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Murdaugh Murders Saga: Boat Crash Case Drags On

Civil drama drags on …

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Late last month, South Carolina circuit court judge Clifton Newman presided over a status conference related to the remaining criminal cases in the ‘Murdaugh Murders‘ crime and corruption saga.

Some view these upcoming trials as anti-climactic considering Alex Murdaugh – the man at the epicenter of this saga – was convicted on March 2, 2023 of killing his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and younger son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh. Judge Newman sentenced him to life in prison the following day with no possibility of parole.

Nonetheless, Murdaugh is facing another 100-plus charges – most of them tied to alleged financial misdeeds. Some of those charges have been filed since his double homicide trial – and it’s also important to remember the S.C. statewide grand jury is still probing various Murdaugh-related matters.

So more criminal charges could be coming …

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The criminal case isn’t the only legal drama unfolding, though. This week in Lexington County, circuit court judge Daniel Hall presided over the latest hearing in the main civil case involving Murdaugh – a wrongful death action brought by the family of the late Mallory Beach, a 19-year-old from Hampton, S.C. who perished in the early morning hours of February 24, 2019.

Beach died when a 17-foot, center console Sea Hunt fishing boat owned by Alex Murdaugh and allegedly piloted by Paul Murdaugh slammed into a piling near the Archer’s Creek Bridge outside of Parris Island, S.C. on that fateful early winter morning – with Paul Murdaugh and others on the boat in a “grossly intoxicated” state.

Beach was flung into the cold, dark waters – her body discovered a week later by fishermen.

Seconds before the boat crashed, GPS data obtained by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) indicated the vessel was traveling at a speed of approximately 29 miles per hour (or approximately 25 knots) at the time of impact.

To quote the late Randolph Murdaugh III – one of three Murdaughs to hold the post of S.C. fourteenth circuit solicitor between 1920-2006 – Paul Murdaugh was “drunker than Cooter Brown” at the time of the crash. State prosecutors agreed with that assessment, and Paul Murdaugh was charged with three counts of boating under the influence by the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson.

He was murdered before he could stand trial, however.

Some of the alcohol which allegedly contributed to Paul Murdaugh’s severe intoxication was purchased at a Parker’s Kitchen convenience store in Ridgeland, S.C. Paul Murdaugh used a South Carolina driver’s license belonging to his older brother, Buster Murdaugh, to buy the booze from this location. A settlement involving Buster Murdaugh and the estate of his late mother was reached four months ago.

(Click to View)

The 17-foot, center console Sea Hunt fishing boat after it was pulled from the water near the Archer’s Creek bridge in Beaufort County (S.C. Attorney General’s Office).

The boat crash case was the primary narrative component of the hit Netflix documentary, ‘Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal.’ It is also viewed as the impetus for the collapse of the once-powerful “House of Murdaugh” – a family which ran the Palmetto Lowcounty like a fiefdom for nearly a century.

The case involves multiple prominent defendants – including one (convenience store magnate Greg Parker) who has engaged in an outright jihad in the hopes of absolving himself and his company of any blame for this tragedy. That jihad has actually spawned a second lawsuit tied to this case – one filed in December 2021 which focuses on the unauthorized disclosure of confidential mediation materials by those allegedly in Parker’s employ.

This case was originally scheduled to go to trial on January 9, 2023, but Hall delayed it due to Murdaugh’s pending double homicide trial. It was then scheduled for April 10, 2023, but one of Parkers’ attorneys – powerful S.C. House speaker Murrell Smith – invoked his “legislative immunity,” which is another blatant example of the unfair favoritism and special treatment extended by the state’s judicial branch to its legislative overlords.

This week, Parkers’ lead attorney – Pankaj K. Shere – argued the case against his clients should be thrown out because Parkers’ convenience store did not “knowingly” sell alcohol to Paul Murdaugh. Shere also noted Parkers’ had been cleared by the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) of any criminal wrongdoing in connection with the sale of alcohol to Paul Murdaugh.

Shere also claimed Beach was negligent in her own death because she had “first-hand knowledge” of Paul Murdaugh’s reckless behavior while under the influence of alcohol.

Shere even played excerpts from the Netflix documentary to highlight this point.

(Click to View)

Witness Mark Tinsley, the attorney for Mallory Beach’s family, answered questions during Alex Murdaugh’s trial for murder at the Colleton County Courthouse on Friday, February 10, 2023. Joshua Boucher/The State/Pool

Attorney Mark Tinsley – the lead lawyer for the Beach family – disputed Shere’s contention, arguing Parkers’ employees were only trained to check and scan identification cards, not verify whether the individual handing them the card conformed to the height, weight and age data contained on the license. He also argued Beach’s liability ended the moment she asked Paul Murdaugh to let her off the boat.

Hall is expected to rule no later than Friday, May 26, 2023 on whether Parkers should be dismissed from the case.

After the hearing on Parkers’ motion to dismiss, Murdaugh criminal attorney Jim Griffin argued $160,000 of Alex Murdaugh’s assets currently under the control of court-appointed receivers should be transferred to fund the appeal of his murder convictions. Hall previously permitted Murdaugh to liquidate his 401(k) retirement account and route $600,000 of the funds for his defense in the murder trial.

Tinsley and attorney Eric Bland – who is under fire in the aftermath of recent revelations in another civil case – objected to Murdaugh receiving any additional funds for his defense, saying they were “very close” to reaching an agreement on the remaining monies from his estate.

Hall indicated he would rule no later than Friday May 12, 2023 on whether to allow any additional assets to be routed to fund Murdaugh’s appeal.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR ...

Will Folks on phone
Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

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.

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