The ‘Murdaugh Murders’ saga – set in the steamy, seedy South Carolina Lowcountry – was already well on its way to becoming one of America’s most riveting true crime dramas. And that was before its leading actor sustained a mysterious gunshot wound Saturday afternoon on the side of a rural road in Hampton county, S.C. – just a few miles from the hunting property where his wife and youngest son were brutally murdered three months ago.
The suspicious shooting of powerful Palmetto State attorney R. Alexander “Alex” Murdaugh – who remains a ‘person of interest’ in the ongoing investigation into the deaths of his family members – has reopened the floodgates of speculation surrounding the original crime.
The shooting has also refocused attention on several other unresolved cases connected to this influential family – including an obstruction of justice probe linked to a fatal boat crash two-and-a-half years ago and a separate homicide investigation which dates back to 2015.
News of Alex Murdaugh’s shooting, the June 2021 murders of his wife and son, the obstruction of justice investigation into his family and the separate homicide inquiry were all exclusively reported on this news site (either by me or by news director Mandy Matney).
Matney has also launched a podcast devoted to the saga …
To recap: The Murdaugh family was thrust into the limelight two-and-a-half years ago when Paul Murdaugh – Alex’s younger son – allegedly got drunk and slammed his father’s 17-foot, center console Sea Hunt fishing boat into a piling near the Archer’s Creek Bridge outside of Parris Island, S.C. shortly after 2:00 a.m. EDT on February 24, 2019.
The crash killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach of Hampton county, South Carolina and injured several other passengers.
In the aftermath of this incident, Paul Murdaugh was charged by the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson with one count of boating under the influence resulting in death and two counts of boating under the influence causing great bodily injury. If convicted, Murdaugh could have faced up to 25 years in prison on the fatal boating under the influence charge (with a minimum of a year behind bars) and up to 15 years in prison (with a minimum of thirty days in jail) on the two bodily injury charges, per the S.C. Code of Laws (§ 50-21-113).
In addition to the criminal case against Paul Murdaugh, his father and brother – Buster Murdaugh – were among the defendants named in a wrongful death suit filed by Beach’s family. In fact, a court hearing in that case was scheduled for June 10, 2021.
The hearing was never held, though …
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Shortly before 9:00 p.m. EDT on June 7, 2021, Paul Murdaugh and his mother – 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh – were brutally murdered at Moselle, a 1,700-acre hunting property the family owns that is located near Islandton, S.C.
“Paul Murdaugh was reportedly killed by a pair of shotgun blasts – one to the chest and another which struck his arm and head,” I reported at the time, citing my network of law enforcement and prosecutorial sources.
This information was later confirmed by health officials as the cause of Paul Murdaugh’s death.
Maggie Murdaugh was reportedly shot and killed by a semi-automatic rifle at or around the same time her son was killed. Her cell phone was discovered the following day along a rural South Carolina road near where the killings took place.
Alex Murdaugh reported the slayings, claiming to have discovered the bodies after returning from a visit to his mother’s home earlier in the evening. As I exclusively reported two days later, Alex Murdaugh was identified by both law enforcement and prosecutorial sources as a ‘person of interest‘ in the investigation – even though he ostensibly provided investigators with an “ironclad alibi” for his whereabouts at the time of the killings.
The ‘Murdaugh Murders‘ and their attendant dramas have drawn national and international attention ever since – for any number of reasons. First of all, the killings remain a mystery. The S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – the agency leading the investigation – has kept a tight lid on its inquiries. In addition to releasing limited information about the probe to the public, the agency has also worked to plug any leaks from the investigation.
No arrests have been made. No suspects have been identified. And there has been zero discussion of any sort of narrative related to the murders themselves – or what may have precipitated them.
Not surprisingly, this vacuum has invited all manner of speculation … much of it unfounded.
The story has also picked up traction given the prominence of the family. The Murdaughs are one of the most influential clans in South Carolina – especially in the Palmetto Lowcountry. Two members of the family currently work as attorneys for a powerful regional law firm – Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick (PMPED). Meanwhile, three generations of Murdaughs served as solicitor (or district attorney) for a five-county region from 1920-2007.
Alex Murdaugh himself carried a badge as a part-time attorney for the current solicitor, Duffie Stone.
As a result, the family has wielded tremendous power over police, prosecutors, politicians and judges across the state – influence which has already complicated the various cases in which it is embroiled.
Not surprisingly, the shooting of Alex Murdaugh on Saturday – and the questionable circumstances surrounding it – has sent the speculation surrounding this case soaring into an even higher orbit. Supporters of the family view the latest incident as further evidence the Murdaughs are being targeted – perhaps as revenge for their alleged connections to previous unsolved/ unresolved homicides.
Meanwhile, those who do not trust the family have speculated the shooting was staged – perhaps as part of an ongoing effort to shift suspicion away from the family.
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Here is what is known so far: At around 1:34 p.m. EDT on Saturday, Alex Murdaugh called 911 to report that he’d been shot on Old Salkehatchie Road near Varnville, S.C. Murdaugh was airlifted to Parker’s Emergency and Trauma Center Savannah, Georgia to receive treatment for “a superficial gunshot wound to the head,” according to a news release from SLED.
At around 2:41 p.m. EDT, SLED agents were called to the crime scene at the request of the Hampton county sheriff’s office.
“A black Mercedes-Benz SUV driven by Alex Murdaugh was initially processed and ultimately towed from the scene to a law enforcement impound lot for further evaluation,” the SLED release continued.
Beyond confirming this basic information, the agency had very little to say about the shooting.
“As we have previously stated, we cannot and will not do anything that could jeopardize the integrity of this or any potentially related investigation or that would violate the due process afforded to all in our constitutional system of justice,” its statement concluded.
As was the case following the Moselle murders, no arrests have been made in connection with the shooting of Alex Murdaugh on Saturday. SLED has not released any information on potential suspects or descriptions of the vehicles allegedly involved. As for his “superficial” wound, Murdaugh was reportedly scheduled to be released from the hospital on Sunday afternoon – although it is not immediately clear whether he left at that time.
No one with direct knowledge of the investigation into Saturday’s shooting would comment on the record, but multiple sources familiar with the status of the inquiry told me privately that law enforcement is “very suspicious” of the narrative provided to the media by family attorney Jim Griffin.
According to Griffin – a prominent Palmetto State defense lawyer – his client stopped on the side of the road after experiencing “car trouble” while traveling to Charleston, S.C.
“Alex was changing a tire when a car passed him,” Heath Ellison of WCIV TV 4 (ABC – Charleston, S.C.) reported on Saturday, quoting Griffin. “The vehicle turned around and someone in the car shot him.”
Is that the way it went down?
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Again, my sources at SLED – whose agents were gathering evidence at the crime scene into the early morning hours on Sunday – are saying nothing. However, I am reliably informed that the family narrative is encountering what one source familiar with the inquiry termed “withering investigative scrutiny.”
“This is not going to hold up,” the source said.
Complicating matters? Alex Murdaugh is said to be increasingly estranged from colleagues at his law firm – which declined to issue a statement in connection with Saturday’s shooting. At the heart of this rumored rift? Reports that the 53-year-old trial attorney has been “less than forthcoming” with his law partners about any number of issues – included what multiple sources close to the family have described as a “serious” opioid addiction.
This opioid addiction – which Alex Murdaugh has allegedly done his best to conceal from his partners – has also reportedly become a central focus of multiple, ongoing law enforcement inquiries.
In fact, approximately an hour after this report was originally filed, a family spokesperson issued a statement from Murdaugh which lent credence to these reports.
“The murders of my wife and son have caused an incredibly difficult time in my life,” the statement noted. “I have made a lot of decisions that I truly regret. I’m resigning from my law firm and entering rehab after a long battle that has been exacerbated these murders. I am immensely sorry to everyone I’ve hurt including my family, friends and colleagues. I ask for prayers as I rehabilitate myself and my relationships.”
Where is all of this headed? Good question …
Stay tuned for much more in the days to come as this news outlet continues to bring its readers the very latest on the ‘Murdaugh Murders.’
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. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that “full wool” vintage Philadelphia Phillies’ lid pictured above).
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