Buster Murdaugh files massive defamation lawsuit against Netflix, Warner Brothers

Buster Murdaugh, the son of convicted killer Alex Murdaugh, has filed a defamation lawsuit against several media and entertainment companies for linking him to the death of Stephen Smith.

The suit is against a number of companies, naming  Blackfin, Inc., Warner Bros, Discovery, Inc., Warner Media Entertainment Pages, Inc., Campfire Studio, Inc., The Cinemart LLC, Netlfix, Inc., Gannett Co., Inc., and Michael M. DeWitt, Jr., as defendants.

Alex Murdaugh was convicted of killing his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, in 2021. He was also tied to several financial crimes related to his time as a lawyer in South Carolina. As the case grew, some targeted Buster Murdaugh and alleged a link between him and the death of Smith, a gay man, found dead in 2015. Police have not linked Buster to Smith’s death - which remains under investigation.

Buster alleges a slew of documentaries and stories published have attempted to link him to the death of Smith, calling this defamatory after they falsely accused him, leading to damage to his reputation and mental anguish, according to court documents obtained by WCSC.

He is now seeking an unspecified amount of money because of the "reckless conduct of the defendants in falsely accusing him of being involved in the murder of Stephen Smith," according to court documents also obtained by WCIV.

Buster claims each of the defendants had created a false narrative that he was involved in the death of Stephen Smith, the lawsuit states.

Buster Murdaugh has filed a massive lawsuit against Netflix, Gannett and others over linking him to the death of Stephen Smith. (AP)
Buster Murdaugh has filed a massive lawsuit against Netflix, Gannett and others over linking him to the death of Stephen Smith. (AP)

The only individual to be named in the suit is Michael DeWitt Jr, a journalist and editor from South Carolina. The lawsuit alleged that DeWitt appeared in the Netflix series Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal, and claimed that he was falsely accusing Buster of being involved in the murder of Smith.

“The statements were made with reckless indifference to the truth,” the lawsuit reportedly said.

The suit claims that the Netflix series also depicts “a young man with red hair carrying a baseball bat.”

“The Plaintiff has red hair, and it is readily ascertainable from the content of the series that the creators were depicting the Plaintiff as the murderer of Stephen Smith,” the court documents stated.

Other documentaries were named in the case, such as Murdaugh Murders: Deadly Dynasty, which the suit claims included a 10-minute segment that made allusions to Buster as Smith’s murderer. Blackfin Inc. produced the series, and Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. streamed and broadcasted the program.

The suit also touched on Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty, which was created and produced by Campfire Studios Inc. and distributed through Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. Buster claims the program allegedly included false statements that suggested he and others murdered Smith by striking him with a baseball bat, as well as allegedly accusing Buster of murdering Smith because of his sexual identity.

The lawsuit states that Buster “has not been notified by any law enforcement entities of any allegations against him related to Stephen Smith’s death.”

Smith’s mother, Sandy Smith, named Buster as the prime suspect in her son’s murder in a letter begging the FBI to get involved in the case. The case has been reopened, but nobody has been charged in connection to Stephen Smith’s death.

In April 2023, the agency then finally announced that Smith’s death was being investigated as a homicide, and his body was exhumed for a private autopsy.

The Independent has contacted Gannett Co Inc., Warner Brothers, and Netflix for comment.

Buster, Maggie, Paul and Alex Murdaugh left to right. Alex Murdaugher was convicted of killing Maggie and Paul in 2021. (Maggie Murdaugh/Facebook)
Buster, Maggie, Paul and Alex Murdaugh left to right. Alex Murdaugher was convicted of killing Maggie and Paul in 2021. (Maggie Murdaugh/Facebook)

In March 2023, Alex Murdaugh was found guilty of two counts of murder in the deaths of his wife Maggie and his 22-year-old son Paul who were found shot dead on the family’s 1,700-acre Moselle estate on June 7, 2021.

During his high-profile murder trial, jurors heard how Paul was shot twice with a 12-gauge shotgun while he stood in the feed room of the dog kennels. The second shot to his head blew his brain almost entirely out of his skull. After killing Paul, prosecutors said Murdaugh then grabbed a .300 Blackout semiautomatic rifle and opened fire on Maggie as she tried to flee. Murdaugh confessed to lying about his alibi on the night of the murders but continued to claim his innocence of the killings.

Prosecutors argued that he killed his family to distract from his financial crimes – which threatened to ruin the powerful South Carolina family’s reputation. In a dramatic moment at his trial, Murdaugh took the stand and confessed to running a vast financial fraud scheme. He was ultimately sentenced to two consecutive life terms for the killings.

From 2008 until 2021, Murdaugh swindled dozens of law firm clients out of millions of dollars of funds including the family of his longtime housekeeper Gloria Satterfield who helped raise his sons.

Nearly a year after his murder conviction, Murdaugh was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the federal financial fraud crimes.