Among the mountain of other legal issues Alex Murdaugh faces as he sits in prison since being handed life sentences for the murders of his wife and youngest son, is the upcoming trial in a wrongful death case involving a 19-year-old killed in a boating accident in 2019.
That case, filed that year by the family of victim Mallory Beach, is set to go to trial on Aug. 14, according to ABC-affiliated Georgia station WJCL.
Murdaugh was convicted by a jury in the fatal shootings of his wife Maggie, 52, and son Paul, 22, on March 2, and sentenced to life in prison without parole the next day. Attorneys for the disbarred South Carolina lawyer have vowed to appeal.
Two years before Paul was killed at the family’s hunting residence in Colleton County, South Carolina on June 7, 2021, he was involved in a boat crash around 2:20 a.m. on Feb. 24, 2019. Beach was killed in that incident and two others who were also on the boat were seriously injured. Paul was later indicted on three felony counts of boating under the influence in the case.
Photo: AP; South Carolina Attorney General’s Office
Before taking the boat out on the evening of Feb. 23, Paul and five others — Morgan Doughty, Connor Cook, Miley Altman, Anthony Cook and Beach — gathered at his home, local station WCBD reported. Those aboard the boat, all underage, were drinking that night from a booze-backed cooler, investigators claimed, CBS News reported.
Paul decided to steer the boat to a bar in Beaufort at one point, with Paul and Cook going in to order two rounds of shots, Altman reportedly told investigators. Cook testified that he used a fake ID to go in to the bar, while Paul allegedly used his older brother Buster’s. Paul and Cook were also captured on video images inside the bar.
After leaving the bar, Paul seemed drunk and the others in his party tried to keep him from steering the boat, Altman said in a deposition related to the wrongful death suit brought by Beach’s mother, Renee Beach, according to prior Oxygen.com reporting.
Altman added in the deposition that he had yelled at Paul, and the young Murdaugh responded, “Nobody else is driving my boat.”
Doughty testified that Beach said she was “scared” when Paul yelled at her after she suggested having someone else drive the boat or the group getting off the boat, WSAV reported.
Moments later, someone pushed the boat’s throttle, crashing it into the bridge, with Beach going overboard. While it was unclear who pushed the throttle, Cook had said his best guess was that it was Paul. “I mean, he was the one behind the steering wheel when it happened,” Cook said in his deposition.
Paul, who was 20 at the time of boat crash, was found to have a blood alcohol content of .286% after the crash — more than three times Georgia’s legal limit of .08%. His blood alcohol content was not tested at the site of the crash, but was taken at about 4 a.m. at a hospital, David Lucas, a spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, told Oxygen.com in 2021.
Beach’s body was found about five miles from the site of the boat crash, eight days after the incident. Paul had pleaded not guilty to the charges against him in the case, but he was killed before the trial.
“Mallory’s father had always said, even at the very beginning, that his daughter didn’t die in vain,” Mark Tinsley, a Beach family attorney, told WJCL last week. “And there was going to be a greater purpose. We might not know what it is yet. But he believed that some greater good was going to come out of her death.”
Talking to Tinsley after Murdaugh’s conviction and sentencing, the lawyer told the station that Beach’s family is starting to realize some of that purpose. “There’s been some justice to a lot of people,” he said. “If nothing else, we’ve stopped the victimization of a lot of people who were being victimized by Alex Murdaugh.”
Members of Beach’s family were in court during Murdaugh’s sentencing in his double-murder case. “They’re one step closer, in the way they view it, to some closure,” Tinsley said. “You know, they’re never going to have peace. They’re never going to get over this.”
Tinsley told Fox News that while Murdaugh’s eldest son Buster Murdaugh could be called as a witness in the upcoming August wrongful death trial against the once-prominent family, it’s unlikely the disbarred lawyer will be called as a witness in light of his life sentences.
“There’s still a long way to go. There’s still accountability to be had,” Tinsley said of the lawsuit. “We’re hopeful that the attorney general’s office will continue to investigate the investigators involved in … the boat crash. We think that there were a number of things that happened there that are worthy of prosecution. And we hope that those people are dealt with as well.”
Tinsley testified during Murdaugh’s murder trial that Paul used his family’s legal connections to get preferential treatment after the boat crash. Tinsley also said that the elder Murdaugh came up to him at a bar once and tried to push him “into backing off” the case, according to Fox News.
Prosecutors have said that the suit filed by the Beach family influenced Murdaugh to kill his wife and Paul, since it would have potentially exposed his other various alleged financial crimes, including embezzling millions from his family’s law firm and its clients.
The attorney for the Beach family filed a motion to force Murdaugh to disclose his financial records, and three days before the killings of Paul and Maggie, a hearing was scheduled to determine if Murdaugh would have to share that info, according to Fox News.