Stephen Smith’s family have pushed to have the 19-year-old’s body exhumed and reexamined years after he was found dead on a road in Hampton County. Earlier this month, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division announced that they have deemed his 2015 death a homicide.
SLED has released various images from the crime scene as the result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The agency was involved in the initial investigation — which entailed their medical examiner deeming Smith’s death a hit-and-run. Reports indicated that a rape kit was ordered immediately after Smith’s body was discovered.
Earlier this month, SLED said Hampton County Sheriff’s Office and the South Carolina Highway Patrol did not ask them to investigate Smith’s death in 2015. 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,” the statement read. “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’s case has received renewed interest because he attended high school with Buster Murdaugh, who is Alex and Maggie’s surviving son. Maggie and her son, Paul, were found fatally shot at their family property in 2021. In March, legal scion Alex Murdaugh was convicted of killing the pair and received two consecutive life sentences.
Though authorities have not publicly linked Buster to Smith’s death, he issued a statement denying involvement.
“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,” he said in a press release issued to NBC.
In March, Smith’s family established a GoFundMe to have Smith’s body exhumed. The fundraiser quickly met its goal as it has amassed over $100,000 in less than a month.
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 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.
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[Featured image: Stephen Smith/Facebook]