HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – The mother of Stephen Smith, who was found dead on a rural Hampton County road in 2015, spoke publicly Monday about opening an independent investigation into her son’s death.

Smith, 19, was found on Sandy Run Road in July 2015. His family said they have more questions that need to be answered about the case and hope that a new set of eyes might reveal more information about what happened that summer night.

“Oh, he was an amazing child,” Sandy Smith recalled. “He was awesome, was brilliant. He loved animals, he loved to fish; he loved his family.”

She recalled hearing about a deadly accident on July 8, 2015. “At first, I heard it on the radio- not his name, but a body had been found. And when I called Stephanie, she said he didn’t come home that night, so I kind of felt it.”

And she’s had many questions since then.

“First of all, I want to know who did it – then I want to know why. And the autopsy, I want to tell me what actually happened,” she said.

Smith’s death was ruled a hit-and-run. But the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division later reopened the investigation after they said additional information came to light in wake of the deadly shootings of Paul and Margaret Murdaugh in June 2021.

“I knew it wasn’t a hit-and-run from the beginning,” she said. “I told them it’s not hit-and-run; he would not have been in the road.”

Stephen’s car was found about three miles from his body.

Sandy has raided more than $65,000 through a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for an independent investigation that will include her son’s body being exhumed, an autopsy performed, and a medical examiner that must be present throughout the process.

Attorney Ronnie Richter does not believe a hit-and-run makes sense in this case.

“He’s in the middle of the roadway- he suffered no apparent injuries from the waist down. His loosely tied shoes are still on his feet. He’s three miles from his vehicle and he had a cellphone with him, and he never attempted to call for help if his car did in fact become disabled three miles away… it just makes no sense,” he said.

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Smith shared her gratitude for those who have donated to the cause and supported her mission from the beginning. “I have a good team. We have the funds to start off with and do what we have to do to find justice for Stephen,” she said.

Attorneys Ronnie Richter and Eric Bland hope to petition a judge in the next 10 days to allow for Stephen’s body to be exhumed.