Two years before a rich and respected lawyerwould be making international headlines for allegedly staging his own shooting, a fatal boating accident involving the Murdaugh family was causing waves in South Carolina.
It was February 23, 2019 when investigators said Alex’s 19-year-old son Paul Murdaugh took his family’s boat out for a party night with friends on the Beaufort River.
The night ended in a boating accident that claimed the life of 19-year-old Mallory Beach.
Mallory’s aunt, Lynn Reavis, remembers hearing the news from a family member.
“I was home. And someone called and said they found it. And I collapsed,” Reavis told the “48 Hours” contributor.in an exclusive interview on “The Murdaugh Mysteries,” which airs Saturday, October 30 at 10 / 9c on CBS.
Reavis and his niece had been particularly close. “She was just this wonderful, fun-loving, happy girl. And everyone loved him, ”Reavis said.
That night there were three couples on board, Paul Murdaugh and his girlfriend Morgan Doughty, Miley Altman and her boyfriend Connor Cook, and his cousin Anthony Cook and his girlfriend Mallory Beach.
Although the six passengers are all minors, friends will later say that some of the revelers had no problem using borrowed fake IDs to purchase alcohol.
The night has started on what locals call Murdaugh Island, where the family owns a private residence. From there, passengers say Murdaugh drove the boat to a second location, an oyster roast on Paukie Island. According to GPS data retrieved from the Murdaugh boat, they docked at 8 p.m. and stayed until about midnight. Friends later told investigators that the river turned dark and misty when Paul put the boat back in the water and was heading for downtown Beaufort.
Investigators say Murdaugh and Connor Cook walked into a bar on the Beaufort waterfront, while the rest of the passengers lingered in a nearby park.
“He was just very persistent going up and being shot,” passenger Miley Altman later told investigators of Murdaugh’s behavior.
Surveillance video from the bar – Luther’s Rare and Well Done – showed Murdaugh and Connor knocking down two shots each within minutes before joining their friends at 1:15 a.m.
Cameras on the dock captured the six friends boarding the boat. In what is the last known footage of Mallory, surveillance footage shows her with her boyfriend Anthony Cook gently walking together on the dock.
According to passenger statements, Paul Murdaugh’s behavior on the boat was increasingly worrying.
“Paul was just driving, making donuts,” Altman told investigators.
At one point, Connor Cook got behind the wheel, says Altman
“Connor starts to drive a bit, then Paul, he likes to stop Connor and he’s like, ‘No, this is my boat, let me drive. Altman remembers. “I saw the bridge coming.”
Shortly after 2:20 am, a distraught Anthony Cook called 911. “We’re in a boating accident on Archer’s Creek… There are six of us and one is missing. ”
One of the first people to arrive at the scene was Beaufort County Sheriff’s Deputy Stephen Domino. In an exclusive interview with Battiste and “48 Hours”, Domino recalled the chaos he encountered.
“Everyone was crying, scared, shocked, just worried about their friend,” Domino said.
Mallory was nowhere to be found. And her boyfriend Anthony Cook was almost inconsolable when he spoke to the MP and identified Paul Murdaugh as the driver of the boat.
“Do you know Alex Murdaugh? Anthony Cook asked the MP in a dash camera video. “It’s his son.
“That’s when he indicated he couldn’t be touched,” Domino said at “48 hours”.
It would take eight days of exhaustive searches by law enforcement and volunteers before Mallory Beach’s body was found.
Mallory’s aunt says she later learned some of the details of what happened that night.
“He didn’t want anyone else to drive the boat,” Reavis says of Murdaugh. “But all these kids say they begged him to stop and they begged… ‘just let us out.’ And he refused. … And it hurts my heart that she is so terrified.
Alex Murdaugh’s behavior attracted a lot of attention after the accident.
According to witness statements at the hospital, Alex was going from room to room, trying to speak with his son’s injured friends.
Local reporter Michael DeWitt covered the Murdaugh family and the boat accident extensively as editor of The Hampton County Guardian newspaper.
“I think from day one, Ground Zero, the effort was… What can we do to get Paul out of this?” DeWitt said “48 hours”. “How do we create a cloud of confusion… and say, ‘Can you prove who was driving the boat? “”
In a deposition, Connor Cook said Alex Murdaugh told him he “didn’t have to tell anyone who was driving.” And a hospital security guard has publicly stated that he overheard Alex say on his cell phone, “She’s gone. Do not worry.”
Hospital staff measured Paul Murdaugh’s blood alcohol level at 0.24, three times the legal limit.
The Mallory Beach family filed a wrongful death complaint against members of the Murdaugh family on March 29, 2019. Three weeks later, on what would have been Mallory’s 20th birthday, Paul Murdaugh was charged with several crimes: boating under the influence resulting in the death of Mallory Beach and serious bodily harm to two passengers. He pleaded not guilty to all counts.
This is the story that, according to the people of that part of South Carolina known as the Lowcountry, signaled the downfall of the famous family. The Murdaugh’s legacy of power and influence includes over 85 years as lawyers, elected chief prosecutor. While Alex Murdaugh did not continue the tradition started by his great-grandfather, he maintained a high level of influence in legal circles, working as a volunteer in the notary’s office and as a partner in the law firm of his family, Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick.
Alex Murdaugh’s legal relationships and his behavior after the fatal accident played a role in several legal files, including Beach’s wrongful death trial and a petition filed on behalf of Connor Cook calling for an investigation into the collusion and conspiracy civil.
Although he was charged with the death of Mallory Beach, Paul Murdaugh would never stand trial. He was killed alongside his mother, Maggie Murdaugh, on June 7, 2021.
When Mallory’s aunt heard the news of the double homicide, she was devastated.
“The thought of the horror they went through, I cried,” Reavis said. “Things like this shouldn’t happen in our small community.”
While still mourning Mallory, Reavis says she never wished Paul Murdaugh any harm.
“All I wanted was for him to come to the stand and say, ‘I’m sorry,'” Reavis said at “48 hours.”
Saturday’s show covers all ongoing investigations into the Murdaugh family’s affairs.