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Murdaugh shooting in Colleton County
Two members of a powerful legal family were shot dead on June 7 in Colleton County, South Carolina. Learn more about our coverage.
Among the leads law enforcement investigators have followed in this week’s murders of two members of an important legal Lowcountry family is the likelihood that 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh was targeted, while his mother was killed because she was there by chance, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Paul Murdaugh of Hampton was shot in the head and upper body with a shotgun, while Maggie Murdaugh, 52, was killed with what appears to be an assault rifle, sources close to investigation. Cartridges were recovered from the scene, they said. Their bodies were found outside and separated from each other, the sources said.
But Thursday afternoon, three days after death filmings, authorities have not said anything publicly about any suspects or leads in the case. Police have remained under wraps as some details have started to emerge.
The investigation was transferred from the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office to the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), a state agency, due to a conflict of interest. SLED – with its centralized crime lab and numerous investigative specialists – can bring far more resources to working on crime than the local sheriff’s office.
Meanwhile, prosecutors from the 14th Judicial Circuit office declined to say whether they would recuse themselves if arrested. This circuit pursues crimes in a five-county area of the Lowcountry that includes Hampton and Colleton.
So far, information released by authorities only provides a rough snapshot of what happened on the night of the murders, leading to broad theories about potential suspects, motives – if the shootings are related. fatal boating accident in 2019 – and questions about how justice could be served in a city struggling with tragedy and the impending presence of a powerful family.
The shooting took place in a large rural estate in Colleton County, not far from the Hampton County line.
Maggie Murdaugh was the wife of eminent lawyer Alex Murdaugh, a senior member of the powerful South Carolina law firm Murdaugh, headquartered in Hampton. Paul Murdaugh was the son of Alex and Maggie Murdaugh and a student at the University of South Carolina.
This is what we know:
A call to 911 arrived around 10 p.m. indicating that two people had been shot at an address on Moselle Road in Islandton, according to a press release from the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office.
Members visited the property, owned by the Murdaugh family.
Tucked away behind a thick treeline and brick driveway are two homes near Colleton’s border with Hampton County. The 174-acre parcel consists of a two-story single-family home and a one-story family home.
The victims found were Paul Murdaugh and his mother, according to Colleton County Coroner Rich Harvey.
Harvey said they were found with multiple gunshot wounds and classified their deaths as homicides.
When did the victims die?
Harvey estimated the time of death of the mother and son to be between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Monday.
Where were the bodies found?
SLED spokesperson Tommy Crosby only referred to the Murdaughs’ address, which appeared on the statement from the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office. He did not provide further details.
Who discovered the bodies?
The bodies were found by Alex Murdaugh, husband of Maggie Murdaugh and father of Paul, according to forensic sources who declined to be identified because they are not authorized to release the information.
Alex Murdaugh told authorities he was out at the time of the shooting and reunited with his wife and son upon his return home, the sources said.
Was there anyone else in the house when the police arrived?
SLED spokesperson Crosby declined to respond and provided a reporter with a statement that police will “do nothing that could compromise the integrity of this investigation and therefore believe it is inappropriate to comment on details while this investigation is ongoing. If you or someone you know has any information regarding this incident, please call the Colleton Sheriff’s Office at 843-549-2211 or Crime Stoppers at 888-CRIMESC.
Was there any evidence of the displacement of the bodies?
Crosby, interviewed Thursday morning, declined to answer.
Who is leading the investigation and how many law enforcement officers are involved?
SC’s Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is leading the investigation with assistance from the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office, SLED spokesperson Crosby confirmed.
Crosby said he did not have the exact number of officers, but said regional officers, crime scene investigators and forensic officers are involved.
Harvey said he was at the scene from the time the call arrived until 7 a.m. on Tuesday.
Did the police recuse themselves from the investigation due to conflicts of interest with the Murdaugh family?
On Thursday, the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office said it turned the investigation over to SLED due to a conflict of interest, spokesman Shalane Lowes said.
She said Alex Murdaugh occasionally worked for the 14th Circuit DA’s office. The Murdaughs, of Hampton, are a powerful legal family, three generations of whom were public prosecutors. The family practiced law in and around Hampton County for over a century, building a legal empire on personal injury lawsuits.
The district attorney’s office pursues all criminal cases in Colleton County, as well as Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton and Allendale counties.
Have any reports or 911 calls been issued by authorities?
The sheriff’s office released a one-line incident report regarding the double homicide. He referred to a supplemental report, but the agency said it could not release it due to the ongoing investigation.
“We cannot release any information that would interfere with the integrity of the case,” Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Lowes said on Thursday.
The sheriff’s office rejected a request to record the 911 call and directed the request to SLED, who did not respond.
What weapons were used in the shooting?
One victim had been shot with a hunting rifle; the other was killed with what appears to have been an assault rifle, legal sources said The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette.
How many people did the police interview?
Crosby, with SLED, declined to respond. This is an active investigation, he said, and SLED “pursues all leads, as we do with every investigation.”
Do the authorities have any suspects?
Crosby declined to answer.
Has anyone been arrested?
No one has been taken into custody, arrested or charged in the shooting, Crosby said.
Was there surveillance video on the property?
Crosby declined to answer.
Is the SC Attorney General’s office involved in this investigation?
The SC attorney general’s office is not involved at this time, spokesman Robert Kittle said Thursday.
No arrests were made, so prosecutors are not involved.
That could change if someone is arrested and the 14th Circuit prosecutor’s office recuses itself, as he did in the criminal case of the boat accident in 2019 against Paul Murdaugh.
“There are two options whenever there is a conflict of interest,” Kittle said. “We can handle it, or we can assign it to another lawyer.”
Jeff Kidd, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, declined to say whether the agency will have to recuse itself if an arrest is made.
When will the autopsy results be published?
The autopsies were scheduled to take place Thursday morning at the South Carolina Medical University in Charleston. The Island Package and Beaufort Gazette have asked the coroner for an update.
Why did the police say there was no danger to the public if no one was arrested?
Crosby declined to answer.