In Murdaugh family scandal, tiny South Carolina town shaken

HAMPTON, S.C. (AP) — Ask any of the 2,600 residents in this South Carolina town whether they know Alex Murdaugh, and you’ll probably get a quick nod. Nearly everyone does in Hampton, a tiny place where every road in has just two lanes.

Ask them to tell you about Murdaugh, though, and you’ll get a firm head shake, followed by: “You’re not going to quote me, are you?” No one wants to talk about the influential lawyer whose wife and son were killed and who’s now accused in a string of controversies — at least, not in the open.

For the past century, the Murdaughs have steered much of the legal world in this remote corner of South Carolina — north of Savannah, Georgia, and far from the interstate or just about anything else. Running the prosecutor’s office and a large civil law firm allowed the Murdaughs to do it quietly, until recently.

Murdaugh’s wife, Maggie, and son Paul were killed June 7, shot multiple times at the family’s sprawling estate. No one’s been arrested in their deaths, which brought scrutiny into every nook of Murdaugh’s life.

Six investigations are underway, over the killings, stolen money, death coverups and a Sept. 4 shooting in which a bullet grazed Murdaugh’s head on a lonely highway. Police said he tried to arrange his own death and make sure a $10 million life insurance policy would pay off for his surviving son.

The man charged with shooting Murdaugh is Curtis “Eddie” Smith, a former client from a workplace accident case. Smith said they became friends, and he was stunned to find himself dismissed as a callous drug dealer by Murdaugh’s lawyers.

“With a friend like that, who needs enemies,” Smith said as he limped around his property in Walterboro, checking on his shop and rescue dogs. He wouldn’t say anymore, insisting he was done discussing Murdaugh and the case — for now.

Like many people in town, Smith got entangled with the Murdaughs in a courtroom in Hampton County, population 20,000, where the family is used to being in power, not being questioned.