Crime & Public Safety

‘Prayers answered’: Man charged in Beaufort Co. boat crash that killed Mallory Beach

Paul Murdaugh charged in Feb. 24 boat crash that killed Mallory Beach

Paul Murdaugh of Hampton, S.C., faces 3 criminal charges in the Beaufort County boat crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach. Beach went missing after the crash. Her body was found a week later.
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Paul Murdaugh of Hampton, S.C., faces 3 criminal charges in the Beaufort County boat crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach. Beach went missing after the crash. Her body was found a week later.

More than seven weeks after 19-year-old Mallory Beach was killed in a boat crash near Parris Island, a Hampton County man has been charged in her death.

Paul Murdaugh, 20, was indicted Thursday by a Beaufort County grand jury on one count of boating under the influence causing death and two counts of boating under the influence causing great bodily injury, according to Robert Kittle, a spokesman for South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s Office.

All three are felony counts. For the BUI charges causing great bodily injury, Murdaugh faces up to 15 years in prison with a minimum sentence of 30 days for each count. For the fatal BUI charge, Murdaugh faces up to 25 years in prison with a minimum sentence of one year, according to South Carolina law.

Charges were filed on Beach’s birthday. She would have turned 20 years old Thursday.

Mallory’s father, Phillip Beach, said the charges coming on her birthday was “prayers answered.”

“Everyone was thinking it wouldn’t get resolved,” Beach said. “My faith has been strong. It has not wavered a bit.”

Phillip said he took off work today and spent the morning at his daughter’s grave.

“I read the word and prayed and sang her happy birthday and gave her a card,” Beach said. “I know she isn’t there, her spirit is with the Lord now but it is something to remember her by. It is hard. It is still hard but God is helping us through it.”

Renee Beach, Mallory’s mother, wished her daughter a “Happy Birthday in Heaven” on Thursday.

“I never imagined that I wouldn’t be able to celebrate your 20th birthday with you,” Renee wrote on Facebook. “Happy Birthday in Heaven Mallory Madison Beach. I miss you so so much!”

Wilson’s office will prosecute the case, Kittle said Thursday afternoon.

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources led the crash investigation.

“We are confident in our investigation,” spokesman Robert McCullough said Thursday. “Our investigators do good work. Now that the AG has it, we will support them with whatever they need to move forward with the case.”

Beach was one of six people — all under the age of 21 — who were ejected from the 17-foot boat when it struck a bridge piling at “a high rate of speed” in Archer’s Creek around 2:20 a.m. Feb. 24, according to first-responders speaking to dispatchers in 911 audio.

On the night of the deadly crash, Port Royal Police Department reported Connor Cook and Paul Murdaugh as possible drivers of the boat.

The five remaining boaters appeared to be “grossly intoxicated” at the scene, a Port Royal Police officer wrote in a report.

Wilson’s office is prosecuting the case after 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone’s office recused itself Feb. 25. Officials said Stone’s office asked for the case to be reassigned because three of the boaters, including Paul Murdaugh, are related to its employees.

Alcohol was found on the boat, but none of the boaters were offered a sobriety test, McCullough previously said. On March 25, the Sheriff’s Office emailed the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, asking to be recused from assisting DNR in its investigation into where the group of underage boaters at the scene had obtained alcohol before the crash.

On Thursday, McCullough wouldn’t speak about whether blood from the hospital was subpoenaed.

“That is a part of the investigation and we can’t speak to that,” McCullough said.

He did confirm Murdaugh never talked to any detectives during the investigation.

Paul Murdaugh is the son of Alexander Murdaugh, a prominent Hampton County attorney.

For more than a century, the Murdaugh name has stood for power and justice in South Carolina. How much influence have they historically had?

Alexander Murdaugh’s father, grandfather, and great-great grandfather each served as the solicitor for the 14th Judicial Circuit, which includes Allendale, Hampton, Jasper, Beaufort and Colleton counties.

Alexander Murdaugh owned the boat, according to SCDNR.

Confusion was apparent in the 911 call and radio dispatch in response to the boat crash at the Archers Creek bridge that led to the death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach of Hampton, S.C.

McCullough said that SCDNR will be the arresting agency for the case. He said Murdaugh was not in custody as of 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

He would not speak to the specifics of how long Murdaugh had to turn himself in. In general, charged individuals are required to show up to an arraignment court proceeding, McCullough said.

Kittle said he was unable to answer any further questions about the charges on Thursday, this included questions about Murdaugh’s arrest.

Phillip asked Thursday that the community continue praying for his family.

“We have a lot of obstacles to overcome,” Phillip said. “But God is with us. He is on our side. We want God’s will — not man’s will.”

He also asked the community to stop any negative attacks on those involved in the crash.

“My thoughts are with the other (Murdaugh) family today as well,” Phillip said.

Teresa Moss is a crime and public safety reporter for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. She has worked as a journalist for 16-years for newspapers in Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas.

Mandy Matney is an award-winning journalist and self-proclaimed shark enthusiast from Kansas. She worked for newspapers in Missouri and Illinois before she realized Midwestern winters are horrible, then moved to Hilton Head in 2016. She is the breaking news editor at the Island Packet.