The office of South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson has received an investigatory report related to the tragic death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach of Hampton, S.C., who was killed in a boating crash two months ago in the Palmetto Lowcountry.
Beach died sometime before 2:00 a.m. EDT on February 24 when a 17-foot center console fishing boat operated by a yet-to-be-identified individual slammed into a pylon near the Archer’s Creek bridge just north of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) at Parris Island in Beaufort County, S.C.
Her body was found a week later …
All of the surviving passengers on the boat were described by local law enforcement as being “grossly intoxicated” in the aftermath of the crash. Also, all of them were underage at the time the accident occurred.
The report into the crash that killed Beach – prepared by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) – arrived at Wilson’s office this week.
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“We’ve received the report from the Department of Natural Resources and are reviewing it,” Wilson’s spokesman Robert Kittle told us on Wednesday afternoon. “I can’t comment beyond that.”
A SCDNR spokesperson also confirmed that the report had been provided to the attorney general’s office for review.
It is not immediately clear how long the review process will take.
As we have noted in our previous coverage, Wilson is on the hot seat after S.C. fourteenth circuit solicitor Duffie Stone recused himself from this case – citing his connections to the powerful Lowcountry family at the epicenter of the tragic tale.
That family – the Murdaughs of Hampton, S.C. – were the focus of an extensive historical piece filed earlier this month by reporters John Monk and Cody Dulaney of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper.
“For nearly a century, the Murdaugh name has stood for three things throughout South Carolina: power, justice and big money,” Monk and Dulaney wrote in their article. “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. 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.”
Wilson’s first difficult decision will be whether to handle this case himself or refer it to another solicitor. Assuming he does take it, he would then have to decide what – if any – criminal charges to seek on the basis of the findings of SCDNR’s inquiry.
SCDNR has been under fire for its alleged mishandling of this investigation from the very beginning. Specifically, the agency did not perform sobriety tests on any of the boaters – including the two individuals suspected to have been driving the craft at the time it crashed. Those individuals – 19-year-old Paul T. Murdaugh and 19-year-old Connor M. Cook – quickly lawyered up and became “uncooperative,” according to the agency.
SCDNR’s failure to perform sobriety tests – and the recusals of both Stone and the Beaufort County, S.C. sheriff’s office – have caused some to question the integrity of the investigation. Meanwhile, the agency’s contention that it lacked probable cause to perform sobriety tests on either of the suspected drivers has been widely pilloried.
Nonetheless, our sources at the agency believe the SCDNR report will exonerate the agency.
We shall see …
In the meantime, reporters Mandy Matney and Teresa Moss of The (Hilton Head, S.C.) Island Packet have been covering the Beach investigation on an almost daily basis for the past two months – breaking virtually every single major development in the case.
Earlier this week, Matney and Moss dropped another bombshell when they reported that two Lowcountry circuit judges – Perry Buckner and Carmen Mullen – recused themselves from being involved in a wrongful death case filed by Beach’s mother, Renee Beach.
According to letters obtained by the Packet reporters, Buckner referred the matter to Mullen – whose clerk in turn submitted a letter in which Mullen “recused herself from hearing all matters related to this case” and “forwarded (it) to the Chief Justice for assignment.”
No reason for the recusals was provided by either judge.
Mullen is no stranger to our readers given her questionable decisions during the #ProbeGate investigation into public corruption at the S.C. State House. Specifically, her lenience in sentencing was criticized by the prosecutor in that case, S.C. first circuit solicitor David Pascoe.
Renee Beach’s lawsuit (.pdf) specifically names Randolph Murdaugh III, Richard Alexander Murdaugh and Richard Alexander Murdaugh Jr. in connection with her daughter’s death, claiming that each one of these men contributed in their own way to the alleged underage drinking which the suit suggests caused the accident that killed her.
Additionally, Richard Alexander Murdaugh owns the boat that was involved in the crash.
It is not immediately clear which judge will hear the wrongful death case given the recusals of Buckner and Mullen.
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