Man pleads not guilty in deadly boat crash in Beaufort County

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BEAUFORT, S.C. (WSAV) – Monday, everyone got their first look at the man accused in Mallory Beach’s death. 

With his father, brother, and Mallory Beach’s mother and father in attendance, Paul Murdaugh pleaded not guilty in a Beaufort County courtroom. 

After surrendering his passport and his lawyer explaining he was not a flight risk, Murdaugh was given a bond of $50,000 and allowed to walk out of court. 

“We wanted to accommodate any concerns the AG’s office may have. He’s not leaving the state,” explained State Senator Dick Harpootlian, Murdaugh’s attorney. “He’s not leaving the country. So when you waive extradition its normal conditions so we did exactly whats normal, it is being handled in a very normal fashion.”

When asked why he pled guilty, Murdaugh’s attorney said: “because he is not guilty”.

The 20-year-old is accused of boating under the influence (BUI) causing death and two counts boating under the influence causing great bodily injury.

He was allegedly the driver of the boat that slammed into a bridge piling about 2 a.m. February 24. 19-year-old Beach was thrown from the boat and drowned.

Her body was found near Archers Creek a week later. 

The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting this case because of the Murdaugh family’s close ties with both the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office and Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. 

“We would have some concern about the danger to the community given that this case involves the use of alcohol,” explained Megan Burchstead, the Attorney General’s Prosecutor. “Standard procedure is to not commit any crimes while out on bond so I would assume that include any use of alcohol.”

Judge Robert John from the 15th Circuit was brought in to preside over the case after two 14th Circuit Judge also recused themselves because of their ties to the Murdaugh family. He listened to both sides before sending down his ruling.

“No evidence presented to the court that this defendant will not appear when he is called to court. In fact, all the evidence points otherwise, that he will voluntarily appear when so required. Therefore I’m going to set a personal recognizance bond at $50,000,” John said.

“The defendant shall keep the peace and good order of the state of South Carolina,” he continued. “That means any offense of any kind committed by the defendant while he is out on bond could require his confinement.”

During his statement, John also wanted to make sure the public understood what bond really means.

“The public is confused as to the purpose,” the judge said. “The purpose is to make sure the Defendant comes back to court. It is not for punishment.”

Murdaugh will have to stay in the 14th Circuit region, which includes family homes in Beaufort and Hampton Counties.

A civil lawsuit filed by Mallory’s mother Renee Beach claims Paul Murdaugh used his older brother’s identification to buy alcohol at Parkers for himself and the five other teens, including Mallory, that day and night. It then claims the teens kept drinking at Luther’s Rare and Well Done restaurant that night before getting in the boat while intoxicated. 

Parker’s, Luther’s as well as Paul’s Father and Grandfather have all been named in that civil lawsuit. 

Beach’s mother and father were both in attendance at Monday’s hearing. They did not decide to testify, and would not talk to News 3 after the hearing.

No criminal trial date has been set yet. 

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A Lowcountry man accused of killing a 19-year-old girl in a boat crash two months ago is expected in court for the first time.

Paul Murdaugh is set to be arraigned at the Beaufort County courthouse on Monday. The 20-year old will be formally charged in the boat crash that killed Mallory Beach back in February. Beach and Murdaugh were among six people thrown from the boat when it hit something in the water in Archer’s Creek.

A Port Royal Police report said everyone in the group was underage and appeared to be drunk.

Beach’s body was found a week later.

Last month, a Beaufort County grand jury indicted Murdaugh in her death. Right now Murdaugh faces one count of boating under the influence causing death and two counts of BUI causing great bodily injury.

A judge will also set bond.

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