A mother and son from a prominent South Carolina family were shot to death at their home last week—and investigators believe the younger victim, Paul Murdaugh, 22, may have been the intended target.
The bodies of Margaret Murdaugh, 52, and her son Paul, were discovered at the family’s home the night of June 7. They had been shot to death, according to local station WTOC.
The State Law Enforcement Division, who has taken over the investigation, released few details about the shooting, however, a source close to the investigation told The Island Packet that Paul had been shot twice with a shotgun, once in the head and another time in the upper body.
His mother, who was the wife of prominent attorney Alex Murdaugh, was killed with what authorities believe was an assault rifle.
Investigators are reportedly pursuing the theory that Paul—who had been facing three felonies in connection to a 2019 boating incident that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach —may have been the intended target and his mother may have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time, according to the local paper.
Photo: South Carolina Attorney General’s Office
Oxygen.com reached out to the State Law Enforcement Division about the double homicide investigation but did not receive an immediate response.
Colleton County Sheriff’s Deputies received a 911 call about 10 p.m. on June 7 reporting the deaths. Deputies arrived to find both victims near dog kennels on the family’s sprawling rural home near Islandton, according to The Associated Press.
Paul, who was a student at the University of South Carolina, was facing three felony counts including boating under the influence after an incident in February of 2019, when Beach was thrown from the boat Paul was operating. Others on board were injured as well.
Anthony Cook, Paul’s cousin and Mallory’s boyfriend at the time, testified during a deposition in a civil case filed against Paul by Beach’s family, that on the night of the fatal crash an intoxicated Paul drove the boat in circles as others on board asked to go home, according to court documents obtained by The Daily Mail.
“Paul for some reason acted like he was on drugs of something,” Cook said of Paul’s alleged behavior that night. “He started taking his clothes off during one of the arguments, and it is like 40 degrees outside.”
According to Cook, Paul had also slapped or pushed his girlfriend.
He said his cousin often became a completely different person when he drank, causing those who knew the college student to call him a special nickname, Timmy, that they created to describe his alcohol-fueled alter ego.
“It’s a different name because he turns into a completely—totally different person,” Cook explained. “So somebody will say, ‘All right. Here comes Timmy. We got to go.’”
On the night of the crash, Cook said Beach had called Paul “stupid” and asked to go home.
The boat took off moments later.
“We went from a 2 mph idle to the bow of the boat sticking up in the air,” Cook said.
Robert Kittle, the communications director for the South Carolina Attorney General's Office, told Oxygen.com that in light of Paul's death the charges will likely be dismissed against him.
"We will be dismissing the charges against him once we receive official documentation of his death, like a death certificate, but his death does not end the criminal case into the boating accident. That investigation is still open," Kittle said.
Investigators have not said whether they believe the two incidents are connected or whether there are any possible suspects in the double homicide.
Beach’s family released a statement through their attorneys, which was obtained by WTOC, expressing their “deepest and warmest sympathies” to the Murdaugh family.
“Having suffered the devasting loss of their own daughter, the family prays that the Murdaughs can find some level of peace from this tragic loss too,” the statement said. “They would like the family and the community to know that their thoughts and continued prayers are with the Murdaughs. It is their most sincere hope that someone will come forward and cooperate with authorities so that the perpetrator of these senseless crimes can be brought to justice.”
Alex Murdaugh is a prominent attorney in South Carolina with the law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick.
The firm announced Thursday that Alex’s father, Randolph Murdaugh III, died just days after the double homicide at the age of 81. Murdaugh III had served as the elected solicitor in the 14th Circuit from 1987 to 2005, the Associated Press reports.
Alex's great-grandfather, Randolph Murdaugh, started the legal firm as a sole practitioner in 1910, beginning the family’s lengthy legal history in the community, according to the firm’s website.