Cops Turn Up Heat on Lawyer in Wild South Carolina Shooting Saga

·6 min read
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photo Facebook
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photo Facebook

Alex Murdaugh is officially at the center of a state investigation.

The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced Monday that it has opened a probe into Murdaugh, 53, just days after the legal scion was ousted from his firm over allegations of theft and placed in rehab for drug dependency.

In a statement to The Daily Beast, the top law enforcement agency in the state confirmed the criminal investigation into Murdaugh is based on allegations that the father-of-two misappropriated funds from his family’s law firm, Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick (PMPED).

“I continue to urge the public to be patient and let this investigation take its course. Investigative decisions we make throughout this case and any potentially related case must ultimately withstand the scrutiny of the criminal justice process,” SLED Chief Mark Keel said in the statement. “As with all cases, SLED is committed to conducting a professional, thorough, and impartial criminal investigation, no matter where the facts lead us.”

The investigation is the latest in a stunning turn of events for Murdaugh, part of the legal dynasty that has held sway in rural Hampton County for decades—and who, along with his family, is at the center of a bizarre series of fatal incidents and freak shootings. For some Hampton County residents who spoke to The Daily Beast, the probe only solidified the prospect that the Murdaughs’ hold on the Lowcountry might be breaking.

“The Murdaughs were once viewed as the law in this area,” one resident, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of professional retribution, told The Daily Beast. “Now, it seems all this scandal is upending them.”

Murdaugh’s lawyer and spokesperson did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.

Sheriff’s Report on Alex Murdaugh Shooting Raises More Questions

The family drama exploded into the national spotlight in early June, when Murdaugh’s 52-year-old wife, Margaret, and their 22-year-old son, Paul, were both found fatally shot near the hunting dog kennels at their 1,700-acre estate. Paul, for his part, was facing charges over a fatal accident involving a boat he piloted that killed a teenage girl in 2019.

It was not immediately clear if the SLED investigation into Murdaugh’s alleged theft would have any impact on the long tight-lipped investigation into the murder of the man’s wife and son, or any of the other probes swirling around the family. No suspects have been identified in the killings of Murdaugh’s wife and son.

Last week, the lawyer called authorities, stating that he had been shot in the head by an unknown truck driver after his late wife’s Mercedes-Benz indicated the car had a problem tire.

A Murdaugh spokesperson, Amanda Loveday, previously told The Daily Beast that a male truck driver in a blue pickup truck pulled up beside Murdaugh and asked him if he had car trouble.

“After replying, he was shot,” Loveday said.

A copy of the incident report obtained by The Daily Beast, which labels the episode “attempted murder,” says Hampton County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to Old Salkehatchie Highway “in reference to a shooting incident.” SLED previously told The Daily Beast that Murdaugh had called 911 about 20 minutes earlier.

While en route, the report states, deputies learned that Murdaugh “had been shot in the head and was being flown out from a landing zone” on the highway to the hospital. Before he left, however, a sheriff’s office investigator spoke with Murdaugh at the scene and other deputies secured the location until state authorities arrived.

While the report originally indicated Murdaugh did not have a “visible injury,” the sheriff’s office later amended it to say he suffered massive injuries. Loveday told The Daily Beast that he suffered a skull fracture and a wound that had an entry and exit point.

For its part, SLED previously said that Murdaugh only sustained a “superficial” wound and was released from the hospital soon after he arrived.

Amid swirling speculation, Loveday insisted that Murdaugh’s wounds were not “self-inflicted.”

Authorities have also not provided details as to why Murdaugh was released from the hospital hours after the incident if he did have major injuries as his camp states—or provide any information about a possible suspect.

Then, things somehow got even weirder.

Just hours after Murdaugh called authorities about the shooting incident, the lawyer issued a surprise announcement stating he had quit PMPED—the firm his great-grandfather founded a century ago.

Also, he added: he was entering rehab.

“The murders of my wife and son have caused an incredibly difficult time in my life. I have made a lot of decisions that I truly regret,” Murdaugh said in the statement.

Murdaugh’s attorney, Jim Griffin, told the Island Packet his client entered a drug treatment center to deal with substance abuse issues—and would meet with authorities investigating the shooting after he finishes the first phase of his detox. The State, citing unnamed sources, reported that the substance was oxycodone.

On Monday night, however, PMPED released its own statement, indicating that Murdaugh had been forced out days earlier—after the firm discovered “that Alex misappropriated funds.” While the firm declined to comment on how much Murdaugh allegedly stole, two people associated with the South Carolina legal community previously told The Daily Beast that the amount was over a million dollars.

“I was shocked, just as the rest of my PMPED family, to learn of my brother, Alex’s, drug addiction and stealing of money,” Randolph Murdaugh IV, the eldest brother in the prominent family, said in a Wednesday statement to The Daily Beast. “I love my law firm, family, and also love Alex as my brother. While I will support him in his recovery, I do not support, condone, or excuse his conduct in stealing by manipulating his most trusted relationships.”

After Murdaugh’s ouster from the firm last week, the South Carolina Supreme Court suspended him from practicing law after receiving “sufficient evidence” that he “poses a substantial threat of serious harm to the public or the administration of justice.”

Now that the state’s top police agency is involved, it may prove more difficult for a family long suspected of enjoying outsized influence in their corner of the state to avoid sustained sunlight.

What that means for a troubled man experiencing a titanic fall from grace remains to be seen.

As another resident put it in an interview, “Who knows what’s going to come out of this.”

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