A prominent South Carolina attorney whose wife and son were brutally murdered—and who has since been shot in the head, ousted from his firm for alleged theft, and placed in rehab for drug dependency—has been suspended from practicing law, the state’s highest court ruled.
In a ruling issued by the South Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday, Alex Murdaugh, 53, has been placed on interim suspension pending an investigation under Rule 17 (b) of the state’s Appellate Court. The statute states that “upon receipt of sufficient evidence demonstrating that a lawyer poses a substantial threat of serious harm to the public or to the administration of justice” the court may suspend an attorney.
The suspension, which also noted that Murdaugh had consented to the decision, is the latest in a dizzying turn of events for a legal dynasty that has held sway in rural Hampton County for decades.
Randolph Murdaugh IV, the eldest brother in the prominent family, said in a Wednesday statement to The Daily Beast that he and the family’s law firm, Peters Murdaugh Parker Eltzroth Detrick, were shocked by his brother’s apparent unraveling.
“I was shocked, just as the rest of my PMPED family, to learn of my brother, Alex’s, drug addiction and stealing of money,” he said. “I love my law firm, family, and also love Alex as my brother. While I will support him in his recovery, I do not support, condone, or excuse his conduct in stealing by manipulating his most trusted relationships.”
The family drama began in early June, when Alex’s 52-year-old wife, Margaret, and their 22-year-old son, Paul, were both found fatally shot near the hunting dog kennels in their 1,700-acre estate.
While authorities have been tight-lipped about the murder investigation, Murdaugh found himself once again in the national spotlight when he called authorities over the weekend—stating that he had been shot in the head by an unknown truck driver while changing a tire on the side of a back road in the Lowcountry.
The State Law Enforcement Division told The Daily Beast that Murdaugh only sustained a “superficial” wound and was released from the hospital soon after he arrived.
Just hours after the incident, Murdaugh issued a surprise statement announcing that he had quit the law firm his great-grandfather founded a century ago and was entering rehab. His attorney, Jim Griffin, told The State his client entered a drug treatment center to care for his substance abuse. Citing sources, the newspaper said the substance was oxycodone.
“The murders of my wife and son have caused an incredibly difficult time in my life. I have made a lot of decisions that I truly regret,” Murdaugh said in the statement. “I’m resigning from my law firm and entering rehab after a long battle that has been exacerbated by 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,” he added.
But late Monday night, Peters Murdaugh Parker Eltzroth Detrick revealed that Murdaugh had actually been forced out days earlier—on allegations of theft.
“His resignation came after the discovery by PMPED that Alex misappropriated funds in violation of PMPED standards and policies,” the firm said in a statement Monday evening. “A forensic accounting firm will be retained to conduct a thorough investigation. Law enforcement and the SC Bar have been notified by PMPED. This is disappointing news for all of us. Rest assured that our firm will deal with this in a straightforward manner.”
While the law firm declined to comment on how much Murdaugh allegedly stole, two people associated with the South Carolina legal community told The Daily Beast that the amount is over a million dollars.
“It’s a lot of money, that’s all I know,” one source said.
After the notification to the South Carolina Bar and other legal entities in the state, the chief prosecuting agency in the area—an agency the Murdaughs previously helmed from 1920 to 2005—announced that Murdaugh would no longer be allowed to prosecute its cases as a volunteer.
"Alex Murdaugh is no longer authorized to prosecute on behalf of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office. A formal letter from Solicitor Duffie Stone revoking that privilege was mailed earlier today,” a solicitor spokesperson told The Daily Beast.
Stone, who has ties with the Murdaugh family and has recused himself from the murder investigation, revoked Murdaugh’s volunteer status after news of the theft and drug dependency allegations, the spokesperson added.
In South Carolina, any attorney who is accused of misconduct is investigated and sanctioned by the state’s court system. It is not clear, however, if the Commission on Lawyer Conduct has opened a case into Murdaugh.
“This [saga] has been a lightning bolt through the Lowcountry,” one Hampton County resident, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of professional retribution, told The Daily Beast. “It’s fascinating... This is a classic South Carolina tale... of the white privilege and wealth and power protecting the Murdaughs.”