Paul Murdaugh, the Hampton man charged in a 2019 boat crash that killed a young woman, had two other previously unreported brushes with law enforcement while out on bond, according to records obtained by The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette.
Murdaugh received a traffic ticket in May 2020 for driving more than 15 mph over the speed limit, and was fined for a minor boating violation earlier this year. Both incidents happened in Charleston County.
Murdaugh, who was facing one count of boating under the influence causing death and two counts of boating under the influence causing great bodily injury from the 2019 boat crash, was out on bond at the time of his death. Two months after his release, a judge removed the only condition of his release — allowing Murdaugh to travel outside the 14th Judicial Circuit, comprising Beaufort, Hampton, Allendale, Colleton and Jasper counties, while awaiting trial.
Last week, Murdaugh, 22, and his mother Maggie, 52, were found shot to death outside their home, a sprawling rural estate in Colleton County. The shootings have sparked international interest and theories over potential suspects and motives. As police remain tight-lipped about the ongoing investigation, the fatal boat crash involving Murdaugh is also renewing interest.
Many criticized the court’s handling of the boat crash case, and Murdaugh specifically. They believed Murdaugh received special treatment because of his powerful family, three generations of whom have been state prosecutors. He was never handcuffed at his bond hearing. His jail mugshot, taken in the courthouse hallway, depicted Murdaugh in a collared shirt — not an orange jumpsuit.
And even though he faced BUI charges, the state did not restrict him from drinking alcohol or driving a boat. Prosecutors did not ask the court to consider as evidence in his bond hearing the 2017 citation Murdaugh received for possession of alcohol by a minor, according to previous reporting.
In some DUI cases, such as one involving a S.C. 17-year-old accused of killing a teen while driving drunk the same week of Murdaugh’s 2019 hearing, as Fox Carolina reported, a judge required the defendant to wear an alcohol-detecting ankle monitor while awaiting trial. The case was later dismissed.
Three months ago, on March 11 while out on bond, Murdaugh received a ticket for boating with an expired fire extinguisher near Shem Creek in Charleston County. Records obtained by The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette show the ticket was tied to a 2008 Scout 221WIN boat owned by Murdaugh’s father, Alex Murdaugh. This was a different boat from the 2006 Sea Hunt Triton involved in the 2019 boat crash — also owned by Alex Murdaugh.
He was fined $105, according to the ticket. There was no evidence showing consumption of alcohol related to the ticket.
More details surrounding Murdaugh’s traffic stop and speeding ticket, which shows up in court records, are still unknown. The papers are pursuing records.
Although minor violations, the boating charge and speeding ticket show that Murdaugh traveled — and boated — throughout the state while charged in a crash in which a court deposition describes him as “throttling” the boat’s engine.
In an interview with a reporter Tuesday, S.C. Department of Natural Resources Region IV Captain Michael Paul Thomas said the boating violation was likely tied to a safety inspection of the boat.
Asked if SCDNR officers typically check a person’s background information when issuing tickets like this, Thomas said “not necessarily.” He said he did not know whether the officer ran a check on Murdaugh when he issued the ticket. Thomas added that a “simple boating violation” would not be reported to a judge in a case like Murdaugh’s.