HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (NewsNation) — Authorities say that, while investigating the Murdaugh family murders in South Carolina, they discovered new evidence connected to the mysterious death of a 19-year-old in 2015.
The Stephen Smith case was reopened two years ago, but investigators did not reveal the news until after the conclusion of disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial.
Smith’s mother, Sandy, has waited eight years for this moment.
“I just knew in my heart that what they (authorities) were telling me was not true,” Sandy Smith told NewsNation’s Chris Cuomo in an exclusive interview. She believes her son was “beaten to death.”
“It’s now the state’s official position that Stephen Smith did not die from a highway fatality on July 8, 2015,” she said.
Nearly eight years after the 19-year-old’s death was declared a hit-and-run, his death is now officially considered a homicide.
“I’m elated, in shock, mixed emotions, this is what I’ve been waiting for,” Sandy Smith said.
On July 8, 2015, Stephen Smith was on his way home from school when he ran out of gas. His car would be found down a dark rural road in Hampton County, South Carolina. His body was eventually found three miles away in the middle of a road. There were no skid marks or other physical evidence that Smith was hit by a vehicle.
A special accident investigation determined it was a homicide, but a pathologist disagreed.
After years of fighting for answers, Smith family attorney Eric Bland told Cuomo that Stephen Smith’s body will be exhumed.
“Chief Mark Keel (of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, or SLED) told me that they believe that there is a small circle of people that have information, and that they believe they can now talk and feel free because the yoke of the Murdaughs, as a result of the verdict, is now off them,” Bland said.
Though there was no known evidence linking any Murdaugh family members to Smith’s death, Alex Murdaugh’s surviving son, Buster, was a classmate of Smith’s.
Nevertheless, rumors spread throughout Hampton County, rumors Buster Murdaugh has addressed.
“This has gone on far too long. These baseless rumors of my involvement with Stephen and his death are false. I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death, and my heart goes out to the Smith family,” a statement read, in part.