Alex Murdaugh clerk misused $20k from funds on bonus, pet food and other personal expenses, complaint reveals

Former Colleton County Clerk of Court Becky Hill faces 76 ethics violations brought by officials in South Carolina

Mike Bedigan
Los Angeles
Thursday 30 May 2024 18:47 BST
Prosecutors hail Alex Murdaugh guilty verdict

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The court clerk who handled the high-profile murder trial of Alex Murdaugh allegedly awarded herself a $10,000 bonus and spent thousands more on lunches, gifts for staff and even pet food, according to an ethics complaint.

Former Colleton County Clerk of Court Becky Hill now faces 76 counts of ethics violations brought by state officials in South Carolina.

The allegations include a claim that she bought lunches for prosecutors and then paid herself back with county money. One count said she spent $543.89 for food and alcohol for a going away lunch for an employee in a local prosecutor’s office, the Associated Press reported.

Ms Hill also allegedly gave herself nearly $10,000 in bonuses from federal money that was meant to improve child support collection, but has few rules on how it is spent, according to the complaint from the South Carolina Ethics Commission.

On 36 occasions, the former clerk allegedly used public money to buy meals for her staff, family, judges and court employees.

Former Colleton County Clerk of Court Becky Hill is accused of spending around $20,000 of money that was .not her own
Former Colleton County Clerk of Court Becky Hill is accused of spending around $20,000 of money that was .not her own (ABC4 News)

She reimbursed herself for gifts bought for jurors and her staff on Valentine’s Day and for her employees on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Easter, the complaint stated.

Expenses also included $481 for a 50th birthday party for a staffer, dog food, bones and a pet bed for another, ethics officials said.

Ms Hill is accused of spending nearly $20,000 in county money in ways she shouldn’t, according to the complaint.

Alex Murdaugh was convicted of killing his wife and younger son after a six-week trial in Colleton County last year and was handed two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Alex Murdaugh was convicted of killing his wife and younger son after a six-week trial in Colleton County last year, and handed two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole
Alex Murdaugh was convicted of killing his wife and younger son after a six-week trial in Colleton County last year, and handed two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole (AP)

In April, Murdaugh was also sentenced to 40 years in prison over a slew of federal financial fraud crimes. It is running concurrently with a similar state sentence.

According to the ethics complaint, Ms Hill – who was the Clerk of the Court for the Murdaugh murder trial – also allegedly allowed a photo of the disgraced legal scion in a holding cell to be taken to promote her book on the trial.

She also struck a deal with a documentary maker to use the county courtroom in exchange for promoting her book on the trial, which she later admitted had plagiarized passages, according to the complaint.

Murdaugh is currently appealing his conviction and life without parole sentence, in part accusing Ms Hill of trying to influence jurors to vote guilty and being biased against him for her book.

A criminal investigation into whether Ms Hill tampered with the Murdaugh jury or misused her office continues, the State Law Enforcement Division said on Thursday.

A criminal investigation into whether Ms Hill tampered with the Murdaugh jury during the high profile murder trial is ongoing, state officials said
A criminal investigation into whether Ms Hill tampered with the Murdaugh jury during the high profile murder trial is ongoing, state officials said (AP)

The commission will hold a hearing in December on the accusations included in the ethics complaint unless Ms Hill and her lawyer settle the case before then.

Ms Hill may have to reimburse the expenses and face thousands of dollars or more in fines. If the commission believes she broke any laws, they can forward the information to prosecutors.

She resigned her position in March during the last year of her four-year term, citing the public scrutiny of Murdaugh’s trial and wanting to spend time with her grandchildren.

Ms Hill has not publicly addressed the ethics allegations and her lawyer did not return a message from The Associated Press on Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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