The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) has released documents providing some additional information on the investigation into the deaths of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh, two members of a prominent South Carolina legal family, although some of the documents are heavily redacted.
SLED posted the documents after the Post and Courier newspaper filed a lawsuit on June 17 which alleged that SLED and Colleton County were violating the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act.
Attorney Alex Murdaugh found his wife, Maggie, and his son, Paul, shot to death in the family’s home around 10 p.m. According to the coroner, Maggie, 52, and Paul, 22, were killed between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., the Island Packet reported.
The original incident report was only two sentences long, the Post and Courier reported, and said simply that someone was called to respond to claims of two gunshot victims. The name of the first responder was redacted.
The newly-released documents redact some, but not all, of the names of officials who provided information as to what they found when they arrived at the scene, or in the following days as the investigation got underway. Nine pages out of the 18 provided are almost entirely redacted, providing little to no information as to what information is being blocked.
Also redacted are details of physical evidence that was taken into custody, and the location of where the bodies were found.
No suspects have been identified.
The Murdaugh family is somewhat of a legal institution in South Carolina. Alex Murdaugh’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all served as solicitors of the 14th circuit. All told, a Murdaugh family member held the position for 87 consecutive years, the longest a single family has held one office in U.S. history, the Island Packet reported at the time of the elder Murdaugh’s funeral.
It’s this legacy that led to speculation that Paul Murdaugh may have received special treatment for his alleged role in a February 2019 boat crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach. Beach’s body was discovered seven days after the crash, and some had suspected that the Murdaugh family’s standing in the legal community may have slowed the investigation. But the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, which would normally have jurisdiction over the case, recused itself due to the Murdaugh family’s decades-long ties to the office.
Paul Murdaugh had been charged with one count of boating under the influence causing death and two counts of boating under the influence causing great bodily injury, the Island Packet reported.
“In that case, it was immediately apparent Mr. Murdaugh would be a suspect, that his father owned the boat in which those involved were travelling [sic] and that other passengers were related to employees of my office,” said Duffie Stone, the current prosecutor in the office long occupied by the Murdaugh clan, in response to questions about whether he would recuse himself from the current murder investigation. His conclusion was that he need not do so based on his current knowledge of the case.
At the time of his death, Paul had pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in Beach’s death, and the Beach family attorney had alleged that law enforcement tried to improperly influence the investigation. There was also reportedly an investigation into whether members of the Murdaugh family had obstructed justice after the accident.
Murdaugh family members had previously said that Paul had received online threats over his role in the boat crash.
The criminal charges against Paul have been dropped on account of his death, but the investigation into the boat crash, along with the Beach family’s civil suit, will continue, according to the Island Packet.
Read the recently-released SLED documents, below.
[Image via screengrab/ABC News/Good Morning America, WJCL screengrab]
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