In the early morning hours of Dec. 25, 2017, an intoxicated Paul Murdaugh insisted on driving himself and his girlfriend Morgan Doughty home from a Christmas party, she recalls in Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal. He lost control of his truck going around a curve and the vehicle landed on its side in a ditch. Paul had "so many guns in his car," Morgan remembers, so "guns were everywhere, beer cans were everywhere."
Morgan says she called 9-1-1 but Paul hung up the phone and instead called his grandfather Randolph Murdaugh III and then his dad. Parents Alex and Maggie Murdaugh showed up and, according to Morgan, cleared Paul's truck before police arrived.
She also alleges that Paul once got "so drunk" that when she tried to calm him down, he put his hands around her throat and screamed, "I told you to shut up!" and then punched her in the knee.
"I think that our relationship was something I really clung to," Morgan reflects, "just because when it was good, it was really good, but when it was bad, it was just…it was really bad."
Blinking back tears, she continues, "Our relationship had gotten, like, really physical and then I broke up with him, but Paul would just do and say anything to make up for what had happened."
(Morgan previously testified in a 2020 deposition pertaining to a wrongful death suit filed by Mallory Beach's family against the Murdaughs that Paul could be verbally and physically abusive when he was drinking.)
Morgan remembers Paul "guilt-tripping" her into going to the Lowcountry Oyster Roast on Feb. 23.
It was a spontaneous decision for the group—Morgan and Paul, Mallory Beach and boyfriend Anthony Cook, and fellow couple Miley Altman and Connor Cook—to take a fishing boat to the roast. They were all drinking, Morgan alleges, going back and forth from the party to the boat to procure alcohol from their cooler.
A number of people offered to drive them back home, Anthony recalls in the series, "but I think Paul was a little too proud to do that." Morgan says she'll "never stop regretting" getting back on the boat.
The group left on the boat shortly after midnight and docked by Luther's Bar at 12:55 a.m. for a pit stop that Paul wanted to make, Anthony says.
Morgan, Miley and Anthony recall first trying to talk Paul out of taking the boat home, and then at least out of driving it himself, but he insisted. They set off at 1:17 a.m., and his driving was "honestly terrifying," Morgan says.
Paul kept letting go of the wheel and Connor kept having to grab it, Miley says. Anthony was getting increasingly mad, and then Paul screamed at Morgan, asking why she didn't have his back. "'You're screaming at us and not making sense, you're acting crazy,'" Morgan recalls telling him. "And he looked at me and he said, 'You know what's crazy? Your father not making enough money to support your family.'"
Morgan says she started crying and Paul slapped her.
"You could tell by the way that he did it that it wasn't the first time," Miley says. "It's just heartbreaking to see one of your best friends be abused in front of your face."
Anthony and the women remember hearing each other's screams as the boat hit a piling in Archer's Creek and slammed into some rocks. The impact threw Anthony and Mallory overboard; he made it back to the boat, but Mallory was nowhere to be found. Anthony says he kept jumping back into the water over and over, looking for his girlfriend. Connor called 9-1-1.
In the series, Mallory's mother, Renee Beach, and dad Phillip Beach, describe the horrible call and getting on the road to Beaufort, S.C., where most of the kids were being treated at a local hospital. But not knowing where to go because their child was missing, they drove to Archer's Creek, where Anthony—who had a busted shoulder—refused to leave until they'd found Mallory.
Local TV news reports were relaying that authorities were unclear on whether Paul or Connor had been driving the boat.
Connor, who now sports a noticeable scar on his chin, says he had just had a CT scan when Alex Murdaugh approached him in the hall at the hospital and whispered to him not to say anything, that Paul's dad would take care of everything. (In a legal filing responding to a lawsuit filed on Connor's behalf in September 2021 accusing Alex of attempting to "shift the blame for the boat accident," Alex denied telling Connor not to cooperate with authorities.)
Over at Archer's Creek, Renee Beach says law enforcement was blocking the path down to the boat and an officer told her "he was given strict orders that no one was to pass." But then, Renee says, she saw Alex and Maggie being allowed to go right up to the scene.
"That's when I started to realize, the Murdaughs," Renee said, "they were more worried about a cover-up than they were trying to find Mallory."
Ultimately, Mallory's body was found five miles away from the crash site, seven days after the accident.
An autopsy determined the 19-year-old's cause of death to be blunt force trauma and drowning.
The Murdaugh family has denied trying to influence the investigation into the boat crash. According to Charleston, S.C.'s ABC News 4, a settlement was approved in January 2023 by Sixteenth Circuit Judge Daniel Hall in the Beach family's wrongful death lawsuit against Maggie's estate, Paul's mother having been accused of enabling his drinking, and brother Buster, who denied giving Paul his ID knowing he'd use it to buy booze. The suit is still pending against Paul's estate and Alex, who co-owned the boat with his wife.
"The Beach family feels very strongly that whatever their faults were, Paul and Maggie didn't deserve what happened to them," Beach family attorney Mark Tinsley told Fox News Digital about the settlement agreement. "They also feel Buster has suffered enough, so it was important to them to try and get him out of the case."
On May 6, 2019, Paul, then 20, pleaded not guilty to one count of boating while under the influence and two counts of boating while under the influence causing great bodily injury. He was released on a $50,000 bond and no trial date was set.
Paul's life went on and, two years after the accident, he was living at his family's gated hunting lodge on Moselle Road in Islandton, S.C.
On the night of June 7, 2021, Alex called 9-1-1 to report that his wife and son had been shot. He later told state investigators he'd returned to the property at 10:20 p.m. after visiting his parents and discovered the bodies.
Alex's brothers Randolph "Randy" Murdaugh IV and John Marvin Murdaugh said their sibling had received threats since the boat crash, but they hadn't believed them to be credible.
"My brother loved Maggie and loved Paul like nothing else on this earth, just like he loves Buster," Randy said on Good Morning America. "So there's no possible way he could have anything to do with this, I can assure you." Added John, "I can tell you he was willing and still is willing to do anything that's asked of him. He wants this solved."
In the Netflix series, FITSnews' Will Folks recalls getting a tip sometime after Paul and Maggie were killed to check out the highway patrol report regarding the July 8, 2015, death of Stephen Smith. The 19-year-old's body was found in the middle of a rural highway in Hampton County, dead from head trauma but the rest of him—shoes on, cell phone in his pocket—not showing obvious signs of being hit by a car.
It turned out that Buster Murdaugh, Alex's eldest son, came up dozens of times during the original investigation, including a mention in the original patrol report, according to Folks. (Buster, 26, has never been named as a suspect or charged with any crime.)
Former Wade Hamtpon High School science teacher Sam Crews recalls in the series that Stephen tutored Buster a bit, and both he and Morgan say there were rumors back in high school that the boys might have been more than friends. Which, according to Morgan, wouldn't have sat well with the rest of the Murdaughs.
In the month after Stephen's death, according to Hampton County Guardian reporter Michael Dewitt, there were rumors of a Murdaugh connection—but, he says, nothing ever happened.
South Carolina's State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced June 22, 2021, that it was reopening the case. There was no mention of the Murdaughs.
The Murdaugh family has publicly denied any involvement in Stephen's death. Murdaugh Murders notes that Buster and Alex didn't respond to interview inquiries.
Also back on authorities' radar after Paul and Maggie were killed: The Feb. 26, 2018, death of the Murdaughs' longtime housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield. Alex said at the time that the 57-year-old had tripped over the family's dogs and fell down the outside steps at the Moselle Road house on Feb. 2. She died several weeks later at the hospital after reportedly suffering a stroke.
In September 2021, Hampton County Coroner Angela Topper requested that SLED investigate, noting in a letter to Chief Mark Keel that no autopsy had ever been performed, her office hadn't even been notified of the death and the death certificate stated that the manner of death was "natural," which was generally inconsistent with injuries suffered from a fall.
The case remains open.
A wrongful death claim resulted in a $500,000 settlement for Gloria's family—but her son Michael has since testified during Alex's murder trial that they were the last to know about it.
The Satterfields sued Murdaugh in 2021, alleging they hadn't received any of the money that was supposed to be for them. In fact, according to prosecutors, Alex also secured a $4.3 million insurance payout that he kept for himself.
Alex entered a confession of judgment in June 2022, paving the way for Gloria's sons to get the money.
"I think if Alex wasn't so greedy, that if he just gave the boys $25,000 each, and said, 'Look, the rest had to go pay the medical bills,' they never would have asked any questions," Satterfield attorney Eric Bland told WJCL in January 2023. "It was her death and the exploitation of her death through the claims and the stolen money that actually brought all the financial crimes to light."
On Sept. 3, 2021, Alex resigned from the law firm his family founded in the wake of allegations he had been misappropriating clients' money.
The next day, he was shot in the middle of the day in Hampton County while, he told 9-1-1, he was changing a tire on the side of the road. (The police report called his injury a "superficial" wound to the head.)
Soon after, however, Alex's lawyer told media outlets that his client had actually attempted to take his own life by hiring his alleged drug dealer, Curtis Edward Smith, to kill him. His alleged reasoning was that Buster could collect on his life insurance policy and not run up against a suicide exclusion. Alex subsequently checked into rehab for opioid addiction and Curtis was charged with assisted suicide, insurance fraud, assault and battery, and other crimes.
Alex's attorney Dick Harpootlian said that the "vast majority" of the money his client pilfered from his law firm went to buy opioids, and Alex was "in a dark, dark place" when he concocted his plan.
Curtis denied being part of any scheme to kill Alex and maintained in an October 2021 interview on TODAY that when he showed up, Alex was carrying a gun and it went off as they struggled over it. "I didn't shoot him," Curtis, who's still in jail awaiting trial, said. "I'm innocent. If I'd have shot him, he'd be dead. He's alive."
On Sept. 13, 2021, SLED confirmed they were investigating Alex for financial crimes and he was arrested three days later for insurance fraud related to his alleged suicide-by-hitman scheme. The following month he was charged with stealing from the Satterfields. He was then indicted on 27 additional counts, including money laundering and forgery, that November.
So Alex was already in jail when he was charged with two counts of murder on July 14, 2022, for the deaths of his wife and son. He pleaded not guilty.
Evidence that moved the case forward included a video on Paul's cell phone shot at 8:44 p.m. in which Alex's voice could be heard, about 15 minutes before Paul and Maggie were shot, as determined by investigators.
Alex had told authorities he didn't get home until after 10. He's facing at least 30 years in prison if he's convicted of the double murder.