First His Wife and Son Were Killed, Now He's Been Shot

Prominent South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh was shot in the head on a lonely road
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 5, 2021 6:30 AM CDT
First His Wife and Son Were Killed, Now He's Been Shot
The funeral service for Paul and Maggie Murdaugh on Friday, June 11, 2021 in Hampton, S.C.   (Kacen Bayless/The Island Packet via AP)

(Newser) – The murder of a prominent South Carolina attorney's wife and son has gone nearly twelve weeks without any arrests but there's new startling twist: the attorney himself was shot in the head Saturday after experiencing car trouble on the side of the road. Per the New York Times, Alex Murdaugh's lawyer, Jim Griffin, said Murdaugh was changing a tire when someone in a truck drove past him, turned around, then shot him in the head. Murdaugh was able to recall his story from a hospital bed in Charleston, but his wife and son weren't as lucky when he found them fatally shot near the dog kennels on their family property in June, per NBC News. Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and her 22-year-old son Paul were both shot several times. No arrests have been made, and state police have released little information, even going to court to fight public records requests.

Alex Murdaugh said on a 911 call he had just returned home and in a later TV interview said he was out checking on his terminally ill father when his wife and son were killed, per the AP. The Murdaughs are one of South Carolina’s most prominent legal families. Alex Murdaugh was a volunteer prosecutor in the same office where his father, grandfather and great-grandfather spent more than 80 years combined as the area's top prosecutors. Other members of the family are prominent civil attorneys. Part of the intrigue in the case come s from the fact that Paul Murdaugh was awaiting trial for boating under the influence causing death in a February 2019 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 Alex Murdaugh. Alex and his father, Randolph, reportedly showed up at the hospital that night and blocked the young people from cooperating. No one took sobriety tests, but Paul was later charged with three felony counts, including boating under the influence resulting in death, regardless. Paul pleaded not guilty and was out on a $50,000 personal recognizance bond when he was killed. He received death threats following the incident, family said. But in the wake of his death, state police have started looking into the investigation into another fatal crash, this one an apparent hit-and-run that killed 19-year-old Stephen Smith in 2015 and remains unsolved.

Investigators initially said Smith may have been shot before deciding he'd been killed in a hit-and-run—a story Smith's mother didn't buy. In 2015, she said she believed several youths from prominent families had killed her son for being gay. "Rumors hinting at a cover-up and the possible involvement of one or more members of the Murdaugh family" had spread soon after Smith's death and again after Mallory Beach's death in the 2019 boating accident, per the Augusta Chronicle. Authorities haven't released information about why the case was reopened. As for the shooting of Alex Murdaugh, police have thus far remained mum on that, too. In a statement to the Island Packet Saturday, the family said: “The Murdaugh family has suffered through more than any one family can ever imagine. We expect Alex to recover and ask for your privacy while he recovers.” (Read more unsolved mystery stories.)

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