The murder case of Alex Murdaugh led a historian to uncover another suspicious 1940s death of the Murdaugh family that resulted in a huge payout

Alex Murdaugh. Joshua Boucher/The State/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Alex Murdaugh, a member of a long line of influential South Carolina attorneys, was found guilty of murder Thursday.

Murdaugh is also accused of staging a suicide bombing to help his surviving son, Buster.

In 1940, the suspicious death of his great-grandfather also resulted in a huge payout for his son.

The Murdaugh family was well known in South Carolina but attracted national attention after their patriarch, attorney Alex Murdaugh, was recently found guilty of the murders of his wife and son.

Murdaugh’s arrest led to the solving of many crimes possibly linked to the family, and a journalist uncovered an eerily suspicious family death that resulted in a hefty payout.

South Carolina journalist and historian Michael M. DeWitt Jr., who has reported on the Murdaugh family for years, discovered that Randolph Murdaugh Sr., the founder of the law firm that would establish his family legacy in Hampton County, South Carolina, at died in a train accident under suspicious circumstances in 1940.

The elder Murdaugh’s car was crossing a railroad track when it mysteriously stopped mid-intersection and was struck by a Charleston & Western Carolina freight line on July 19, 1940, DeWitt learned by looking through old newspaper reports.

This revelation comes as at least three other deaths are being investigated for links to the Murdaughs, and Alex Murdaugh is also being investigated for allegedly orchestrating a suicide plan for a life insurance payout for his surviving son, Buster.

W. W. Bartlett, the train’s engineer at the time, told investigators in the 1940s that he did not see Murdaugh’s car until he was about 40 yards away, and that Murdaugh then raised his hand and waved at the oncoming locomotive before starting his car and suddenly stopped right on the tracks.

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The impact of the accident “threw the car approximately 900 feet up the track and completely destroyed it,” the Hampton County Guardian reported at the time.

“Murdaugh’s body was found next to the track about 150 feet from the crossing,” the newspaper wrote, according to DeWitt.

The story goes on

DeWitt wrote that local historians have speculated whether Murdaugh was drunk or if it was suicide, but no evidence suggests either. His death was ruled an accident by the Hampton County Coroner’s Jury.

The elder Murdaugh’s son, Randolph “Buster” Murdaugh Jr., sued the train company, alleging that the train failed to whistle or ring the bell at the crossing and was traveling at high speed. He also claimed that the intersection and its approach were “in a rough, washed-up, and dangerous state,” and demanded a $100,000 settlement. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

In the years following the elder Murdaugh’s death, several of Murdaugh’s attorneys became attorneys for the 14th Circuit of the Circuit, and his law practice expanded significantly. This law firm would file dozens of lawsuits against railroad companies and win many multimillion-dollar judgments or settlements.

The Murdaughs have even joked about the implications of taking over the railroad company.

“A train killed my grandfather in 1940, and they’ve been killing our people ever since,” Randolph Murdaugh III once joked while speaking at a Hampton County public event in 2018.

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