SLED releases heavily redacted secondary reports from night of murders
By Mike McCombs
Two weeks after the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh and on the day the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) released heavily redacted reports from the night of the killings, 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone released a statement regarding his office’s involvement in the investigation.
Paul Murdaugh, 22, and Maggie Murdaugh, 52, were found shot to death June 7 at their family’s Colleton County home.
At the time of his murder, Paul Murdaugh was facing three felony charges in connection to the fatal boat crash in February 2019 in Beaufort County that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach.
Murdaugh and Beach were among six people thrown from a boat when it crashed into a piling on Archers Creek near Parris Island on Feb. 24, 2019. Beach’s body was found one week later on March 3.
Murdaugh was eventually charged with one count of boating under the influence causing death and two counts of boating under the influence causing great bodily injury in connection to the boat crash. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in May, 2019.
Stone recused himself and his office from that case because of close connections to the powerful Murdaugh family. Among the connections, Stone succeeded Randolph Murdaugh III as the 14th Circuit Solicitor, and Alex Murdagh, Paul Murdaugh’s father, often works on cases with the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s office.
A member of the Murdaugh family was solicitor of the S.C. 14th Judicial Circuit from 1920 to 2006.
At least one S.C. media outlet has suggested Stone should once again recuse himself from this case, as well. Though not necessarily a suspect, Alex Murdaugh has been named by SLED a person of interest in the murders of his son and wife.
Stone’s statement from Monday tries to differentiate between the connections to the boat crash investigation and the connections to the murder investigation.
Here is the statement by Stone regarding the investigation into the deaths of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh:
“The 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office recognizes the high degree of public interest regarding the recent deaths of Maggie Murdaugh and her son Paul. However, it is neither prudent nor proper for me to comment on particulars of this or any case while it is under investigation. To do so would risk interfering with the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division’s investigation.
“I have maintained contact with S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson and SLED Chief Mark Keel. My office is available to SLED for legal advice and investigative support, as it would be to any law-enforcement agency leading an investigation of this type in the 14th Circuit.
“To my knowledge, there is no clear suspect in this case at this time. As such, speculation about the propriety of my office’s involvement is precisely that – speculation. Conflicts of interest are a matter of legal ethics. An expert on that subject – former University of South Carolina law dean Robert Wilcox – recently told the Charleston Post and Courier, ‘The mere fact that the Murdaugh name is closely associated with the solicitor’s office doesn’t cause me any concerns at this point. We have no idea who the solicitor will ultimately be engaged in prosecuting.’
“Additionally, S.C. Attorney General’s Office spokesman Robert Kittle recently told The Island Packet newspaper, ‘Until the investigation is complete, any decision on a prosecutor is premature. No one has been charged yet so there’s no one to prosecute.’
“That was not the situation when I recused my office in the aftermath of the 2019 boating crash for which Paul Murdaugh was eventually charged. In that case, it was immediately apparent Mr. Murdaugh would be a suspect, that his father owned the boat in which those involved were traveling and that other passengers were related to employees of my office. Thus, any comparison of these cases simply is not apt.
“Suffice it to say, ethical conduct is paramount to me and to those who serve the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office. We will act promptly and ethically should conflicts arise in this case, as we always have.”
Prior to the release of Stone’s statement on Monday, SLED released several supplemental incident reports from the night of the murders. The reports were highly redacted did contain a few facts the public may not have known.
“As Chief of SLED, I urge the public to be patient and let the investigation take its course. This case is complex, and we will not rush this or any investigation,” SLED Chief Mark Keel said in the release. “Investigative decisions we make throughout this case must withstand the scrutiny of the criminal justice process. SLED agents continue to interview possible witnesses, collect and process potential evidence, and investigate every lead with the same diligence we devote to every case.
“SLED agents are working tirelessly with our partners to build a case against any person responsible for the murders of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh to ensure that justice is served.”
Among the things learned from the newly released reports:
The Colleton County Sheriff’s Office maintained the integrity of the crime scene until the arrival of SLED.
The Sheriff’s Office found two vehicles at the crime scene, impounding at least one.
SLED asked the Sheriff’s Office to search for any video surveillance evidence in the morning hours after the murders.
“We will continue to evaluate the records in this case and will release additional information when possible,” SLED spokesperson Tommy Crosby said in the release.
The release and reports can be seen at www.sled.sc.gov.
Mike McCombs is the editor of The Island News and can be reached at TheIslandNews@gmail.com.
Above: 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone