Whoa. This was fast!
Stephen Smith‘s family is gaining the support of local law enforcement as they make efforts to further investigate the death of the 19-year-old, who was found dead near Alex Murdaugh’s family property in Hampton County, South Carolina on July 8, 2015. Initially, authorities determined he passed away after a hit-and-run, but now they’re backtracking big time!
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) told CNN the case is officially being investigated as a homicide. The rep also insisted there’s no indication the cause of death was really a hit-and-run, as had been previously determined. Whoa!
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In a press conference on the same day via People, the teen’s mother Sandy Smith’s attorneys Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter confirmed the update by revealing SLED Chief Mark Keel had disclosed the information to them during a phone call. Eric explained:
“We have a chance to right eight years of wrongs, and we intend to do just that.”
As we’ve been covering, on Monday morning, the legal team announced their plans to petition the court to have Stephen’s body exhumed and to bring in a team of experts to investigate the death. While these plans are moving forward, it turns out SLED knew someone f**ked up during the previous investigation and didn’t even need the body to be exhumed to declare this a homicide! In a joint statement, the lawyers detailed:
“SLED officials have revealed that they did not need to exhume Stephen Smith’s body to convince them that his death was a homicide. However, they will be present and participate in any exhumation of Stephen’s body to gather more evidence. We are committed to finding out what really happened, and getting the peace and justice the Smith family deserves.”
This has to be such a relief for the Smith family. They finally seem to have the law on their side. We can only hope this will lead to some real answers for them… Speaking off, we’d like to know how the Murdaugh family is connected to this case, especially since this decision had a lot to do with Alex’s trial!
As you might know, the Murdaugh family has been wrapped up in this mysterious death for a while now. When Alex was arrested for allegedly murdering his wife Maggie and son Paul in 2021, authorities found undisclosed evidence related to Smith’s death, leading them to reopen the cold case. Details have remained fairly secret, but we do know the prominent family’s name was brought up many times during the investigation. Even more specifically, Alex’s only surviving son, Buster — who was rumored to have a romantic connection to the nursing student — was said to be on police’s “radar,” according to a witness statement obtained by CNN. Not a great sign, all things considered…
That said, no one from the Murdaugh family was ever charged in the case. Buster also vehemently denied accusations he had anything to do with his classmate’s death earlier this week.
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But it’s not just the family being mentioned in the investigation that is strange. Bland and Richter explained that during their recent phone call with the agency, the department revealed they wanted to wait until after Murdaugh’s trial concluded to announce they were ruling Smith’s death a homicide “out of a concern that witnesses would not be as forthcoming under the Murdaugh sphere of influence.”
Does this mean they think Alex might have been pressuring someone to keep quiet?! Or did they not want to impact witness testimonies in the murder trial?? Either way, now that the trial is over, more “resources have been devoted and will be devoted to Smith’s case,” per the Bland Richter Law Firm. Richter added:
“[SLED is publicly backing Sandy’s] efforts to find out what really happened to her son. They have expressed their condolences to the Smith family and will continue to work diligently to bring those responsible for Stephen’s death to justice. We are proud to be their partner in finding justice.”
This seems like a huge step in the right direction. And it’s VERY telling that authorities were able to come to this conclusion without exhuming the body, so we can only imagine what they will uncover as they search for more evidence. The family’s GoFundMe page (HERE) is still active if you wish to support the investigation. Thoughts? Let us know (below)!
[Image via GoFundMe & New 19 WLTX/YouTube]