Why Were a 'Loving' Mother and Son from a S.C. Family Dynasty Murdered on Their 1,770-Acre Property?
To outsiders, Margaret "Maggie" Murdaugh seemed to lead a charmed life.
As the wife of prominent South Carolina attorney Richard Alexander Murdaugh, known as Alex, whom she met at the University of South Carolina, Maggie, 52, enjoyed the prestige that came with being married to a scion of the Murdaugh family legal dynasty.
While Alex, 53, worked as an attorney at an influential law firm started by Randolph Murdaugh Sr. in 1910, Maggie quietly raised the couple's two sons: Richard Alexander Murdaugh Jr., known as Buster, and Paul Terry Murdaugh.
Splitting her time between the family's rustic, 1,770-acre property in Islandton, in the Lowcountry, and their airy beach house in Edisto, on the coast, Maggie enjoyed attending events with her husband and sons at their local yacht club, swimming in the family's pool and spending time out on the water on their boat.
According to friends on Facebook, Maggie loved to laugh - and make other people laugh - and spend time with her family and friends at tailgate parties and black-tie gatherings alike.
All that came to a tragic and violent end on the night of June 7, when she and her son, Paul, were shot and killed on the property of the Murdaugh's hunting lodge in Islandton, the Associated Press, The Island Packet and WSAV report.
At 10:07 p.m., Maggie's husband, Alex, called 911 to say that he returned to his family's property and found his wife and son "shot outside the residence," South Carolina Law Enforcement Division spokesperson Tommy Crosby announced in a release Tuesday afternoon.
"Both died of multiple gunshot wounds and both are being handled as homicides," the Colleton County Coroner tells PEOPLE.
The Coroner estimated their times of death to be between 9 and 9:30 p.m., The Island Packet reports.
Paul was reportedly shot in the head and chest with a shotgun and his mother was killed with an assault rifle, sources told The Island Packet.
Tragedy struck again three days later when the family patriarch, well-known local prosecutor Randolph Murdaugh III, 81, died, according to his law firm, Peters Murdaugh Parker Eltzroth & Detrick. Randolph was Maggie's father-in-law and Paul's grandfather.
His cause of death has not been released.
A Controversial Boating Accident
Despite the laid-back life Maggie seemed to enjoy, she and her family were dealing with the stress of an upcoming trial when she and her son were murdered.
In April 2019, Paul, then 20, was arrested and later indicted on charges of one count of boating under the influence (BUI) causing death and two counts of causing great bodily injury, online court records show.
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After attending a gathering on Parris Island in February 2019, Paul, who had allegedly been heavily drinking, got behind the wheel of a boat with five passengers that crashed into a bridge piling at about 2 a.m., court records show, WSAV reported.
Mallory Beach, 19, was thrown from the boat. Her body was found a week later.
In March 2019, Beach's mother, Renee, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Paul, his family and a convenience store that allegedly served Paul and his friends alcohol on the night of the accident, even though they were underage.
That May, Paul pleaded not guilty. He was released on $50,000 bond.
No trial date had been set. The charges will be dismissed now that Paul is dead, The Island Packet reports.
Looking for a Motive
As police continue to investigate Maggie and Paul's murders, many in the community and elsewhere are left to wonder who killed Maggie and her son - and why?
After more than a week, no arrests have been made, and authorities are divulging little about the murders.
Autopsy results will be released in 6 to 8 weeks.
Responding to earlier requests about the case, Crosby said in a statement, The Augusta Chronicle reports, "SLED understands the media's interest and the public's desire for answers to what has happened in their community.
"We know that everyone has questions and rumors are abundant, speculating what happened in the shooting deaths of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh. It is important for the community to know that SLED is committed to conducting a complete, thorough, and independent investigation to ensure justice is served.
"As we do in every investigation, our agents will pursue every lead and utilize all available resources in investigating this case. We cannot and will not do anything that could jeopardize the integrity of this investigation and thus feel it is inappropriate to comment on specifics while this investigation is ongoing.
In the meantime, Maggie's family and friends on Facebook remember her for her "heart of gold," for being "beautiful, smart, very funny, very nice," and for her warm personality.
"Maggie had a heart of pure generosity and loved welcoming friends and family into her home on any given occasion," her obituary reads.
"She adored her family and cherished spending time on the boat with her two sons. She will be remembered as a 'second mom' to her sons' many friends. She made the most out of every situation and lived each and every day to the fullest."
Anyone with information about the case should call the Colleton Sheriff's Office at 843-549-2211 or Crime Stoppers at 888-CRIMESC.