The family of a South Carolina teenager found dead near the Murdaugh family estate has called for an independent autopsy to be carried out.
There has been renewed scrutiny over the death of Stephen Smith, whose body was found on a rural road in 2015, around 15 miles from the disgraced lawyer Alex Murdaugh’s Moselle hunting property.
It was there that Murdaugh was convicted of murdering his wife Margaret Murdaugh, 52, and Paul Murdaugh, 22.
The brutal murder at the Colleton County estate in June 2021 has led to reviews of other deaths in the area that have links to the Murdaugh family.
A GoFundMe page has now raised more than $56,000 to pay for Smith’s body to be exhumed and re-examined.
The 19-year-old’s mother, Sandy Smith, thanked supporters on the page for “not allowing Stephen’s story to be swept under a rug.”
“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,” she wrote.
And she added: “We will pursue the exhumation immediately and provide updates along the way. Thank you for the kind words, prayers and donations. You have made this possible, and it means the world to us. This is Stephen’s year.”
During its probe into the Murdaugh murders, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division announced an inquiry into Smith’s death “based upon information gathered during the course of the double murder investigation.”
In the initial probe, investigators concluded that Smith had been hit by a vehicle while standing near his car on a rural road after it ran out of gas.
A report stated that Smith had a “defensive wound” on his hand, but a medical examiner stated that his death was caused by being hit in the head by a car mirror during an apparent hit-and-run.
Smith’s death has been featured in a string of documentaries focussing on the Murdaugh murders, as he was reportedly a friend of Alex Murdaugh’s oldest son, Buster Murdaugh.
No member of the Murdaugh family has ever been publicly linked by authorities to the death.
The Hampton County Coroner also asked investigators to re-open the case of Murdaugh housekeeper Gloria Satterfield who died in what was described as an accidental fall at Moselle in 2018.
Alex Murdaugh is accused of stealing millions of dollars from the Satterfield that was owed in an insurance settlement to her estate.
“On the death certificate, the manner of death was ruled ‘natural,’ which is inconsistent with injuries sustained in a trip and fall accident,” the coroner wrote to state investigators.
Alex Murdaugh was convicted of murdering his wife and son earlier this month and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
He still faces trial for a string of financial crime charges for allegedly embezzling millions of dollars from clients and the law firm started by his family