Prosecutor in deaths of prominent legal family steps aside
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina prosecutor whose office was run for decades by a prominent legal family which had two members killed in a shooting has excused himself from any prosecution in the case.
Solicitor Duffie Stone quietly turned the case of who killed Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and her son Paul Murdaugh, 22, over to the state Attorney General’s Office.
No arrests have been made in the June 7 killings at the family’s home in Colleton County. Stone’s letter offers a few vague, intriguing hints there may be progress in the investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division.
“Citing the events of today in SLED’s investigation of the homicides of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh, I am asking that you assume all prosecutorial functions in this matter immediately,” Stone wrote in the Aug. 11 letter.
In a June 21 statement, Stone said there was no reason for him to step aside, even though the husband and father of the victims was a volunteer prosecutor in his office and Paul Murdaugh’s grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great grandfather all served as solicitor before Stone took over in 2006.
“To my knowledge, there is no clear suspect in this case at this time,” Stone wrote in his statement, ending it with “we will act promptly and ethically should conflicts arise in this case, as we always have.”
Neither Stone, state investigators or the South Carolina Attorney’s General Office gave any additional details about the events on Aug. 11 that led Stone to step aside.
Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were found shot to death outside their home and Alex Murdaugh found the bodies of his wife and son after returning home from checking on his terminally ill father. State investigators have released so few details about the case they have ended up in court, sued by The Post and Courier newspaper over possibly violating the state’s open records laws.
The newspaper first reported the letter Wednesday.
The Murdaughs are one of South Carolina’s most prominent legal families. Along with serving as prosecutors for decades, other members of the family are prominent civil attorneys.
Stone immediately stepped aside when Paul Murdaugh was charged with boating under the influence causing death in a February 2019 crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach.
The wreck led to stories questioning whether his family’s ties to the legal system in the area affected the investigation. After the Murdaugh killings, state police started a review of the investigation of the case.
Alex Murdaugh said in their only interview so far on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that none of their members tried to influence or stop the investigation.
In the months since the killings, state agencies have released hundreds of pages of documents and photos about the boat crash since Paul Murdaugh’s criminal case ended with his death as well as a 2015 hit-and-run death of a 19-year-old man in nearby Hampton County, in which the victim’s mother said she thought Paul Murdaugh could have been involved.
They have fueled the heightened interest in the events around the tragedy in a family with money and power, but have done little to shed any obvious light on who might have killed the mother and son almost three months ago.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.