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Murdaugh Murders: The Deadly Boat Crash That Began The Family's Downward Spiral

While true crime series have long been a TV staple — "Unsolved Mysteries," for example, kicked off in the '80s — it's no secret that the genre has recently grown in popularity, and even seems to remain a major draw for viewers today, years after the present day true crime boom began. Arguably leading this current wave of true crime TV is Netflix, which has become home many popular true crime shows in the wake of the 2015 premiere of "Making a Murderer," one of the early pillars of the recent boom.

For instance, in 2021, Netflix subscribers couldn't stop binging "Catching Killers," a show about how investigators were able to apprehend some of the most well-known serial killers. That same year, "Yara," an Italian true crime show, also became big on Netflix. Since then, in 2022, a lighter but nevertheless still oftentimes horrific docuseries became a hit for Netflix titled "Worst Roommate Ever," delivering on the premise of its title with various true stories.

On February 22, "Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal" became the latest entry in Netflix's growing true crime catalog. This three-part documentary chronicles how a string of crimes unraveled the wealthy Murdaugh family in South Carolina. As of the show's premiere, patriarch Alex Murdaugh is still on trial for some of the murders recounted on the show. That said, it was a boat crash, rather, that kicked off the Murdaugh family's downward spiral.

The story of Murdaugh Murders begins with a boat crash

Over the course of Netflix's "Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal," viewers learn of a number of murders in which South Carolina's wealthy Murdaugh family is implicated. At the series' start, presaging the family's trajectory, is a fatal boat crash that happened in 2019.

A CBS News article published in July of 2022 recounting the incident in detail explains how, that night, 19 year old Paul Murdaugh invited some friends, including Mallory Beach and her boyfriend Anthony Cook, to accompany him on a boat from a property his family owned to a party in a coastal community. While they made it to the party as well as a nearby bar on that same boat, it was while returning home from the bar that witnesses describe an allegedly intoxicated Paul pressuring his friends to remain on his boat despite their reservations. The boat ultimately crashed and ejected Mallory into the water, resulting in her death.

As "Murdaugh Murders" reveals, Paul's legal culpability remains inconclusive, because he was a murder victim himself in 2021. Meanwhile, a 2022 People article describes how an attorney representing Mallory's family filed wrongful death claims that year. Since Alex Murdaugh is on trial and this story is ongoing, new developments may still be forthcoming.