Alex Murdaugh had jail fight with an inmate who brutally assaulted his niece, sources say

While awaiting trial in the Richland County jail, Alex Murdaugh got into a fight with a man charged with burglarizing and sexually assaulting one of Murdaugh’s nieces.

The fight was disclosed by the niece in a recent TEDx video talk that was posted on YouTube. In the video, the niece discussed the ways she has worked her way through the triple traumas of depression, being the survivor of a brutal assault while a college student in Columbia and, finally, being a member of a family at the center of a shocking crimedia frenzy followed by millions of people around the world.

The niece, Mary Elizabeth Murdaugh, 23, is now studying abroad. She said she made the video in hopes of inspiring people who were going through deeply trying times. During her 18-minute talk, she said, “My uncle and my attacker had gotten into a fight in jail.” She didn’t go into detail.

The State normally does not identify the victims of sexual assault. Mary Elizabeth Murdaugh is being named because she identified herself during the discussion and on the video posted on YouTube.

Sources familiar with the fight between Murdaugh and the inmate confirmed that he has told people about the fight and that the man Murdaugh fought with was angry at him. The sources did not want their names made public. Richland County officials, who operate the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, have not responded to queries about the incident.

“They put this guy in the same pod at Alvin S. Glenn as Alex,” said one source whom Alex spoke to. “They were out in an open area together and the guy comes up to Alex and tries to explain how Alex’s family is framing him, and that just started a fight.”

The fight went on for some time. “Both of them got real banged up,” the source said. “The jail was somewhat chagrined that they had had them together. They were never put together again.”

The source said the jail was so understaffed “they had Alex in there breaking up fights.”

The man Murdaugh fought with is Robert Drayton, 42, who is now serving a life sentence for burglary, plus two 30-year sentences for kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct. He is not eligible for parole.

Drayton, who represented himself, was convicted of those charges involving Murdaugh’s niece in July 2023 after a four-day jury trial.

During sentencing before a packed courtroom, Judge Heath Taylor said he was shocked at the crime’s brutality and told Drayton he had always wondered why burglary first degree — one of the crimes for which the jury found Drayton guilty — carried the possibility of a maximum life sentence.

But now, knowing the brutal facts of this case, a life sentence for burglary during which a brutal assault was committed “makes sense,” Taylor said.

“Mr. Drayton, I don’t have the words for how depraved this crime was,” the judge said before pronouncing sentence. “I watched the (surveillance) video. It wasn’t nobody but you. It wasn’t even a close call. It was despicable what you did to that young lady that night. I don’t understand it.”

Evidence in the case showed Murdaugh’s niece and Drayton did not know each other and that he had stalked her.

“You sought this young lady out,” the judge told the defendant. “This was a plan. You didn’t just happenstance into her apartment and decide to sexually assault her. You made a plan. ... You’d been looking for her, following her. I don’t have the words.”

The judge also paid tribute to Mary Elizabeth Murdaugh, who had testified during the trial. He called her a brave young woman, “an impressive and strong young lady. ... I’m sorry you went through this,” Taylor said.

In addition to surveillance videos, evidence against Drayton included DNA and his shoe prints, according to a press release by 5th Circuit Solicitor Byron Gipson’s office after the conviction.

Murdaugh, 55, and Drayton are both incarcerated in state prison now.

Murdaugh is serving double life sentences without parole at an undisclosed state prison. Officials don’t say which prison because of security concerns. He was convicted in 2023 of murdering his wife, Maggie, and son Paul in 2021 at their home in a rural area outside Hampton.

Drayton is serving his life without parole sentence at the Broad River Road correctional facility outside Columbia.

“They have never been housed in the same institution at S.C. Department of Corrections,” said Chrysti Shain, spokeswoman for the corrections department.