South Carolina murder victim Paul Murdaugh had BAC over 3 times legal limit in deadly 2019 boat crash

Responding officers did not offer the then-20-year-old Murdaugh a field sobriety test at the scene of the deadly crash

The South Carolina man who was awaiting trial on boating while intoxicated charges before being found murdered alongside his mother in June had a blood-alcohol level of more than three times the legal limit in the 2019 crash.

A South Carolina Department of Natural Resources spokesperson confirmed that investigators had received the test result from the hospital with a warrant. It showed Murdaugh’s blood-alcohol level was .286% more than an hour after the crash in February 2019. The state's legal limit is .08%. 

Court documents show that although responding officers believed Murdaugh, then 20, was intoxicated, they did not ask him to submit to a field sobriety test at the crash site or at the hospital.

(South Carolina Attorney General's Office)


"By the time the first DNR Officer arrived on scene (Officer [Austin] Pritcher), all occupants of the boat except for Anthony Cook and Mallory Beach had been transported to Beaufort Memorial Hospital," the spokesperson, David Lucas, said Tuesday. "There was no opportunity for DNR to administer Field Sobriety Tests (FST) in this case."

After interviewing Cook at the crash site, Pritcher visited Murdaugh at the hospital, where he said he found the underage suspect visibly intoxicated and slurring his speech. There was a security guard outside the room and Murdaugh had been strapped to his gurney after acting "out of control."

With his dad and grandfather present – two experienced attorneys – the suspect invoked his right to remain silent and did not give Pritcher a statement. The officer did not ask Murdaugh to submit to a field sobriety test in the hospital, although he did request one from another passenger, Cook’s cousin Connor Cook, who declined, according to court documents.

Fox News reached out to Murdaugh's father, Alex Murdaugh, but did not immediately receive a response.

Although Beaufort County deputies were among the first to respond to a 911 call reporting the teenager had gone overboard, a sheriff’s spokesman deferred comment to the DNR, which led the investigation.


Regardless, many criminal defense attorneys advise BWI suspects to decline field sobriety tests at the scene – and Murdaugh, a member of the area’s most prominent legal family, likely knew that.

Connor Cook, who declined the field sobriety test in his hospital bed, broke his jaw in the crash, which also sent Beach tumbling overboard. A search team found her body downriver days later, and whoever authorities suspected of being behind the wheel was likely to face charges.

Authorities ultimately closed in on Murdaugh as the boat’s suspected operator, charging him with three BWI felonies two months after the crash and Beach’s death. But before he went to trial, he and his mother, Maggie Murdaugh, were shot to death at a family property in rural Islandton on June 7 in a case that remains unsolved. 

Maggie Murdaugh , 52, and her son Paul Murdaugh, 22, were shot several times and their bodies were found near a dog kennel in rural Colleton County, near Islandton, S.C.

Maggie Murdaugh , 52, and her son Paul Murdaugh, 22, were shot several times and their bodies were found near a dog kennel in rural Colleton County, near Islandton, S.C. (Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post And Courier via AP)


A recent petition from Cook’s lawyer seeking to depose the responding deputies and DNR officers included depositions from Beach’s wrongful death case that showed conflicting reports about whether attempts were made to obtain the field sobriety test from Murdaugh, which he argued shows a "failure" in the investigation.

Cook believes responding officers and deputies may have attempted to shift the blame for the crash onto him and away from Murdaugh, whose family ran the local prosecutor’s office for generations.

The 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office recused itself from the case due to that connection.