HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. — It’s a southern whodunit, like a John Gisham novel come to life.
For months now, a story involving a wealthy and powerful lawyer from South Carolina has dominated the headlines: Alex Murdaugh and his family have a connection to five tragic deaths.
Two years before wealthy and well-respected attorney Alex Murdaugh would make international headlines for allegedly staging his own shooting, a fatal boat crash triggered the Murdaughs' fall from grace.
Nikki Battiste, who has been investigating the case for this Saturday’s 48 hours: “The Murdaugh Mysteries,” spoke with Mallory’s aunt and one of the first responders.
On February 24, 2019, six young friends were out partying on the Beaufort River on a boat, owned by the Murdaugh family, when they crashed. On board was Alex Murdaugh’s 19-year-old son Paul.
Anthony Cook was there with his 19-year-old girlfriend, Mallory Beach.
Although the six passengers were all underage, the friends would later say some of the party goers had no trouble using fake and borrowed IDs to buy alcohol.
Just hours before the crash, surveillance cameras captured Paul Murdaugh using his brother’s I.D. to buy beer. Later, Paul and a friend were seen drinking at a bar on the river.
About an hour later, the boat slammed into a bridge piling. That’s when Mallory disappeared.
Mallory was nowhere to be found. And her boyfriend Anthony Cook was almost inconsolable as he spoke to the deputy and identified Paul Murdaugh as the driver of the boat.
Mallory's aunt, Lynn Reavis, remembers learning the news from a family member. "I was at home, and someone called and said they had found her, and I fell apart," Reavis told 48 Hours contributor Nikki Battiste in an exclusive interview in "The Murdaugh Mysteries," airing Saturday, October 30 at 10/9c on CBS.
It would take eight days of exhaustive searching by law enforcement and volunteers before Mallory Beach's body was recovered.
Then Beaufort County Deputy Sheriff Steven Domino was one of the first on the scene. In an exclusive interview with Battiste and "48 Hours", Domino recalled the chaos he encountered.
Anthony Cook told Domino he saw Paul Murdaugh driving the boat, just before the crash.
Alex Murdaugh's behavior attracted a lot of attention after the crash. According to statements from passengers, Paul Murdaugh's behavior on the boat was increasingly worrisome. "Paul was just driving, doing donuts," Miley Altman told investigators.
In a deposition, Connor Cook said Alex Murdaugh told him that he "didn't need to tell anyone who was driving." And a hospital security guard went on the record saying he overheard Alex say on his cell phone, "She's gone. Don't worry."
According to statements from witnesses at the hospital, Alex was going from room to room, attempting to speak with his son's injured friends.
Hospital staff measured Paul Murdaugh's blood alcohol level at .24, three times the legal limit.
"We didn't think he was gonna be charged," Reavis said.
Mallory Beach's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against members of the Murdaugh family on March 29, 2019.
Nearly two months after the boat crash, on what would have been Mallory's 20th birthday, Paul Murdaugh was charged with causing the death of Mallory Beach. He pleaded not guilty. But the case would never go to trial.
On June 7, 2021, Alex Murdaugh called police and said he’d found Paul and his wife Maggie shot dead on one of their properties.
Do investigators think there is a link between the boat crash and the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh? What does the Beach family think happened the night Mallory died? What’s next for Alex Murdaugh?
Saturday's broadcast covers all of the ongoing investigations into the Murdaugh family's affairs.