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Solicitor releases statement on killings that targeted prominent Murdaugh family

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 10:14 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 22, 2021 at 12:34 PM EDT
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OKATIE, S.C. (WCSC) - The Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor has made his first public statement on the deadly shooting of two members of a prominent family with historic ties to the solicitor’s office.

Solicitor Duffie Stone released the following statement on the shooting deaths of Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and her son, Paul, 22.

Stone said he “recognizes the high degree of public interest” regarding the June 7 shootings.

“However, it is neither prudent nor proper for me to comment on particulars of this or any case while it is under investigation,” he said. “To do so would risk interfering with the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division’s investigation.”

Stone said he has maintained contact with S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson and SLED Chief Mark Keel during their investigation.

“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,” he said.

He also addressed speculation about potential conflicts of interest in the prosecution of any one who may eventually be charged in the crime.

SLED releases redacted reports on investigation

SLED, which is leading the investigation into the Murdaugh deaths, has released few details since the crime was discovered on the evening of June 7.

SLED officials said they released the reports Monday afternoon in the “interest of transparency.” State authorities said they have received and are currently processing a significant number of requests for the release of documents related to the case.

“As Chief of SLED I urge the public to be patient and let the investigation take its course,” SLED Chief Mark Keel said in a statement. “This case is complex, and we will not rush this or any investigation. 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.”

The investigation began on June 7 at 10:07 p.m. when Alex Murdaugh, Margaret’s husband and Paul’s father, called 911 and said that he had returned to the family property on Moselle Road in the rural Colleton County community of Islandton to find the bodies of his wife and son who were shot outside of the home on the property.

Colleton County deputies responded to the scene where it appeared that both victims suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

“The Sheriff’s Office secured the scene and contacted SLED at 10:28 p.m. to request SLED’s assistance in conducting this double murder investigation,” SLED officials said.

SLED Lowcountry Regional agents were dispatched at that time and began arriving on scene at 11:47 p.m. SLED agents say they began working with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office immediately to evaluate the crime scene and take the lead on this investigation.

SLED Crime Scene agents began arriving on scene at 12:07 a.m. on June 8.

“Crime scene personnel worked throughout the morning of June 8 to collect evidence and submitted it to SLED’s forensic lab, which immediately began processing and testing the evidence,” SLED officials said.

Authorities set up a tipline earlier this month for people to call with information that might lead them to the victims’ killer.

Anyone with information on the case can call a 24-hour dedicated line at 803-896-2605.

Murdaugh family has strong ties to solicitor’s office

Members of the Murdaugh family ran the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office for about 87 years, believed to be the longest consecutive run in American history.

When that position became an elected position in 1920, Randolph Murdaugh Sr., Paul Murdaugh’s great great grandfather, became the first man elected to the role. He served until he died in a train accident in 1940.

His son, Randolph Murdaugh Jr., took over the position after his father’s death and served until his retirement in 1987.

His son, Randolph Murdaugh III, and Paul Murdaugh’s grandfather, became solicitor and served until 2006 when he left to focus on his private law practice. He died only days after the fatal shootings at the age of 81.

Then South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford selected Stone, who was an assistant solicitor, to serve as solicitor in 2006. Stone was elected to serve his first full term in the role in 2008.

Stone promises ethical conduct in prosecution, cites prior recusal in 2019 case

In his statement, Stone cites a comment from Attorney General’s Office spokesman Robert Kittle, who suggested to another media outlet any decision on a prosecutor to handle a case against the Murdaugh’s killer would be “premature,” since there is as yet no one to prosecute.

But Stone said he recused his office in the aftermath of a deadly 2019 boating crash for which Paul Murdaugh was charged. Mallory Beach, 19, died after the boat she was riding in with several others crashed in Beaufort County.

“In that case, it was immediately apparent Mr. Murdaugh would be a suspect, that his father owned the boat in which those involved were travelling and that other passengers were related to employees of my office,” Stone said. “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,” he said. “We will act promptly and ethically should conflicts arise in this case, as we always have.”

In light of Paul Murdaugh’s death, officials with the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office said the charges against him in the case would be dropped.

The 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office serves Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper Counties.

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