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Local Prosecutor Recuses Himself From Any Cases Involving The Murdaugh Deaths
The prosecutor, who would normally be responsible for handling any legal cases resulting from the deaths of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh, quietly stepped aside in August.
In an unexpected new development in the unsolved shooting deaths of a mother and son in South Carolina, the local prosecutor turned oversight of the investigation and any resulting cases over to state attorney general in early August.
Duffie Stone, whose official title is the Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor, had initially declined to recuse himself from any oversight in the investigation into the deaths of Maggie Murdaugh, 52, or Paul Murdaugh, 21, at the family's hunting compound known as Moselle in Islandton, South Carolina (about 65 miles west of Charleston) on June 7.
His refusal came despite the fact that Alex Murdaugh, Maggie's husband and Paul's father, was a part time volunteer prosecutor in Stone's office, and Stone's predecessor, Randolph Murdaugh III, had a continued paid association with the prosecutor's office for some time after his retirement and before his death in June (though the Columbia's The State and Charleston's The Post and Courier differ about the precise nature of his role).
"To my knowledge, there is no clear suspect in this case at this time," Duffie said in his late June statement when declining to recuse himself. "As such, speculation about the propriety of my office’s involvement is precisely that – speculation."
In a letter sent to the state attorney general's office on Aug. 11, Duffie was clear that something had changed, according to The Post and Courier.
"Citing the events of today in [South Carolina Law Enforcement Division]’s investigation of the homicides of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh, I am asking that you assume all prosecutorial functions in this matter immediately," it read in part.
Neither the attorney general's office nor Duffie responded to the paper's request for elaboration.
No charges have been brought since Duffie's recusal. The only recent major development related to the case made public is that, on Aug 6., the attorney general's office dismissed charges against Paul Murdaugh for his role in a February 2019 boat crash that killed Mallory Beach, 19. He had been indicted by a grand jury on three felony charges of boating while under the influence in April 2019. The office said the charges were rendered moot by his death.
"It was really just a formality," Robert Kittle, the spokesperson for the attorney general''s office, told Bluffton Today of the move. "We were waiting on a copy of the death certificate, and some other bureaucratic red tape."
Maggie and Paul Murdaugh's bodies were discovered at Moselle on June 7 by Alex Murdaugh, who returned to the home after visiting his dying father, according to Fox News. (The elder Murdaugh passed on June 10.) The coroner's report said that both mother and son were shot multiple times and their bodies were placed in front of the kennels of the family's dogs, according to Bluffton Today.
The coroner placed the time of death at between 9:00 and 9:30 p.m. on June 7. In late June, investigators released Alex Murdaugh's distraught call to 911 at 10:07 p.m. that night. He can be heard asking for an ambulance and begging the dispatcher to hurry because neither his wife or son are breathing, according to Bluffton Today.
While investigating the murders of the two Murdaughs, SLED reportedly found new information related to the unsolved 2015 death of Stephen Smith, 19, in nearby Hampton County and also reopened the investigation into his death, according to NBC affiliate WIS in Columbia. Officials have not released any more details about what they discovered that prompted them to reopen the earlier case, but WIS reported that the Murdaugh family had came up in that initial investigation.
You can watch "Alex Mudaugh. Death. Deception. Power." here or on Peacock starting January 6.