Teen found dead near Murdaugh estate is now being considered a homicide by police
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Featured Image Credit: Bland Richter Law Firm/Zuma Press / Alamy Stock Photo
The case of a teenager found dead in South Carolina in 2015 is now being treated as a homicide by police after initially being ruled as a hit and run.
The body of 19-year-old Stephen Smith was found in the early hours of 8 July, 2015 on a road in Hampton County, South Carolina.
He had a blunt force trauma injury to his head and his car was found some three miles down the road, with officials treating his death as a case of hit and run.
Smith's family always disputed that verdict, and recently, they were informed that the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) were now treating his death as a case of homicide.
SLED spokesperson Renée Wunderlich said on Tuesday (21 March) they had been looking into Smith's death being a case of homicide 'since 2021'.
And family attorney Eric Bland said this change in approach was an opportunity to 'right eight years of wrongs'.
Smith's case received new attention after disgraced lawyer Alex Murdaugh's wife Maggie and son Paul were shot dead at his home, and Murdaugh was recently convicted for their murders.
Smith was a classmate of Murdaugh's surviving son Buster, and during his trial, there was a renewed focus on what had happened to him.
On Monday (20 March), Buster Murdaugh released a statement hitting out at the 'vicious rumours' and denying any involvement in Smith's death.
He said: "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. 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 rumours about me."
The Smith family have raised over $85,000 to go towards exhuming his body and paying for an independent autopsy via a GoFundMe.
The Bland Richter Law Firm, which represents the Smith family, said that the police did not need to exhume Smith's body to decide to investigate his death as a homicide rather than a hit and run.
In a statement, the family lawyers said law enforcement officials 'will be present and participate in any exhumation of Stephen’s body to gather more evidence'.
They said that everyone was 'committed to finding out what really happened' and working towards 'getting the peace and justice the Smith family deserves'.
UNILAD has reached out to South Carolina Law Enforcement Division for additional comment.
Meanwhile, the son of the Murdaugh family's housekeeper who died in 2018 wants his mother's body exhumed to determine any potential 'foul play'.
Gloria Satterfield died at the Murdaugh home after working for the family for over 20 years, and at the time her death was ruled as an accidental fall.
Her son Michael said he didn't think the Murdaugh family had anything to do with his mother's death but wanted reassurance.