14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone on Monday called comparisons between his recusal from the 2019 boat crash investigation and his office’s involvement in the ongoing murder investigation “not apt,” according to his office’s first public statement since the June 7 double homicide of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.
In the statement, Stone said his office is available to the S.C. Law Enforcement Division for legal advice and “investigative support.” However, the solicitor did not clarify what role his office has played in the investigation besides maintaining contact with S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson and SLED Chief Mark Keel.
Stone has been under scrutiny since the double homicide. His office, which has ties to the Murdaugh family, has refused to return phone calls to clarify whether or how his office is involved in the ongoing investigation. Monday’s statement made clear that Stone still has not recused himself from that case, as he did for the 2019 boat crash investigation that implicated Paul Murdaugh.
Stone’s office’s ties to the Murdaugh family has raised questions about potential conflicts of interest as the investigation unfolds.
Alex Murdaugh, the husband and father of the victims who told police he discovered the bodies and called 911, was “authorized as a volunteer” for the 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office, according to a letter obtained by The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette. Until 2006, three generations of Murdaughs held Stone’s elected position for more than eight decades.
Two years ago, when Mallory Beach went missing after a Sea Hunt boat crashed into a bridge piling near Parris Island, Stone almost immediately stepped away from the investigation. His office said it was an ethical decision because three of the boat’s occupants were related to employees in Stone’s office.
“It would be unethical for our office to be involved in prosecuting or sorting out the facts of any case in which material witnesses, potential defendants or victims have a familial relationship with someone in our office,” Jeff Kidd, spokesperson for the 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office, wrote in 2019.
On Monday, however, Stone said it is “neither prudent nor proper” to comment on SLED’s ongoing investigation.
“To my knowledge, there is no clear suspect in this case at this time,” Monday’s statement said. “As such, speculation about the propriety of my office’s involvement is precisely that – speculation.”
Defending his office’s involvement in the homicide investigation, Stone cited comments from S.C. Attorney General’s Office spokesperson Robert Kittle in The Island Packet and former University of South Carolina law dean Robert Wilcox in The Post and Courier.
Kittle told The Island Packet last week that “Until the investigation is complete, any decision on a prosecutor is premature. No one has been charged yet so there’s no one to prosecute.”
And Wilcox told The Post and Courier the “mere fact that the Murdaugh name is closely associated with the solicitor’s office doesn’t cause me any concerns at this point,” he said. “We have no idea who the solicitor will ultimately be engaged in prosecuting.”
Stone’s statement said that after the 2019 boat crash, “it was immediately apparent [Paul] Murdaugh would be a suspect, that his father owned the boat in which those involved were traveling and that other passengers were related to employees of my office.”
“[E]thical conduct is paramount to me and to those who serve the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office,” Stone’s statement said. “We will act promptly and ethically should conflicts arise in this case, as we always have.”