The Murdaughs, a powerful legal family in South Carolina, were thrust into the spotlight in February 2019.
A boat crash killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach, and three felony charges were filed against Paul Murdaugh, 20 at the time.
In the time since the crash, the community still paid quiet attention to looming criminal trial and lawsuits filed.
Then, Monday, Paul Murdaugh, now 22, and his mother Maggie Murdaugh, 52, were found violently shot to death outside their Colleton County home, reintroducing the family to national attention.
Along with the attention comes questions about what’s happened in the last 2 1/2 years since Beach’s death.
Here is the timeline:
▪ Feb. 23, 2019, around 7 p.m.: Six friends between the ages of 18 and 20, including Murdaugh and Beach, launch a 17-foot Sea Hunt boat from the dock off property owned by the Murdaugh family known as “The Island” on Chechessee Creek. In the next few hours, the group makes multiple stops, including at an oyster roast on Paukie Island and at Beaufort’s Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. Court documents filed say the friends drank alcohol through the night.
Feb. 24, 2019: The day of the crash
▪ Minutes before 2:30 a.m.: The speeding boat, driven by Murdaugh according to what one of the boaters told police, crashes into a piling by the bridge over Archers Creek near Parris Island. All six passengers are ejected. A horrific scene ensues. One friend calls 911 while still screaming out for Beach, and another jumps back into the river searching for her as others sit nearby crying in pain from their own injuries.
▪ 2:40 a.m.: Police begin arriving at the crash scene after confusion with the 911 dispatcher about where the incident occurred. Thick fog makes it hard to see, even flashlights. The search for Beach continues as an investigation into what caused the crash begins.
▪ 3:19 a.m.: An ambulance transports three patients, including Murdaugh, to the hospital. One police report says Murdaugh was acting uncooperative and “almost aggressive” toward EMS personnel. By the time an S.C. Department of Natural Resources officer arrives, Murdaugh’s father and grandfather have shown up telling the officers they are lawyers, officials later tell a reporter from The State. The Murdaughs stop all interviews and prevent sobriety tests.
▪ 4:50 a.m.: Confusion continues, and Beach is still missing. “Can someone tell me when this accident actually occurred?” a man with Beaufort Water Search and Rescue asks Beaufort County Dispatch. “We are getting conflicted stories here. I would like to talk to whoever called in so we can see exactly where the boat hit and where she flew out so we can search the area better.”
▪ Around noon: The Island Packet publishes a story about the crash as more than 20 of Beach’s family members and friends sit on the causeway near the base of the R.C. Berkeley Bridge. Boats, divers and helicopters from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies continue searching.
▪ 6 p.m.: The first day of searching for Beach halts at nightfall.
The week following the crash
▪ Feb. 25 to March 2: The search for Beach continues daily, unsuccessfully.
▪ March 7, 2019: More than 500 people gather at the Open Arms Fellowship Church in Hampton for Beach’s funeral. “She went early; she went young; she loved her family; she loved her friends; she loved her rescued pets,” the Rev. Nelson Foster says. “I’m blown away by the legacy this teen woman leaves behind.”
▪ March 2020: Beach’s mother, Renee, files a wrongful death suit on her daughter’s behalf in Hampton County. Multiple defendants are named, including members of the Murdaugh family, but not Paul, and Parkers 55, a convenience store Renee Beach alleges the minors obtained alcohol from the night before the crash.
▪ April 18, 2019: On what would have been Beach’s 20th birthday, a Beaufort County grand jury directly indicts Paul Murdaugh on three felony criminal charges: one boating under the influence causing death and two counts of boating under the influence causing injury.
▪ July 29, 2019: In the latest movement on Murdaugh’s criminal case, his bond is modified to allow him to travel more freely throughout the state. A trial date is never set.
▪ September 2019: Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance files a suit in federal court, asking the court to relieve the company of financial responsibilities for any claims by Paul Murdaugh’s father and brother. Renee Beach also is named in the suit.
▪ Feb. 24, 2020: It’s the first anniversary of the fatal crash. Family and friends continue to visit Beach’s grave in Hampton, leaving fresh flowers, balloons, memorial stones and photos, among other things. A large patch of grass beside the R.C. Berkeley Bridge is still matted where the boat was pulled ashore.
▪ Feb. 2, 2021: The latest court filings in the insurance lawsuit. It’s yet to be resolved.
▪ June 4, 2021: The latest court filings in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Renee Beach. Mediation in the trial previously failed, so the suit seems likely to go to trial.
▪ June 7, 2021: Paul Murdaugh and his mother Maggie are shot to death in their Colleton County home between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., according to the coroner. Sources have told The Island Packet that Alex Murdaugh, Paul’s dad and Maggie’s husband, discovered the bodies.
▪ June 8, 2021: News of the shocking deaths in the prominent legal family spreads throughout South Carolina and the nation. Questions and conspiracies surrounding the violent shooting spiral. As for the criminal charges against Paul Murdaugh, an S.C. Attorney General spokesperson said, “We obviously cannot proceed with the prosecution, so once we have a death certificate or other acceptable proof, we’ll officially dismiss the charges.”