Murders, boat crash, Smith case: Who is the Murdaugh family?

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Murdaugh murders in Colleton County

Two members of a powerhouse legal family were shot and killed June 7 in Colleton County, SC. Read more of our coverage.

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It’s almost impossible to walk the streets of Hampton — possibly anywhere in the surrounding Lowcountry counties — and come across someone who doesn’t know the Murdaugh name.

Lately, many have associated the name with a tragedy. A boat carrying six young people crashed into a bridge near Parris Island in February 2019, killing a 19-year-old woman and implicating Paul Murdaugh, then 20.

Last week, another family tragedy brought national attention. Paul Murdaugh, 22, and his mother Maggie, 52, were found shot to death outside their home in Colleton County. No one has been arrested.

Before 2019, headlines involving the Murdaugh family were mostly about their legal victories. Three generations of Murdaughs were state prosecutors, who collectively put thousands of people in prison and sent more than a dozen to death row from the 14th Judicial Circuit, a five-county region. The family’s law firm in Hampton has also won millions of dollars in civil lawsuits.

But who exactly are the Murdaughs? And how are they connected to the news coming out of Hampton?

THE SOLICITORS

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Portraits of Randolph “Buster” Murdaugh Jr. (left), Randolph Murdaugh III and Randolph Murdaugh Sr., hang in a courtroom in Hampton County’s Courthouse in Hampton, SC. Three generations of the Murdaugh family have served as solicitors for the 14th Circuit. Staff The Island Packet

Randolph Murdaugh Sr.: This is the original Murdaugh patriarch, who started the family’s legal legacy. He founded the family’s law firm in Hampton in 1910, then in 1920 was the first person elected to serve as 14th Circuit Solicitor. He died in a train wreck in 1940.

Randolph “Buster” Murdaugh Jr.: The son of Murdaugh Sr. He took over the solicitor position after his father’s death. He also succeeded him in running the law firm. He was indicted on charges involving a bootlegger, but was later acquitted.

Randolph Murdaugh III: The son of Murdaugh Jr. After his father retired from the solicitor position in 1986, Murdaugh III took over, holding the position until his own retirement in 2005. He was the final Murdaugh to hold the job, ending the family’s 87-year reign. He died June 10 at age 81, days after his grandson and daughter-in-law were murdered. He had been ill for some time.

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Facebook Screenshot

THE IMMEDIATE FAMILY

Alex “Alec” Murdaugh: One of Murdaugh III’s sons. Although he hasn’t held the solicitor’s position, his biography on the family’s law firm website says he works as a part-time prosecutor at the office. He also leads his family’s law firm, now known as Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick. He is the father of Paul and husband of Maggie Murdaugh, who were found shot to death on June 7. He told police he discovered the bodies and is the person who called 911. He is also named as a defendant in a civil suit stemming from the 2019 boat crash that killed a 19-year-old college student. Murdaugh owned the boat involved in the crash.

Maggie Murdaugh: Alex Murdaugh’s wife and the mother of Paul Murdaugh. Maggie, 52, was a “gentle presence” and remembered as a second mom to her sons’ friends. She also enjoyed watching her two sons play sports. She and Alex met while they were students at the University of South Carolina. She was fatally shot on June 7 alongside her younger son.

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Richard Alexander Murdaugh and Maggie Murdaugh at a concert in 2018. Screenshot from Maggie Murdaugh’s Facebook page.

Paul Murdaugh: The younger of Alex Murdaugh’s two sons. He was fatally shot on June 7 alongside his mother. At the time of his death, Paul, 22, was a student at the University of South Carolina and was facing three felony boating under the influence charges tied to the 2019 fatal boat crash in Beaufort County that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach. A trial had not been set, and he was out on bond. The charges will be dismissed because of his death.

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Paul Terry Murdaugh prepares to leave the Beaufort County Courthouse on Monday after having his bond modified for the three felony charges he faces for the Feb. 24 boat crash which killed Mallory Beach. Murdaugh’s defense attorney Jim Griffin asked judge Michael G. Nettles to allow Murdaugh to travel within the state. Nettles ruled that Murdaugh may travel within the state with no other modifications. The state had asked for GPS monitoring as well as alcohol monitoring which was not a condition set by Nettles. Drew Martin Island Packet file photo

Alex “Buster” Murdaugh Jr.: Alex and Maggie Murdaugh’s 25-year-old son. He graduated from Wofford College in 2018 and was planning to work at the family’s law firm post graduation. In addition to his father, he is named as a defendant in a civil suit stemming from the 2019 boat crash that killed a 19-year-old college student. It’s alleged Buster let his younger brother use his ID to buy alcohol that day.

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Buster Murdaugh, center, receives a hug in the pouring rain at the funeral service for his brother, Paul, and mother, Maggie, on June 11, 2021. Kacen Bayless Staff photo

John Marvin Murdaugh: One of Randolph Murdaugh III’s sons and Alex Murdaugh’s brother. News outlets have reported that John Marvin Murdaugh was at the crime scene talking with investigators after Paul and Maggie Murdaugh’s double homicide. A friend of John Marvin’s has given multiple interviews saying the family is “confident justice will be served.”

Randolph “Randy” Murdaugh IV: One of Randolph Murdaugh III’s sons. He began working at the family law firm in 1991, according to the firm’s website.

Elizabeth “Libby” Alexander Murdaugh: The widow of Randolph Murdaugh III. The two met in high school and were married after Murdaugh III completed undergraduate studies at the University of South Carolina. Alex Murdaugh was visiting his mother at her home in Varnville before he discovered Paul and Maggie’s bodies on June 7, according to a Good Morning America interview.

Here, you can read the detailed history of the Murdaugh family from 1910 to 2019, when the fatal boat crash happened.

OTHERS CONNECTED TO THE FAMILY, BOAT CRASH

Mallory Beach: The 19-year-old college student who died in February 2019 after being launched into the water when a boat carrying her and five others crashed into a bridge near Parris Island in Beaufort County. Her body was found a week after the crash. She was from Hampton and worked at a boutique in Beaufort. The crash and her death captured the attention of the nation.

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Mallory Beach, 19, of Hampton County, was killed in a boat crash on Archers Creek on Feb. 24, 2019. Submitted

Renee Beach: Mallory Beach’s mother, who filed the wrongful death lawsuit against multiple people and entities in March 2019. Now, the lawsuit names only Paul Murdaugh’s father and brother, Alex Murdaugh Sr. and Alex “Buster” Murdaugh Jr., and convenience store Parkers 55 as defendants. It’s still unresolved and likely to go to trial.

Anthony Cook: Mallory Beach’s boyfriend at the time of the crash. He was on the boat and told police Paul Murdaugh was the driver. In a Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office report, a deputy interviewed Anthony Cook, who said he “begged Paul Murdaugh, who was driving the boat at the time of the incident, to please let him drive because he was too intoxicated to drive.” Some news outlets are reporting Anthony and Paul were cousins, but in a recent court deposition, Anthony said only that they’d known each other since he was in the third or fourth grade and that they were friends.

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Anthony Cook leans against a truck near Archers Creek where crews were searching for his girlfriend, Mallory Beach, around noon on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. The couple was on board a boat early Sunday morning when it crashed near the bridge leading onto Parris Island. Ashley Jean Reese The Beaufort Gazette

Connor Cook: Anthony Cook’s cousin, who was also on the boat at the time of the crash. The morning of the crash, a Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputy wrote in his report: “It is unclear at this time whether Connor Cook or Paul Murdaugh was driving the boat.” To date, no one has faced criminal charges in the crash other than Murdaugh.

THE STEPHEN SMITH CASE

Stephen Smith: A 19-year-old from Hampton County who was found dead in a road near Hampton in 2015. Authorities disagreed on whether he was killed in a hit-and-run accident or in a homicide. No arrests were made in the case that eventually went cold. Two weeks into the Murdaugh double homicide investigation, SLED announced it was reopening Smith’s investigation because of information received in its Murdaugh probe. No official statement has connected the Murdaughs to Smith’s death.

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A photo of the senior photo of Stephen Smith in the 2014 Hampton Wade High School “A Devil in Every Crowd” yearbook. Drew Martin [email protected]

Sandy Smith: Stephen Smith’s mother, who has been vocal since 2015 that she believes young adults from prominent families are responsible for her son’s death.

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A screenshot of an article in the Hampton County Guardian about Stephen Smith’s death in 2015. Screenshot Hampton County Guardian

Stephanie Smith: Stephen’s twin sister, who has spoken publicly about her brother and his death.

Follow more of our reporting on Murdaugh family news and updates

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Lana Ferguson typically covers stories in northern Beaufort County, Jasper County, and Hampton County. She joined The Island Packet & Beaufort Gazette in 2018 as a crime/breaking news reporter. Before coming to the Lowcountry, she worked for publications in her home state of Virginia and graduated from the University of Mississippi, where she was editor-in-chief of the daily student newspaper. Lana was also a fellow at the University of South Carolina’s Media Law School in 2019.
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