Family matters. The Murdaugh murder trials are underway and many people who are interested in the case are asking: where is Buster Murdaugh now?
Former lawyer Alex Murdaugh, Buster’s father, was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole on March 3, 2023, for the murders of his wife, Maggie, and his younger son, Paul. The victims were found with multiple gunshot wounds on June 7, 2021, after 911 dispatchers received a call from Alex at around 10pm. “I’ve been gone,” he told a dispatcher, NBC reported at the time. “I just came back.” He later told investigators he’d been spending the day with his mother, who has dementia, but while on the stand, testified he’d lied about his whereabouts and was in fact on the property moments before the slayings occurred. Prosecutors argued Alex shot his wife and son to “escape accountability” for more than 100 financial crimes including fraud, money laundering, tax evasion and forgery, with which he’s been charged. There’s also a suspicious death which speculation implicated Buster in himself but nothing has ever come of it. So with his father on trial, where is Buster Murdaugh now?
Where is Buster Murdaugh now? Buster attended his father’s trial and when he was sentenced. According to The New York Post, he “displayed little to no emotion in the aftermath of his father’s conviction for murdering his mother and brother at the family’s Islandton estate in 2021.” Buster testified on his father’s trial on February 21, 2023. He said on the stand that he spoke with his parents and brother nearly every day on the phone and that his father called him on the night of the killings to let him know that he was on his way to his ailing mother’s house to check in on her. Prosecutors have said that the call occurred after his wife and son were already dead and was an attempt to build an alibi.
Buster also said that his father called him a second time to inform him about the murders. “I just sat there for a minute,” he recalled. “I was in shock.” He testified that he spent much of the following weeks with his father and rarely left his sight. They stayed at the homes of several relatives after the murders, including Maggie’s parents’ home. Their family later issued a joint statement offering $100,000 for information about the murders. In a question asked by Alex’s lawyer Jim Griffin, Buster affirmed that the family generally handled disagreements civilly, “like adults,” and that they were never violent.
The surviving members of the family also did talk about safety concerns in the days after the murders. “He was heartbroken,” Buster said during the trial and painted the picture of a loving, “close-knit” family. Though, he was aware of his father’s drug addiction. “I thought that he had handled it,” Buster testified, before acknowledging that there were “a couple of more times” that his father had relapsed. He testified that his father was always “apologetic and sorry” when he was confronted about his drug use.
Before the murders, Buster was a student at the University of South Carolina pursuing his law degree. According to the Wall Street Journal, he was kicked out of law school over a plagiarism incident. He secured readmittance after their family paid “a well-connected Columbia lawyer, Butch Bowers, some $60,000 to help secure Buster’s readmittance” according to the local paper Post & Courier. However, he has not been back to law school. Buster refused to go back and live at the hunting lodge where his brother and mother were killed and currently lives with his girlfriend, Brooklynn White, in a condo in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
“He’s not doing well at all,” a former college classmate told People. “He really withdrew after everything happened. Before, he’d text immediately. His phone was surgically implanted in his hand or something, like you’d send a text 24/7 and he’d respond, and he loved to chat. Now he doesn’t respond to most texts, or if he does, it’s one or two words. He has really closed off and built walls around himself.” Another childhood friend of Buster told the outlet, “Buster is collateral damage to his father’s situation,” says a friend who has known him since childhood. “I think he’s developed this attitude of ‘I’m gonna shut people out before they shut me out.’ His circle of friends got really small really fast.” They continued, “He’s really down. He’s gained some weight, he’s grown a beard, as much as he can. He doesn’t make eye contact and he doesn’t really engage like he used to. He looks tired. He’s aged like 10 years in the past year. He has bags under his eyes and he just looks miserable. It’s just a shame.”
The slayings of Maggie and Paul opened up another unsolved death from 2015—that of Stephen Smith, a gay teenager whose body was found dead on a remote road in Hampton County. There are conflicting reports of what caused Smith’s death; first, the family was told he died from a gunshot wound, then they were told he was beaten, then it was a hit-and-run. His cause of death was blunt force trauma. In June 2021, a statement from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) said the agency “has opened an investigation into the death of Stephen Smith based upon information gathered during the course of the double murder investigation of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh,” People reported.
Speculation in Netflix’s Murdaugh Murders implicated Buster Murdaugh in Smith’s death, believing the two had been in a romantic relationship and were getting ready to tell Buster’s family. Smith’s final moments were when his car ran out of gas and called Buster for help. His body was found in the middle of the road miles away from his truck and highway patrol said his body “looked like it was more staged. Like the possibility of the body had been placed in the roadway, per Fox News in June 2021.
“Rumor goes Stephen felt comfortable enough to call Buster for help, and Buster just so happens to be in the area on the way from a softball tournament with his friend. I believe that he picked Stephen up and was fooling Stephen into thinking they were taking him home, but I think they got a little way down the road and that’s when it all started to unravel,” Smith’s best friend Olivia told Netflix. There were no suspects in the death of Stephen Smith and no one has been apprehended.
FITSNews, via TMZ, obtained a letter written by Stephen’s mother Sandy to his older brother Christopher which was later sent to the FBI in 2016 that she was told by a classmate that Buster allegedly killed Stephen with a baseball bat because Stephen was gay. Sandy wrote that Buster and the classmate were smashing mailboxes around town when they came upon Stephen, and Buster “seized the opportunity.” According to his mother, Stephen was apparently dating “someone from a prominent family in the county who was hiding his sexuality.”
She also wrote that Alex Murdaugh’s brother Randolph called Stephen’s dad after Stephen’s death and asked to work the case pro bono. Stephen’s father questioned why Randolph wanted to help after he accepted the offer but before the body had been identified. Randolph ended up not representing them. Buster denied being implicated in Stephen’s homicide. “I have tried my best to ignore the vicious rumors about my involvement in Stephen Smith’s tragic death that continue to be published in the media as I grieve over the brutal murders of my mother and brother. I love them so much and miss them terribly,” Buster said in a statement to the media issued on March 20, 2023, per Buzzfeed. “These baseless rumors of my involvement with Stephen and his death are false. I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death, and my heart goes out to the Smith family. “I am requesting that the media immediately stop publishing these defamatory comments and rumors about me.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the family, don’t miss Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal on Netflix. The synopsis of which is as follows: “The Murdaughs were one of South Carolina’s most prominent families, but the death of teenager Mallory Beach in a drunken boating accident began the unraveling of their legacy. When Paul Murdaugh – the alleged driver of the boat – and his mother Maggie are found brutally murdered, a century of corruption, power, and cover-ups in the Low Country is brought to light. The three-part series will feature first-hand accounts from those on the boat that fateful night, many of whom have not spoken about the crash or double homicide of Maggie and Paul until now, including Paul Murdaugh’s longtime girlfriend, Morgan Doughty; Mallory Beach’s childhood friends, Miley Altman and Connor Cook; Mallory’s boyfriend, Anthony Cook; and, several others.”
Netflix’s Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal is available to stream now.
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