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Newly released court documents reveal that before Paul Murdaugh was shot to death on his family's sprawling South Carolina estate, his father allegedly coerced one of his son's friends into lying to police about a fatal boating accident.
Margaret Murdaugh, 52, and her son Paul Murdaugh, 22, were found shot to death at the family’s home by her husband, Alex Murdaugh, on June 7, at their hunting compound in Islandton, a remote town an hour’s drive west of Charleston. The family has deep connections to the region, with multiple Murdaugh family members working as prosecutors in the 14th judicial circuit over generations.
At the time of his death, Paul Murdaugh was facing three felony counts, including boating under the influence, after a February 2019 incident in which 19-year-old Mallory Beach was thrown from the boat he was operating; others on board were injured as well. Felony boating while intoxicated charges against the late Murdaugh were dropped earlier this month because of Murdaugh's death.
This week, the 2020 deposition of Connor Cook, Murdaugh's friend, was publicly unveiled as part of court proceedings against South Carolina investigators who responded to the scene of the 2019 crash. Cook's attorneys have alleged that the police sought to pin the crash on Cook. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has asked the court to dismiss the "potentially frivolous" petition, Bluffton Today reported, saying it shows he “lied early and often to investigators.”
Cook was never charged in relation to the accident; his brief statement to police at the time was, “I remember seeing the bridge and that’s about it.”
In the deposition, Cook stated that while he was in the hospital being treated for a broken jaw he sustained in the accident. Paul Murdough's father, approached him in a corridor and told him not to tell investigators who was driving the boat at the time of the crash.
“I was told for one by Alex Murdaugh that I didn’t need to tell anyone who was driving," Cook replied when asked by attorneys if he was “upfront with the officers” after the accident, adding that the Murdaugh patriarch told Cook "that everything was going to be all right. I just needed to keep my mouth shut and tell them I didn't know who was driving and that he's got me."
While being deposed, Cook also indicated that two unsubstantiated rumors about the Murdaughs led him to comply with his friend’s father’s request, saying, “being who they are, I was doing what I was told. Anything they get in, they get out of.”
When asked to elaborate on why he would withhold information from detectives Cook said, "One [rumor] was said that Paul had pushed his [housekeeper] down the stairs, and she died, and nothing ever happened," Cook said. "And another one, there was something that Paul was supposedly involved with a guy, got found beat up in the middle of the road, that they got out of.”
In June, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division announced it has opened an investigation into the 2015 death of teenager Stephen Smith, who was found dead on the side of the road about 10 miles from the Murdaugh compound. South Carolina Law Enforcement Division spokesperson Tommy Crosby said then the case opening was “based upon information gathered during the course of the double murder investigation of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh."
Sandy Smith, the teen’s mother, called into question the investigation at the time and suggested the Murdaugh family’s influence had played a role in the ruling, as was reported by FITS News. No members of the Murdaugh family have ever been named a suspect in the teen’s death.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the Murdaugh double murder, speculation around the death of the Murdaugh family housekeeper, 57-year-old Gloria Satterfield after a “trip and fall” in Hampton county on February 26, 2018, was renewed. Later that year, Alex Murdaugh settled a wrongful death claim in Satterfield’s death; his insurer paid out a sum of $500,000 for personal liability and $5,000 in a medical payment, according to the settlement document.
No evidence has emerged that links Paul Murdaugh or any members of the Murdaugh family to Satterfield’s death.
Prosecutor Duffie Stone said in a statement in late June that there is no clear suspect in the Murdaugh double homicide. The family offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction in the double murder.
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