The physique of an adolescent discovered alongside a South Carolina street, whose demise was being re-investigated after public curiosity was renewed through the Alex Murdaugh case, has now been deemed a murder, the household lawyer says.
The extraordinary disclosure of the demise investigation of Stephen Smith got here in a telephone name between lawyer Eric Bland and South Carolina Legislation Enforcement Division (SLED) Chief Mark Keel.
Bland referred to as it a “stunning announcement after eight years of being proclaimed a freeway vehicular manslaughter.”
Smith household attorneys and SLED authorities will mix efforts and share info and sources because the state plans on exhuming Smith’s physique, Bland mentioned in a brand new launch.
“Now we have an opportunity to proper eight years of wrongs, and we intend to just do that,” mentioned Bland. “SLED officers have additionally welcomed a partnership with Bland Richter on this investigation. They imagine that working collectively will assist to deliver new leads and knowledge to gentle and can in the end result in a decision on this case.”
A spokesperson from SLED advised Legislation&Crime on Tuesday evening that the investigation into Smith’s demise has all the time been a murder investigation and now that the Murdaugh case is over, the company can focus extra sources on this case.
Questions had been raised about Smith’s demise through the investigation into the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh in 2021, Bland mentioned.
Police reopened the case in 2021 after new proof was revealed through the double homicide investigation, Bland mentioned.
In March, Smith’s mom, Sandy, began a GoFundMe web page to boost cash for an unbiased post-mortem.
Police mentioned initially mentioned Smith was hit by a automobile and died on a street close to Murdaugh’s property in 2015. An post-mortem mentioned the reason for demise was blunt power trauma to the pinnacle on account of a motorized vehicle crash. The style of demise was undetermined.
“Smith’s household believes he was murdered and needs an unbiased take a look at his physique and an correct dedication of his explanation for demise based mostly on info,” Bland mentioned.
Bland mentioned that legislation enforcement can be current when the household plans to exhume and re-examine Smith’s physique.
“We’re dedicated to discovering out what actually occurred and getting the peace and justice the Smith household deserves,” mentioned Bland and Ronnie Richter in a joint assertion.
SLED additionally mentioned they had been ready till the Murdaugh trial was over earlier than asserting the information out of concern that witnesses can be much less forthcoming beneath the “Murdaugh sphere of affect,” Bland mentioned.
“SLED is publicly supporting us, Sandy Smith, and her efforts to search out out what actually occurred to her son,” Richter mentioned. “They’ve expressed their condolences to the Smith household and can proceed to work diligently to deliver these accountable for Stephen’s demise to justice. We’re proud to be their companion find justice.”
Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to 2 life phrases for killing his spouse and son earlier this month.
On Monday morning, Alex Murdaugh’s lawyer, Jim Griffin, launched a press release on Twitter on behalf of Buster Murdaugh, who was a highschool classmate of Stephen Smith and knew each other.
Regardless of an absence of proof, the investigative file into Smith’s demise contains some individuals reporting unsubstantiated rumors that they had heard regarding Buster Murdaugh being by some means concerned in Smith’s demise. Nevertheless, Buster Murdaugh has by no means been named a suspect or individual of curiosity within the case. On Monday morning, Buster Murdaugh launched a press release saying, “I unequivocally deny any involvement in his demise, and my coronary heart goes out to the Smith household.”
Buster Murdaugh added, “I’ve tried my finest to disregard the vicious rumors about my involvement in Stephen Smith’s tragic demise that proceed to be revealed within the media as I grieve over the brutal murders of my mom and brother. I like them a lot and miss them terribly.”
Eric Bland mentioned Monday they don’t have any information that Buster Murdaugh was concerned in any approach in Smith’s demise.
“As we sit right here immediately, Buster is a sufferer. He misplaced a mom, a brother, and now his father’s in jail. Buster, as we all know, has nothing to do with this,” Bland mentioned.
Legislation&Crime’s Angenette Levy contributed to this report
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