In the twelve days since two members of one of South Carolina’s most powerful families were savagely murdered at their hunting lodge in Colleton county, the local prosecutor with jurisdiction over the area – Duffie Stone – has consistently attempted to steer investigators away from any theory which might implicate members of the wealthy, influential Murdaugh family, multiple sources familiar with the ongoing double homicide have told me.
Shortly after 10:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, June 7, 2021, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh and 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh – both of Hampton, S.C. – were found dead outside a residential building located on a sprawling 1,700-acre hunting property bordering the Salkehatchie River.
The Murdaughs’ bodies were discovered by R. Alexander “Alex” Murdaugh – Maggie’s husband and Paul’s father. Multiple law enforcement and prosecutorial sources with direct knowledge of the investigation told me Alex Murdaugh was identified early on as a “person of interest” in the case, but as I have repeatedly noted Murdaugh is said to have provided investigators with an “ironclad” alibi for his whereabouts at the time of the killings.
In addition to his position at the prominent regional law firm of Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick (PMPED), Alex Murdaugh assists Stone’s office with cases. In fact, Murdaugh reportedly carries a fourteenth circuit badge issued by Stone.
Both Murdaughs sustained multiple wounds from different weapons – including at least one semi-automatic rifle and at least one shotgun. Nearly two weeks since their murders, however, police have not arrested anyone or named anyone as a suspect in connection with the case. Nonetheless, they have consistently reassured nervous neighbors there is “no danger to the public.” The agency leading the investigation – the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – has also kept a very tight lid on its inquiries, declining to release any information as to what its agents believe may have happened on the Murdaugh hunting property, known as “Moselle.”
This lack of information has prompted all manner of speculation as to who may have perpetrated these shocking killings – which have drawn national and international attention.
Since SLED took control of this investigation immediately after the killings, its agents have been casting a wide net in the hopes of excluding any individuals who may have had a possible motive for the crime.
From everything I have seen, SLED has been conducting a thorough, deliberate and unbiased inquiry into the Murdaugh murders. This is consistent with the reputation of its chief Mark Keel – a brusque, no-nonsense law man who eschews the limelight and focuses on finding the truth.
While I certainly wish Keel’s agency would be a bit more forthcoming in terms of releasing information to the public about this case, I certainly understand the need to maintain the integrity of such a high-profile investigation.
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While Keel and his agents have been meticulously combing through the forensic evidence obtained at the crime scene and conducting other searches in the hopes of identifying the perpetrators of this crime, solicitor Stone and his investigators have taken a different tack. According to my sources, they have been engaged in a nonstop campaign to exonerate the Murdaugh family – which has been connected to several recent suspicious deaths (including a fatal 2019 boat crash which killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach of Hampton, S.C.).
Stone and his investigators even positioned themselves at the crime scene – repeatedly – a hugely controversial breach of prosecutorial ethics and etiquette.
At the time of his murder, Paul Murdaugh was facing three felony boating under the influence (BUI) charges in connection with the boat crash that killed Beach. He pleaded not guilty to each of those charges and was awaiting his day in court. Meanwhile, his father Alex – who owned the boat Paul was allegedly driving under the influence at the time of the crash – is a defendant in an ongoing civil action.
Also, in the aftermath of the double homicide two weeks ago this news outlet has learned that Alex Murdaugh and perhaps other members of his family are part of an ongoing investigation into alleged obstruction of justice in the aftermath of the boat crash.
Despite all of this, Stone and his investigators appear to be unwilling to explore any theory related to the double homicide that might implicate the Murdaugh family in any way. In fact, there are even reports that Stone and his investigators are conducting a “shadow investigation” which will seek to duplicate SLED’s findings in an effort to hold the statewide law enforcement agency “accountable” for the results of its probe.
To be clear: My SLED sources have aggressively debunked the insinuation that Stone and his investigators – or for that matter anyone outside the inquiry – has had any undue influence in guiding the direction of the investigation. Not only do I concur with that assessment, there is absolutely no evidence at this point to suggest that Stone and his investigators have in any way, shape or form compromised the integrity of the probe.
SLED is in control. And I have faith that SLED will not only identify and apprehend those responsible for the Murdaugh murders but also potentially get to the bottom of a host of other unsolved mysteries linked to this family.
Still, Stone’s meddling in the inquiry – even if it is well-intentioned – is wildly inappropriate.
“Duffie just cannot bring himself to believe that anyone in the family could have had anything to do with this,” a source close to the investigation told me last week.
Maybe Stone is right, too … maybe the Murdaughs had nothing to do with this. And maybe his desire to “help” SLED is motivated by a genuine zeal for truth and justice.
Alex Murdaugh and other members of his family could very well be the victims of this savage crime – but even if that were the case, Stone’s proximity to the family should compel him to recuse himself from any prosecutions stemming from the Murdaugh murders or related inquiries. I called on Stone to recuse himself nine days ago. Meanwhile, just five days ago, our news director Mandy Matney published an expansive piece detailing Stone’s history with the Murdaughs and the depths of his conflict.
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(Via: S.C. Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor)
Matney’s piece also reminded readers that Stone (above) recused himself from prosecuting Paul Murdaugh in the aftermath of the 2019 boat crash – and uncovered a 2020 quote from the solicitor in which he argued that prosecutors with conflicts of interest “cannot objectively analyze the facts and the law.”
Sadly, Stone has refused to heed his own counsel …
Accordingly, at this point I believe it is up to S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson to step in and assume control over all prosecutions related to the Murdaugh murders – as well as any related cases. Wilson’s office – and in particular senior deputy assistant attorney general Megan Burchstead – did an excellent job in connection with the 2019 boat crash case, proving that the pursuit of justice for Mallory Beach took primacy over the Murdaughs’ extensive political connections.
Not only should Wilson’s office handle any and all charges that may stem from the Murdaugh murders, I believe the statewide grand jury – which Wilson administers – needs to be engaged immediately (if it hasn’t been engaged already) as part of an effort to uncover the truth related to the other unsolved deaths in Hampton county with purported links to this powerful family.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass player and a dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including the above-pictured Brooklyn Dodgers’ lid commemorating the 1947 major league baseball debut of Jackie Robinson).
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