The descendant of a prominent legal dynasty is accused of misappropriating fees from the law firm his great-grandfather started more than a century ago

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Alex Murdaugh
Alex Murdaugh
| Credit: Facebook

On Monday, the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced that it has opened an investigation into allegations that Alex Murdaugh, 53, of Islandton, stole funds from the prestigious law firm his great-grandfather started more than 100 years ago.

The state's highest law enforcement agency opened the investigation "based upon allegations that he misappropriated funds in connection to his position as a former lawyer with the Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth, & Detrick (PMPED) law firm in Hampton, South Carolina," it said in a statement.

The announcement comes a week after Murdaugh, scion of a local legal dynasty that has dominated the Lowcountry for more than a century, resigned from PMPED following allegations that he stole money from the practice, The New York Times reported.

In early June, Murdaugh was thrust into the national spotlight when he came home and found his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and son, Paul, 22, shot and killed on the grounds of their family hunting lodge.

Murdaugh Family
The Murdaugh family
| Credit: Maggie Murdaugh/Facebook

He made headlines again on Sept. 4, when he called 911 to say he'd been shot on the side of the road while changing a tire. After being released from the hospital two days later with a superficial wound, according to authorities, he announced that he was resigning from the firm and entering rehab for substance abuse.

Amid the accusations of theft from the firm, on Wednesday, he had his law license suspended by the state's highest court. He is also prohibited from prosecuting cases as a volunteer Solicitor in the 14th Judicial Circuit, The Island Packet reports.

This came as yet another blow to the family's reputation, since a succession of Murdaughs had served as Solicitor in the 14th Judicial Circuit, prosecuting criminal cases in four counties, for decades, starting in 1920.

murdaugh property
Entrance to the Murdaugh property
| Credit: FitsNews.com

With so many people in the South Carolina low country and across the nation interested in the powerful family's continuing drama and wanting answers, SLED Chief Mark Keel stressed in the statement that the probe will take time.

"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," Keel said in the statement. "As with all cases, SLED is committed to conducting a professional, thorough, and impartial criminal investigation, no matter where the facts lead us."

Shocking Family Drama Grips the Low Country

For the past two months, theories abounded about who shot and killed Murdaugh's wife and son at Moselle, their 1,770-acre property.

At the time of his murder, Murdaugh's son was awaiting trial in connection to the 2019 death of Mallory Beach, 19, who was killed when Paul allegedly drove his family's boat into a bridge piling while drunk.

Maggie Murdaugh; Paul Murdaugh
Maggie and Paul Murdaugh
| Credit: Maggie Murdaugh Facebook

The murders shed light on a string of other deaths connected to the family. This led to speculation about the murders and whether the family's actions from the past were somehow connected to them.

Then, on Sept. 4, Murdaugh was shot, which led to more speculation including whether someone was, in fact, targeting the family — and even whether he pulled the trigger himself, which his spokesperson denied in a statement, saying the shooting was not self-inflicted.

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On Sept. 6, when Murdaugh got out of the hospital, he released a statement — but not about the shooting.

"The murders of my wife and son have caused an incredibly difficult time in my life," he said in the statement, which was obtained by The Island Packet. "I have made a lot of decisions that I truly regret. I'm resigning from my law firm and entering rehab after a long battle that has been exacerbated by these murders.

"I am immensely sorry to everyone I've hurt, including my family, friends and colleagues," he said in the statement. "I ask for prayers as I rehabilitate myself and my relationships."

Murdaugh's law firm released a statement, saying, "This is disappointing news for all of us," adding that it had cut all ties with Alex. "Rest assured that our firm will deal with this in a straightforward manner. There's no place in our firm for such behavior."

Jim Griffin, one of Murdaugh's attorneys, told PEOPLE that "Alex resigned from the firm after being accused of diverting lawyer fees. These allegations prompted him to confront his dependency and he voluntarily checked into an in-patient substance abuse rehab facility after being discharged from the hospital Monday."

On Wednesday, Murdaugh's older brother, Randolph Murdaugh IV, 54, spoke out for the first time since the resignation, expressing his dismay about the situation.

John and Randy Murdaugh
Randy Murdaugh and John Marvin Murdaugh on Good Morning America in June
| Credit: ABC News

"I was shocked, just as the rest of my PMPED family, to learn of my brother, Alex's, drug addiction and stealing of money," he said in the statement.

No arrests have been made in connection to the shootings of his wife and son — or the shooting on Saturday.

Police continue to investigate.

While officials have shed little light on Saturday's shooting, saying only that it was an "attempted murder," Murdaugh's lawyer and spokesperson have divulged several details.

On Sept. 4, "Alex pulled over after seeing a low tire indicator light," his spokesperson, Amanda Loveday, told PEOPLE in an email.

"A male driver in a blue pick-up asked him if he had car troubles, as soon as Alex replied, he was shot."

On Thursday, Griffin told PEOPLE in an email that Murdaugh was bleeding and suffered "significant head trauma" after getting shot while changing a tire.

The Hampton County Sheriff's Office had initially said in its Sept. 4 incident report that Murdaugh had no "visible injury" when he was shot. That HCSO later corrected that, saying he had suffered a visible injury.