Stephen Smith’s death ruled a homicide – eight years after he was found dead near Murdaugh property

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Stephen Smith’s death is now being considered a homicide – eight years after the teenager was found dead on a rural road near Buster Murdaugh’s family home.

Bland Richter Law Firm, which is representing Smith’s family, made the announcement on Tuesday after a call with South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Chief Mark Keel. 

Law enforcement revealed they did not even need to exhume the 19-year-old’s body to convince them that his death was a homicide. But said they will ‘be present and participate in any exhumation of Stephen’s body to gather more evidence.’

It comes just a day after Buster denied ‘vicious rumors’ that he was involved in his classmate Smith’s death after the teen’s family raised $60,000 to exhume his body.

Stephen Smith’s death ruled a homicide – eight years after he was found dead near Murdaugh property

Stephen Smith’s death is now being considered a homicide – eight years after the teenager was found dead on a rural road near Buster Murdaugh’s family home 

Smith's family announced they will exhume his body following renewed attention on the case after Alex Murdaugh was found guilty of murdering his wife and son. There have been rumors that Murdaugh's son Buster (pictured) was involved in a romantic relationship with Smith

Smith’s family announced they will exhume his body following renewed attention on the case after Alex Murdaugh was found guilty of murdering his wife and son. There have been rumors that Murdaugh’s son Buster (pictured) was involved in a romantic relationship with Smith

Bland Richter co-founder Eric Bland said SLED is committed to combining efforts and resources as the state moves forward with exhuming Smith’s Body.

‘We have a chance to right eight years of wrongs, and we intend to do just that,’ said Bland.

Smith was found dead on July 8, 2015, on a rural road near the Murdaugh property with a blunt-force trauma injury to the head.

Stephen Smith (right) and his mother Sandy (left). His family have long believed he was murdered - as Stephen's body allegedly did not have any injures from the torso down, and no car parts were found at the scene.

Stephen Smith (right) and his mother Sandy (left). His family have long believed he was murdered – as Stephen’s body allegedly did not have any injures from the torso down, and no car parts were found at the scene.

The teen’s death was initially ruled a hit and run, but highway patrol officers have since claimed they do not believe the scene was consistent with a road traffic accident. 

His family have long believed he was murdered – as Stephen’s body allegedly did not have any injures from the torso down, and no car parts were found at the scene. 

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SLED reopened the investigation into Smith’s death in 2021, citing new evidence had been uncovered while investigating the murders of Buster’s mother Maggie Murdaugh and his brother Paul. 

But according to Bland, officials said they were waiting until after Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial to make this announcement because of their concern over witness testimony.  

‘SLED officials have revealed that they did not need to exhume Stephen Smith’s body to convince them that his death was a homicide.’ Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter said in a joint statement. 

‘However, they will be present and participate in any exhumation of Stephen’s body to gather more evidence. We are committed to finding out what really happened, and getting the peace and justice the Smith family deserves.’

Stephen Smith (right) and his mother Sandy (left). His family have raised $60,000 to exhume his body, and announced they would be looking into the death of the teenager again

Stephen Smith (right) and his mother Sandy (left). His family have raised $60,000 to exhume his body, and announced they would be looking into the death of the teenager again

Pictured: Stephen Smith's car found along Sandy Run Road in Hampton, South Carolina in 2015. The teen's death was initially ruled a hit and run, but highway patrol officers have since claimed they do not believe the scene was consistent with a road traffic accident

Pictured: Stephen Smith’s car found along Sandy Run Road in Hampton, South Carolina in 2015. The teen’s death was initially ruled a hit and run, but highway patrol officers have since claimed they do not believe the scene was consistent with a road traffic accident

Maggie Murdaugh is seen with her husband Alex and sons Buster (right) and Paul (left). Paul was shot dead beside her in June 2021

Maggie Murdaugh is seen with her husband Alex and sons Buster (right) and Paul (left)

On Tuesday, Attorney Ronnie Richter told TMZ Live there are a ‘number of facts that clearly point to murder’ which include ‘Stephen’s body from the torso down had no injuries, there were no car parts found at the scene, his shoes were still on, he supposedly walked three miles in the dark without ever using his cell phone.’

Smith’s mother Sandy said she wants to find the ‘real reason’ for her son’s death, and has stood by her opinion that he would have ‘walked through the woods’ if his car broke down – not along the road. 

Patrol officers told state law enforcement they believed the teen was murdered, but there was no further investigation.

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Since then, two documentaries by HBO and Netflix have aired rumors alleging that Buster Murdaugh was involved in a romantic relationship with Smith.

The 26-year-old surviving son of double-murderer Alex Murdaugh released a statement Monday saying that speculation ‘has gone on far too long.’

Alex Murdaugh, Buster’s father, was convicted last month of killing his wife, Maggie, 52, and his son, Paul, 22, and sentenced to life in prison.

Buster’s mother and brother were found shot to death near the kennels at their sprawling hunting lodge in Islandton on June 7, 2021.

The announcement was made by the family's lawyers, Bland Richter, on Twitter Tuesday night following a phone call with SLED Chief Mark Keel

The announcement was made by the family’s lawyers, Bland Richter, on Twitter Tuesday night following a phone call with SLED Chief Mark Keel 

The 26-year-old surviving son of double-murderer Alex Murdaugh released a statement Monday saying that speculation 'has gone on far too long

The 26-year-old surviving son of double-murderer Alex Murdaugh released a statement Monday saying that speculation ‘has gone on far too long

Buster Murdaugh and his girlfriend Brooklynn White walk into Colleton County Courthouse in South Carolina in February for his father's double murder trial

Buster Murdaugh and his girlfriend Brooklynn White walk into Colleton County Courthouse in South Carolina in February for his father’s double murder trial

On Monday, Buster denied 'vicious rumors' that he was involved in Smith's death

In the statement Monday, shared by Alex Murdaugh’s trial lawyer Jim Griffin, Buster called the claims as ‘baseless’ 

In a statement on Monday, shared by Alex Murdaugh’s trial lawyer Jim Griffin, Buster wrote: ‘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.

‘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.

‘Before, during and since my father’s trial, I have been targeted and harassed by the media and followers of this story.

‘This has gone on far too long. These baseless rumors of my involvement with Stephen and his death are false.

‘I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death, and my heart goes out to the Smith family.

‘I am requesting that the media immediately stop publishing these defamatory comments and rumors about me.’

Authorities reopened the investigation into Smith’s death in June 2021 following information uncovered during the investigation into Maggie and Paul’s deaths.

Buster, who supported his doomed father every day during his trial last month, said he wanted privacy to 'grieve over the brutal murders of my mother and brother'

Buster, who supported his doomed father every day during his trial last month, said he wanted privacy to ‘grieve over the brutal murders of my mother and brother’

However, they have never publicly admitted if there was a link between Smith’s death and the Murdaugh family – despite witnesses allegedly giving tips to law enforcement linking the classmates together, the documentaries claim.

A Netflix documentary explored their alleged relationship, though at the time Buster refused to give a comment.

More than half of the people interviewed during the investigation mentioned hearing about rumors of Buster Murdaugh’s possible involvement in Smith’s death – but was never brought in for questioning, the documentaries said.

Buster is currently thought to be holed up at his lawyer girlfriend’s property in Hilton Head, and was spotted walking dogs at the property several times during the trial.

Smith’s mother, Sandy, shared the news that they would be exhuming her son’s body and pushing forward with an independent autopsy last week on a GoFundMe page.

She wrote: ‘Our family is so very grateful to all of you who came together to help us in our fight for justice for Stephen.

‘I could not have imagined when we began this fundraiser that it would take off the way that it did. Thank you for not allowing Stephen’s story to be swept under a rug.’

SLED reopened the investigation into Smith's death in 2021, citing new evidence that was uncovered while investigating the murders of Buster's mother Maggie Murdaugh and his brother Paul. But according to Bland, officials said they were waiting until Murdaugh's murder trial was to make this announcement because of their concern over witness testimony

SLED reopened the investigation into Smith’s death in 2021, citing new evidence that was uncovered while investigating the murders of Buster’s mother Maggie Murdaugh and his brother Paul. But according to Bland, officials said they were waiting until Murdaugh’s murder trial was to make this announcement because of their concern over witness testimony

A GoFundMe for Stephen Smith, who died in 2015, has surpassed its target

A GoFundMe for Stephen Smith, who died in 2015, has surpassed its target. Buster Murdaugh’s name has long been linked to Smith’s

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