Buster Murdaugh denies involvement in Stephen Smith’s death, now ruled a homicide

— TODAY (@TODAYshow) March 20, 2023

One of the saddest stories in the Murdaugh documentary on HBO was about Stephen Smith, a 19-year-old gay man who was found dead on the road in 2015. Smith’s death was initially ruled a hit and run, which forensic experts said was not consistent with the condition of his body. Smith’s friends and family spoke about the situation in which he was allegedly hit on the road, and it wasn’t like him to be out like that or have car trouble without calling them. Many people told investigators that the Murdaugh family was involved in Smith’s death and that Smith was seeing the older and now only surviving Murdaugh son, Buster. This case was reopened in June, 2021. After widespread public attention and tireless efforts from his family, investigators have ruled Smith’s death a homicide. Buster was kicked out of South Carolina Law School in 2019 for plagiarism and is currently living in a condo in Hilton Head, South Carolina with his girlfriend, lawyer Brooklynn White, and their golden retriever. He has issued a statement denying a past relationship with Stephen Smith and denying any involvement in the teen’s death. Here are two reports, from People and from NBC News, with the details about this case and Buster’s statement.

Authorities in South Carolina have determined that Stephen Smith — whose body was found near the Murdaugh home in the summer of 2015 — has died of a homicide.

Police had initially said Smith died of “highway vehicular manslaughter,” the Bland Richter Law Firm, who is representing Smith’s mother as of this week, said in a press release on Tuesday. Lawyers said the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s (SLED) Chief Mark Keel disclosed the information during a phone call.

“We have a chance to right eight years of wrongs, and we intend to do just that,” said attorney Eric Bland.

Smith was found dead on a South Carolina road in 2015, according to the release, “and questions were raised about his death during the investigation into the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh in 2021.”

Smith, a 19-year-old nursing student from Hampton, South Carolina, was found dead in the early morning hours of July 8, 2015. He was discovered lying in the middle of a dark country road — 3 miles away from where his car had run out of gas — with deep gashes on his forehead, several local news outlets reported. Authorities initially thought Smith had been shot, but his death has later ruled a hit-and-run — a claim that his mother has disputed all along.

“Stephen never would have been walking in the middle of the roadway,” the family told investigators, saying he was “skittish,” per CNN.

Sandy later reiterated the same point to the Hampton County Guardian. “I just don’t believe my son would have been walking in the middle of the road like that,” she said.

Smith’s case was initially investigated by the South Carolina Highway Patrol before going cold in 2016, according to FITSNews. In that investigation, the Murdaugh name — a powerful local family known for their longstanding law firm — was mentioned dozens of times as possibly being connected to Smith’s death, FITSnews reported. However, no member of the Murdaugh family was ever questioned in his death and no charges were ever filed.

Buster Murdaugh made his first public statement on the death of his high school classmate Stephen Smith, telling NBC News in an exclusive statement he denies having any involvement in Smith’s death in 2015.

“I have tried my best to ignore the vicious rumors about my involvement in Stephen Smith’s tragic death that continue to be published in the media as I grieve over the brutal murders of my mother and brother,” Murdaugh said. “I love them so much and miss them terribly.”

“I haven’t spoken up until now because I want to live in private while I cope with their deaths and my father’s incarceration,” he continued.

Murdaugh’s father, Alex Murdaugh, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for murdering his wife Maggie Murdaugh and youngest son Paul Murdaugh, putting a spotlight on the powerful family in South Carolina’s Lowcountry.

Murdaugh said he has been “targeted and harassed” by the media and followers of his family’s story, both before and since his father’s trial.

“This has gone on far too long. These baseless rumors of my involvement with Stephen and his death are false,” he said. “I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death, and my heart goes out to the Smith family.”

Murdaugh also asked for the media to “immediately stop publishing these defamatory comments and rumors.”

[From People and Today.com]

I’m glad for Smith’s family that his death has been ruled a homicide. It’s so like a Murdaugh to make themselves out to be the victim when someone else was murdered. I don’t believe him and I hope Smith’s family gets answers about what happened to their son. I also hope Buster doesn’t see a dime of the money his father stole and that all of his family’s remaining assets go toward paying restitution.

— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) March 20, 2023

— Dateline NBC (@DatelineNBC) March 20, 2023

The statement comes after news of Smith's case being reopened and his body exhumed.#CourtTV What do YOU think? 👇⚖️ pic.twitter.com/QXYPFeFiWC

— Court TV (@CourtTV) March 20, 2023

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