The heir to a legal dynasty awaiting trial over the death of a 19 year-old girl was the intended target of a shooting that also killed his mom, police sources say.
Paul Murdaugh, 22, and his mom Margaret, 52, were found shot dead multiple times at their hunting lodge in Islandton, South Carolina at 10pm on Monday, with a law enforcement source since claiming that Paul was the intended victim.
The source told The Island Packet that Margaret was likely killed just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Their deaths have been ruled a double murder and two firearms – a shotgun and an assault rifle – were used to carry out the killings.
Gossip over the shocking killings of two members of a family spawning multiple generations of local prosecutors has reached fever pitch, with cops yet to officially reveal a motive, suspect, or any further information about the case.
They insist there is no risk to the public, despite not having made any arrests, sparking further discussion over what investigators know but have yet to say.
Three days after Monday’s murders, Paul’s grandfather Richard Murdaugh III died aged 81, although his death is believed to have been the result of natural causes.
Paul was facing trial over the 2019 boating death of a 19 year-old girl who died while he was allegedly driving a boat drink.
He was shot in the head and upper body with a shotgun, while Margaret was shot with an assault rifle, they said.
Their bodies were found several yards apart from one another and shell casings were discovered at the scene.
Paul had been awaiting trial on charges relating to the 2019 boating death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach, who was thrown from the boat Paul was driving, along with five others, when he crashed.
The Murdaugh family has ruled the county’s legal system for decades, prosecuting nearly every criminal case in the southern part of the state.
Several family members have served as county elected prosecutors going back almost 87 years. While none is currently in office, the local community felt Paul was receiving special treatment in the boating death case.
Buster, Margaret, Paul and Richard Alex Murdaugh. Margaret, 52, and Paul Murdaugh, 22, were found dead, shot multiple times, in the backyard of their sprawling estate in Islandton, South Carolina, at 10pm on Monday
Paul (right) – the son of a powerful South Carolina legal family – is thought to have been the intended target of the shooting that also killed his mom Margaret (left)
Questions are now mounting about the murders, as authorities have fallen silent and are refusing to release almost any information about the investigation.
A South Carolina Law Enforcement Division spokesman also stonewalled DailyMail.com when contacted Saturday night, saying only: ‘No additional information is available at this time while we are conducting an active investigation.’
South Carolina state law requires police to provide some records on cases in the days following an incident.
And yet the only report released to date is a one-line statement from Colleton County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday.
It reads: ‘On June 7, 2021 at approximately 2226 hours I responded to 4147 Moselle Rd in Colleton County in reference to two gunshot victims found by the caller.’
A spokesperson for Colleton County Sheriff’s Office told DailyMail.com Saturday they could not release any information about the case and that South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is leading the investigation.
There are are growing concerns the family’s powerful role in the county’s legal system could jeopardize the investigation and the search for the killer or killers.
The sheriff’s office handed the case to SLED due to the Murdaugh family ties to the 14th Circuit solicitor’s office, according to The Post and Courier.
Richard Alex Murdaugh – Margaret’s husband and Paul’s dad – works as a part time prosecutor for the 14th Circuit solicitor’s office.
Three generations of the family – Richard Alex’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather – ran the office consecutively from 1920 through 2005.
There was a brief gap in 1995 when Buster Murdaugh was accused of helping moonshiners evade authorities.
Paul was awaiting trial in the 2019 boating death of Mallory Beach, 19 (pictured above)
Questions are mounting about the murders, as authorities have fallen silent and are refusing to release almost any information about the investigation. Colleton County Sheriff’s Office released this one-line statement Tuesday
It is now headed up a non-family member Duffie Stone.
It was Richard Alex who reportedly found the body’s of his wife and son around 10pm Monday night. Sources said he told cops he had been out shooting and returned to the grim scene.
However, the 14th Circuit solicitor’s office is still involved with the investigation and has not handed off the case, reported The Post and Courier.
DailyMail.com has reached out to the solicitor’s office asking if it plans to remove itself from the case due to potential conflict of interest.
Former University of South Carolina law dean Robert Wilcox told the Post and Courier the solicitor’s office’s involvement does not pose ethical issues yet.
Conflicts of interest could however arise depending on where the investigation leads and who is identified as a suspect, he said.
‘That mere fact that the Murdaugh name is closely associated with the solicitor’s office doesn’t cause me any concerns at this point,’ Wilcox said.
‘We have no idea who the solicitor will ultimately be engaged in prosecuting.’
The bodies were found near a dog kennel on the family’s property on Monday at 10pm
The Murdaugh family home is expansive, sitting on nearly two acres of land. Police haven’t yet named any suspects
Paul was awaiting trial on three felony charges of facing one count of boating under the influence causing death and two counts of boating under the influence causing great bodily injury over the death of Mallory in 2019.
It was 2.30am and he’d been drinking, according to prosecutors. He’d pleaded not guilty and was due to stand trial.
It took dive teams nine days to find Mallory’s body in the water.
Paul’s family connections are believed by some to have landed him with softer treatment from prosecutors.
The day after the boating accident – and weeks before Paul was charged – the 14th Circuit solicitor’s office told the attorney general about the conflict of interest.
Mallory’s mother filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against the family last year.
The first two judges it was assigned to each recused themselves from the suit and it was eventually handed to a judge from another county in the state.
Paul, Margaret, Richard Alex and Buster. The bodies were reportedly found by Richard Alex. Their deaths have been ruled a double murder
Paul Murdaugh, Richard and Margaret Murdaugh, and Buster Murdaugh (left to right). Sources said Paul was the likely target and his mother was collateral damage
Richard Alex and Margaret. The Murdaugh family has ruled the county’s legal system for decades
The charges will now be dropped against Paul but the lawsuit will continue.
The Beach family released a statement after the murders saying they hoped the killer would be brought to justice.
‘The Beach Family extends its deepest and warmest sympathies to the Murdaugh family during this terrible time.
‘Having suffered the devastating loss of their own daughter, the family prays that the Murdaughs can find some level of peace from this tragic loss.
On Thursday, Richard Murdaugh III – Paul’s grandfather and Margaret’s father-in-law, died aged 81 from an unspecified illness
‘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.’
Funerals were held Friday for Paul and Margaret.
Hundreds including public officials gathered for the service as they were laid to rest in Hampton Cemetery.
Richard Alex and Margaret also had another son named Buster.
As well as dominating the 14th Circuit solicitor’s office, Randolph Murdaugh also founded law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick in 1910.
The Murdaugh family’s power has helped them accrue vats amounts of wealth in the county, including owning more than 1,700 acres of land including the hunting lodge where the double murders took place.
They have been struck by other tragedy in the past with Randolph killed when a freight train hit his car.