Stephen Smith’s mother has vowed to find his killer and said she will ‘absolutely’ have a new autopsy done to find out truth nearly eight years after his body was found on a rural South Carolina road near the Murdaugh property.
Sandy Smith told CNN: ‘I felt my son was murdered, he was beaten to death, and I think it was a hate crime. And I don’t care what your name is. But who – whatever your name is, you need to be punished for what you did to my son.’
Smith has accused local authorities of ‘covering up critical evidence’ in order to protect Alex Murdaugh‘s surviving son – who was allegedly in a secret romantic relationship with Stephen.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) told Smith’s attorneys on Tuesday that the 19-year-old’s suspicious death is now considered a homicide after originally being ruled a hit and run.
Buster had pre-empted the homicide update by vehemently denying ‘vicious rumors’ he was involved in Smith’s death.
Sandy Smith has been fighting for nearly eight years to get justice for her son Stephen who was found dead on a rural South Carolina road near the Murdaugh property
Smith was found dead on July 8, 2015, on a rural road not far from the Murdaugh hunting lodge that would become a bloody murder scene six years later when Alex Murdaugh brutally shot dead his wife and youngest son
Stephen’s death was initially ruled a hit-and-run after his body was found on the Hampton County road with blunt force injuries in July 2015.
But after his former classmate Buster’s mother and brother were murdered by Buster’s father Alex in 2021, Stephen’s death was reinvestigated based on information gathered during that investigation.
‘I have been fighting. This is what I have been fighting for,’ Smith said on Anderson Cooper 360 Wednesday night. ‘And I’m finally getting it. And I don’t know how to explain it, but I have a little bit of peace in my heart.’
Earlier this month, Stephen’s mother Sandy launched a GoFundMe to exhume his body to get a ‘new, unbiased look at his body and an accurate determination of his cause of death based on facts,’ the fundraiser states.
He also left his car at the roadside around three miles away, leaving his phone and wallet in the hatchback. Smith’s mother Sandy said he would never have left his wallet behind and would have at least called his sister.
Despite there being ‘no debris in the road’ and injuries that were ‘not consistent with a hit-and-run,’ according to Sandy, SLED did not further pursue the case.
In her letter to the FBI years ago, Smith wrote after Stephen’s death: ‘Chris [her son] was approached at work by a young man he did not know. This person told Chris he was present when Stephen was murdered and witnessed everything first hand.
‘He said that Solicitor Murdaugh’s nephew, Buster Murdaugh (who graduated with Stephen) beat Stephen to death with a baseball bat. He claimed it was because Stephen was gay.’
In their new statement released on March 22, SLED officials said at the time they had no reason to suspect anything out of the ordinary in the case.
On CNN Wednesday night, Sandy said she has believed from the beginning that her son did not die as a result of a hit-and-run crash.
When asked if she will still be planning another autopsy, she responded: ‘Absolutely.’
‘From the beginning, I have always said that the pathologist is a voice for the dead. And the one who finalized his death certificate, I do not believe that she gave justice to my son. She did not speak his voice – for his voice.’
Sandy said the Murdaughs inserted themselves into their lives after Smith’s death and even before he was confirmed to have been the ‘hit and run’ victim
PICTURED: Stephen Smith’s car found along Sandy Run Road in Hampton, South Carolina
Buster Murdaugh sits with his girlfriend Brooklynn White during his father’s double murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, on February 23
The announcement was made by the family’s lawyers, Bland Richter, on Twitter Tuesday night following a phone call with SLED Chief Mark Keel
SLED officials said this week that they would work alongside the Smiths’ legal team as they exhume Stephen’s body but stated a further autopsy was not necessary to establish that the boy was murdered.
On CNN Wednesday, Sandy talked about the love she had and still has for her son.
‘He was my life,’ she said. ‘He was my world. He was mischievous. And he was just everything.’
Sandy also talked about how she worried about him because of his life choices.
‘And I know – a lot of people ask, well, how was it when he came out? And I said, he never had to come out. He never had to say: ‘Hey, mom, I’m gay.’
He knew he was loved. And his choices in life was his choices. And he did not have to answer to me or anybody else of who he was.’
She added that even thought she was worried, she knew Stephen was careful.
‘But it’s everywhere in every situation. But he was careful. He was very careful. He was very cautious. And when he talked about people, he never gave a name, never.’
The family’s attorney Eric Bland, who also spoke on CNN Wednesday, said he believes Stephen’s murder was a hate crime.
‘I think we had a courageous 19-year-old, openly gay young man who was a nursing student, who wanted to become a doctor, who had relationships that I think will come out with some very important people, some who were married,’ he said. ‘And I believe that he was killed for being gay.’
Bland reminded Cooper and the viewers that it isn’t being gay in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.
‘And I just think that maybe a relationship that he had was going to be outed, or something happened in one of his friendships, or people just have such dark hearts that they just wanted to kill a gay boy,’ Bland said. ‘And I think it’s despicable. And I think that’s what’s going to come out.’
Bland could not give a timeline for when the exhumation and private autopsy of Stephen Smith will take place.
Stephen Smith’s family raised $60,000 to exhume his body, and announced that they would be looking into the death of the teenager again
‘This investigation is being deliberately derailed,’ the grieving mother wrote in her letter
This is part one of the letter Sandy Smith sent to the FBI in 2016
In the letter, the mother pleads with the FBI to investigate her son’s death
Sandy wrote that it was ‘apparent’ that critical evidence was being covered up and that she needed outside investigators to do the job
Maggie Murdaugh is seen with her husband Alex and sons Buster (right) and Paul (left). Paul was shot dead beside her in June 2021
The latest developments come as a letter written by Sandy in 2016 resurfaced where she begs the FBI to investigate Smith’s death.
Sandy wrote that it was ‘apparent’ that critical evidence was being covered up and that she needed outside investigators to do the job.
‘This investigation is being deliberately derailed,’ the grieving mother wrote.
She directly connected Buster to the crime and alleged the Murdaugh family was attempting to cover up the crime.
Sandy said the Murdaughs inserted themselves into their lives after Smith’s death and even before he was confirmed to have been the ‘hit and run’ victim.
‘The first call my family received after the murder was from authorities notifying us of Stephen’s death,’ she wrote at the time.
‘The second came very quickly the same morning from solicitor Randolph Murdaugh. In fact, he called my ex-husband’s cell phone as we waited in the police station for a positive identification,’ the letter continued.
‘We also weren’t sure how he found out so quickly – even before it was confirmed to be our son,’ the mother wrote to the FBI.
After Smith’s death, his twin sister Stephanie also was allegedly approached ‘multiple times by peers’ who said the Murdaughs were involved.
‘As a family, it was suspicious to us since he had taken such an immediate interest in the case and then became unreachable so quickly,’ the mother wrote at the time.
Investigators have never revealed if there was a link between Smith’s death and the Murdaugh family, even as witnesses allegedly gave tips linking them together.
The mother’s fundraiser to exhume her son’s body has so far raised more than $92,000
Buster, who supported his doomed father every day during his trial last month, said he wanted privacy to ‘grieve over the brutal murders of my mother and brother’
In the statement released on Monday, Buster called the claims as ‘baseless’
A Netflix documentary explored their alleged relationship, though at the time Buster refused to give a comment.
More than half of the people interviewed during the investigation mentioned hearing rumors of Buster’s possible involvement in Smith’s death – but he was never brought in for questioning, the documentaries said.
DailyMail.com exclusively revealed in June 2021, that SLED had reopened the investigation into Smith’s death, with officials citing new evidence uncovered while probing the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.
‘SLED officials have revealed that they did not need to exhume Stephen Smith’s body to convince them that his death was a homicide,’ Bland and his law partner Ronnie Richter said in a joint statement Monday.
According to Bland, officials said they were waiting until after Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial to make this announcement because of their concern over witness testimony.
Buster released a statement Monday before SLED’s confirmation of a murder probe, stating that speculation about his alleged involvement ‘has gone on far too long.’
Buster is currently thought to be holed up at his lawyer girlfriend’s property in Hilton Head, and was spotted walking dogs at the property several times during the trial.
His father, Murdaugh, 54, was last month sentenced to two consecutive life terms after being found guilty of murdering his wife Maggie, 52, and younger son Paul, 22, at the family’s sprawling hunting estate in Moselle in South Carolina’s Lowcountry on the night of June 7, 2021.
The disgraced legal scion brutally shot the pair while Buster was staying with his girlfriend near Charlotte, North Carolina.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11892999/Stephen-Smiths-mom-vows-sons-killer-confirms-shes-absolutely-doing-new-autopsy.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Stephen Smith’s mom vows to find son’s killer – and confirms she’s ‘absolutely’ doing new autopsy