Buster Murdaugh Sues Over Claims In Netflix, Max True-Crime Docs

The surviving son of convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh has filed a defamation lawsuit against multiple media companies, claiming their true-crime documentaries about his prominent South Carolina family falsely linked him to a teen’s death.

Richard “Buster” Murdaugh claims in the lawsuit’s complaint, which was filed Friday and obtained by HuffPost, that Investigation Discovery’s “Murdaugh Murders: Deadly Dynasty,” Max’s “Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty” and Netflix’s “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” falsely accused him in the death of Stephen Smith, a 19-year-old gay man who was found dead in 2015.

The suit names Warner Bros Discovery and Netflix, as well as the series’ production companies. It also names Gannett, the parent company of the Hampton County Guardian, a local paper that covered the case. The paper’s editor, Michael DeWitt, appeared in the Netflix series and is also a defendant in the lawsuit.

Buster Murdaugh listens to his father, Alex Murdaugh's, recorded interview where he describes a suicide attempt he planned during his trial for murder at the Colleton County Courthouse on Feb. 16, 2023.
Buster Murdaugh listens to his father, Alex Murdaugh’s, recorded interview where he describes a suicide attempt he planned during his trial for murder at the Colleton County Courthouse on Feb. 16, 2023.

The State via Getty Images

The 2021 killings of 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh, Buster’s brother, and the brothers’ mother, Maggie Murdaugh, kicked off a media frenzy which only intensified when her husband, Alex Murdaugh, was arrested. Questions swirled about Alex Murdaugh’s motive, which prosecutors later described as a desire to conceal a vast web of financial crimes.

Reporters also dug into other deaths allegedly connected to the family, including a 2019 boat crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach and the 2018 death of housekeeper Gloria Satterfield on a Murdaugh property.

The scrutiny on the family also brought new attention to the death of Smith, who was a classmate of Paul’s.

According to an incident report obtained by HuffPost, Smith was found dead in the middle of the road near the Murdaugh home with apparent signs of blunt-force trauma. Though an investigator said there was no evidence to suggest that he was struck by a vehicle, a medical examiner ruled the death a hit-and-run, which Smith’s family disputed.

Last year, authorities announced they are investigating Smith’s death as a homicide and his body was exhumed for a private autopsy.

The case remains under investigation. According to the lawsuit’s complaint, Buster Murdaugh “has not been notified by any law enforcement entities of any allegations against him related to Stephen Smith’s death.”

Yet, the suit contends, each of the series subtly accuse him murder to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of viewers. “Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty,” for example, suggests “that the Plaintiff, along with others, murdered Stephen Smith by striking him with a baseball bat. A sequence in the show accused the Plaintiff of killing Stephen Smith because of his sexual identity and further insinuates that the Plaintiff killed Stephen Smith in relation to a romantic relationship between Plaintiff and Smith. These statements are untrue in their entirety.”

Buster Murdaugh’s reputation has been ruined by coverage of the case, adding that he has experienced mental anguish as a result, according to the complaint.

Eric Bland, the Smith family’s lawyer, told The Daily Beast that Buster Murdaugh’s lawsuit will only result in more media attention.

“Buster was never asked if he had any knowledge of [Smith’s] death. He just said he didn’t kill [Smith] and didn’t have a sexual relationship with him,” Bland told the Daily Beast.

Netflix declined to comment on the lawsuit. Gannet and Warner Bros did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for a comment.

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