Watch: The Truth Behind Our Obsession With True Crime Stories
The tangled web being woven by one South Carolina family has all the makings of an award-winning mini series.
For more than eight decades, the Murdaughs have held as the Lowcountry's top prosecutors. But with great power comes great responsibility—and criticism.
The Murdaugh family's eldest, 53-year-old Alex Murdaugh, learned this the hard way when his youngest, Paul, was involved in a deadly boat crash on Feb. 24, 2019. The tragedy shined a light on the family's potential influence over law enforcement, but not even local community members could predict the next turn in this still-unfolding saga.
On June 7, 22-year-old Paul and his 55-year-old mother, Maggie Murdaugh, were found dead on the family's hunting property.
Fast forward three months later, on Sept. 4, Alex was shot, igniting a quick chain of events that caused investigations into two other deaths, the arrest of a South Carolina local and the fall of a legal dynasty.
But let's start at the beginning.
Death of Mallory Beach in February 2019:
According to a police report obtained by E! News, authorities believe Paul, then 19, was driving his father's 17-foot boat on Archer's Creek, when it crashed into a bridge, launching six individuals between the ages of 18 and 20 into the water. While five of the six passengers surfaced moments later, 19-year-old Mallory Beach was nowhere to be found.
A week later, the Beach family's worst fears came true when her remains were found nearly five miles away from the crash site. An autopsy report stated that the cause of death was drowning and blunt force trauma.
In the midst of their mourning, the Beach family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a chain of convenience stores, Alex and 25-year-old Richard Alexander "Buster" Murdaugh Jr., alleging that the defendants supplied the underage group with alcohol. E! News reached out to the Murdaugh family spokesperson and lawyer for comment, but did not hear back.
But while the Beach family moved quickly to seek justice for their daughter, authorities were slow to make an arrest, fueling speculation that the family's status may have been protecting Paul.
These claims were pure gossip, but it certainly didn't help that the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said in multiple court documents that Paul was "uncooperative" throughout the investigation and that officers did not perform alcohol breath tests on him.
Eventually, Paul was indicted on three charges in April 2020: Boating under the influence causing death and two counts of boating under the influence causing great bodily injury. According to the indictment obtained by E! News, Paul pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on a personal recognizance bond of $50,000. Following his death, the charges were dropped.
Deaths of Paul & Maggie Murdaugh in June 2021:
That was just the beginning of the Murdaughs' problems. Alex drove up to the Murdaugh's Islandton home in the late hours of June 7, 2021. According to the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), Alex found his wife Maggie and son Paul dead near the dog kennels. The press release stated the mother and son died of multiple gunshot wounds.
The double murder sent shockwaves through the community and prompted even more speculation about the Murdaugh family. So much so that SLED issued a statement assuring the community they are "committed to a thorough, fair, and impartial investigation."
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