The body of a 19-year-old South Carolina nursing student who was found dead on the side of the road a few miles from the now-disgraced Murdaugh family’s hunting estate will be exhumed for an autopsy independent.
The teenager’s mysterious death in 2015 has been the subject of renewed interest since Alex Murdaugh was found guilty earlier this month of two counts of murder for shooting his wife and his son on the property in June 2021.
Stephen N. Smith’s mother announced on Thursday that she would waste no time requesting the exhumation and autopsy of her son’s body after raising more than $53,000 on a GoFundMe page.
“I could not have imagined when we started this fundraiser that it would take off like it did. Please don’t let Stephen’s story be swept under a rug,” she wrote. “We will continue with the exhumation immediately and provide updates along the way.”
The body of Smith, a classmate of Alex Murdaugh’s surviving son, Buster Murdaugh, was discovered in the middle of Sandy Run Road in a rural area of Hampton County on July 8, 2015. He is approximately 65 miles north of north of Savannah, Georgia.
South Carolina Highway Patrol investigators initially concluded that the teenager died of blunt force trauma to the head following a hit-and-run accident, although they found no evidence to support this. theory, according to a report by Charleston NBC affiliate WCBD-TV.
“I saw no vehicle debris, skid marks, or injuries consistent with a person being struck by a vehicle,” investigators wrote in notes obtained by the station. “After consulting with MAIT (Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team), we see no evidence to suggest the victim was hit by a vehicle.”
Smith’s death remained unsolved for years, but the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced in June 2021 that it was reopening the case less than a month after officers began investigating the fatal shooting of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.
“SLED has opened an investigation into the death of Stephen Smith based on information gathered during the investigation into the double murder of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh,” SLED spokesman Tommy Crosby said in a statement dated 23 June 2021 at Bluffton Today.
Authorities have not released the nature of the new evidence, or confirmed whether there is any indication that Smith’s death is linked to the Murdaugh family.
Although the case of her son’s death has been reopened by investigators, Smith’s mother has publicly stated that she would rather take matters into her own hands.
“We believe it is essential to pursue a new goal – an independent exhumation and autopsy – and we are launching Justice for Stephen N. Smith with that immediate goal in mind. While the state may elect and fund an exhumation and re-autopsy, we understand it would be performed at MUSC, where his death was originally classified as a hit-and-run despite no supporting evidence,” he said. – she writes on the fundraising page. “We need a new, unbiased look at his body and an accurate determination of the cause of his death based on facts. There was no debris on the road and his injuries were not consistent with a hit-and-run.
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