WALTERBORO, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — It’s been eight years since 19-year-old Stephen Smith was found dead on a road not far from the home of convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh. South Carolina Law Enforcement Division confirms with Queen City News his death, which was initially deemed the result of a hit-and-run crash, is now being investigated as a homicide.
Smith’s mother, Sandy, is now both exhausted and relieved with all the attention her son’s case is finally receiving three weeks after Murdaugh’s sentencing.
“He was so bright and so funny,” Sandy Smith said describing her son, “and I just always remember that beautiful smile and dimples.”
Smith has expressed gratitude for the outpouring of love and support for her son, who was found dead in the middle of the road in Hampton County in 2015.
“He suffered no apparent injuries from the waist down, his shoes are still on, his loosely tied shoes are still on his feet,” said Smith family attorney Ronnie Richter of the Bland Richter firm. “It just makes no sense.”
At the time, a medical examiner concluded Stephen died from a hit-and-run crash, but his mom has said for years she doesn’t believe that was the case.
“I really don’t know why they did what they did,” Smith said. “I just knew in my heart that what they were telling me was not true.”
When asked if she knows what happened to her son, Smith said, “I believe he was beaten to death.” By whom, she says she doesn’t know, but added they’re the answers she seeks.
SLED told Queen City News in June 2021 the division opened an investigation into Stephen’s death after its agents were investigating the Murdaugh family murders.
“Remember,” said Eric Bland, also of Bland Richter, “there was a piece of evidence discovered during the Murdaugh murder investigation whether it was a phone, a text or it was something from a computer.”
He continued, “I think we’ll find out, but at the end of the day I think it had something to do with Stephen’s lifestyle or a boyfriend he might have had or a relationship he might have had.”
Murdaugh’s son Buster, whose name was brought up several times in the investigation, has called rumors of his involvement baseless and false.
South Carolina Highway Patrol’s case notes showed investigators did not believe his death was the result of a hit-and-run. According to the Smith family attorney, SLED officials did not need to exhume Stephen’s body to determine his death was a homicide, but they’ll continue with the exhumation to gather more evidence.
Big crowd expected at Murdaugh auction
While this new information develops, the Murdaugh home is getting liquidated.
Thursday, the contents of the estate went for sale at an auction house in Georgia.
The owner of the auction house told Queen City News her phone has been ringing off the hook with inquiries, adding she expected hundreds, if not, more than a thousand people to show up.