Stephen Smith was found dead on July 8, 2015, on a country lane not far from the Murdaugh hunting lodge that would become a bloody crime scene six years later.
The 19-year-old’s death was officially ruled a hit-and-run despite highway cops saying they found no evidence of the usual telltale signs, skid marks and debris on the road.
But now his family has raised $60,000 to have his body exhumed for a private autopsy following the conviction of Alex Murdaugh for murdering his wife and son last month.
Buster Murdaugh, 26, the only surviving son of the disgraced legal descendant, on Monday denied “malicious rumors” that he was involved in the death of his former classmate.
After Smith’s death, police received a tip about an alleged homosexual relationship between the couple being talked about at the local high school. Smith’s mother, Sandra, also claims that her son may have been the victim of a hate crime carried out by the Murdaugh clan.
Buster Murdaugh, 26, the only surviving son of the disgraced legal descendant, on Monday denied “vicious rumors” that he was involved in the death of his former classmate.
Stephen Smith was found dead on July 8, 2015, on a country road not far from the Murdaugh hunting lodge that would become a bloody crime scene six years later.
Smith’s death was officially ruled a hit-and-run despite highway cops claiming they found no evidence of the usual telltale signs.
Smith’s body was found on a country road 15 miles from the Murdaugh family’s Islandton hunting lodge and initial investigators found no evidence of any vehicle accident.
There was no evidence of vehicle wreckage, skid marks or injuries consistent with someone being struck by a car and they were convinced the victim had a gunshot wound over the right eye, according to the original incident report obtained by DailyMail.com.
The report written by South Carolina Highway Patrol investigators on the scene and contained in the Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation (MAIT) case file added: “The shoes were loosely tied, and both were still on. posts. After checking with MAIT, we see no evidence to suggest the victim was struck by a vehicle.
A second incident report signed by two Hampton County Sheriff’s Office deputies who responded to the first reports of a body stated: “I saw a person lying in the middle of Sandy Run… The person was a young white man with a serious head injury.” ‘
It continues: ‘After inspecting the body, it appears that the victim had been shot.’
A third account written by an unnamed MAIT officer who was called at 5:35 a.m. he was told by Hampton County Coroner Ernie Washington that it was a homicide.
The report says: ‘He pointed out that the wound was a gunshot wound and showed me the point of entry. Assistant Coroner Kelly Greene began showing me photographs they took, again noting the point of entry to the head and also a defensive hand wound.
He says: “I asked them to clarify if they were sure, it was a homicide, and their answer was yes.”
But when the autopsy was performed at MUSC Health University Medical Center, the manner of death was listed not as homicide but as “indeterminate,” and it was ruled a hit and run.
And at the time, investigators had received leads questioning whether Smith, who was killed at age 19, was in a relationship with Buster, the 26-year-old surviving son of Alex Murdaugh.
Patrol officers told state police they believed the teen was murdered, but there was no further investigation.
Smith’s mother, Sandy, has long maintained that her son, who was gay, was the victim of a hate crime and that the murder was covered up.
After Smith’s death, police received a tip about an alleged homosexual relationship between him and Buster, which was being discussed at the local high school.
Smith’s mother, Sandra, claims her son may have been the victim of a hate crime perpetrated by the Murdaugh clan
A Netflix documentary explored their alleged relationship, though Buster declined to comment at the time.
Since then, two HBO and Netflix documentaries have aired rumors that Buster was involved in a romantic relationship with Smith.
Buster, denied “malicious rumors” that he was involved in Smith’s death, saying he wanted privacy to “mourn the brutal murders of my mother and brother.”
“I have done my best to ignore the malicious rumors about my involvement in the tragic death of Stephen Smith that continue to run in the media as I mourn the brutal murders of my mother and brother,” he wrote.
In Monday’s statement, shared by Alex Murdaugh’s trial attorney, Jim Griffin, Buster called the claims “baseless.”
Alex Murdaugh (left) has been jailed for the murders of his wife Maggie (second left) and their youngest son Paul (second right)
‘I love you very much and miss you terribly. I haven’t spoken up until now because I want to live in private as I deal with his death and my father’s imprisonment.
“I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death, and my heart goes out to the Smith family. I request that the media immediately stop publishing these defamatory comments and rumors about me.”
Authorities reopened the investigation into Smith’s death in June 2021 following information uncovered during the investigation into the deaths of Maggie, 52, and Paul, 22, who were shot and killed on June 7.
However, they never publicly admitted if there was a link between Smith’s death and the Murdaugh family, despite witnesses claiming there was a possibility of foul play involving Buster.
The State Law Enforcement Division’s investigation into Smith’s murder was not based on any evidence or information obtained at the Murdaugh family home where Maggie and Paul were killed, according to FITSNews.
But a copy of the original accident report from the South Carolina Highway Patrol instead.
Smith’s mother, Sandy, introduced Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter as her new attorneys Monday and announced they would conduct their own investigation into his death.
It will kick off next week when the nursing student’s family announced they would exhume his body and move forward with an independent autopsy after raising $60,000 on GoFundMe.