Boat passenger files lawsuit against Murdaugh family, convenience store in deadly 2019 crash

The Murdaugh Investigation

HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – A lawsuit was filed Monday against members of the Murdaugh family and a convenience store where alcohol was purchased prior to a deadly 2019 boat crash.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Connor Cook, a then-19-year-old passenger on a boat that was allegedly driven by Paul Murdaugh when it crashed into Archer’s Creek in February 2019.

According to the lawsuit, Murdaugh, who was underage, purchased “large quantities of alcohol” using a driver’s license that belonged to his brother, Richard Alexander Murdaugh, Jr. (Buster), and a third-party credit card at Parker’s convenience store prior to the deadly crash.

Surveillance footage revealed Murdaugh placed the alcohol that was purchased from Parker’s into the same boat that crashed into Archer’s Creek Bridge. “That same alcohol was consumed by Paul Murdaugh and other underage passengers during that evening and into the early hours preceding the boat crash,” the lawsuit claims

“After consuming this alcohol through the day and into the early morning hours of February 24, 2019, Paul Murdaugh, drunk and traveling at excessive speeds down a narrow creek at night, without proper look-out or proper lights, crashed the boat belonging to his father into the Archer’s Creek Bridge,” the lawsuit states.

Several boat passengers were thrown into the water, including Mallory Beach. Beach went missing after the crash. Her body was recovered from the water about a week later.

MORE: THE MURDAUGH INVESTIGATION

The impact, according to the lawsuit, caused Cook to slam his body onto the boat frame and lose consciousness. It further states Cook woke up to a serious cut on his face and multiple fractures to his jaw.

The lawsuit claims it was known to various family members that Murdaugh, despite being a minor, would “often drink to the point of intoxication” and was known to “operate family vehicles, including boats” while under the influence of alcohol.

Cook called 9-1-1 shortly after the boat crash calling for help. Multiple law enforcement agencies arrived on the scene to assist.

Cook says while he was on the way to have his jaw x-rayed, Alex Murdaugh instructed him to “keep his mouth shut” and tell law enforcement that he did not know who was driving the boat at the time of the crash.

Alex Murdaugh then instructed Cook’s family to hire attorney Corey Fleming, however neither Alex Murdaugh nor Fleming disclosed their longtime relationship; Fleming and Alex Murdaugh were college roommates, and Fleming is Paul Murdaugh’s godfather.

According to the suit, Alex Muraugh’s involvement of Fleming was in furtherance of a blame-shifting ploy to protect his son:

“Defendant Murdaugh and others were orchestrating a campaign to have Connor Cook held criminally and civilly responsible for the boat accident, through inadequate investigation, a ‘whisper campaign’ in the Hampton County community, and law enforcement misdirection and possible obstruction of the investigation.”

Cook unwittingly cooperated initially, according to the suit, saying that he was afraid to oppose the Murdaughs, knowing their influence in the area.

However the prospect of being wrongfully accused of driving the boat during the fatal crash was more terrifying to Cook:

“The Defendant’s intentional or negligent conduct in misdirecting law enforcement and orchestrating a scheme to silence Plaintiff Cook, all the while knowing that Paul Murdaugh was the driver of the boat, and knowing that if successful, Plaintiff Cook would be arrested for the death of Mallory Beach, was conduct so extreme and outrageous as to exceed all possible bounds of decency and must be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”

Murdaugh was charged Mallory Beach’s death in April 2019. He pleaded not guilty and was awaiting trial when he and his mother Margaret were found shot to death at a family property in Colleton County on June 7, 2021. Charges against him were posthumously dropped.

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