People are fascinated by true crime. There are countless podcasts, articles, documentaries, and even TikTok videos on the subject. Perhaps it’s the mystery or the relatability to the victims. But whatever it is it is undeniable the prevalence it has in today’s society. And while we (at least I), would like to think these things only happen far away, that’s just not true. In fact, there are multiple instances of true crime stories from North and South Carolina.

Below you will find just a small subset of some of the most famous cases in the Carolinas. Some are extremely recent,  others from years ago. Some have been resolved others still have us asking questions. You can find a wealth of information involving these cases online and I’ve referenced documentaries you can watch to learn more as well. As someone who isn’t close to obsessed with the genre, I still went deep down the rabbit hole with some of these cases.

Know of some we missed? Let us know on social media and maybe we will do part two of true crime cases from North and South Carolina.

  • The Murdough Family

    We start out with the most recent of the crimes on this list. And one of the most twisted for lack of a better description.

    Who was killed: In 2021 Paul Murdaugh (22); Maggie Murdaugh (52) possibly linked: Stephen Smith (19) in 2015; Gloria Satterfield (57) in 2018; and Mallary Beach (19) in 2019

    What We Know: The Murdaugh family has been in the legal system in the SC Lowcountry for years. For four generations members of the family have been prosecutors in the area. In February of 2018, the family’s housekeeper Gloria Satterfield fell at the home where she hit her head and eventually succumbed to her injuries a few weeks later. One of the Murdaugh sons Alex claims responsibility and says he will sue himself to make sure Satterfield’s family receives financial compensation.

    The next incident occurs just over a year later when Mallory Beach goes missing after a boating crash. Beach had been out boating with her friends  Her body eventually washes up and two members of the Murdaugh family are named in a lawsuit regarding her death. In April of that year, Paul is indicted for boating under the influence causing death and bodily injury. He pleads not guilty to the charges.

    In June of 2021 mediation on the lawsuit fails to set the case up to head to trial. Just 3 days later Alex Murdaugh calls 911 reporting the discovery of the bodies of his wife (Maggie) and son (Paul). The pair died from “multiple gunshot wounds”. Members of the family plea to the public for information and put up a $100,000 reward. The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) says it’s also looking into the 2015 death of Stephen Smith in relation to the Murdaugh case.

    Alex then becomes subject to a financial investigation after a suspicious check is found in his office. He resigns in the wake of accusations he has been taking money from the law firm and its clients for his personal use. The next day Alex is shot in the head but survives. Another man is arrested in Alex’s “assisted suicide”, which was intended to leave the surviving Murdough son with Alex’s $10 million life insurance policy. Instead of getting him out of trouble now, he faces charges of insurance fraud. Several other lawsuits are filed as well.

    The Outcome: No arrests have been made in the death of Maggie and Paul. Alex faces multiple lawsuits and charges due to go to trial in the future.

    How You Can Watch: Deadly Dynasty (Investigation Discovery); 20/20 Special; Alex Murdaugh: Death. Deception. Power (Oxygen)

  • Kathleen Peterson "The Staircase"

    This true crime story comes to us out of Durham, NC.

    Who Was Killed: Kathleen Peterson (48)

    What We Know: It was December 2001 when Kathleen was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in her home. Her husband made the 911 call. After an autopsy, it was determined that Kathleen had died of blunt force trauma- a homicide. Her husband Michael Peterson was arrested and charged with her murder. When the case went to trial the defense claimed it was all an accident while the prosecution set to prove it was murder.

    During the trial, it came to light that Michael’s first wife was found dead in a similar manner. At the bottom of the stairs while the couple had been residing in Germany. Her children gave consent to have her body exhumed where it was discovered she had also died due to homicide.

    The Outcome: Michael was convicted of Kathleen’s murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. But due to allegations of mishandling of cases (including this one) by a North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation agent Peterson was given a re-trial. Eventually, he plead guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter.

    How You Can Watch: Murder On A Sunday Morning; The Staircase (Netflix); The Staircase (HBO Max)

  • Faith Hedgepath

    The next case we look at took place not far from the previous one. We now venture down 15-501 to Chapel Hill, NC.

    Who Was Killed: Faith Hedgepath

    What We  Know: Faith was found dead in her dorm room at UNC-Chapel Hill in September of 2012. Her cause of death- was blunt trauma to the head by a liquor bottle. Her bloodied body was discovered wrapped in a quilt partially undressed. Evidence found at the scene consisted of male DNA, semen,  and a note that seemed to allude to jealously as a cause of the murder.  The last time she was seen alive had been the night before when she returned home from a night out at a local club.

    Using the forensic evidence they were able to eliminate her roommate’s former boyfriend as a suspect who had shown signs of anger towards Hedgepath in the past. There were also texts from Hedgepath’s phone to her roommate’s boyfriend that night. Records involving the investigation were sealed for a while by Chapel Hill Police. They were finally unsealed in 2014, two years after the attack.

    The Outcome: In September 2021 an arrest was finally made in the case. Miguel Salguero-Olivares was charged with first-degree murder in Hedgepath’s death after his  DNA was discovered to match that found at the scene. The man had been arrested after a drunk-driving incident. This case has not yet gone to trial, but when it does it will be heavily watched. 

    How To Watch: Investigation Discovery: The Missing Pieces Faith Hedgepath; 20/20 Love Hope and Faith

  • Steve Clayton The Eye Drop Homicide

    This murder occurred in South Carolina but just across the Charlotte border in Lake Wylie, SC.

    Who Was Killed: Steve Clayton

    What We Know: Lana Clayton,  Steve’s wife, discovered his dead body. He was found at the bottom of a staircase, but this case is nothing like the previous staircase. Initial reports said that Clayton passed away due to a heart attack but his nephew who was a law enforcement officer noticed something was off. For instance, she had a neighbor call 9-1-1 instead of using one of the multiple phones in the home. Lana was also a nurse but didn’t attempt to perform CPR

    The family asked for a toxicology report along with an autopsy. It was found that not only did Steve not die of a heart attack, but the toxicology report also showed tetrahydrozoline in Clayton’s system. Tetrahydrozoline is a chemical found in Visine eye drops. The cause of death was found to be poisoning. In smaller amounts, it can cause nausea, dizziness, confusion,  and other symptoms. But in a  large amount such as what was found in Steve- it can cause respiratory failure and death.

    Lana claimed he put the eye drops in his coffee “to help him use the bathroom” and that he had been doing this for years. She also immediately knew by name that tetrahydrozoline was Visine.

    The Outcome: When detectives went to the house with Lana she confessed.  She claimed his death was an accident and that she just wanted him to suffer. She was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

    **Note a few weeks later that was a very similar case to this one that happened just up the road in Mount Holly, NC. The victim, in that case, was Stacy Huntsinger.

    How To Watch: 48 Hours: The Eye Drop Killer

  • Serial Killer Todd Kohlhepp

    Kohlhepp was a serial killer who murdered 7 individuals in South Carolina between 2003 and 2016.

    Who Was Killed: Scott Ponder (30); Brian Lucas (29); Chris Sherbert (26); Beverly Guy (52) [all in 2003]; Charles David Carter (32) [2016]; Johnny Joe Coxie (29); Meagan Leigh McCraw-Coxie (26) [bodies found in 2016 both went missing in 2015].

    What We Know: The first four victims were found dead in a motorcycle store in Chesnee, SC. Each had received multiple gunshot wounds. Carver and his girlfriend Kala Brown disappeared after going to remove brush from a property owned by Kohlhepp. Carver was found dead on the property with multiple gunshot wounds. Brown was found alive and chained inside a storage container. Police were able to locate her thanks to the last known cellphone signals from the couple. She claimed she saw Kohlhepp shoot Carver.

    He also repeatedly abused Brown and showed her Carver and other victims’ graves to keep her from escaping. He was arrested and the two other victims were discovered.

    The Outcome: He confessed to the killings at the Chesnee store as well as the Coxies. But also told his mother during the ordeal that he had other victims in fact too many to count on his hands. Kohlhepp plead guilty to seven counts of murder, two counts of kidnapping, and one count of criminal sexual assault. He was sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences.

    How To Watch: Serial Killer: The Devil Unchained; Inside The Mind Of A Serial Killer

  • Asha Degree

    Asha disappeared in Shelby, NC more than 20 years ago.

    Who Was Killed: Possibly Asha but her body was never  found

    What We Know: Sometime between the hours of 2:30 am and 6:30 am Asha quietly disappeared from her NC home. There were no signs of forced entry or clues to where she might have gone. A massive search was held and some tips did roll in from the community. Witnesses said they saw a girl matching her description walking down the highway towards to town of Shelby.

    Officials believe she did leave home voluntarily and even discovered her backpack  20 miles away over a year later. Some items belonged to Asha but other contests of the backpack did not.

    The Outcome: This case is still unfortunately unresolved. No other trace of Asha has shown up. It however is not a cold case and is still continuously worked on to this day. Someone out there has answers to what happened, why she left, and ultimately is she is still alive.

    How To Watch: Cold Case The Unresolved Disappearance of Asha Degree

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