Son, 22, of prominent South Carolina legal family found murdered with his mom, 52, was ‘targeted’ say police and was killed days after a court hearing for 2019 ‘drunk’ boating death of girl, 19
The heir to a legal dynasty awaiting trial over the death of a 19 year-old girl was the intended target of a shooting that killed him and his mom, police sources say.
Paul Murdaugh, 22, and his mom Margaret, 52, were found shot dead at their hunting lodge in Islandton, South Carolina around 10pm on Monday, with a law enforcement source since claiming that Paul was the intended victim.
The source told The Island Packet that Margaret was likely killed just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Paul had been awaiting trial on charges relating to the 2019 boating death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach, who was thrown from the boat Paul was allegedly driving while drunk when he crashed it.
He was shot in the head and upper body with a shotgun, while Margaret was shot with an assault rifle, the source said.
Their bodies were found several yards apart from one another and shell casings were discovered at the scene.
Their deaths have been ruled a double murder and two firearms – a shotgun and an assault rifle – were used to carry out the killings.
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.
Gossip over the shocking killings of two members of a family spawning multiple generations of local prosecutors has reached fever pitch, with cops yet to officially reveal a motive, suspect, or any further information about the case.
They insist there is no risk to the public, despite not having made any arrests, sparking further discussion over what investigators know but have yet to say.
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 going back almost 87 years. The local community felt Paul was receiving special treatment in the boating death case due to his family’s power.
Questions are now mounting about the murders, as authorities have fallen silent and are refusing to release almost any information about the investigation.
A South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) spokesman also stonewalled DailyMail.com when contacted Saturday night, saying only: ‘No additional information is available at this time while we are conducting an active investigation.’
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 guns
A spokesperson for Colleton County Sheriff’s Office told DailyMail.com Saturday they could not release any information about the case and that SLED is leading the investigation.
There are growing concerns the family’s powerful role in the county’s legal system could jeopardize the investigation and the search for the killer or killers.
The sheriff’s office handed the case to SLED due to the Murdaugh family ties to the 14th Circuit solicitor’s office, according to The Post and Courier.
Richard Alex Murdaugh – Margaret’s husband and Paul’s dad – works as a part time prosecutor for the 14th Circuit solicitor’s office.
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.
It was Richard Alex who reportedly found the bodies of his wife and son around 10pm Monday night. Sources said he told cops he had been out shooting and returned to the grim scene.
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.
DailyMail.com has reached out to the solicitor’s office asking if it plans to remove itself from the case due to potential conflict of interest.
Former University of South Carolina law dean Robert Wilcox told the Post and Courier the solicitor’s office’s involvement does not pose ethical issues yet.
Conflicts of interest could however arise depending on where the investigation leads and who is identified as a suspect, he said.
‘That mere fact that the Murdaugh name is closely associated with the solicitor’s office doesn’t cause me any concerns at this point,’ Wilcox said.
‘We have no idea who the solicitor will ultimately be engaged in prosecuting.’
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, 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.
Paul’s cousin Anthony Cook 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, he said.
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.
Paul pleaded not guilty and was due to stand trial.
Paul’s family connections are believed by some to have landed him with softer treatment from prosecutors.
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 charges will now be dropped against Paul but the lawsuit will continue.
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.
‘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.’
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.