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Boat crash charges dropped after suspect found fatally shot

August 12, 2021 GMT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) —

South Carolina authorities have dropped criminal charges stemming from a fatal 2019 boat crash against a member of a prominent legal family after he and his mother were found shot dead earlier this year.

The state Attorney General’s Office officially dismissed the charges against the late Paul Murdaugh last week in what officials described as a formality, news outlets reported.

Murdaugh was indicted on a charge of boating under the influence causing death in a February 2019 crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach and hurt several others on the boat. The woman’s body was found about a week after the boat crashed into a Beaufort County bridge.

Before the case could go to trial, Murdaugh, 22, and his mother, Maggie, 52, were fatally shot June 7 outside their home on the family’s land in Colleton County near Islandton, authorities said. State agents have released little information on their investigation into the deaths so far.

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The charge against Paul Murdaugh was dropped as a formality due to his death, according to Robert Kittle, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office. The investigation into the boat crash is still ongoing, Kittle told news outlets.

The double homicide renewed attention to the boat wreck, prompting stories that questioned whether Paul Murdaugh’s family ties to the area’s legal system affected the investigation. State officials said after the deaths that they were reviewing whether local law enforcement officials tried to obstruct the inquiry into the boat crash.

Paul Murdaugh’s grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great grandfather were longtime elected solicitors in the area, though no Murdaugh held the post at the time of the crash.

Police documents released after Paul Murdaugh’s death showed his father and grandfather both arrived at the emergency room after the crash. Paul Murdaugh’s father, Alex Murdaugh, tried to talk to the other people in the boat, scrutinizing the board that nurses and doctors use to keep track of which patients were in which rooms, nurses said.

One nurse finally ordered Alex Murdaugh to stay in his son’s room or leave the hospital.

Paul Murdaugh refused tests to see if he was boating under the influence, and he and the other the passengers refused to say who was driving the boat. Blood taken at the hospital several hours after the crash showed his blood-alcohol level was about three times the legal limit to infer intoxication, according to the investigative file.