Was the Murdaugh Family Involved in Stephen Smith’s Death?

A new episode of 48 Hours on CBS will look into the allegations surrounding the Murdaugh Family’s involvement in Stephen Smith’s murder. The episode titled “Stephen Smith: A Death in Murdaugh Country” airs on the network on Saturday, November 25, 2023, at 10 p.m. ET.

The official synopsis for the upcoming episode reads, “New evidence discovered after Murdaugh murders reignites a cold case. 48 Hours obtains findings of independent forensic experts. CBS News national correspondent Nikki Battiste reports.”

According to CNN, a motorist found Stephen Smith’s body in the middle of Sandy Run Road on July 8, 2015. Authorities and the medical examiner initially determined that his death was a result of a hit-and-run incident. They claimed that he died of blunt head trauma after being hit by a vehicle.

However, earlier this year the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) began investigating Smith’s death as a homicide. They stated that the decision was based on information gathered in 2021 during an investigation into Maggie and Paul Murdaugh’s double murders.

Stephen Smith’s death: Is there evidence linking the Murdaugh family to the cold case?

Immediately after Stephen Smith’s death, rumors of the Murdaugh family’s involvement began to spread, per CBS News. Nonetheless, all claims were dismissed at first. SLED finally opened an investigation into his death in June 2021 after the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh. They launched the probe “based upon information gathered during the course of the double murder investigation.”

People Magazine reported that, on March 21, 2023, SLED officially ruled that Smith’s death was a homicide and exhumed his body two weeks later. After a second autopsy, forensic expert Dr. Kenneth Kinsey said that investigators “did collect evidence, it was very good documentation, and everybody was upbeat about the information that was collected.” Per the latest theory, Smith died from a single fatal blow to the head.

The outlet reported that Eric Bland, the Smith family’s attorney, told the publication that he thinks authorities will discover that Smith’s death was a hate crime. Moreover, he said, “It could be that a bunch of thug kids decide, ‘Hey, we’re going to beat up the gay kid,’ or it was somebody who felt that Stephen was going to out them.”

Bland further shared, “Stephen had told his mother that he was dating somebody of prominence. He was very secretive about his lifestyle. He wasn’t secretive about the fact that he was gay, but he respected the boundaries of people who he had relationships with.”

The CBS report further mentioned that detectives are also using Smith’s tablet or phone to find evidence. Authorities had found the device in his front pocket at the time of his death. The victim’s mother, Sandy Smith, claimed she handed the gadget to the FBI in 2016. She claimed that the FBI allegedly found “a lot of interesting information in the phone.”

Sandy claimed that ever since she gave them the phone, neither local police nor federal authorities pursued the lead. Her 19-year-old son’s case went cold. She said, “There’s something in that phone that nobody wants out there.”

ABC News stated that Stephen Smith was a former classmate of Buster Murdaugh, the eldest son of Alex Murdaugh. There have been rumors of Buster’s involvement in Smith’s death. But, the former addressed the allegations, calling them “baseless rumors” two weeks after his father’s conviction. He also “unequivocally denies any involvement [in Stephen Smith’s] death,” stated CBS.

The 48 Hours episode airs on November 25, 2023.

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