By HEATHER RUPPE
South Carolina’s top investigative agency has launched a criminal investigation into the allegations that shooting victim and prominent Hampton County attorney Alex Murdaugh took money from his former law firm, which carries his family’s name.
The State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced on Monday, Sept. 13th that it has launched an investigation into Murdaugh and allegations that he misappropriated funds, in connection to his position as a former lawyer with the Hampton-based law firm, Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick (PMPED).
“As Chief of SLED, 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,” said SLED Chief Mark Kell. “As with all cases, SLED is committed to conducting a professional, thorough and impartial criminal investigation, no matter where the facts lead us.”
This newspaper reporter called the law firm on Monday to confirm these allegations.
The law firm’s media spokesman said that Alex Murdaugh resigned on Friday, Sept. 3rd and is no longer associated with PMPED “in any manner.” “His resignation came after the discovery by PMPED that Alex misappropriated funds in violation of PMPED standards and policies. A forensic accounting firm will be retained to conduct a throughout investigation. Law enforcement and the S.C. Bar have been notified by PMPED,” the statement reads. “This is disappointing news for all of us. Rest assured that our firm will deal with this in a straightforward manner. There’s no place in our firm for such behavior,” the statement reads. Grahame Holmes with the attorney’s office submitted the statement, which went on to say that any of the law firms’ clients with questions should contact them.
SLED’s latest criminal investigation into Murdaugh is one of five active investigations that SLED now has involving the Murdaugh family. The family has a legal legacy dating back to the early 1900s, with their private law firm and with ties to solicitor offices.
The first of these criminal investigations was launched when Murdaugh’s wife and son, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh and 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh, were shot to death on June 7th on the family’s hunting property in rural Colleton County, in the Moselle community.
Alex Murdaugh, the husband and father of the victims, is the one who found their bodies and who called 911 to report the murders.
SLED’s investigation into this double homicide is ongoing.
No suspects have been named at this time and no details are being released.
Then, shortly after the double murders occurred, SLED also opened a new investigation into the formerly-closed 2019 boating death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach, who was killed in Beaufort when now murder victim Paul Murdaugh and other teens crashed a boat that Crawford was on. Paul Murdaugh was facing legal charges for Boating Under the Influence in relation to Crawford’s death when he was killed; however, there was – and is – ongoing scrutiny in how local county officials handled that criminal investigation.
SLED then launched its third investigation involving the Murdaugh family when authorities decided to take a second look at another formerly-closed criminal case. This time, the case involved the 2015 death of Hampton County teenager Stephen Smith, whose body was found alongside a rural road in Hampton County. His ties to the Murdaugh family have not been confirmed by any official.
The fourth investigation launched by SLED occurred on Sept. 4th, when Alex Murdaugh claimed to have been shot in the head by an unknown suspect. This shooting allegedly occurred at 1:34 p.m. on Sept. 4th on a rural stretch of road – Old Salkehatchie Highway – located in Varnville, between Hampton and Colleton Counties. In this incident, Alex Murdaugh told Hampton County Sheriff’s Office officials that he was changing a tire on his former wife’s Mercedes-Benz SUV when an unknown suspect in a blue truck approached him, and fired a shot.
According to SLED Spokesman Tommy Crosby, SLED personnel were dispatched at 2:41 p.m. and arrived on scene at 3:40 p.m.
“SLED regional agents and crime scene agents worked throughout the night into Sunday morning collecting evidence, processing the crime scene, interviewing potential witnesses, and following up on potential leads,” Crosby said, in a written statement.
After he was shot, Murdaugh was transported to a Savannah-area hospital, where he was treated for a “superficial head wound.” This was confirmed by SLED on Monday, Sept. 6th.
From his hospital bed, Murdaugh then contacted his Columbia-based attorney, Griffin Davis, with the Griffin and Davis, LLC law firm. Alex Murdaugh also released a statement, saying he was going to enter a drug and alcohol rehab facility upon his hospital discharge.
“The murders of my wife and son have caused an incredibly difficult time in my life,” Murdaugh said in a statement obtained by The Island Packet newspaper in Beaufort County. “I have made a lot of decisions that I truly regret,” he wrote in his statement.
No suspects have been named in this shooting incident.
The Hampton County Sheriff’s Office told this reporter on Monday that all updates and information on the investigation into Alex Murdaugh’s shooting must come from SLED. Immediate calls made to SLED for an update on this case were not returned, as of press deadline on Tuesday morning.
However, original reports from the Hampton County Sheriff’s Office state that there were “no visible injuries” to Murdaugh when officers arrived on scene.
This brings the fifth, and most recent, investigation about the Murdaugh family. This time, SLED is now investigating Alex Murdaugh, based on allegations that he stole an unknown amount of money from his employer, which carries his family’s longstanding legal name.
The law firm released a media statement, saying they are dealing with the allegations in a “straightforward manner.” “This is disappointing news for all of us. Rest assured that our firm will deal with this in a straightforward manner. There’s no place in our firm for such behaviour,” the law firm said in a statement.
Solicitor’s recusal from the case
About two weeks prior to Alex Murdaugh being shot, Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone recused himself from prosecuting the case, saying in a letter to S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson that he needed to remove himself from the ongoing investigation into the Paul and Maggie Murdaugh murders because of new information discovered by SLED in its investigation.
At the time of the murders, Alex Murdaugh was a volunteer with the solicitor’s office. Also, members of the Murdaugh family were longtime holders of the solicitor seat for the Fourteenth Circuit, which includes Allendale, Hampton, Beaufort, Colleton, and Jasper counties.
A member of the Murdaugh family had long held the role of solicitor, or chief prosecutor, from the 1940s up until 2006, when Stone was first appointed to the solicitors’ office after then longtime Solicitor Randolph Murdaugh, III, retired from his role. Randolph Murdaugh III is the father of shooting victim Alex Murdaugh.
Meanwhile, the Murdaugh family is offering a $100,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the double murder case.