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Prominent SC Legal Family Hit by 3 Stunning Losses

Paul Murdaugh, 22, and mom Margaret were shot to death; Randolph Murdaugh, 81, died days later
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2021 11:10 AM CDT

(Newser) – Three members of a prominent South Carolina legal family have died within the last week or so, including two who were brutally killed. For almost 100 years, members from three generations of the Murdaugh family operated in the role of top prosecutor of the Lowcountry region. Then a 22-year-old man representing the fourth generation found himself on the other side of the law, implicated in a woman's death. It was the first in a line of tragedies: Paul Murdaugh was awaiting trial when he was shot dead last week alongside his mother.

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  • Paul and Margaret "Maggie" Murdaugh were found shot to death near dog kennels on their sprawling rural estate in Colleton County on June 7, in what state investigators classify as a double homicide. Three days later, Paul's grandfather and Maggie's father-in-law, Randolph Murdaugh III, died at his home at age 81. No cause of death was given, though a state lawmaker said the patriarch had recently been in intensive care, per NBC News.
  • Until 2006, Randolph Murdaugh III, his father Randolph "Buster" Murdaugh Jr., and a grandfather, Randolph Murdaugh Sr., had all served consecutively as solicitor of the 14th Circuit. Randolph's funeral program said the "87 years of service in one office, by the same family, is the longest in the history of the United States," per the Island Packet. The men worked at "putting thousands of people in prison and sending more than a dozen to death row" during that time, reports Columbia's State newspaper.
  • Through their personal injury law firm in Hampton, the family made a business "relentlessly pursuing those at fault in fatal collisions," winning millions of dollars in civil lawsuits "year after year," per the State. That history became a talking point after Paul Murdaugh was implicated in a 2019 boat crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach.

  • All six passengers, ages 18 to 20, were thrown from the 17-foot boat as it struck a column of a bridge while traveling along a creek in the early hours of Feb. 24, 2019. Beach's body was found a week later. A police report described the five survivors, including Paul, as "grossly intoxicated."
  • Police named Paul as a possible driver of the boat, which is owned by his father, Alex Murdaugh. According to police, Alex and his father, Randolph, showed up at the hospital that night and blocked the young people from cooperating. No one took sobriety tests, per BuzzFeed. Paul was later charged with three felony counts, including boating under the influence resulting in death, regardless.
  • He pleaded not guilty and was out on a $50,000 personal recognizance bond when he was killed, per NBC. The case will now be dismissed, though a wrongful death lawsuit against Paul's older brother, father, and grandfather, filed by Beach's mother in regards to the supplying of alcohol to the group, remains pending, per the Augusta Chronicle.

  • A lawyer has since delivered a statement from the Beach family. "Having suffered the devastating loss of their own daughter, the family prays that the Murdaughs can find some level of peace from this tragic loss," it reads, per NBC, adding a hope "that the perpetrator of these senseless crimes can be brought to justice."
  • The State Law Enforcement Division, which is handling the investigation into the deaths of Paul and Margaret, is under criticism for failing to release information and respond to Freedom of Information Act requests, per the Chronicle. But it says it won't comment on specifics so as to not jeopardize the ongoing investigation. No arrests had been made as of Monday.
(Read more double murder stories.)

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