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  • Johanna Lynn

Power, Money & Intergenerational Trauma

Updated: Apr 16

The Murdaugh family, an influential family in South Carolina, whose son, father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served as the top prosecutors across the state.

This tragedy highlights the intergenerational dynamic within families that can be amplified by those in positions of power and influence. All the pressure when expected to carry on the family legacy and to live up to such high expectations are likely immense and can create a complex power dynamic within families.

The Murdaugh family’s intergenerational dynamic is also evident in the way the case has unfolded with stunning twists and one of the most closely-watched trials in the country.

The Murdaugh deaths were initially considered a victim of a random act of violence, but as the investigation progressed, it became clear that Alex murdered his wife and son.

The death of a child and spouse in such a violent manner is traumatic, and it is knonw that trauma is shared across generations in the family system. Let’s explore some of the trauma known in the Murdaugh family:

All sharing the name Randolph, Great Grandfather Randolph died in a railroad crash and the family sued the railroad, receiving an out-of-court settlement. Speculation was that the crash was not an accident and it was an attempted suicide.

Grandfather Randolph Jr was indicted and involved in some questionable outcomes in some of the cases he worked on.

Randolph the 3rd, father of Alex, shared the family law firm where Alex faced a total of 102 grand jury criminal charges and 19 indictments for financial fraud.

Alex attempted to kill himself after murdering his wife and son in order to give the 10 million dollar life insurance to his surviving son, Buster Jr.

The Murdaugh family murder is a tragedy that has left a profound impact on those who knew this prominent family. This has raised questions about the role of power and privilege in criminal investigations and how it can impact the way justice is served. Bringing focus to the importance of transparency and accountability in criminal investigations, regardless of the power and privilege of those involved.

It is believed that the Murdaugh family’s influence in the community may have impacted the initial investigation of the murders and cases from the past that went cold.

Alex Murdaugh’s oldest son, Buster was a classmate and friend of Stephen Smith, a 19-year-old nursing student who was found dead from blunt force trauma on a rural road in Hampton County and the case ruled a hit and run with no suspects arrested.

Stephen was openly gay and witnesses interviewed as part of the original investigation repeatedly implicated Buster as having been involved in a relationship with Stephen, but the case went cold.

According to The Greenville News, “rumors hinting at a cover-up and the possible involvement of one or more members of the Murdaugh family began circulating around the Hampton County area” soon after Smith’s death and according to the Beaufort County Island Packet, the case “reeked of insider interference”.

In light of recent events, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division re-opened the investigation into Smith’s death, based on evidence found while investigating the deaths of Alex Murdaugh’s wife and son, which had also occurred in June 2021, when Alex was charged with murder. On March 22, 2023, it was announced that Stephen’s death was a murder and not a highway accident.

The second case that has been since reopened involves the Murdaughs’ longtime housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who suffered a severe head injury when she allegedly fell down the front steps at the family’s estate and died on February 26, 2018, of complications, including a stroke.

It had been reported as a “trip and fall” accident, but no coroner was notified, no autopsy was performed, and the death certificate the coroner testified that describing her death on the death certificate as “natural” was incorrect.

Gloria’s two sons were awarded an insurance settlement for the accidental and/or natural death, but by 2021, they had not received any money. According to multiple indictments, Alex Murdaugh and attorney Cory Fleming conspired to steal the Satterfields’ $4.3-million insurance policy settlement. The scam worked by diverting the insurance payout to Alex’s bank account, then not notifying the Satterfields that the insurance settlement had occurred. It involved forgery, Murdaugh’s law firm and Palmetto State Bank.

The authorities announced they opened a criminal investigation into Gloria’s death. In June 2022, authorities received permission to exhume Satterfield’s body to continue investigating her death.

The Murdaugh murders serve as a reminder of the complex intergenerational dynamics that can exist within families, especially those in positions of power and influence. The case has generated national attention due to the Murdaugh family’s prominence in the community and the mysterious circumstances surrounding the series of murders surrounding the family.

As the investigation continues to unfold, it is essential to consider the impact of power and privilege on criminal investigations and the need for mental health support for families affected by traumatic events

Question: let’s say someone DOES get to intervene, with the surviving son Buster, who has lost ALL his immediate family – could epigenetics help him even in this extreme of a situation? Could he theoretically clear some of this longterm extreme family trauma?

Answer: There is so much that could be done to support Buster. Buster being the surviving son of this family will carry so much of what was unresolved in this complex family system. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather had careers built from benefiting from others’ misfortunes. Whether that relates to stealing the housecleaner, Gloria’s $4.3-million insurance policy settlement – after her death at their residence. Or the death of Buster’s friend, at the time, thought to be an accident. It is worth noting that both cases are being re-opened and investigated after his father’s Alex arrest for the death of his mother and brother.

If we have family members who acted as the perpetrator, it seems that the surviving members end up carrying the guilt for what their family members have done to hurt, steal or even kill.

If I had the chance to work with Buster, it would start by addressing the grief with the loss of his Mom and brother. Facing the guilt of being the surviving son. Reconciling what it means to be a Murdaugh man in this linage of harm, greed and power. I believe the hardest work to be faced is how he carries his father within him after the murder of his mom and brother by his dad’s hands.

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