Stephen Smith’s death now being investigated as a homicide, law enforcement says, 2 years after Murdaugh case prompted fresh look


The demise of Stephen Smith, whose human body was identified in the middle of a highway in 2015, is being investigated as a murder, a spokesperson for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division explained to CNN on Tuesday.

The progress comes almost two many years after the murders of Margaret “Maggie” Murdaugh and Paul Murdaugh brought renewed scrutiny to the destiny of the 19-calendar year-old nursing scholar.

Smith’s system was found out lying on a Hampton County street on July 8, 2015 and his loss of life was deemed a hit-and-run in an first incident report and by a healthcare examiner’s report. The report cited the cause of dying as blunt head trauma sustained from being strike by a car.

But the SLED spokesperson on Tuesday verified there was no sign in the investigation that was essentially the case.

Attorneys for Smith’s spouse and children welcomed the information, which follows SLED’s announcement in June 2021 it was opening the investigation into Smith’s demise based on facts uncovered while probing the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh earlier that thirty day period.

The company has not offered aspects about what was discovered in that investigation, and authorities have not announced a relationship in between Smith’s loss of life and the Murdaugh relatives, whose patriarch, Alex Murdaugh, was identified guilty previously this thirty day period and sentenced to lifetime in jail for killing Maggie and Paul, on the evening of June 7, 2021. Murdaugh has appealed his convictions.

The case file from the original South Carolina Highway Patrol investigation into Smith’s dying – unveiled by the patrol to CNN – exhibits the Murdaugh title was outlined dozens of moments by each witnesses and investigators, which include the identify of Alex Murdaugh’s surviving son, Buster.

In 1 audio recording of a witness interview, then-Trooper Todd Proctor is heard expressing, “Buster was on our radar. … The Murdaughs know that.” But why he was on investigators’ radar is unclear. Neither Buster Murdaugh nor any individual else has been billed in the circumstance.

Buster Murdaugh, a former classmate of Smith’s, introduced a assertion Monday – his initial on the make any difference – denying any involvement in Smith’s death and “requesting that the media promptly prevent publishing these defamatory responses and rumors about me.”

“This has long gone on much too long,” his assertion stated. “These baseless rumors of my involvement with Stephen and his loss of life are fake.”

Stephen Smith's grave is seen in Crocketville, South Carolina.

An incident report from the point out highway patrol indicated Smith experienced endured blunt drive trauma to the head.

When a pathologist cited in a SLED report said Smith appeared to have been strike by a car, the responding officer referenced in a report by the freeway patrol’s Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Group pointed out there was “no car particles, skid marks, or accidents dependable with another person remaining struck by a motor vehicle.”

Smith’s footwear were also each on and loosely tied, the report extra, and investigators saw no evidence suggesting he was struck by a auto.

Notes from investigators in the situation file say that “according to loved ones, Stephen would hardly ever have been strolling in the center of the roadway” and that he was “very skittish.”

Smith had injuries to his still left arm, hand and head, in accordance to notes taken by a SLED investigator at the scene.

His vehicle was found about 3 miles away, that report reported, with the gasoline tank door open up and the fuel cap hanging out on the side of the automobile. The vehicle’s battery was practical but the vehicle wouldn’t start, the report extra.

Attorneys for Smith’s family members praised the selection to classify Smith’s dying as a murder, which arrived on the heels of an announcement by Smith’s mother and her lawful team that they would find to exhume her son’s body and pursue a private autopsy.

“We have a chance to right 8 several years of wrongs, and we intend to do just that,” legal professional Eric Bland said in a news release Tuesday.

Smith’s relatives has elevated a lot more than $86,000 by means of a GoFundMe web page for what Sandy Smith hopes will be “a new, impartial look at his physique and an correct perseverance of his bring about of death centered on info.”

Smith’s mother and her attorneys mentioned they will petition a court to progress with exhuming Smith’s entire body, which involves a judge’s authorization.

“Our career is not to discover out who did it,” Bland instructed reporters in a digital information conference Monday. “That’s not what we do, we’re not legislation enforcement, we’re not doing a criminal scenario … What we’re definitely trying to do is give a mother solutions.”

The investigation will also include on the lookout at Smith’s everyday living, Bland extra, and what sort of conversation the teenager had and who he was associating with in the days right before his dying. Nearly anything realized, Bland explained, would be shared with law enforcement.

Bessie Venters

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