Trooper Who Investigated Death of Buster Murdaugh’s Classmate Says It’s ‘Definitely’ Murder — But Case Was Quickly Deemed Hit-and-Run

A South Carolina state trooper who responded to the 2015 death of a gay teen found near the property of convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh and his family said he immediately believed it was murder.

South Carolina Highway Patrol Lieutenant Thomas Moore told WJCL that he believed Smith, 19, who was found dead on a road in Hampton County, was murdered at that spot or killed and dumped there. Moore alleged that despite his suspicions, the probe was quickly closed because a medical examiner deemed his death a hit-and-run.

Moore alleged that Smith had minimal road rash and his shoes were still on his feet — which Moore says suggests he was not fatally hit by a car.

Speaking with WJCL, Moore claimed he took his concerns to officials at the highway patrol as he believed they should have contested the medical examiner’s findings. He reportedly also alerted the Hampton County Sheriff’s Office.

“ … And line by line explained to them why this was not a hit and run and tried to hand them the file, and they would physically not take it with their hands,” he recalled.

WJCL reported that Smith’s case was eventually closed due to a lack of witnesses and insufficient leads.

However, attorneys representing Smith’s mother said on Tuesday that the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has since deemed Smith’s death a homicide. On Wednesday, the agency issued a statement in which they clarified the timeline of the investigation into Smith’s death.

In the press release, SLED said an autopsy was performed the same day Smith’s body was discovered, and a medical examiner determined he was fatally struck by a car.

“SLED was not requested by the Hampton County Sheriff’s Office or the South Carolina Highway Patrol to investigate Mr. Smith’s death in 2015,” the agency said.

According to the agency, it reexplored Smith’s case after agents “received information” and reviewed the highway patrol’s investigative file. However, it is unclear what information they got, where or who it came from, and why it led to them reviewing the case.

“From SCHP case notes it was apparent that the SCHP did not believe Mr. Smith’s death was a hit and run by a motor vehicle,” SLED said in Wednesday’s statement.

“SLED’s investigation into the death of Mr. Smith was never closed – it remains a homicide investigation. Progress has been made, and SLED’s investigation is active and ongoing.”

Smith attended high school with Buster Murdaugh, who recently denied having a role in Smith’s death.

“This has gone on far too long. 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,” Buster said in a statement issued to NBC.

Smith’s family said that they were seeking an independent autopsy in light of the investigation into Paul and Maggie Murdaugh’s 2021 murders. The slayings — which were carried out by Alex Murdaugh — occurred nearly two weeks before SLED revisited Smith’s case. At the time, SLED said information it uncovered while investigating the Murdaughs’ murders prompted them to look again at the case.

Last week, Smith’s family reached their goal on GoFundMe to have the teen’s body exhumed and reexamined.

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[Featured image: Stephen Smith/Facebook]