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Boat crash passenger suggests Murdaugh family may have been involved in deadly 2015 hit-and-run 


A recently unveiled deposition suggests that the late Paul Murdaugh (pictured) may have been involved in the 2015 death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith

A deposition from someone on board a boat driven by legal dynasty scion Paul Murdaugh when it crashed in 2019 suggests the prominent family have may been involved in the 2015 death of a South Carolina teen.

Connor Cook, who was a passenger during the boat crash that killed Mallory Beach, recorded a deposition in January 2020 that was unveiled in court last week.

According to the court document, Cook admitted to lying about events that took place the night of the crash because he feared the family would seek retaliation, citing unsubstantiated rumors that the Murdaughs had gotten away with crimes in the past. 

‘Anything they get in, they get out of. I’ve always been told that,’ Cook said in the deposition.

‘One was said that Paul [Murdaugh] had pushed his housemate down the stairs, and she died, and nothing ever happened. And another one, there was something that Paul was supposedly involved with a guy, got found beat up in the middle of the road, that they got out of.’  

Cook’s latter comment is believed to suggest that the family dynasty was involved in the July 2015 death 19-year-old Stephen Smith, Fox News reported.  

Stephen Smith, 19, (pictured with his mother Sandy) was found dead in the middle of a country road 15 miles from the Murdaugh family's Islandton hunting lodge on July 8, 2015. The coroner's report said he suffered severe head trauma

Stephen Smith, 19, (pictured with his mother Sandy) was found dead in the middle of a country road 15 miles from the Murdaugh family’s Islandton hunting lodge on July 8, 2015. The coroner’s report said he suffered severe head trauma

The teen's death was ruled a hit-and-run accident even though responding state troopers said they found 'no evidence to suggest the victim was struck by a vehicle'

The teen’s death was ruled a hit-and-run accident even though responding state troopers said they found ‘no evidence to suggest the victim was struck by a vehicle’

Smith was found dead on a rural South Carolina road near a Murdaugh property after having suffered severe head trauma. 

The teen’s death was ruled a hit-and-run accident even though responding state troopers said they found ‘no evidence to suggest the victim was struck by a vehicle’. 

Earlier this summer, police announced that they had reopened their investigation into Smith’s death, after new information was gathered during the investigation into the June 2021 double murder of Paul and his mother, Maggie Mudaugh. 

Case notes obtained by WCBD revealed that at the time of the alleged hit-skip, investigators received anonymous tips suggesting Paul and his older brother, Buster Murdaugh, as persons of interest.

‘We didn’t know who did it but we just heard that Buster did it,’ one tipster told investigators. 

‘Everybody knows who Buster is and like his family and all that so it’s kind of shocking.’

Records also note that a tipster raised the question of whether, ‘Stephen and Buster Murdaugh ever had any type of relationship.’ 

However, when investigators followed up with the person who had called in, he said he was just repeating ‘rumors.’

Earlier this summer, police announced that they had reopened their investigation into Stephen Smith's death (Pictured: Footage from the scene where Smith's body was found)

Earlier this summer, police announced that they had reopened their investigation into Stephen Smith’s death (Pictured: Footage from the scene where Smith’s body was found)

In another curious inclusion, an officer noted a tip called in by a man claiming that his stepson had named a local guy as the one who ‘struck and killed Stephen Smith.’ 

The tipster then failed to return any calls and when finally reached, ‘stated that the reason that he was passing this information on was because Randy Murdaugh told him to call.’ 

Randy is Paul and Buster’s uncle, patriarch Alex Murdaugh’s brother. 

Cook’s testimony, which echoes accusations made by community members alleging the family’s involvement in accident, was included as part of a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Beach’s family.

New information surrounding the Smith case was revealed during Connor Cook's deposition about a 2019 boat crash that killed Mallory Beach (pictured)

New information surrounding the Smith case was revealed during Connor Cook’s deposition about a 2019 boat crash that killed Mallory Beach (pictured)

Beach, 19, was killed when the Sea Hunt boat crashed into a Beaufort County bridge in February 2019. Several other passengers, including Cook, were injured during the accident. Beach’s body was found about a week after the crash. 

In the deposition recorded on Jan. 13, 2020, Cook claimed that while he was at the hospital the night of the crash, Paul’s father, Alex Murdaugh confronted him and instructed him not to tell investigators who was driving the boat.

According to the deposition, when asked why he was ‘not upfront with officers,’ Cook replied:

‘Well, I was told for one by Alex Murdaugh that I didn’t need to tell anyone who was driving.’

He continued, alleging that Alex told him: ‘That everything was going to be all right. I just needed to keep my mouth shut and tell them I didn’t know who was driving, and that he’s got me.’

Cook also argued that he was afraid to tell the truth because of the family’s reputation and rumors that they had gotten away with crimes in the past, the deposition states.

‘I was told not to, and being who they are, I was doing what I was told,’ Cook told investigators. 

Paul Murdaugh, who was 20 at the time of the crash, was indicted on three counts of boating under the influence in April 2019.

Before the case could go to trial, Paul, 22, and his mother, Maggie, 52, were fatally shot outside their family’s Colleton County home. Authorities have released little information on their investigation into the deaths so far. 

The state Attorney General’s Office officially dismissed the charges against Paul earlier this month in what officials described as a formality, however the investigation into the boat crash is still ongoing. 

Beach, 19, was killed and and several others, including Cook, were hurt when the Sea Hunt boat crashed into a Beaufort County bridge in February 2019

Beach, 19, was killed and and several others, including Cook, were hurt when the Sea Hunt boat crashed into a Beaufort County bridge in February 2019

Evidence photos revealing the stern of the boat which was involved in the 2019 accidental killing of Mallory Beach

Pictures of the crash scene were included in an evidence report of the crash

Evidence photos of the boat crash in South Carolina that killed Mallory Beach

Paul and Maggie were found dead from multiple gunshot wounds June 7, 2021. 

Alex Murdaugh has said he found the bodies after returning home from visiting his ill father for several hours. 

State agents have not named any suspects or people of interest, and they also haven’t publicly cleared anyone.

The Murdaugh family is offering a $100,000 reward to anyone who provides information that leads to the killer’s conviction and the State Law Enforcement Division continues to promote a 24-hour-a-day tip line for the case at (803) 896-2605.   

Paul and Maggie were found dead from multiple gunshot wounds June 7, 2021. Murdaugh family pictured from left to right: Paul, Margaret, Alex and Buster

Paul and Maggie were found dead from multiple gunshot wounds June 7, 2021. Murdaugh family pictured from left to right: Paul, Margaret, Alex and Buster

Paul and Maggie's bodies were said to be found near a dog kennel on the family's property above. State agents have not named any suspects or people of interest, and they also haven't publicly cleared anyone

Paul and Maggie’s bodies were said to be found near a dog kennel on the family’s property above. State agents have not named any suspects or people of interest, and they also haven’t publicly cleared anyone

The Murdaugh family has dominated the legal system of Hampton County, South Carolina for decades, prosecuting nearly every criminal case in the southern part of the state. 

Alex Murdaugh’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all longtime elected prosecutors and, along with other family members, have had successful private law practices.

The family controlled the local prosecutor’s office until 2006, when Duffie Stone, who Fox News says is a close family friend and colleague, got the job. 

The family’s power has helped them accrue vast amounts of wealth in the county, including owning more than 1,700 acres of land including the hunting lodge where the double murders took place.

 

 

 



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