Top SC prosecutor still investigating 2019 fatal boat crash despite Murdaugh’s death

·3 min read

The S.C. Attorney General’s Office said it is still investigating the 2019 boat crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach, even though the man accused of driving the boat was killed last week.

Citing the still-open investigation, the agency’s spokesperson justified his office’s refusal to release the case file and has declined to explain further.

The refusal raises questions about whether the Attorney General’s office is still investigating the crash itself or what happened after the crash.

Paul Murdaugh, 20 at the time and from an influential family that ran the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office for nearly a century, was indicted on three counts of boating under the influence in April 2019.

He was found dead on June 7 along with his mother, Maggie, 52, in a double homicide that has shocked South Carolinians and garnered national interest.

After Murdaugh’s death, the Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette newspapers asked the Attorney General’s Office — the agency prosecuting the case — for the boat crash file, citing the Freedom of Information Act.

“We had every intention of moving forward with Paul Murdaugh’s prosecution,” spokesperson Robert Kittle wrote in an email Monday. “While the charges against him will be dismissed, the case has not been closed because the investigation is not finished.”

Kittle would not answer questions about why the case is still under investigation more than two years after the boat crash and after Murdaugh’s death.

Jim Griffin, a Columbia-based attorney, represented Murdaugh in preliminary hearings on his boating under the influence charges.

He said he could not think of a reason — except for one — that the attorney general’s office would keep the case open.

“I can understand that they would not want to open the investigative file to disclosure because there may be information related to the murder investigation,” Griffin said on Monday afternoon.

Information about the current murder investigation into Paul and Maggie Murdaugh’s deaths has been limited and secretive from every agency involved.

Investigators have not said whether the murder is connected to the boat crash investigation in any way.

Six people were on the 17-foot Sea Hunt boat that crashed in Archer’s Creek on Feb. 24, 2019, including Paul Murdaugh and Mallory Beach.

One of the passengers, Keith “Anthony” Cook, told a Beaufort County Sheriff’s deputy at the scene that 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,” according to a police report.

Deputies did not interview Murdaugh at the scene. A sobriety test was not administered, either.

Cook’s cousin Connor Cook and Morgan Doughty, Murdaugh’s girlfriend, were also in the boat.

In court depositions as part of a civil case brought by the Beach family, both said Murdaugh was driving the boat when it crashed. Both also said Murdaugh was drinking prior to driving the boat.

Murdaugh was indicted in April 2019 and had pleaded not guilty.

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