the Murdaugh home, according to attorney Eric Bland, who is representing her estate.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) said last year that it was opening a criminal investigation into Satterfield’s death, based upon a request from the Hampton County coroner that highlights inconsistencies in the ruling of Satterfield’s manner of death, as well as information gathered during SLED’s other ongoing investigations involving Murdaugh.
“The decedent’s death was not reported to the Coroner at the time, nor was an autopsy performed. On the death certificate the manner of death was ruled ‘Natural,’ which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident,” the coroner’s request to SLED said.
After Satterfield’s death, a $500,000 wrongful death claim was filed against Murdaugh on behalf of Satterfield’s estate, Bland said. According to him, the estate has not yet received any of the $500,000 owed as the result of a civil settlement in 2018.
SLED says the exhumation process will take weeks, not days. The investigation is still active and ongoing.
Murdaugh, who is accused of financial wrongdoing and setting up a suicidal insurance fraud scheme, was charged with 23 more crimes in four new indictments returned by a grand jury in January. The indictments bring to 71 the number of charges Murdaugh faces stemming from accusations he defrauded victims of nearly $8.5 million in various schemes.
He’s also facing other charges, including those stemming from being shot in the head on a roadway in September and surviving. Authorities said he admitted the shooting was a conspiracy with a former client to kill him as part of a fraud scheme so his only surviving son could collect an insurance payout of about $10 million.
In that case, Murdaugh was charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and with filing a false police report.
Authorities said other investigations into his family are underway, looking into the June deaths of Murdaugh’s wife, Margaret, and other son, Paul, who were gunned down at their family estate in Islandton. That case is unsolved. Murdaugh has denied responsibility in those deaths.
The investigations have gripped South Carolina’s Lowcountry, where the Murdaughs have been a prominent family for decades. Three members held the office of 14th Circuit solicitor for 87 years, ending with Murdaugh’s father, who left office in 2005.
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CNN’s Wesley Bruer, Dianne Gallagher and Randi Kaye contributed to this report.