For the last two months, South Carolina authorities have been scrambling to figure out who fatally shot Paul Murdaugh and his 52-year-old mother “execution-style” outside their 1,700-acre Islandton home.
Now, newly released audio and video footage of the deadly, drunken boat crash that had landed the 22-year-old in legal hot water before that incident—along with a damning petition alleging local law enforcement tried to cover for the prominent family—have thrust the saga back into the limelight.
Prosecutors allege that on Feb. 24, 2019, Paul drunkenly crashed his dad’s 17-foot boat holding five other passengers into a bridge after an oyster roast, launching at least three people into the water. Among those who went overboard was 19-year-old Mallory Beach, whose dead body was found a week later by two fishermen about five miles from where the boat crashed.
It did not take long after that disaster for at least some of those with knowledge of it to begin pointing fingers—and worrying that justice would be hard-won at best.
“That motherfucker needs to rot in fucking prison,” one of the boat passengers is heard telling an officer inside a squad car, apparently about Murdaugh, as police swarm the scene outside, according to dashcam footage published this week by FitsNews. “He ain’t gonna get in no fucking trouble.”
The horrific video of the scene after the crash clearly shows that at least one of the six young adults who were present on the boat indicated Murdaugh was the pilot. But several law-enforcement officers have been accused of trying to diminish the young man’s role in the crash—including one with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) who filed a report suggesting the nautical operator was unknown.
The boat crash and subsequent assassination of the Murdaughs, just as the heir was facing legal exposure, have roiled the community, raising questions about local power players potentially putting their fingers on the scale of justice.
“The Mallory Beach investigation definitely put a spotlight on the Murdaugh family,” one South Carolina resident, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of personal retribution, told The Daily Beast. “Everyone knew the Murdaughs, and when Paul and Maggie were killed—the Beach killing was the first thing I thought of.”
The Colleton County Sheriff’s Office said Paul and Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh were shot “multiple times” between 9 and 9:30 a.m. on June 7 outside their home.
They were found hours later by Alexander Murdaugh Sr. The scion of a prominent legal dynasty in the state and a part-time prosecutor, Murdaugh Sr. told investigators he was not home at the time of the shootings because he was helping his ailing father, himself a former prosecutor, go to the hospital.
Do you know something we should about the Murdaugh saga or another crime case? Email Pilar.Melendez@TheDailyBeast.com or reach out securely to email@example.com from a non-work device.
In a seven-minute 911 call released by authorities earlier this month, Murdaugh Sr. is heard telling a dispatcher that his “wife and child have been shot” near the dog kennels on his property.
“I’ve been up to it now. It’s bad,” Alex Murdaugh is heard saying, while dogs are barking in the background.
So far, the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, which is handling the case, has not named any suspects or offered a potential motive in the grisly slaying. The Murdaughs did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.
At the time of his death, Paul Murdaugh was awaiting trial on one felony count of boating under the influence causing death and two felony counts of boating under the influence causing injury in connection with the 2019 boating accident.
The videos come after a July petition filed on behalf of Connor Cook, who sustained a broken jaw in the crash, that alleges officers from the SCDNR and the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office tried to move the focus of the Beach investigation away from Paul Murdaugh—and toward Cook. Neither agency immediately responded to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
In an effort to shift blame, the petition reads, at least five officers tried to deliberately “cloud the investigatory issues and disseminate false information in the community with the intention of misleading law enforcement and prosecution charging parties, and the public, into wrongly and falsely believing Connor Cook should be arrested and charged as the boat operator.”
In one of the videos, a SCDNR officer is heard asking Anthony Cook, Beach’s boyfriend and Connor’s cousin, who he saw driving the boat while he was aboard that night.
When “I grabbed my girlfriend and got down to the bottom of the boat, Paul was driving,” Anthony responds, prompting the officer to ask again if “Paul was driving.”
“Yes, sir,” Anthony responded, later noting that his cousin was sitting next to Murdaugh in the center console—but that Paul had his hands on the wheel.
But as FitsNews noted, the SCDNR officer wrote that Anthony Cook “did not know” who was driving the boat and that officers on the scene “thought it was Connor Cook or Paul Murdaugh.”
In another video released by the sheriff’s office, Anthony Cook is emotionally speaking to a Beaufort County deputy about the incident when he indicates several times that Murdaugh was driving—stating that he begged to take over because Paul was so intoxicated.
Instead, Anthony Cook said, Murdaugh stopped to take a shot in a nearby town before eventually steering the group back to the boat he insisted on driving home. The next thing he knew, Cook is heard saying, he was thrown off the boat into the water along with Murdaugh and Beach. Connor Cook and Murdaugh’s girlfriend, who were also on board, were severely injured and taken to the hospital, according to past local reports and the video.
“My girlfriend’s gone and I ain’t gonna be able to live with myself,” Anthony said of Beach. “Is anybody in the water looking for her?”
A medical examiner determined the teenager died from drowning and blunt force trauma. Her family, which could not be reached for comment, eventually filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Murdaughs.
The Murdaugh family has been a powerful force in South Carolina for over a century. According to his bio on the family law firm’s website, the 81-year-old patriarch Randolph Murdaugh III was “the third generation of the Murdaugh family to serve as Solicitor of the 14th Judicial Circuit.” The latter prosecutor’s office is not involved in either case, and the Sheriff’s office withdrew from its role in the case just weeks after the boat crash, given its ties to the Murdaughs.
On June 10, just days after the double homicide, Murdaugh III passed away.