"Murdaugh Murders:" There Is a Break in the Case of Stephen Smith's Mysterious Death
Content warning: This article contains references to murder some may find upsetting. Reader discretion is advised.
UPDATE 3/22/23: Per People, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) confirmed in March 2023 that Stephen Smith was the victim of a homicide, not a "highway vehicular manslaughter" as was reportedly assumed at the time of his death in 2015.
Stephen's body had not been exhumed in order to confirm he was murdered, but SLED officials "will be present and participate in any exhumation of Stephen's body to gather more evidence," said attorneys Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter, from the Bland Richter Law Firm that's representing Stephen Smith's mother, Sandy, in a joint statement.
Sandy started a GoFundMe to raise money to exhume Stephen's body and do an independent autopsy. In the description of the GoFundMe, it says:
"While the state can elect and fund an exhumation and new autopsy, it is our understanding that it would be carried out at MUSC, where his death was initially classified as hit-and-run despite no evidence to support it. We need a new, unbiased look at his body and an accurate determination of his cause of death based on facts. There was no debris in the road, and his injuries were not consistent with a hit-and-run."
At the time of this writing, the crowd-sourcing garnered over $87,000. The GoFundMe's goal was only $15,000.
ORIGINAL POST: The past few months have been a whirlwind of pure chaos for both the Murdaughs and followers of their insane true crime story, which was recently explored in a three-part docuseries on Netflix called Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal.
The family patriarch, Alex Murdaugh, a now-disgraced lawyer from South Carolina who was recently convicted for the murders of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, is going to spend the rest of his life in prison with no possibility of parole. (This was not a death penalty case, so received the maximum sentence he could.)
The Netflix series went into extensive detail about the 2021 double homicide of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh and the death of 19-year-old Mallory Beach, who died when the boat Paul was driving crashed into Archers Creek Bridge in 2019. All the teens in the accident survived, except for Mallory; she suffered blunt-force trauma to her head and then drowned.
However, there were two other mysterious deaths associated with the Murdaughs, both covered in episode 3 of the docuseries: longtime Murdaugh family housekeeper Gloria Satterfield and 19-year-old Stephen Smith.
While Gloria's death was supposedly due to her tripping over the Murdaughs' dogs and falling on the stairs, later dying from her injuries in the hospital (though her body was reportedly going to be exhumed to see if that is what really happened), Stephen's cause of death is still unknown.
Back in July 2015, the teenager's body was found in the middle of the road in Hampton County, South Carolina with severe head trauma. One of the troopers on the scene the night of Stephen's death troopers said in the docuseries that Stephen's demise didn't look to be related to a car accident.
While there was a police investigation into Stephen's death, his case eventually went cold, which is why Stephen's mother, Sandy, hired a private investigator to look into what happened to her son. What the PI turned up was especially chilling: Buster Murdaugh, the oldest son of Alex and Maggie who is still alive today, was rumored to have had something to do with Stephen's death.
Stephen's friend Olivia was interviewed for the Netflix series and shared he was an openly gay teenager who didn't care what other people thought about him. As the rumor mill went, classmates Buster and Stephen supposedly had a secret, intimate relationship that would have "damaged" the Murdaugh family name if it ever got out. One theory, then, was that Buster allegedly killed Stephen to keep their secret quiet. There is no evidence to prove this rumor, however.
A big part of the rumors surrounding Stephen's death could be because once the Murdaugh family's name was mentioned in connection with this crime, any investigation into what happened to Stephen "just fade[d] away," private investigator Steve Peterson said on the docuseries.
As People reported, Stephen's murder is still unsolved and how he died "remains a mystery to this day."
After Alex Murdaugh was found guilty of murdering his wife and youngest son, Stephen's family released a statement provided by their lawyer that included this quote from Sandy:
"This verdict provides Maggie’s and Paul’s loved ones the answers and closure which they need to heal from this vicious tragedy. We know firsthand the agony and frustration of being in the dark about how a family member was killed and I am thankful the whole story was put before the jury in a public trial. One day, I pray the same happens for my Stephen, but today we should honor and remember the victims of this man who so many people trusted."
In February 2023, RadarOnline reported learning that the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division "has 'made progress' in the 'active and ongoing' case of Smith." The outlet also explained the investigation into Stephen's 2015 death was reopened after Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were found murdered at their home in Islandton, South Carolina.
More recently, People shared a video of Alex being led from the courthouse in handcuffs after his sentencing was read, and one person in the crowd yelled, "Buster is next. Justice for Stephen Smith, Alex!" (It's important to note everything regarding Buster and Stephen is pure speculation as of this writing.)
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