stephen smith

Stephen Smith: South Carolina Man’s Mother Seeks Independent Autopsy of Her Son’s Body

As Alex Murdaugh went to prison earlier this month for the murder of his wife and son, another South Carolina mother was still hoping that justice will come soon for her son, a young man whose death has often had the Murdaugh name swirling around it.

Stephen Smith, an openly gay 19-year-old, was found dead on a rural Hampton County road in July 2015. A coroner’s report said he was most likely hit in the head by the mirror of a passing tractor trailer truck as he walked along the dark, two-lane road after he ran out of gas, as CrimeOnline previously reported.

Sandy Smith, Stephen’s mother, didn’t think so then and she doesn’t think so now. There was no debris in the road, and Stephen’s injuries didn’t match up with a hit and run, she said. She believes that he was beaten to death and left in the road, possibly by someone he’d had a brief “fling” with.

And in the wake of the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh in June 2021, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division apparently had some questions too. They reopened the investigation, based on information they’d turned up, they said, while investigating the murders on the Murdaugh hunting property.

SLED has not said what information that was. In January, with Alex Murdaugh’s trial set to begin, the state agency said that it was “making progress” in its investigation, which it called “active and ongoing.”

And last week, Sandy Smith set up a GoFundMe to pay for an independent exhumation and autopsy of her son’s body in order to go beyond what that coroner said in 2015. The fundraiser reached its goal in less than a week.

She wants an independent autopsy, she said, because if the state orders another one, it would be done by the same agency that determined her son was killed in a hit and run.

“At the very beginning, local law enforcement did a very poor job on this case. A very poor job on this case. Either it was a gross level of incompetence, or they were motivated by other purposes,” Mike Hemlepp, the Smith family attorney, told WJCL in January.

“Ultimately, the truth is going to come out,” he said.

South Carolina Highway Patrol officials said the Murdaugh name surfaced time and again during their initial investigation, but that very quickly, the people investigators sought to speak with shut down and stopped cooperating. And that included, said retired trooper Todd Proctor — who led the initial investigation — the Murdaughs.

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[Featured image: Stephen Smith/Facebook]