New audio and video released in 2015 death of Stephen Smith
HAMPTON, S.C. (WCSC) - New details in the investigation of 19-year-old Stephen Smith’s death in 2015 show that while initial reports from S.C. Highway Patrol indicate his death was caused by a hit-and-run car crash, they spent months investigating the possibility of murder.
Documents and files obtained through a Freedom of Information Act reveal investigators heard rumors in the days after Smith’s death that it wasn’t an accident.
Last month, SLED said they opened an investigation into the cold case after they found information relating to Smith’s death while investigating the murders of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh. SLED has not released what they found.
But according to information obtained from Highway Patrol’s investigation, the Murdaugh name was brought up multiple times in interviews with Smith’s family and friends about his death.
In the recorded interviews with people who knew Smith, some people 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.
Despite the mentions of the Murdaugh name in multiple interviews, no member of the Murdaugh family has ever been officially implicated in Smith’s death.
Other than one note of an attempt to call a member of the Murdaugh family that went unanswered, the documents didn’t reveal if a member of the Murdaugh family was interviewed by investigators.
But at several points, investigators told the people they were interviewing they were not afraid of the Murdaughs and wanted more answers into how Smith died.
“My office is around Charleston,” said Trooper Proctor. “I don’t work around Hampton, and I know the Murdaughs are highfalutin around Hampton and people say they have a lot of power or whatever, but that name doesn’t mean anything to me...you don’t have to agree with Stephen’s lifestyle but that don’t mean he gets to be killed and no one gets to find out what happened.”
Investigators also told people they interviewed that they were not making progress, but were still looking into the case as a murder.
“I’m going to be honest with you, we are at a loss, even the sheriff’s department, everybody, there is nothing and it’s one of the reasons why I don’t think it’s a hit and run, and I’ve looked at the body itself, I’m not saying it couldn’t be...I’m not leaning towards that,” said Cpl. Duncan while speaking with the victim’s sister.
Then less than a year later L/CPL James told a person who he was interviewing that Smith “didn’t get hit by a car.”
According to a spokesperson for the SC Department of Public Safety, the agency that oversees SCHP, all findings in the case have been turned over to SLED.
“SLED’s investigation into this case is ongoing, and we will not have further comment about specifics of the initial investigation at this time beyond what was released,” said the spokesperson.
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