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SLED releases new details in murder case of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh

Murdaugh homicide.jpg

Officials released some 911 call information June 15 in the double homicide of Paul Murdaugh and his mother, Maggie Murdaugh, who were found dead on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in rural Colleton County. File/Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

COLUMBIA — The State Law Enforcement Division released details on June 15 of 911 calls made in the deaths of Paul Murdaugh and his mother Maggie, while also confirming police were treating the deaths as murders.

Alex Murdaugh called 911 at 10:07 p.m. June 7 to report the deaths of his son, Paul Murdaugh, 22, and his wife, Maggie, 52, according to a SLED news release. 

Colleton County sheriff's deputies dispatched to the scene found the mother and son dead of multiple gunshot wounds outside the family's residence at 4147 Moselle Road in Islandton.

The Sheriff's Office contacted SLED at 10:28 p.m. to request the agency's assistance in conducting the double murder investigation. SLED Lowcountry Regional agents arrived at 11:47 p.m. and began working with deputies to evaluate the crime scene and take the lead on the investigation. 

SLED crime scene agents arrived at 12:07 a.m. and worked throughout the morning of June 8 collecting evidence and submitting it to SLED's forensic lab. 

SLED said agents have been working on the case continuously since arriving that day. 

"We continue to pursue all leads and the investigation is certainly active and ongoing at this time," according to the release. 

The agency further said it was "committed to transparency" and will release additional information, including information provided during the 911 call, at "the appropriate time."

Colleton County provided a one-sentence report on June 9 from the murder investigation but has not released any other information. The document indicates more information can be found in supplemental reports, but state and county officials have refused to turn those over — in violation of the state Freedom of Information Act.

Such tactics have become commonplace among some area law enforcement agencies over the last several years. It’s a way of hiding public information from the public, particularly when it comes to high-profile murders, rapes and robberies.

But such information was made public by the Legislature to help people make informed decisions about safety in their communities and monitor how law enforcement uses their tax money.

State lawmakers, in fact, changed the Freedom of Information Act in 1998 to make clear that supplemental reports also are public records, not reservoirs of hidden facts. The amended law requires police to release all reports detailing the nature, substance and location of crimes.

Open-records advocates have long argued that the failure to release such details effectively denied people living in the areas of the crimes the ability to know they might be in danger. It also effectively denies police the opportunity to obtain volunteered information from residents who might have seen something, they said.

In the Murdaugh case, state and county law enforcement officials have said there is no immediate threat to the public, yet no suspects have been named or arrests made. That has left members of the public confused and on edge, with rumors spreading quickly to fill the void in official information.

Still, some police departments have moved away from such secretive tactics.

In 2012, Charleston police caught flack for hiding crime details in supplemental reports that they refused to release to the public. City officials insisted there was no policy to do so, but then a memo surfaced in which a top commander instructed officers in how and what to hide. He even erroneously suggested that supplemental reports can be withheld from the public until investigations are completed.

The city’s police chief vowed to do better, and he did. The department now provides both incident and supplemental reports upon request, generally redacting only personal information such as Social Security numbers or highly sensitive information that could impact a prospective arrest. Most major law enforcement agencies in the Charleston area have taken a similar stance.

Reach Steve Garrison 843-607-1052. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT.

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