Lifetime Network’s Murdaugh Murders is a made-for-TV version of Alex Murdaugh’s spiral from an elite South Carolina lawyer to a convicted murderer and accused thief. Billed as a two-night, four-hour movie event, the Lifetime movie version of the Murdaugh Murders took some creative liberties peppered with bad imitations of Lowcountry accents and (probably) unintentional camp.
While a legal warning flashed across the screen each night to remind us that parts of the stories have been “fictionalized or altered for dramatic purposes,” we thought it was important to lay out the reporting about what actually happened.
1. The Timeline is Actually Years Long
In the Lifetime version, the major events are portrayed as Gloria Satterfield’s death, the boat crash, and the murders — all within a relatively short amount of time. The actual timeline was as follows:
- February 2018: Gloria Satterfield’s fall at Moselle
- February 2019: The boat crash that killed Mallory Beach
- June 2021: Maggie Murdaugh and Paul Murdaugh murdered at Moselle
- July 2022: Alex Murdaugh indicted for the murders
- January 2023: Alex Murdaugh goes to trial
2. The Widely-Circulated Formal Photo Isn’t From a Charleston Event
Part 1 of the movie opens with the murder and then flashes back to an event in a wood-paneled room noted to be “Charleston, 3 years earlier.” In the movie, the event is to celebrate the opening of a rehabilitation center (that does not exist), and Maggie attends wearing a formal dress while Alex wears a tuxedo and red bowtie.
The photo widely circulated online of the Murdaughs in similar formal attire (including the red bowtie) is actually from Michael Gunn’s wedding in New York in 2016. Gunn is the Principal & Senior Settlement Consultant at Forge Consulting — the real Forge, not the fake Forge that Alex Murdaugh allegedly created to divert settlement funds into.
3. There Are No Mountains In the Lowcountry
Occasionally in the movie, mountains are visible in the background, which is a major geographical error. The only mountainous region of South Carolina is in the upstate where South Carolina touches North Carolina and Georgia. The Lowcountry is closer to the coast and is flat and swampy.
4. The Boat Crash was in Beaufort County
In the scene portraying the boat crash that killed Mallory Beach, the area is incorrectly identified as Archer’s Bridge, though it was actually on Archer’s Creek near Parris Island in Beaufort County. In the movie, an ambulance labeled “Colleton County” responds to the scene.
5. Maggie Was Not at the Hospital After the Boat Crash
Alex Murdaugh and his father, Randolph Murdaugh III, were seen on surveillance footage at the hospital where Paul Murdaugh, Connor Cook, Anthony Cook, Miley Altman, and Morgan Doughty were taken after the boat crash. Alex, who was wearing his badge from the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office on his belt. Alex was essentially a volunteer solicitor — South Carolina’s version of a district attorney — and presumably used his badge to attempt to control the narrative surrounding the crash. Maggie was not at the hospital that night.
6. The Attorney for the Satterfield Family
South Carolina attorney Eric Bland began representing the family of Gloria Satterfield (the Murdaugh family’s longtime housekeeper) in 2021 after Luna Shark CEO and True Sunlight creator Mandy Matney reported that Alex Murdaugh’s best friend and fellow attorney Cory Fleming, filed a wrongful death suit against Murdaugh on behalf of Gloria’s sons and ultimately conspired with Alex to steal more than $4 million from the Satterfield family.
Bland had this to say about his portrayal in the movie:
I can assure you that if I was given the opportunity to confront Alex Murdaugh about the stolen Satterfield settlement money this would not be the interaction I would have with him. I would never have let him walk away like this nor would I have permitted this creep talk to me… pic.twitter.com/Cc6jC9BNBO— Eric Bland (@TheEricBland) October 15, 2023
7. We do not, as of yet know what happened to Gloria
Because nobody saw Gloria fall on Feb. 2, 2018, it is unknown exactly what happened, but the incident was enough to cause a serious head injury, and she died on Feb. 26, 2018.
8. Alex Did Not Talk to the 911 Dispatcher When Gloria Fell
Paul and Maggie were the only Murdaughs at Moselle on the February day when Gloria was injured. They are the only two voices heard on the 911 call. In the Lifetime version, Alex arrives in time to stand over Gloria and talk to the dispatcher on the phone. According to Satterfield family attorney and Cup of Justice Podcast co-host Eric Bland, Maggie called Alex to let him know there’d been an accident, and he arrived back at Moselle before the ambulance got there.
9. Paul Murdaugh Was Never Booked Into Jail
Paul Murdaugh was charged with boating under the influence in April 2019, almost two months after the crash that killed Mallory Beach, but he spent no time in jail. His mugshot was taken in the hallway outside the courtroom on an iPhone 7, and he was released on a $50,000 personal recognizance bond without ever being “booked” into jail.
10. A Fellow Attorney Did Not Confront Alex at PMPED on June 7, 2021
An actor confronted Alex asking about settlement funds in the movie as sirens blared outside for some reason. An argument and apparent meltdown ensued before Alex took a phone call regarding his father’s declining health.
In reality, however, it was the law firm’s CFO Jeanne Seckinger who confronted Alex about missing money the day of June 7, and the phone call about his father came in at that time. Maggie and Paul were killed just hours later.
11. The Bodies Were in the Wrong Spot at the Kennel
Lifetime’s director took liberties with the crime scene. In the movie, Paul was shot both times while standing outside the feed room at the kennels, when prosecution experts testified at trial that they believe Alex shot Paul the first time while he was standing inside the feed room and stumbled toward the door before receiving the final, fatal shot. Fictional Maggie was shot on the gravel driveway between the kennels and the large shed, but her body was actually found in the grass in front of a dog house, not on the driveway.
12. There Was More Money Allegedly Stolen
As the fictional SLED agents questioned Alex in the movie, they make reference to several checks for diverted fees, most of them in the high five-figure or low six-figure range. Evidence presented by the actual authorities details alleged financial crimes adding up to several million dollars.
Want to get the story straight and see what journalists Mandy Matney, Liz Farrell, and the Luna Shark team have found as they expose the truth wherever it leads? Subscribe to True Sunlight — formerly known as the Murdaugh Murders Podcast— wherever you get your podcasts, and join the Luna Shark premium community for access to case files, articles, live events, a private discord server, and exclusive subscriber-only content related to Mandy’s new book, Blood on Their Hands, available November 14.
Contact Beth Braden
Beth Braden is an award-winning journalist whose mastery of the deep dive is evident in her work.
In addition to Braden’s experience writing about local government, crime and courts, and engaging features from her home state of Tennessee, her byline appears on several internationally-known websites. She is passionate about communicating complex information in an easy-to-understand manner and loves to pore over public records.
Braden joined Luna Shark Media in 2023 armed with a love of truth as she seeks out data from the darkest places, drags it into the light, and provides illuminating analysis. In her spare time, she enjoys quilting, strange museums, and good cups of coffee.