It’s likely investigators are looking for more than one killer in the Murdaugh double homicide, and that investigators will remain mum about the case until arrests are made, a former police detective with decades of experience told The Island Packet on Tuesday.
Paul Murdaugh, 22, and his mother Maggie, 52, were found shot to death outside their home in Colleton County on June 7. The two are members of a prominent powerhouse legal family in South Carolina.
State officials and law enforcement have said little about the killings, but the case has gained national attention because of the family’s reputation and because Paul faced three felony charges in the 2019 Beaufort County boat crash that killed Mallory Beach.
As of Tuesday, no arrests have been made, and no suspects have been named publicly.
“You handle this no different than any other homicide investigation in regards to who they are, what they were doing, who would want to see them dead,” said Joe Giacalone, retired New York Police Department detective sergeant and adjunct professor with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Love, money, and revenge are some of the reasons.”
He said investigators should “take a deep dive” into many angles, such as what was going on in the victims’ lives, and do a complete “victimology” of Paul and Maggie, as well as look at the people closest to them.
Investigators “have so many things they have to track down,” Giacalone said, because you “don’t know if somebody was trying to get revenge on them because they did something to them in court or with the boat crash.”
How victims were killed and with what weapon also play a major role in homicide investigations.
The Colleton County coroner and SLED have declined to discuss the completed autopsies in this case beyond that both Murdaughs were shot multiple times.
Sources familiar with the investigation have told The Island Packet that Paul was shot in the head and upper body with a shotgun, while Maggie was killed with what appears to be an assault rifle. Sources have also said SLED is investigating the possibility that Paul was the killer’s target and that Maggie was killed because she was there as happenstance.
Giacalone said the use of two different weapons in the killings means investigators would likely focus on two perpetrators in the case, especially since a shotgun, which can be laborious to shoot, was used.
“I would be leaning toward looking at two people,” he said. “Nothing would surprise me, though. I wouldn’t be shocked if you told me it was two people or one person or 10 people that did this.”
He also said the multiple gunshot wounds “seems like overkill.”
“Those are the kinds of things you don’t need to do if you’re trying to just kill somebody,” Giacalone said. “Where they were shot, too, also makes a difference.”
Most people are victimized by someone they know, he said, so looking at the significant other is not unusual because that’s who “stands the most to have someone like that dead” and then investigators have to do a “million things to eliminate someone as a potential suspect.”
“I would not read into them pulling the father out and looking into him,” he said.
Besides interviews, he said investigators are likely pulling a slew of evidence from wherever they can: video surveillance, internet records, cell phone records, emails and text messages.
As for the absence of public information on the case, Giacalone says that’s typical.
“We never tell anybody we’re looking for somebody, especially when there’s somebody in mind,” he said.
“It’s going to be awhile” before more information is released, he said. “It’s the right way to play it. Keep everybody guessing. You keep the bad guy guessing. They’ll think they’ve gotten away with it and might make a mistake.”