Who was Stephen Smith? Murdaugh double murder linked to 2015 death of gay man
ISLANDTON, SOUTH CAROLINA: The double murder of Paul Murdaugh and his mother on June 7 has not only rocked South Carolina, but also the entire US. The pair belonged to a prominent Hampton family. The 22-year-old man and his 52-year-old mother, Margaret aka Maggie, were shot dead while they were at their hunting lodge in Islandton. Days have passed since the tragedy, but cops haven't found anything concrete to pursue the case further.
However, a recent report said that the cops investigating the double murder are now trying to find if Paul and Maggie’s killings had any connection to mysterious deaths linked to the family. Earlier, it was said that the deaths may have some links to the 2019 death of Mallory Beach. Paul was about to stand trial in the death of the 19-year-old, who allegedly died in a boat crash. The South Carolina scion was allegedly driving the boat in a drunken state. He had pleaded not guilty to three felony charges, which included one count of boating under the influence causing death and two counts of boating under the influence causing great bodily injury.
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Another deceased person's name has reemerged in the case - Stephen Smith, a gay man from Hampton who died in 2015. He was found dead in mysterious circumstances in the middle of Sandy Run Road on July 8, 2015. Till date, investigators do not know who or what killed the 19-year-old despite receiving several tips that his death was linked to the Murdaugh family. Officially, Stephen’s death has been announced as a hit and run. But his family is reportedly still in search of a real answer.
Recently, Stephen’s mother — Sandy Smith — said she got a call from an official with the SC State Law Enforcement Division (SLED). She hoped that they had reopened her son’s case, but what the official told her was devastating. “They called me back and said they were looking into Stephen’s case because they have to see if my family is involved in the shooting of Paul and Maggie (Murdaugh). What a slap in the face,” Sandy stated.
According to reports, in July 2015, Stephen’s body was found in a very horrific condition. His face was covered in blood because of a 7.25-inch gaping hole on the right side of his forehead. His head was disfigured while his right shoulder was partially dislocated. There were marks of cuts and bruises on his right hand. Stephen’s car was found three miles away on the side of Bamberg Highway by investigators, who failed to find the cause of his death. Initially, they thought it was a hit-and-run case, but then the coroner declared the death as a shooting homicide.
However, when investigators from the South Carolina Highway Patrol, the Hampton County sheriff’s office, and the South Carolina SLED searched the area near the crime scene, they reportedly did not find anything - no bullets, no gunshot residue, no tire marks, and no pieces left from a vehicle.
And, soon after that Stephen’s death was called a hit-and-run accident by a pathologist, Dr Erin Presnell, of The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), which left investigators as well as the victim’s friends and family confused. A friend of Stephen told FITSNews: “Stephen was not stupid. There is no way that would happen to him. He would not let a car, let alone a truck, get close enough to hit him. That did not happen to my friend. He doesn’t deserve that. He doesn’t deserve people to think that.”
Investigators then came up with a theory that the man’s head was hit by the mirror of a semi-truck. But despite all these, the name of the Murdaugh family kept emerging throughout the course of the investigation. SCHP documents revealed that Paul and his brother Buster Murdaugh were treated as possible persons of interest in the case along with others. However, no one has ever been named a suspect.
The probe documents also stated that Buster was reportedly intimately involved with Stephen. However, nothing has been proven yet. SCHP detective Todd Proctor said in 2015, “I think it’s a situation when you grow up and your family is kinda high-profile and you get away with some things because of your family name. You become invincible in a way and you get a little liquor and you think you’re untouchable.”
Another time, Proctor had added: “The Murdaughs, as big and powerful and rich as everyone thinks they are … they’re going to go on living their lives like nothing (happened). So they can play that card like they care about everyone else. No they don’t… they care about protecting themselves.”
A year after her son died, Sandy even wrote a letter to lawmakers and police agencies to help her find her son’s killer(s). She said, “It has been apparent from the first week of the investigation that authorities are covering up critical evidence and we no longer know who to trust.” As per reports, crucial evidence in the case like the DNA under Stephen’s fingernails, the clothes he was wearing, and the rape kit went missing. The mother added, “The case was mysteriously bounced from investigator to investigator without reasons or notification. It would repeatedly get to a certain point, then the assigned investigator would bow out, perhaps not wanting to take on Solicitor Murdaugh.”
It’s been six years since Stephen mysteriously died and his mother is still looking for answers. Sandy said, “I just want to know the following: Did my son suffer? Did he beg you for his life? Did he have the chance to fight back? How long did he live after the first blow to his head? Where did he die? Was he still alive when you placed him in the middle of the highway? Where did he take his last breath? I know he took his first January 29, 1996 at 7:05 am. I have lost a child before and I knew all the answers, Stephen’s death is different because I don’t know anything: The Who? The Why? The Where? I forgive you for what you did to my sweet baby boy, I just want this pain in my heart to stop.”