Journalist Mandy Matney discusses reporting on Alex Murdaugh, a man who destroys everyone in his wake. (2024)

Journalist Mandy Matney discusses reporting on Alex Murdaugh, a man who destroys everyone in his wake. (1)

December 2023

Interview by Alice Cary

Blood on Their Hands gets down and dirty with the murder and mayhem of the Murdaughs, the South Carolina family whose crimes made national news, and the toll it takes to bring the truth to light.

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When Mandy Matney graduated from journalism school at the University of Kansas in 2012 and her parents asked her to choose a celebratory vacation spot, she picked Hilton Head, South Carolina. During that trip, Matney remembers glancing at the local newspaper and thinking how nice it would be to have a job there. “They’re talking about alligators and all these cool things,” she remembers thinking.

“And then it happened!” Matney says, speaking from her Hilton Head home. After disappointing reporting stints in Missouri and Illinois, the Kansas native came to Hilton Head in 2016 as a reporter for The Island Packet. “I think I was drawn to this area for some reason,” she reminisces, adding, “I feel like it was kind of the universe telling me to come here.”

Several years later, Matney was covering a story much more predatory than alligators—the trial and conviction of prominent attorney Alex Murdaugh for the 2021 killings of his wife, Maggie, and their 22-year-old son, Paul. She had already been delving into the Murdaugh family’s influence and corruption: In 2019, 19-year-old Mallory Beach was killed in a boating accident in which Paul was driving, inebriated. These crimes opened a floodgate of investigations into Alex Murdaugh’s massive financial improprieties, and eventually led Matney to launch “Murdaugh Murders Podcast”—a career trajectory she recounts in Blood on Their Hands: Murder, Corruption, and the Fall of the Murdaugh Dynasty.

“You have to be the person to say something when you see that something isn’t right.”

Matney likens the Murdaugh case to a “superstorm that we can’t get out of,” acknowledging, “I kind of do miss my life before it was just constant chaos and absurdity.” After a bit of a break this summer, the Murdaugh story has heated up again, with Murdaugh asking for a new trial and his lawyers wrangling over whether the state or federal government should control the remainder of his assets. Throughout the myriad developments in the case, Matney has found the national press coverage to be “eye opening.” While she’s seen “a lot of really great journalism,” she acknowledges that she’s also been disappointed with reporters who “take the easiest, goriest, most salacious angle of the story and roll with it,” which is “the opposite of what I want to do.”

Cognizant of the swirling sea of media being produced about the family—books, documentaries and more—Matney and co-author Carolyn Murnick decided to frame their offering as her own “memoir based on four years of reporting,” a sort of story-behind-the-story that provides new material for even Matney’s most faithful podcast fans. It’s meant to be inspiring to other journalists, and, as Matney notes, “It’s the book that I would have wanted to have 10 years ago when I started my journalism career.”

Journalist Mandy Matney discusses reporting on Alex Murdaugh, a man who destroys everyone in his wake. (3)“It’s kind of a whole new layer of vulnerability for me to tell all these [personal] stories,” she says, comparing her process to “taking an ice cream scoop to my insides” and revealing “those deep-down things that you don’t want to talk about and you don’t want to deal with.”

Matney grew up watching “Dateline” and “20/20″ with her mother, and remembers following the O.J. Simpson case when she was a kindergartner “because my mom was so into it.” She writes that although her first two jobs were soul-sucking (“I cried often”), her saving grace came in the form of nights spent listening to WBEZ’s “Serial” and watching Netflix’s “Making a Murderer,” while dreaming of “doing something as inspiring.”

Unfortunately, Matney’s job at The Island Packet was overshadowed by a misogynistic editor she refers to by the pseudonym “Charles Gardiner” in her memoir. When, for example, Matney got access to key files related to the strange 2015 hit-and-run death of a young man named Stephen Smith, potentially linked to the Murdaughs, Gardiner luridly asked, “What did you do to get that file?” Matney reflects, “I don’t think people talk enough about bosses being mentally abusive, and how much that affects your entire life and your work.”

Thankfully, she partnered with a savvy, supportive colleague, Liz Farrell (with whom she still collaborates) to follow their instincts in the Murdaugh story, even as their editor tried to discourage them. Matney believes that their outsiders’ perspectives added fuel to their reporting—they weren’t used to “this system of good old boys just running amok and doing whatever they wanted.” She adds, “I think a lot of people have a really hard time imagining that a guy who looks like Alex can do these things. But that’s a big point that I think we all need to realize is that there are people like Alex, who are manipulators and narcissists, and we can’t be fooled by them. . . .You have to be the person to say something when you see that something isn’t right, because they will—like Alex did—destroy everyone in their wake.” Just a few days before our conversation, Matney reveals, she stood a few feet away from Murdaugh during a federal hearing. “It’s bone-chilling,” she says. “It’s not fun for me to be in his presence.”

“It’s the book that I would have wanted to have 10 years ago when I started my journalism career.”

Matney’s memoir also addresses the toll that the case has taken on her mental health. “No one really told me when you start digging into stories that are this dark, and communicating often with victims of really horrific crimes, you are carrying a load that is unbearable at times. People need to talk about that.”

On a brighter note, Blood on Their Hands also chronicles how she and David Moses (then her boyfriend, now her husband) began their Murdaugh podcast. “It’s not this easy process where a microphone comes out of nowhere and just magically puts your words into a podcast and it sounds beautiful. It’s very frustrating at the beginning. . . . I’m not ashamed of the fact that our first few episodes sounded very rough. I want other people to know that it’s OK to start something and not be perfect at it. . . .I think that that’s been a big reason why a lot of our fans have been really attached to our podcast.” Matney loves podcasting, especially because “journalism is so different when you own your own business and you can actually do and say the things that you want.” Five years ago, she says, “I could never have dreamed of doing this with my husband in my house studio.”

Blood on Their Hands will surely satisfy true crime fans. And with Matney’s acknowledgment of the grinding work and mental toll her investigation demanded—to wit, “interviews with over one hundred sources, as well as hundreds of pages of legal filings, police reports, social media posts, and court transcripts”—the book is also a powerful tribute to journalism’s ability to hold the powerful to account.

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Blood on Their Hands

By Mandy Matney

William Morrow

ISBN 9780063269217

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Journalist Mandy Matney discusses reporting on Alex Murdaugh, a man who destroys everyone in his wake. (2024)


What happened to Alex Murdaugh's money? ›

We now know how the rest of convicted killer Alex Murdaugh's money will be divvied up. A court-appointed special referee announced Monday that nearly 50% of Murdaugh's cash will go to the victims of the boat crash that killed Mallory Beach.

How much are the Murdaughs worth? ›

The Murdaugh family's net worth is estimated to be less than $1 million, a significant decline from their former wealth of $10 million.

Where is Buster Murdaugh now? ›

He reportedly resides in a condo with his girlfriend, Brooklynn White, on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Brooklynn works as an attorney at Olivetti, McCray and Withrow Law Firm, according to their website. Brooklynn purchased the condo in 2021, a month after the Murdaugh murders, according to Fox News.

What did Randy Murdaugh know? ›

In an interview with the New York Times, Randy Murdaugh says he knew Alex was a habitual liar and a thief. But asked if he believes Alex carried out the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, Randy Murdaugh said he still doesn't know.

Who inherited Alex Murdaugh's money? ›

Nearly half of Alex Murdaugh's remaining money will be distributed to the victims of a fatal Beaufort County boat crash allegedly caused by the disbarred attorney's late son, Paul, according to a court order issued Feb. 5.

Who got Maggie Murdaugh's estate? ›

On March 22, the 1,770-acre property where Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were fatally gunned down in 2021 was sold for $3.9 million to Murdaugh's former neighbor, Jeffrey Godley of Islandton, and James Ayer of Ehrhardt, The Post and Courier reports.

Who owns the Murdaugh house now? ›

Last year, Murdaugh was convicted by a jury for the murder of his 22-year-old son Paul and 52-year-old wife Maggie. The entire property of more than 1,700 acres last sold for $2.6 million in March of 2023 to James A. Ayer and Jeffrey L. Godley.

Did Maggie Murdaugh have assets? ›

Maggie was the sole owner of all of the family's Moselle property and a joint owner of the family's Edisto beach house. At the time of her death, Maggie had three mortgage encumbrances totaling more than two million dollars.

Why did Alex Murdaugh need so much money? ›

Murdaugh was certainly spending boatloads of cash – including significant amounts of money on his apparent addiction to oxycodone. But the mathematics of his profligacy and dependency were seemingly irreconcilable with the sums stolen – especially as it related to the drugs.

Does Buster Murdaugh support his father? ›

Buster Murdaugh admits his father has characteristics of a 'psychopath' but says he's innocent in Fox Nation documentary. Buster Murdaugh is speaking out for the first time claiming he does not believe his father, Alex Murdaugh, killed his mother and brother, but thinks it is fair to call his father a “psychopath.”

Did Buster have anything to do with the Murdaugh murders? ›

In the second season of Murdaugh Murders, Buster repeated his denial that he had a relationship with Smith. "I never had anything to do with his murder, and I never had anything to do with him on a physical level in any regard," he said.

What is Buster Murdaugh's alibi? ›

In the FOX Nation documentary, Buster for the first time offered an alibi for the night of Smith's death saying that he was at his family's Edisto Beach house with his late mother and brother. Hitting out at the rumours that continue to swirl, he said it was “a terrible thing” to be accused of.

Do Alex Murdaugh Brothers talk to him? ›

“He's not telling the truth, in my opinion, about everything there.” Randy – who despite supporting him in the courtroom has not spoken to his brother in more than a year – revealed he has questions about his brother's behaviour in the immediate aftermath of Maggie and Paul's slayings.

Do Alex Murdaugh's brothers think he is innocent? ›

He's not telling the truth, in my opinion, about everything there.” Randy's admission is in sharp contrast to a claim by his 54-year-old brother's defense team that the whole family was “more convinced” of the disgraced legal scion's innocence after his six-week trial.

What do Alex Murdaugh's brothers think of him? ›

In the first interview a family member has given since the trial, Randy Murdaugh said he had no doubt that his brother was a serial liar and a thief. He said he also believed that Alex had not told the whole truth about what he knew about the killings.

How much does Alex Murdaugh owe? ›

Murdaugh admitted he owed the Satterfield family $4.3 million in June 2022, and asked the court to uphold a judgement ordering him to pay the amount in restitution, according to court documents reviewed by WCBD.

How much debt is Alex Murdaugh in? ›

Alex Murdaugh was $4.2M in debt, overdrawn at bank, CEO testifies at murder trial.

How much did Alex Murdaugh make? ›

16, 2022. A grand jury indicts Murdaugh on nine counts of tax evasion, alleging he failed to pay almost $487,000 in state income taxes while making nearly $14 million over nine years.

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