The son and mom of a prominent South Carolina legal family had been shot multiple times in their mystery double murder last week while he was awaiting trial for the ‘drunk’ boating death of a 19-year-old girl.
Paul Murdaugh, 22, and his mom Margaret, 52, were found shot dead at their hunting lodge in Islandton, South Carolina on the night of June 6.
Colleton County Coroner Richard Harvey told the Post and Courier Monday they had each been shot multiple times, with their time of death placed at between 9pm and 9.30pm.
Richard Alex Murdaugh – Paul’s father and Margaret’s husband and a part-time prosecutor for the 14th Circuit solicitor’s office – is said to have discovered their bodies at 10pm. Sources said he told cops he had been out shooting and returned to the grim scene.
Paul had been awaiting trial on charges relating to the 2019 boating death of Mallory Beach, who was thrown from the boat Paul was allegedly driving while drunk when he crashed it.
Questions around a possible tie between the incident and last week’s killings continue to mount as the state attorney general is refusing to close the case into the boat crash despite the death of the man accused of being culpable.
The Murdaugh family has ruled the county’s legal system for decades, prosecuting nearly every criminal case in the southern part of the state.
Several family members have served as county elected prosecutors in the 14th Circuit solicitor’s office going back almost a century. The local community felt Paul was receiving special treatment in the boating death case due to his family’s power.
Three days after Monday’s murders, Paul’s grandfather Richard Murdaugh III died aged 81, although his death is believed to have been the result of natural causes.
Buster, Margaret, Paul and Richard Alex Murdaugh (left to right). Margaret, 52, and Paul Murdaugh, 22, were found dead, shot multiple times, in the backyard of their sprawling estate in Islandton, South Carolina, June 6
Paul had been awaiting trial on charges relating to the 2019 boating death of Mallory Beach (pictured), who was thrown from the boat Paul was allegedly driving while drunk when he crashed it
‘That is all the information we are releasing at this time,’ Harvey said Monday.
‘They were both shot multiple times and SLED will take it from here,’ he said, referring to the State Law Enforcement Division.
The coroner said authorities would know more when the full autopsy is completed in around six weeks’ time.
Harvey refused to answer any further questions about the case or confirm reports that two separate firearms were used in the slayings.
A law enforcement source last week told The Island Packet Paul was shot in the head and upper body with a shotgun, while Margaret was shot with an assault rifle.
The source said Paul was thought to have been the intended victim of the shooting while Margaret was likely in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Their bodies were found several yards apart from one another and shell casings were discovered at the scene, they said.
Their deaths have been ruled a double homicide and the investigation is being led by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
SLED spokesman Tommy Crosby told The Post and Courier it would not be releasing records into the investigation saying they would require heavy redaction which would make them unreadable.
SLED was handed the case from Colleton County Sheriff’s office due to the Murdaugh family ties to the 14th Circuit solicitor’s office.
The Murdaugh family home where the two bodies were found. Colleton County Coroner Richard Harvey said they had each been shot multiple times, with their time of death placed at between 9pm and 9.30pm
The bodies were said to be found near a dog kennel on the family’s property by Richard Alex Murdaugh – Paul’s father and Margaret’s husband and a part-time prosecutor for the 14th Circuit solicitor’s office
Officials continue to remain tight-lipped about the investigation with no suspect, person of interest, motive or details released more than one week on from the double murder.
They have ruled the deaths a double homicide but insisted there is no risk to the public.
Requests for information Tuesday and Saturday from SLED were denied, with Crosby citing an active investigation – even though South Carolina state law requires police to provide some records on cases in the days following an incident.
And yet the only report released to date is a one-line statement from Colleton County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday.
It reads: ‘On June 7, 2021 at approximately 2226 hours I responded to 4147 Moselle Rd in Colleton County in reference to two gunshot victims found by the caller.’
Rumors continue to swirl over the case given the silence from officials and Paul’s charges over the boating death.
The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office said Monday the charges had been dropped following Paul’s death but that the investigation remains open.
Paul (right) – the son of a powerful South Carolina legal family – is thought to have been the intended target of the shooting that also killed his mom Margaret (left)
Paul, Margaret, Richard Alex and Buster. The Murdaugh family has ruled the county’s legal system for decades, prosecuting nearly every criminal case in the southern part of the state
Richard Alex and Margaret pictured together. Officials continue to remain tight-lipped about the double murders
‘We had every intention of moving forward with Paul Murdaugh’s prosecution,’ spokesperson Robert Kittle told the Island Packet.
‘While the charges against him will be dismissed, the case has not been closed because the investigation is not finished.’
The local paper had asked the office for the case files.
This has fueled speculation about why the investigation is still ongoing, with the attorney representing Paul saying he believes it suggests cops are probing a tie between the 2019 death and the double murder.
‘I can understand that they would not want to open the investigative file to disclosure because there may be information related to the murder investigation,’ said attorney Jim Griffin.
Paul was awaiting trial on three felony charges of facing one count of boating under the influence causing death and two counts of boating under the influence causing great bodily injury over the death of Mallory in 2019.
According to depositions filed as part of a lawsuit brought by Mallory’s family last year, he and Mallory were part of a group of six who went by boat to an oyster roast on Paukie Island on February 23 2019.
The group left to head back around midnight.
Witnesses at the party said they urged the group not to travel by boat as it was foggy and cold and they had been drinking.
Paul was ‘grossly intoxicated’, got into an argument in a bar and insisted on driving the boat, according to testimony.
Mallory Beach (pictured). Questions around a possible tie between her boating death and last week’s murders continue to mount as the state attorney general is refusing to close the case into the boat crash despite the death of the man accused of being culpable
Paul’s attorney said the fact the 2019 case is not closed suggests a tie between the case and the murders
Paul’s cousin Anthony Cook, who was also Mallory’s boyfriend, said Paul was behaving erratically in the moments before the crash.
He started yelling at his girlfriend and slapped her, before stripping down into his underwear in the 40 degree weather, he said.
‘Paul for some reason acted like he was on drugs or something. He started taking his clothes off during one of the arguments, and it is 40 degrees outside,’ Cook sad in his testimony.
‘I’ve seen him do it a few times when gets drinks. I don’t know why he does that.’
Paul then allegedly pushed the boat full throttle and it crashed into bridge pilings that lead to Parris Island.
Mallory was thrown from the boat and drowned. It took dive teams nine days to find her body in the water.
Cook also testified that Paul would often get drunk and become a different person, earning him the nickname ‘Timmy’.
An excerpt from testimony by Anthony Cook, who is Paul’s cousin and was Mallory’s boyfriend at the time, describing Paul strip down to his boxers
Excerpt from Cook’s testimony about Paul’s drunk alter ego ‘Timmy’
Excerpt from Cook’s testimony about the arguments before the boat accelerated and crashed
‘It’s a different name because he turns into a completely – totally different person. So somebody will say, ‘All right. Here comes Timmy. We got to go.”‘
Paul pleaded not guilty and was due to stand trial.
The day after the boating accident – and weeks before Paul was charged – the 14th Circuit solicitor’s office told the attorney general about the conflict of interest.
Mallory’s mother filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against the family last year.
The suit also named Parker’s convenience store, saying a store clerk sold alcohol to two of the underage teens that night after one of them flashed a fake ID.
Both Mallory and Paul were underage at the time.
The first two judges it was assigned to each recused themselves from the suit and it was eventually handed to a judge from another county in the state.
The Beach family released a statement after the murders saying they hoped the killer would be brought to justice.
‘The Beach Family extends its deepest and warmest sympathies to the Murdaugh family during this terrible time.
‘Having suffered the devastating loss of their own daughter, the family prays that the Murdaughs can find some level of peace from this tragic loss.
‘They would like the family and the community to know that their thoughts and continued prayers are with the Murdaughs.
Authorities are refusing to release almost any information about the investigation despite state rules. Colleton County Sheriff’s Office released this one-line statement Tuesday
‘It is their most sincere hope that someone will come forward and cooperate with authorities so that the perpetrator of these senseless crimes can be brought to justice.’
Paul’s family connections are believed by some in the local community to have landed him with softer treatment from prosecutors.
There are now growing concerns the family’s powerful role in the county’s legal system could jeopardize the current murder investigation and the search for the killer or killers.
The sheriff’s office handed the case to SLED last week due to the Murdaugh family ties to the 14th Circuit solicitor’s office, according to The Post and Courier.
Richard Alex works as a part time prosecutor for the office.
On Thursday, Richard Murdaugh III – Paul’s grandfather and Margaret’s father-in-law, died aged 81 from an unspecified illness
Three generations of the family – Richard Alex’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather – ran the office consecutively from 1920 through 2005.
There was a brief gap in 1995 when Buster Murdaugh was accused of helping moonshiners evade authorities.
It is now headed up by non-family member Duffie Stone.
However, the 14th Circuit solicitor’s office is still involved with the investigation and has not handed off the case, reported The Post and Courier.
Funerals were held Friday for Paul and Margaret. Hundreds including public officials gathered for the service as they were laid to rest in Hampton Cemetery.
Richard Alex and Margaret also had another son named Buster.
As well as dominating the 14th Circuit solicitor’s office, Randolph Murdaugh also founded law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick in 1910.
The Murdaugh 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.
They have been struck by other tragedy in the past with Randolph killed when a freight train hit his car.