A 22-year-old man from a prominent South Carolina legal family — who'd been charged for drunk driving a boat that crashed and killed a teenage girl in 2019 — was shot and killed along with his mother last week.
Paul Murdaugh and Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh, 52, were found dead on June 7 at their family hunting lodge in Islandton. On Monday, the coroner confirmed both died from multiple gunshot wounds. Authorities said they are treating the deaths as a homicide investigation and that no arrests have been made.
National interest has been sparked in the case because the Murdaughs are a wealthy and powerful family in Hampton, South Carolina, who, some argue, attempted to protect their son from legal consequences after Paul, then 19, crashed his father's boat while driving drunk to his family's island. The body of one of the boat's passengers, 19-year-old Mallory Beach, was found a week later.
Paul Murdaugh was indicted in April on three charges related to Beach's death and was awaiting trial.
"We know that everyone has questions and rumors are abundant, speculating what happened in the shooting deaths of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh," Tommy Crosby, a public information officer at the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, said in a statement. "It is important for the community to know that SLED is committed to conducting a complete, thorough, and independent investigation to ensure justice is served."
As of Monday, 19,821 people in the US had died in shootings this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. More than half of those deaths were due to suicide.
Already this year, a number of shootings have targeted multiple members of a family. In May, a man killed his parents, two police officers, and then himself during a shooting in North Carolina. A week later, a man entered a birthday party in Colorado Springs and killed his girlfriend and five members of her family. In April, a former NFL player killed six people, including a couple and two of their grandchildren. A man in Brooklyn killed his daughter's mother and two sisters at a birthday party. That same day, two brothers in Dallas who had made a murder-suicide pact killed six family members.
Local newspapers noted how muted the public grieving over the South Carolina shootings has been because of the powerful nature of the Murdaugh family and because people in the community have been upset over how authorities handled Beach's death.
"Three generations of Murdaughs have been state prosecutors, putting thousands of people in prison and sending more than a dozen to death row in a five-county, low-lying region of swamps, Spanish moss and forests where moonshiners once plied a thriving trade," a 2019 profile in the State magazine states. "And year after year, the family law firm in Hampton has won millions of dollars in civil lawsuits, relentlessly pursuing those at fault in fatal collisions."
Randolph Murdaugh III, a former chief prosecutor, turned up at the hospital on the night of the 2019 crash along with his son, Paul's father, a prominent attorney who works at a firm started by his family a century ago. They stopped the teenagers from cooperating with law enforcement, authorities said, and none of the people on the boat took a sobriety test that night.
In an odd twist, Murdaugh III died on June 10, three days after his grandson and daughter-in-law were found shot and killed.
Beach's mother, Renee Beach, had filed a wrongful death lawsuit against other members of Paul's family, including his grandfather, father, and brother.
After initial reports that the state would close its investigation into Beach's death after the death of the Murdaughs, authorities said they would keep it open.
“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,” attorney Jim Griffin, who had represented Paul Murdaugh during preliminary hearings, told the Island Packet on Monday.
Beach's family released a statement offering their condolences to the Murdaugh family after the shootings.
"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,” it states. "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.”
Friends and loved ones also posted on social media about the loss of the two Murdaugh family members.
"It’s not blood that makes you family, it’s love and respect," wrote Ashley Boulware Romero on Facebook. "The Murdaugh’s are family. We laugh hard, but love even harder. A life without Mrs. Maggie and Paul is so hard to imagine, but I am so thankful for all the memories to cherish and reflect on."
An obituary for Maggie Murdaugh, whose joint funeral with her son was on Friday, talked about her love for family.
"Maggie had a heart of pure generosity, and loved welcoming friends and family into her home on any given occasion," it states. "She adored her family, and cherished spending time on the boat with her two sons. She will be remembered as a 'second mom' to her sons' many friends. She made the most out of every situation, and lived each and every day to the fullest."