BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) – A 20-year-old man has been charged in the death of Mallory Beach, a 19-year-old killed in a boat crash in the Lowcountry in February.
Paul Murdaugh has been indicted on three felony charges by a Beaufort County Grand Jury: boating under the influence (BUI) causing death and two counts boating under the influence causing great bodily injury.
As of late Thursday afternoon, Murdaugh was not in the custody of law enforcement. He may not end up being taken into custody at all until his arraignment hearing, the date of which has not yet been set.
If convicted, Murdaugh could get between 1 and 25 years for the BUI causing death as well as 30 days to 15 years for the other charges.
The indictment comes on what would have been Beach’s 20th birthday.
“I never imagined I wouldn’t be able to celebrate your 20th birthday with you,” her mother wrote in a Facebook post. “Happy birthday in heaven.”
The S.C. Attorney General’s Office will be prosecuting the case. They were handed over the investigation by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) on Thursday.
Six people, all underage, were onboard the boat the night of Feb. 24 when the crash at Archer’s Creek occurred. All occupants were ejected, and Beach’s body was found a week later.
All six were said to have been “grossly intoxicated,” according to law enforcement.
Breathalyzer or sobriety tests were not done at the scene because officers couldn’t determine who the driver was, although investigators narrowed it down to one of two people: Paul Murdaugh or Connor Cook, both 20.
Earlier this month, News 3 spoke about the tests with a spokesman for the SCDNR.
“Same thing as if everybody standing around a car, you don’t know who drove it. It’s not against the law to be standing around a car intoxicated, it’s against the law to drive it,” SCDNR’s Robert McCullough explained. “Until you can prove who was driving it, you have probable cause to test them if they were driving under the influence.”
Murdaugh’s grandfather, Randolph Murdaugh, is a legendary attorney in the Lowcountry and a longtime former 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor. Murdaugh and his son also have a family law firm and still try cases in the circuit.
Because of their close ties to the Murdaugh family, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office and two circuit court judges have recused themselves from the case.
Paul Murdaugh’s brother, father and grandfather are among those named in a suit filed by Renee Beach, Mallory Beach’s mother. She also accuses a convenience store and a local restaurant of allowing the underage teens to purchase alcohol, drink alcohol and/or drive the boat while intoxicated.