On Thursday afternoon, three days after the fatal shootings of two members of a prominent Hampton family, authorities have said nothing publicly about possible suspects or leads in the case. Police have remained tightlipped as some details have begun to emerge.
One law enforcement agency has declared a conflict of interest because of its relationship with the family. Investigators are pursuing the possibility that Paul Murdaugh, 22, who sources say was shot at least twice with a shotgun, was the one targeted. His mother, Maggie Murdaugh, 52, was killed with what appears to be an assault rifle, the sources said.
But so far, information released by authorities provides only a rough sketch of what occurred the night of the killings, leading to broad theories over potential suspects, motives — whether the shootings are connected to the fatal 2019 boat crash — and questions over how justice might be served in a town quietly grappling with the tragedy and the looming presence of a powerful family.
The shootings happened at a sprawling rural estate in Colleton County, not far from the Hampton County line.
Maggie Murdaugh was the wife of prominent attorney Alex Murdaugh, a senior member of the South Carolina powerhouse Murdaugh law firm, which is headquartered in Hampton. Paul Murdaugh was Alex and Maggie Murdaugh’s son and a student at the University of South Carolina.
Here’s what we know:
A 911 call came in around 10 p.m. stating that two people were shot dead at an address on Moselle Road in Islandton, according to a Colleton County Sheriff’s Office news release.
Deputies went to the property, owned by the Murdaugh family.
Tucked behind a thick treeline and a brick-laden entryway are two homes near the Colleton border with Hampton County. The 174-acre parcel has 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 for both mother and son to be between 9 and 9:30 p.m. on Monday.
Where were the bodies discovered?
Tommy Crosby, SLED’s spokesperson, referred only to the Murdaughs’ address, listed on the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office release. He did not provide more specifics.
Who discovered the bodies?
The bodies were found by Alex Murdaugh, husband of Maggie Murdaugh and father of Paul, according to legal sources who did not want to be identified because they are not authorized to disclose the information.
Alex Murdaugh told authorities he had been out at the time of shooting and found his wife and son when he arrived home, the sources said.
Was there anyone else at the house when police arrived?
SLED spokesman Crosby refused to answer and provided a reporter with a statement that said the police will not “do anything that could jeopardize the integrity of this investigation and thus feel it is inappropriate to comment on specifics while this investigation is ongoing. If you or someone you know has 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 bodies being moved?
Crosby, asked Thursday morning, declined to answer.
Who is leading the investigation, and how many law enforcement officers are involved?
The S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is leading the investigation with help 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 agents, crime scene investigators and forensics officials are involved.
Harvey said he was on the scene from the time the call came in until 7 a.m. on Tuesday.
Have law enforcement agencies recused themselves from the investigation because of conflicts of interest with the Murdaugh family?
On Thursday, the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office said it turned the investigation over to SLED because of a conflict of interest, spokesperson Shalane Lowes said.
She said Alex Murdaugh occasionally works for the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office. The Murdaughs, of Hampton, are a powerhouse legal family, three generations of whom have been state prosecutors. The family has practiced law in and around Hampton County for more than a century, building a legal empire on personal injury lawsuits.
The Solicitor’s Office prosecutes all criminal cases in Colleton County, along with Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton, and Allendale counties.
The 14th Judicial Circuit’s office declined to say whether it would recuse itself in the event of an arrest.
Have any reports or 911 calls been released by authorities?
The Sheriff’s Office released a one-line incident report relating to the double homicide. It referenced a supplement report, but the agency said it could not release that due to the ongoing investigation.
“We can’t release any information that would hinder the integrity of the case,” Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Lowes said when asked on Thursday.
The Sheriff’s Office denied a request for recordings of the 911 call and directed the request to SLED, which has not responded.
What weapons were used in the shooting?
One victim had been shot with a shotgun; the other was killed with what appears to have been an assault rifle, legal sources told The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette.
How many people have police interviewed?
Crosby, with SLED, refused to answer. This is an active investigation, he said, and SLED is “pursuing all leads, as we do for every investigation.”
Do authorities have any suspects?
Crosby refused to answer.
Has anyone been arrested?
No one has been taken into custody, arrested or charged in the shootings, Crosby said.
Was there any surveillance video on the property?
Crosby refused to answer.
Is the S.C. Attorney General’s Office involved in this investigation?
The S.C. Attorney General’s Office is not involved at this time, spokesperson Robert Kittle said Thursday.
No arrests have been made, so prosecutors are not involved.
That could change if someone is arrested and if the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office recuses itself, as it did during the 2019 boat crash criminal case against Paul Murdaugh.
“There are two options any time there is a conflict of interest,” Kittle said. “We can handle it, or we can assign it to another solicitor.”
Jeff Kidd, spokesperson for the Solicitor’s Office, declined to comment on whether the agency will have to recuse itself if an arrest is made.
When will the results of the autopsies be released?
Autopsies were to take place Thursday morning at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette have asked the coroner for an update.
Why did police say there was no danger to the public if no one has been arrested?
Crosby refused to answer.