Rumors, questions and speculation are swirling in the wake of the Murdaugh family killings, filling a void created by an almost total lack of information released by law enforcement agencies investigating the crime.
The lead investigative agency, the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), has remained silent about what or who they’re investigating, including whether the shooting deaths of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh on the evening of June 7 are linked to other cases. Both were found dead of multiple gunshot wounds at their Colleton County home.
Here are eight questions circulating among the public, and what The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette and The State have learned since the investigation began:
1. Is the murder investigation directly related to the 2019 fatal boat crash investigation that led to charges against Paul Murdaugh?
Investigators with SLED have not said anything to this effect. They have released no information on any suspects or motives in the killings.
The S.C. Attorney General’s Office declined this week to release the case file for the investigation into the 2019 boat crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach. Paul Murdaugh was accused of driving the boat while under the influence.
“We had every intention of moving forward with Paul Murdaugh’s prosecution,” spokesperson Robert Kittle wrote in an email Monday. “While the charges against him will be dismissed, the case has not been closed because the investigation is not finished.”
Both the murder of Paul Murdaugh and the crash that killed Beach remain under investigation.
2. Was the death of Randolph Murdaugh III tied to the murders of his grandson and daughter-in-law?
Randolph Murdaugh, 81, the family patriarch and longtime former state solicitor, was seriously ill for some time before the murders, according to sources close to the family. He had not been expected to live long.
He died on June 10.
Murdaugh served as 14th Circuit Solicitor, the top elected prosecutor for five counties, from 1987 to 2005.
3. Does the family’s link with the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office — Alex Murdaugh works there part time — influence the murder investigation?
There is no evidence of that currently.
However, the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office has not answered calls, texts or an email asking for clarification on the role of Alex Murdaugh — Paul Murdaugh’s father — at the agency.
Neither Solicitor Duffie Stone nor the agency’s spokesperson responded to questions.
The bio on the website of Alex Murdaugh’s law firm says he “serves as a part-time Prosecutor for the 14th Judicial Circuit.”
A photo taken by the Post and Courier newspaper shows investigators with the Solicitor’s Office speaking with a member of the Murdaugh family last week, but it is not unusual for Solicitor’s Office investigators to be involved early on in a law enforcement investigation.
They help police in obtaining evidence necessary for future prosecution.
But there is precedent for Solicitor Stone possibly stepping away from the current murder case.
A day after the February 2019 boat crash involving Paul Murdaugh, Solicitor Stone recused himself from that case, citing employees’ ties to the Murdaugh family.
At this time, there is no public information of a suspect in the 2021 murder investigation — no one that the Solicitor’s Office would have to prosecute.
4. Were dogs on the Murdaughs’ property killed the night Paul and Maggie Murdaugh were slain?
Although people were asking about the dogs just after the killings, there do not appear to have been any dogs killed on the Murdaughs’ property the night Paul and Maggie Murdaugh died, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
5. Who is being mentioned as suspects in the Murdaugh killings?
At this time, there is no publicly available evidence that would link any specific person or persons to the crime. SLED has made no comment as to who might be a suspect.
However, a day after the killings, SLED released a statement saying there was no danger to the public. SLED officials have not elaborated on why they made that statement.
6. How many weapons were used in the crime?
SLED has made no public statement on weapons. However, multiple sources familiar with the investigation have said that Paul Murdaugh was shot several times with a shotgun, and Maggie Murdaugh was shot several times with an AR-15 assault rifle.
7. Where did the shooting take place?
Multiple sources have said the bodies were found outdoors, a distance away from the main house on the Murdaughs’ Colleton County estate. The shootings took place near a location on the Murdaugh property where the family’s dogs were kept, the sources said.
8. Why is there so much public interest in the crime?
For decades, the Murdaughs have been one of the most prominent legal families in South Carolina. Their law firm, headquartered in Hampton, has a statewide reputation for winning multimillion-dollar cases against big corporations, and members of the Murdaugh family were Lowcountry elected prosecutors for more than 80 years.