Alex Murdaugh, the South Carolina lawyer accused of trying to stage his own death in a life insurance scam, faces a new lawsuit alleging he orchestrated a "whisper campaign" to deflect blame for a fatal boat crash in 2019 from his son and put it on another passenger.
That passenger, Connor Cook, 21, said in the suit filed Monday that Murdaugh and others "were orchestrating a campaign" to have him 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 is seeking a jury trial and unspecified compensation in the suit for "severe injuries and damages for which he sought medical treatment and continues to suffer today."
Murdaugh, 53, has been in the spotlight after the unsolved fatal shootings in June of his wife, Margaret, 52, and their youngest son, Paul, 22.
How Alex Murdaugh case shines light on opioid addiction in South CarolinaSept. 20, 202101:36
At the time of the slayings, Paul Murdaugh was facing trial in connection with the boat crash in February 2019.
Six young people, including Cook and Paul Murdaugh, were on a boat owned by Alex Murdaugh when it slammed into a piling below a bridge near Parris Island in Beaufort County at 2:20 a.m. Paul Murdaugh was believed to have been driving, according to police records, although there was initially confusion over who may have been at the helm.
One of the passengers — Mallory Beach, 19 — was reportedly sitting on her boyfriend's lap when she was flung off the boat from the impact.
A police report said the passengers, all of whom were under the legal drinking age, were "grossly intoxicated." Beach's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Murdaughs and the convenience store chain that was alleged to have sold the alcohol.
Local reports after the boat crash said the Murdaugh family did not initially cooperate with law enforcement agencies' investigation and that officers never gave Paul Murdaugh an alcohol breath test, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, which led the investigation.
Paul Murdaugh had pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of boating under the influence. He had been out on a personal recognizance bond of $50,000 at the time.
Last month, state prosecutors officially dropped all charges against Paul Murdaugh as a matter of protocol. The wrongful death suit remains ongoing.
Cook's suit also names Murdaugh's other son, Richard Alexander "Buster" Murdaugh Jr., as well as the convenience store gas station and the clerk accused of selling the group alcohol.
According to Cook, who was 19 at the time of the crash, Paul Murdaugh was able to purchase about $50 worth of alcohol using Buster Murdaugh's driver's license and a family credit card.
Cook's body struck the boat frame and he lost consciousness, later waking to a "serious cut to his face and multiple fractures to his jaw," the suit said.
Cook said Murdaugh "encouraged and instructed" him to retain a certain attorney in the event of a criminal investigation, but that attorney never divulged his relationship as a "best friend" of Murdaugh's and "godfather" to Paul. Such conflict, according to the suit, "served to convert the unwitting Plaintiff Cook into an agent of protection for Paul Murdaugh, exposing Plaintiff Cook to the potential of being charged as boat operator and therefore responsible for the accident."
"Only Plaintiff Connor Cook was asked by law enforcement to submit to sobriety testing," the suit says.
A family spokesperson for the Murdaughs did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday about the suit. A member of Murdaugh's legal team, Jim Griffin, declined comment pending a review of the filing and said their focus "is supporting his recovery."
Last week, Alex Murdaugh surrendered to authorities after his lawyers said he attempted "to have himself executed" so his son Buster could collect a $10 million life insurance policy. Murdaugh, whose bail was set at $20,000, was charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and filing a false police report. He did not enter a plea and was permitted to return to a drug rehabilitation center for his opioid addiction.
His lawyers said he was not involved in the deaths of his wife and son.