The mother of a South Carolina teen found dead on a rural road in 2015 said she plans to exhume her body for an independent autopsy because of the arrest and murder conviction of Alex Murdoff in her case. There seems to be renewed interest in the wake.
On a GoFundMe page that quickly raised more than $43,000 – enough to pay for teenager, Stephen Smith’s exhumation – his mother thanked supporters for “not allowing Stephen’s story to be swept under a rug”. Gave.
“This is Stephen’s year,” Sandy Smith told NBC News on Friday.
The family’s efforts for answers had been activated in the weeks following the June 2021 murder of Margaret Murdoff, 52, and her son, Paul, 22, at their property in Colleton County. Agents from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, or SLED, announced that their investigation of the murders, which were unsolved at the time, had reviewed other mysterious deaths in the area that had some connection to the powerful family.
SLED said they are launching an investigation into Smith’s death “based on information gathered during the double murder investigation”.
Investigators said in 2015 that it appeared Smith, 19, was struck by a vehicle while standing outside her car after it ran out of gas, reported NBC affiliate WCBD in Charleston. The incident happened in Hampton County, about 15 miles from the Murdo property known as Moselle.
Initially, according to an investigator’s report obtained by The Island Packet, Smith was found with a “defensive wound” on his hand, and a homicide investigation was launched. However, the matter became muddled when a medical examiner later wrote in a report that Smith’s cause of death was a head injury struck by car glass, which was part of an apparent hit-and-run.
Neither glass nor car debris was found where Smith’s body was found, The Island Packet reported.
Meanwhile, South Carolina Highway Patrol investigators said they found clues that Paul Murdaugh’s older brother, Buster, may be involved. An investigator attempted to contact Buster, but it is unclear the extent of any conversation that took place. State investigators have declined to discuss the case.
Buster Murdaugh and Smith reportedly graduated from the same high school in Hampton County in 2014.
No members of the Murdaugh family have been named as directly involved in Smith’s death. His case has attracted attention with the public’s fascination with the Murdaugh saga and was included in recent documentaries on HBO Max and Netflix.
Smith’s family and friends shared their concern for him as an openly gay teenager in a largely conservative area.
Alex Murdaugh, a once prominent attorney in South Carolina’s Lowcountry and scion of a well-connected legal family, was convicted this month of murdering his wife and son. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole and is still facing financial charges related to embezzling millions of dollars from clients and his family’s law firm.
His attorneys plan to appeal his double murder conviction.
Among those whom Murdoff was accused of stealing was the family of his housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who died in 2018 from what was initially described as an accidental fall at the Murdoff estate.
Lawyers for Satterfield’s adult sons eventually recovered millions of dollars for her estate.
The circumstances surrounding Satterfield’s death were questioned in 2021 by the Hampton County coroner, who requested her case be reopened because no autopsy had been performed.
The coroner wrote to state investigators, “On the death certificate, the manner of death was termed ‘natural,’ which is inconsistent with the injuries sustained in a trip and accident.”
SLED also announced in June 2022 that it would exhume Satterfield’s body as part of the investigation, which his family has said supports in order to definitively rule foul play.
Sandy Smith has also said that there is more to what happened to her son than a hit and run and believes that the way his body was found in the street, he was beaten .
She said Friday that she last spoke to SLED investigators about three weeks ago and would seek help in extricating her son from attorney Eric Bland, who is also representing Satterfield’s sons.
Sandy Smith said that any donations left over after the grave is excavated and the autopsy is completed will go toward a scholarship fund to help pay for books for college students. At the time of his death, his son was pursuing a nursing career.
In a statement Friday, SLED said it “has made progress” in its investigation into Smith’s death and that it is “active and ongoing.”
Sandy Smith said she wants an independent exhumation and autopsy because she doesn’t want it done by the same medical facility that initially classified her son’s death as a hit-and-run. Despite the lack of evidence.”
“We need a fresh, unbiased look at his body and an accurate determination of his cause of death based on the facts,” she wrote on her GoFundMe page.