South Carolina authorities reinvestigating the death of a teenager found dead in the middle of a road in 2015 no longer believe he was killed in a hit-and-run accident, according to the attorney representing the family of Stephen Smith.
Officials initially determined it was most likely that Smith was the victim of a hit-and-run in July 2015, a theory his family doubted from the start. Police said he was walking along the road after running out of gas, but investigators found no skid marks or car debris, and the 19-year-old’s loosely-tied shoes were still on his feet, attorneys have said.
A “48 Hours” report on Smith’s death noted that the state highway patrol originally suggested the teenager had died “from blunt force trauma on his head,” although authorities always disagreed about whether his injuries were consistent with a vehicular strike.
According to the Washington Post, Eric S. Bland and Ronnie Richter, the lawyers for Smith’s family, said in a news release Tuesday night that SLED Chief Mark Keel had called them to share the news as the state moves to exhume Smith’s body. Smith’s family believes he was murdered and has raised nearly $100,000 on GoFundMe to exhume his body. “We have a chance to right eight years of wrongs, and we intend to do just that,” said Bland, who also represents the family of Gloria Satterfield, the housekeeper who died at Murdaugh’s property.
The Murdaugh name came up in initial investigations. Alex Murdaugh and his brother Randy came to the scene of Smith’s death, though it’s unclear why they were there.
According to Sandy Smith, Randy Murdaugh called the family following Stephen Smith’s death, offering to help however he could. However, his law firm has since disputed that, putting out a statement denying it ever happened.
On Monday, Buster Murdaugh spoke out for the first time about Smith’s death. A Netflix docuseries on the Murdaugh family speculated about the nature of the relationship between Smith and Buster Murdaugh. Alex Murdaugh’s eldest son denied the “baseless rumors” in a statement released through his attorney, Jim Griffin. “Before, during and since my father’s trial, I have been targeted and harassed by the media and followers of this story. This has gone on far too long,” he said in a statement on Monday. “These baseless rumors of my involvement with Stephen and his death are false. I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death, and my heart goes out to the Smith family.” “I have tried my best to ignore the vicious rumors about my involvement in Stephen Smith’s tragic death that continue to be published in the media as I grieve over the brutal murders of my mother and brother,” Buster Murdaugh said. He added, “I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death, and my heart goes out to the Smith family.”
Lawyers for the Smith family insisted this week that Buster Murdaugh is not involved in the homicide case.