Paul Murdaugh, a 22-year-old man who was charged over the death of his teenage friend in connection to a boating accident that took place in 2019 was shot dead along with his 52-year-old mother Margaret "Maggie" Murdaugh on Monday.
The mother and son, who belong to a powerful legal family in South Carolina, were found at around 10 p.m. by deputies with the Colleton County Sheriff's Office when they responded to a 911 report of two dead bodies outside a house on their 1,700-acre hunting estate.
Paul, Maggie's Death Being Investigated as Double Homicide
According to local news outlets, the two were shot with different weapons - one with an assault rifle and the other with a shotgun. Attorney Richard Alexander Murdaugh Sr.—Maggie's husband and Paul's father—found the bodies and alerted law enforcement, but told investigators he was not home at the time of the shootings.
According to sources cited by local NBC affiliate News 2, the deaths did not appear to be the result of a murder-suicide and are being investigated as a double homicide. According to Island Packet, their bodies were found separate from one another. While Paul was shot in the head and upper body with the shotgun, Maggie suffered gunshot wounds consistent with the assault rifle.
Are the Shootings Connected to the 2019 Fatal Boat Crash?
The shootings have led to speculation that it may be connected to Paul's involvement in the fatal boat crash that took place in February 2019. Paul was killed as he awaited trial for allegedly killing 19-year-old Mallory Madison Beach in the drunken boating accident.
Paul, who was 20 at the time, was allegedly steering the speedboat under the influence of alcohol with a group of friends, including Beach, when he crashed into a piling by the bridge, killing Beach. Her body was found a week later.
Murdaugh was later indicted for his alleged role in the crash, and pleaded not guilty in May 2019 to one felony count of boating under the influence causing death and two felony counts of boating under the influence causing injury.
He was released on a $50,000 recognizance bond and did not spend any time in jail. There was no movement in the criminal case since July 2019, when his bond was modified to allow him to travel. Just three days prior to the shooting of the mother-son duo, Mallory Beach's mother Renee submitted the latest court filings in the wrongful death lawsuit for her daughter.
Was Paul the Target?
In the aftermath of Paul's death, the charges will be dropped, but a civil lawsuit filed by Beach's family against the Murdaugh family will continue.As reported by Island Packet, it is possible that Paul was the target of the fatal shooting while his mother was killed because she was there by happenstance, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
The Murdaugh family has been a powerful force in South Carolina for more than a century. According to his bio on the family law firm's website, patriarch Randolph Murdaugh, III "was the third generation of the Murdaugh family to serve as Solicitor of the 14th Judicial Circuit." He passed away on Thursday, three days after Maggie and Paul's death.
As one man who asked not to be named told The State newspaper, "They [Murdaughs] are the law around here."