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What to know about Moselle, the scene of the killings in Alex Murdaugh’s trial

The gates near Alex Murdaugh's home in Islandton, S.C., on Sept. 20, 2021. (Jeffrey Collins/AP)
8 min

Before the jury in the trial of Alex Murdaugh goes to deliberations, they will be leaving the courtroom and taking a field trip more than 20 miles away to Moselle. They will visit the rural, 1,772-acre hunting estate in Islandton, S.C., that’s been under contract to be sold for almost $4 million, to see the location where Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife and son.

Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman ruled in favor of Murdaugh’s defense team Monday and granted its request to have the jury travel to Moselle so that they can better visualize the testimony and visit the site where Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22, were found dead on June 7, 2021.

“You can’t really appreciate the spatial issues without actually seeing them,” defense attorney Richard “Dick” Harpootlian told the court.

While lead prosecutor Creighton Waters objected to the request and argued that the property looks different now than it did the night of the killings, Harpootlian told the judge that he did not want the jury to be “influenced by crazy paparazzi” after reports of intruders at the sprawling estate.

Murdaugh, 54, who faces up to life in prison if convicted of the killings, has been at the center of worldwide media coverage for months, including docuseries on Netflix and HBO Max and the murder trial being carried live on cable news since it started Jan. 25. Harpootlian denounced the dozens of people who allegedly showed up at Moselle for photos as “one of the most distasteful things I’ve ever seen.”

But when jurors head to 4147 Moselle Rd., they’ll be going to a property that Murdaugh has been trying to sell for more than a year.

Moselle was publicly posted for sale by the Crosby Land Co. of Colleton County on Feb. 14, 2022 — roughly four months before Murdaugh was indicted by a grand jury on murder charges.

The property, which was initially renamed as “Cross Swamp Farm” until it was changed back to Moselle Farm, is about 50 miles from Charleston and includes a four-bedroom, 5,275-square-foot house, a farm, two miles of river for fishing and kayaking, and dog kennels, according to the listing. Murdaugh testified that he found Maggie and Paul’s bodies near Moselle’s outdoor dog kennels.

Moselle has been under contract from an undisclosed buyer for $3.9 million since June 6, 2022, according to the listing — almost a year to the day of the killings.

“This is truly a top-tier property, complete with all the improvements and amenities one would expect from a high-end sporting property with little or no deferred maintenance cost,” says the listing, which promotes the property’s “unusually diverse habitat with varying forest types and age class distribution.”

Todd Crosby, president of the brokerage firm handling the sale, did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Tuesday. Crosby told the Post and Courier in Charleston in September that while he focuses on a property’s highest and best potential, most of Moselle is made up of bottom land, or low-lying land that’s often inundated with water from the flood plain. He added that Moselle “is not what the media made it out be,” saying it was far from a “grand hunting destination.”

“There’s nothing special about that property,” Crosby said. “Nothing at all. It’s an average piece of dirt for what we sell.”

The property was bought by a farmer whose family owns significant acreage in Colleton County, S.C., that’s adjacent to the Murdaughs’ near Islandton, along with a partner in nearby Bamberg County, reported WCIV in Charleston.

The jury’s scheduled trip to Moselle comes as Murdaugh’s defense rested its case after calling 14 witnesses during roughly two weeks of testimony. An expert in crime-scene reconstruction and blood-spatter analysis who was called by Murdaugh’s defense team testified that evidence from Moselle suggests that the killings of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were carried out by two shooters.

Murdaugh’s defense attorneys have argued during the trial that no physical evidence connects him to the scene of the crime, and prosecutors have staked their case on what they say are Murdaugh’s years of financial shadiness, opioid addiction, lies to authorities and struggles to recall key events.

Before the public became interested in Murdaugh’s case, and the property became known as the site of the killings, the sprawling estate on the Salkehatchie River had a dark history.

Murdaugh bought the property in 2013 from Jeannine Morris Boulware, wife of Barrett T. Boulware, a suspected drug smuggler whom Murdaugh represented and worked with as a business partner, property records show.

Boulware, an Allendale County, S.C., fisherman who died in 2018, was indicted in 1983 after authorities seized 17 tons of marijuana on a fishing trawler from the Bahamas, according to UPI. Despite being federally charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute 34,000 pounds of marijuana and conspiracy to import marijuana into the United States, the charges against Boulware were dismissed after a government witness was fatally struck by a car in Florida.

While the 2013 deed transfer references the “exchange of like-kind replacement property” totaling $730,000 as part of “multi-property, non-simultaneous, tax-free exchange transaction,” the South Carolina news outlet FITS News reported that Murdaugh bought the property from Jeannine Morris Boulware for only $5. Business transactions for that low number of a price are allowed by the IRS as a way for the seller to avoid capital gains taxes. It’s allowed as long as the seller invests any proceeds of the sale toward the purchase of other properties, according to the IRS.

There was also a death at Moselle years before Murdaugh’s wife and son were killed. On Feb. 2, 2018, Gloria Satterfield, the family’s longtime housekeeper, died at the home in an apparent slip-and-fall accident. But Satterfield’s death was not reported to the local coroner’s office and no autopsy was performed on the body after her death certificate indicated that she died of natural causes, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

When Murdaugh turned himself in as part of an alleged suicide-for-hire plot in 2021, SLED announced an investigation into Satterfield’s death. He has not been charged in that case. Michael Satterfield, a son of Gloria Satterfield, testified this month that Murdaugh never told the family that he collected more than $4 million in insurance settlements after the 57-year-old woman’s fatal fall at his home.

According to the listing, the property’s location, ecosystem and water features make Moselle “an ideal candidate for a conservation easement.”

“The next owner may be the beneficiary of considerable tax advantages that may be available through the donation of an easement,” the listing says.

The sale of the home has been on hold amid a court order that Murdaugh’s assets be frozen. Even when the sale of Moselle is complete, Murdaugh will be legally obligated to pay off the bank, give money to his surviving son, Buster, as part of his mother’s estate, and compensate parties who say the Murdaugh family has harmed them.

John T. Lay, a court-appointed attorney overseeing and liquidating Murdaugh’s assets and putting them into a trust for victims, told that more than $2 million of the $3.9 million sale will go toward paying off the lien from the mortgage company, Palmetto State Bank, and about $500,000 will go to Buster as part of his inheritance from his mother’s estate.

Lay said that an additional $600,000 will be distributed to the family of Mallory Beach, the 19-year-old who was killed in a 2019 boating collision in a boat driven by Paul Murdaugh. The younger Murdaugh was indicted by a grand jury on three felony charges, including boating under the influence causing death and boating under the influence causing injury.

After Beach’s parents sued over their daughter’s death, Paul Murdaugh’s attorneys told them that he couldn’t afford a settlement. That’s when Beach’s family requested a court order for the younger Murdaugh to disclose his bank records. A hearing had been scheduled for June 10, 2021, but the charges were dropped after Paul Murdaugh’s death, WCBD in Charleston reported.

The sale of Moselle is expected to be finalized March 8, Lay told — meaning Murdaugh could be acquitted or convicted of murder by the time the new owner comes into possession of the property.