National News

Lawyer Shot After Wife and Son Were Killed Had Been Pushed Out of Law Firm

Posted September 6, 2021 8:57 p.m. EDT

Alex Murdaugh, the prominent South Carolina lawyer whose wife and son were shot to death months ago in an unsolved murder mystery that has captivated the state and confounded the police, was pushed out of his powerful law firm over claims that he had misused funds the day before he called 911 from a rural road to say that he had been shot in the head, the firm disclosed Monday.

Leaders of the Hampton, South Carolina, firm said they had discovered that Murdaugh had misappropriated money from the law office and that he had resigned Friday. The next day, Murdaugh told the police he had been changing a tire at the side of a road in Hampton County — where members of his family have established a powerful legal dynasty over three generations — when someone in a truck pulled up and shot him in the head.

Tommy Crosby, a spokesperson for state law enforcement, confirmed that Murdaugh had suffered “a superficial gunshot wound to the head” but declined to comment on the law firm’s statement about Murdaugh’s departure.

Murdaugh, 53, was a partner at the law firm PMPED — known by the initials of its partners — which was founded by Murdaugh’s great-grandfather more than a century ago and is well-known in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. In a statement to The New York Times, the firm said that it had hired a forensic accounting firm to investigate the suspected misappropriation of funds and that it had also notified the police and the South Carolina Bar.

The law firm said it had told Murdaugh of the accusations Friday, and that he and the firm agreed that he should resign. Murdaugh’s lawyer said his client had expressed his “regret and sorrow.”

The law office did not say how much money was missing, but a member of the firm, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose company information, said the amount was in the millions.

Murdaugh said in his own statement Monday that he had resigned from the firm and was entering rehab after a “long battle” that had worsened since the killing of his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and son, Paul Murdaugh, who were found dead at the family home in June. He also issued a vague apology to people he had “hurt,” including his “family, friends and colleagues.”

Murdaugh’s lawyer, Jim Griffin, confirmed that Murdaugh had left the firm after being accused of misusing funds. Griffin said Murdaugh had been released from the hospital Monday after his injury was determined to be not life-threatening and that he had immediately met with investigators from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, which is investigating the double-killing and the shooting of Murdaugh.

Murdaugh’s account of the shooting remained the same, Griffin said: Someone had driven by in a truck as he was changing a tire, then driven back around and asked if he was having car trouble. The next thing Murdaugh heard was a gunshot, Griffin said. Griffin said state law enforcement authorities had told him that no weapon had been found at the scene and that there was a slice in one of Murdaugh’s tires, details that Crosby would not confirm.

Griffin added that police investigators were aware of the accusations against Murdaugh and of his departure from the law firm.

The killing of Murdaugh’s wife and son brought national attention to what is normally a quiet, rural community 65 miles west of Charleston. It was there that the Murdaugh’s legal legacy began, when residents elected Randolph Murdaugh, Murdaugh’s great-grandfather, as the region’s top prosecutor 101 years ago. For more than eight decades, until 2006, three generations of the Murdaugh family served in the position, prosecuting cases across five counties.

The killings also brought scrutiny to the family’s history in the region as well as several other deaths.

Murdaugh’s son, Paul Murdaugh, who had been a junior at the University of South Carolina, was killed while he was awaiting trial on felony charges that accused him of driving a boat while drunk in 2019, crashing it and killing a 19-year-old woman, Mallory Beach. Paul Murdaugh’s death brought renewed attention to that case, and local news outlets and documents released by the police have raised questions about errors or favorable treatment toward him in the investigation.

The killings also led the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to open a new inquiry into the unsolved death of Stephen Smith, a 19-year-old whose body was found on a rural road in the area in 2015. The police have not accused the Murdaughs of wrongdoing in that case.

The revelation that Murdaugh had been accused of misusing his law firm’s money only adds to the turmoil and tragedy that the family has faced since the killing of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, on June 7. Three days after their deaths, Murdaugh’s father, Randolph Murdaugh III, the last member of the family to serve as the region’s top prosecutor, died of natural causes.

Over the summer, Murdaugh offered a $100,000 reward for anyone who had information on the deaths of his wife and son.

He discovered their bodies when he returned to the family’s secluded home in Islandton, the police have said. In 911 calls released by the police, a distraught Murdaugh can be heard pleading with emergency workers to hurry to the scene and telling an operator that the wounds looked serious.

“I need the police and an ambulance immediately,” he said. “My wife and child have been shot badly.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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