Mother of man killed in presumed 2015 hit-and-run releases statement on Murdaugh indictments

The mother of a 19-year-old killed in 2015 said the indictment of Alex Murdaugh in the killings of his own wife and son gives her hope for justice for her son.
Published: Jul. 15, 2022 at 5:21 AM EDT
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HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The mother of a 19-year-old found dead in 2015 said the grand jury indictment of former Lowcountry attorney Alex Murdaugh in the killings of his own wife and son gives her hope for justice for her son’s case.

Stephen Smith’s body was found on Sandy Run Road in Hampton County on July 8, 2015. His death was initially deemed a hit and run but the case remains unsolved.

Sandy Smith, Stephen’s mother, released a statement Thursday after a Colleton County Grand Jury indicted Alex Murdaugh on two counts of murder and two gun charges in connection with the shooting deaths of his wife and son.

We have waited for answers for a long time in Stephen’s death, but I am not the only grieving loved one who needs help. I know that other loving family members have also searched for answers in the deaths of their family members. I am happy that SLED and the Attorney General’s Office have provided some closure and answers in the deaths of Maggie and Paul. While the many questions about my son’s death remain, this action gives me hope that we will get justice for my Stephen. We think of him and miss him every day and we grieve with the members of the Murdaugh and Branstetter families who have been left behind.

Murdaugh’s attorneys released a statement on behalf of their client Thursday afternoon stating that he had nothing to do with the killings, adding that he “loved them more than anything in the world.”

Family questioned ‘hit-and-run’ story from the beginning

The Hampton County Coroner’s Office said Smith died from blunt-force trauma to the head. Coroner Earnie Washington said the trauma was most likely from a mirror on a passing vehicle. The make and model of the vehicle was unknown.

Investigators believe Smith was on his way from college when he ran out of gas about five miles from his home.

But Sandy Smith has long said the story did not add up.

“He called his sister one night he ran out of gas and he hid in the woods and would not come out until he was sure it was her,” she said in a 2015 interview. “We know for a fact it was not a hit and run. Stephen would not have been in the roadway.”

She also suggested autopsy results did not match the story.

“The only damage to his body was his head. The right side of his head. From his right eye socket to the back of his head and his right shoulder was dislocated. There were no other marks on his body and he had his shoes and everything on,” she said.

Investigators take another look at Smith death amid Murdaugh investigation

A Colleton County Grand Jury on Thursday indicted Alex Murdaugh, (right), in the June 7, 2021,...
A Colleton County Grand Jury on Thursday indicted Alex Murdaugh, (right), in the June 7, 2021, shooting deaths of his wife, Maggie, and their youngest son, Paul. (Provided)

No member of the Murdaugh family has ever been officially implicated in Smith’s death.

Colleton County deputies responded to the Murdaugh’s hunting property on Moselle Road in the Islandton area of Colleton County on the evening of June 7, 2021. Alex Murdaugh told investigators he had come to the property after visiting his ailing father, Randolph Murdaugh III, and discovered their bodies.

Randolph Murdaugh died just days after the killings at age 81.

SPECIAL SECTION: The Murdaugh Cases

Crime scene investigators said both victims suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Agents with the State Law Enforcement Division were called in and took over the investigation later that same evening.

SLED opened an investigation into Smith’s death in June of 2021 after agents found information relating to that case while they investigated the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.

Investigators have not yet provided details on the information they found during the Murdaugh killings that led them to take another look at the Smith case.

Details obtained on the Highway Patrol’s investigation into Smith’s death, however, reveal the Murdaugh name was brought up multiple times in interviews with Smith’s family and friends about Smith’s death.

In recorded interviews, some people who knew Smith told investigators they heard a rumor that a group of people spotted Smith along the road and then did something that led to his death.

Attorney Mike Hemlepp, who represents the Smith family, urged anyone who may know what happened to Smith to come forward, saying the Murdaugh indictments “is a sign that the old ways of doing business in Hampton are gone.”

“You can relieve your burden with courage and confidence by coming forward and telling what you know,” he said.

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