Twenty-year-old Paul Murdaugh appeared in a Beaufort County, South Carolina courtroom on Monday and pleaded not guilty to multiple charges stemming from a February 24, 2019 (or thereabouts) boat crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach of Hampton, S.C.
S.C. circuit court judge Steven H. John ordered Murdaugh be released on a $50,000 personal recognizance bond while he awaits trial – stipulating that for the time being he not leave the S.C. fourteenth judicial circuit, (which encompasses Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties).
That is the same circuit where three generations of the Murdaugh family served in the role of solicitor from 1920-2016 – including his grandfather, Randolph Murdaugh III, who was solicitor from 1986-2006.
The Murdaughs of Hampton, S.C. – whose political, prosecutorial and law enforcement connections go back decades – were the focus of an extensive historical piece filed last month by reporters John Monk and Cody Dulaney of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper.
“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,” Monk and Dulaney wrote. “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.”
The current solicitor – Duffie Stone – is one of numerous officials to recuse himself in connection with this high-profile case. Two circuit court judges in Beaufort – Perry Buckner and Carmen Mullen – have also recused themselves, as has the entire Beaufort County, S.C. sheriff’s office.
Beach (below) died tragically when a 17-foot center console fishing boat 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.
(Click to view)
Her body was found a week later – five miles from the crash site. Beaufort coroner J. Edward Allen determined she died of blunt force trauma and drowning.
All five 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 crash has been investigated by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) with assistance from the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
Despite concerns about SCDNR’s collection of evidence related to the case (or lack thereof), Paul Murdaugh was charged in mid-April by a Beaufort grand jury with one count of boating under the influence resulting in death and two counts of boating under the influence causing great bodily injury.
He is facing up to 55 years in prison on those three charges.
Accompanied by his influential father, Richard Alexander Murdaugh, and his attorneys – including state senator Dick Harpootlian – Murdaugh did not speak during the 15-minute court hearing on Monday.
According to reporters Teresa Moss andMandy Matney of The (Hilton Head, S.C.) Island Packet, Murdaugh “was escorted out of the back of the courtroom” when the hearing was over for processing. Twenty minutes later he “walked out of the courtroom silently with his mother and father.”
Here is the processing photo of Murdaugh provided by the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson, which is handling the case …
(Click to view)
(Via: S.C. Attorney General)
Appearing in court on behalf of the state, assistant attorney general Megan Burchstead argued that Murdaugh’s alleged underage drinking was “a concern of the state.”
“We do have concern of a danger to the community given that this case involves the use of alcohol,” she told judge John.
In addition to the criminal case against Paul Murdaugh, Beach’s mother – Renee Beach – has filed a wrongful death suit in Hampton County, S.C. naming three members of the Murdaugh family among a list of defendants.
Her lawsuit (.pdf) specifically names Randolph Murdaugh III, Richard Alexander Murdaugh and Richard Alexander Murdaugh Jr. (Paul Murdaugh’s brother) in connection with Mallory Beach’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.
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