Meet Creighton Waters, the Murdaugh prosecutor whose investigations toppled an SC dynasty

Meet Creighton Waters, the Murdaugh prosecutor whose investigations toppled an SC dynasty

The Double Life of Alex Murdaugh

In a recent court hearing, state prosecutor Creighton Waters revealed the double life led by Alex Murdaugh, the highly respected Hampton trial attorney. Waters dramatically illustrated the stark contrast between the persona Murdaugh presented to the outside world and the person he truly was. Behind closed doors, Murdaugh was a con artist involved in myriad alleged financial crimes. Waters played a crucial role in exposing this dichotomy and has since led a series of state criminal investigations into Murdaugh and his influential Lowcountry family.

A Reputation as a Tireless Investigator

Creighton Waters, a gray-haired and goateed prosecutor, has spent over 17 months leading a sprawling web of state criminal investigations into the Murdaugh family. As the chief prosecutor for the state grand jury, Waters has built a reputation as a tireless investigator, a tenacious negotiator, and a legal wizard. Despite receiving more lucrative job offers, Waters’ commitment to delivering justice has kept him at the S.C. Attorney General’s Office for 24 years. His investigations have unseated powerful state lawmakers, sent sheriffs to prison, and recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars stolen from taxpayers by corrupt bureaucrats.

The Greatest Test Yet

Now facing his greatest test, Creighton Waters must convince a Colleton County jury that Alex Murdaugh brutally murdered his wife and son at their hunting estate in June 2021. The stakes are high as this double murder trial will be closely watched by a national audience. This will also be Waters’ first Murdaugh case to be heard by a jury. The highly anticipated trial is set to begin on January 23.

The Right Thing

Creighton Waters’ strong moral compass can be traced back to his upbringing. Growing up in Columbia’s Heathwood neighborhood, Waters was influenced by his father, a well-respected consumer litigation and bankruptcy lawyer. Waters’ proximity to his father’s best friends, who were public servants, further shaped his sense of right and wrong. Known for his intelligence and talent, Waters attended the University of South Carolina’s prestigious Honors College and later graduated from its law school in 1996.

A Career in Government

After law school, Alex Murdaugh joined his family’s high-powered law firm in Hampton, while Creighton Waters embarked on a career in government. He clerked for two years for the late S.C. Court of Appeals Judge Jasper Cureton, who became one of his chief mentors. In 1998, Waters joined the S.C. Attorney General’s Office, initially working in the appellate division under legendary Deputy Attorney General Don Zelenka. Waters defended death penalty convictions won by other prosecutors, including a case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

Leading the State Grand Jury

In 2010, Creighton Waters transitioned to the state grand jury, a powerful body with the authority to subpoena witnesses and documents, as well as unravel complex criminal schemes. Waters has left his mark on some of the most significant criminal cases in South Carolina. Collaborating with special prosecutor David Pascoe, he worked on misconduct indictments that led to the removal of then-S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell in 2014. Waters also partnered with federal prosecutors in the investigation of the $9 billion V.C. Summer nuclear project fiasco, resulting in criminal charges against four businessmen.

Sending a Message

Known for his dedication to rooting out corruption, Creighton Waters views each case as an opportunity to send a message to would-be wrongdoers. He is not afraid to challenge plea deals if they do not adequately deter future offenders. Waters’ commitment to justice was evident when he uncovered additional wrongdoing in a plea deal reached by federal prosecutors with a former Berkeley County School District official who had stolen over $1 million from taxpayers. He pursued further charges and ensured the individual received an appropriate sentence.

Uncovering Corruption and Criminal Networks

Over the past decade, Creighton Waters has leveraged the power of the state grand jury to uncover corruption and dismantle criminal networks. His investigations have targeted drug trafficking and smuggling operations in South Carolina’s prisons, resulting in the indictment of more than 100 defendants. Waters has also exposed corrupt sheriffs, county officials, and school district leaders. His relentless pursuit of justice has yielded significant victories for the state.


Creighton Waters is known for his diligent and patient approach to his work. Defense attorneys who have encountered him describe him as a well-prepared and zealous prosecutor. Waters is a veteran of high-stakes plea negotiations that occasionally escalate into shouting matches. Former colleagues believe that Waters sees his identity as intertwined with the state grand jury, measuring his success by the number of indictments and convictions he secures.

Meticulous Investigator

Defense attorneys and colleagues alike acknowledge Creighton Waters’ thoroughness and attention to detail. He leaves no stone unturned in his investigations and follows the facts wherever they lead. Waters is known for his encyclopedic recall of facts and case law during court hearings. His dedication to getting the whole story is evident as he continues to question witnesses and pursue minute details, even after he has enough evidence to support a charge.

An Alter Ego

Aside from his legal career, Creighton Waters has a passion for music. He has played guitar for decades and has been a member of the cover band Sole Purpose. Videos of Waters shredding solos at gigs and practice sessions can be found on YouTube and Facebook. Waters’ bandmates have been in awe of his ability to quickly learn new songs by ear. Music provides an outlet for Waters to blow off steam from his demanding day job.

The Apex of Waters’ Career

The Murdaugh case represents an intersection of true crime, financial schemes, and public corruption, which aligns with Creighton Waters’ commitment to justice. Within the Attorney General’s Office, the investigation into the Murdaugh family has been nicknamed “Apex” due to Waters’ personal investment in the case and its significance as the pinnacle of his career. The probe has already brought down the legal dynasty established by the Murdaugh family over a century in South Carolina’s 14th Circuit. Alex Murdaugh, along with several alleged accomplices, has been charged with numerous crimes, including drug trafficking, money laundering, and theft.

A Mountain of Evidence

In a recent hearing, Creighton Waters emphasized the extensive evidence gathered during the covert investigation into Alex Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes. The evidence has been meticulously pieced together over more than a year and points directly to Murdaugh as the perpetrator of the brutal murders of his wife and son. However, Waters faces the challenge of defending his meticulously assembled case against highly respected defense attorneys, Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin. Ultimately, the jury will decide whether Waters can add another trophy to his wall of successful investigations.