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What happened the night of the boat crash that killed Mallory Beach? A timeline

The Charlotte Observer logo The Charlotte Observer 7/22/2021 Jake Shore, Kacen Bayless, The Charlotte Observer

Paul Murdaugh kept driving the boat in circles.

It was past 1 a.m. and the five other passengers were getting annoyed.

One passenger, Miley Altman, stood up and yelled at Murdaugh to let someone else drive.

Murdaugh, who was drunk, yelled back.

“You think y’all know this river better than me? This is my boat, I’ll be damned if anyone else drives my [boat],” he said, according to Altman’s statement to DNR.

The exchange was one of several times Murdaugh argued with other occupants of the boat in the early morning hours of February 24, 2019, DNR documents show.

Not long after, the 17-foot Sea Hunt boat slammed into bridge pilings, flinging 19-year-old Mallory Beach into the brisk waters of Archers Creek.

A pair of boaters found her body a week later.

The events of that night 2 1/2 years ago are well known in the Lowcountry. But hundreds of pages of S.C. Department of Natural Resources documents released Friday paint a clearer picture of what happened in the hours leading up to the February 2019 boat crash that killed Beach — and led to Murdaugh’s indictment on felony charges of boating under the influence.

The documents include statements by passengers, police interviews, surveillance footage and GPS coordinates. They offer a timeline of events from late afternoon, when Murdaugh purchased alcohol at a local gas station, to 1 a.m. shots at a Beaufort waterfront bar, to the tragic death of a young woman.

DNR’s release of documents comes more than six weeks after Murdaugh was found shot to death along with his mother at their sprawling hunting property in Colleton County. Police have provided no information about potential suspects or possible motives in the June 7 double homicide.

Here is a timeline of what happened just before the 2019 boat crash, according to DNR investigative documents:

5:30 PM - Parker’s in Ridgeland

Paul Murdaugh, 20 at the time, drove a white pickup truck with a boat in tow to a Parker’s gas station in Ridgeland on the afternoon of Feb. 23, 2019.

He walked in the store and picked up a 6-pack of Michelob Ultra beers, a 12-pack of White Claw seltzers and a 15-pack of Natural Light beers.

At the counter, Murdaugh asked the cashier for a pack of Marlboro cigarettes and presented his older brother’s ID. He fidgeted with his sleeves and added a pack of mint gum to the order, according to surveillance footage.

Murdaugh exited the store minutes later and walked out to his truck. Noticing a friend had pulled up next to his car in the parking lot, Murdaugh triumphantly hoisted the new score of booze over his head, the footage shows.

6:36 PM - River House on Chechessee Creek

According to DNR’s timeline of events, all the passengers — Miley Altman, Anthony Cook, Connor Cook, Morgan Doughty, Mallory Beach and Murdaugh — met at the Murdaugh river house, a $1.45 million property owned by Murdaugh’s grandfather on Chechessee Creek, less than 2 miles from Parkers.

Court filings in the wrongful death suit filed by Beach’s mother refer to this property as “The Island.” The filings say the group of young adults started drinking there.

At 7:07 p.m., they all boarded a 17-foot Sea Hunt boat owned by Murdaugh’s father, Alex Murdaugh, and left for an oyster roast on Paukie Island, which is north of the Broad River and nearly 20 miles away.

8:00 PM - Paukie Island

Kristy Wood, a school principal at Brunson Elementary in Hampton County, and her husband, James, hosted an oyster roast for “friends and their families,” according to Kristy Wood’s statements to DNR and the S.C. Law Enforcement Division.

Guests came by boat and car. They served oysters, appetizers, and a crab boil. The event was “bring your own beer” for those of legal age, according to Wood.

Murdaugh and his friends, all underage, arrived around 8 p.m. They played cornhole and sat by the fire.

“No kids were seen drinking at our house nor were they provided alcohol,” Wood wrote.

A statement by Morgan Doughty, Murdaugh’s then-girlfriend, disputes that.

At the roast, Doughty and the other passengers “all drank alcohol and ate food,” she said.

Wood said she talked to the kids, and none appeared intoxicated or had concerns about being on the boat.

“Paul is very familiar with boats and navigating water,” according to Wood’s statement.

Murdaugh and his friends left after midnight. Wood said she asked them if they wanted to stay over at her house because of the temperature and “not for any other concern,” she said.

12:11 AM - Beaufort River

DNR created a timeline of events based on the boat’s GPS navigation system.

The timeline shows the group of six young adults boated from Paukie Island toward Beaufort’s waterfront.

Murdaugh and the group left because “Paul wanted to get shots” in downtown Beaufort, according to Miley Altman’s statement.

According to DNR’s timeline, the boat almost collided with the Woods Memorial Bridge at 12:35 a.m.

Morgan Doughty said in her statement that Connor Cook had to take the wheel because Murdaugh was going to hit the bridge. However, Doughty’s recollection puts the near-miss later in the night.

GPS coordinates show that the group arrived at the day dock in downtown Beaufort at 12:39 a.m. A minute later, the group pushed off from the dock and traveled away, according to the coordinates.

Four minutes later, at 12:44 a.m., the boat arrived back at the day dock for a second time. The group tied up and exited the boat.

12:55 AM - Luther’s Rare and Well Done

Once they tied up the boat for the second time, the group split up. Murdaugh and Connor Cook went to get shots at Luther’s Rare and Well Done, a nearby bar on the waterfront.

“Morgan was yelling at [Murdaugh] not to go but he did anyways,” Altman said.

The other four passengers waited on the swings at the waterfront park.

Once inside, Murdaugh and Cook ordered shots of Jägermeister. After that, they took shots of lemon drop, a vodka lemon mix.

Altman said she and Doughty went to the bar to get Murdaugh and Cook.

According to Altman, Murdaugh knocked down a chair at the bar and another person joked “what did that chair ever do to you?”

“As Paul walked away, he looked at Connor and said ‘What did he say to me?’” according to Altman’s statement. “[Murdaugh] turned back around and asked the guy if he had a problem with him.”

Connor Cook had to hold Murdaugh back and bring him to the boat, she said.

“When Paul and Connor came out of the bar, I could tell how intoxicated they both were,” Morgan Doughty wrote in her statement to DNR.

1:13 AM - Beaufort River

The young adults climbed back into the boat tied up at the dock at 1:13 a.m., according to the timeline.

They traveled south toward Port Royal Sound, in the direction of the Murdaugh river house.

According to Altman, Murdaugh was driving the boat. Beach sat on Anthony Cook’s lap in the back of the boat.

Connor Cook, she said, stood on the right side of the boat.

Altman said she and Doughty began to notice the boat was traveling in circles.

“We all got irritated,” Altman’s statement said. “It was funny at first, but then we ALL got mad and fed up and told Paul to let someone else drive. ...”

She said she yelled at Murdaugh to let Connor Cook drive. Murdaugh “got aggressive” and yelled back that it was his boat.

“Paul drove almost all the way” to Sands Beach in Port Royal, Doughty wrote in her statement to DNR. “From there we begged Connor to drive.”

Altman’s statement says that Cook and Murdaugh switched off driving around this time.

According to DNR’s timeline, the boat slowed down at 2:20 a.m. as Murdaugh moved to the front of the boat to argue with Morgan Doughty.

Murdaugh, according to Doughty, “got close to my face screaming, cussing and saying horrible things.”

Altman said she saw Doughty push her boyfriend away and say “What are you going to hit [me] like you have all those times before?”

Murdaugh hit Doughty. She hit him back, Altman said.

He then walked to the steering wheel and grabbed it from Cook, according to both statements.

According to DNR’s timeline, the boat’s speed increased at 2:20 a.m.

Altman, according to her statement, noticed a bridge that “came out of nowhere.”

“Right before we hit it I screamed ‘watch out’ and we made impact and the boat kept going and hit the shore,” Altman wrote.

Doughty wrote that Altman screamed Cook’s name before hitting the pilings.

According to DNR’s timeline, the boat smacked into dolphin pilings at 2:20 a.m. at the bridge along Archers Creek.

A minute later, the boat hit the bank under the bridge and stopped.

Mallory Beach was nowhere to be found.

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