Stephen Smith, the openly gay South Carolina teenager whose 2015 death got renewed attention following the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh by their husband and father, died from a single blow to the head and died on the road where he was found.
Smith’s mother, Sandy Smith, has been fighting the battle over her son’s death for nearly a decade, raised money to have his body exhumed for a new autopsy earlier this year, coinciding with news that a grand jury was hearing evidence in the case, as CrimeOnline reported.
While the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division conducted a new inquiry into Smith’s death, a team put together by Smith and her attorneys delved into the case, according to a new episode of CBS News’ “48 Hours,” set to air Saturday. The investigation has been led by Dr. Kenny Kinsey, recently retired chief deputy of the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office, and Dr. Michelle DuPre, a retired forensic pathologist who oversaw the new autopsy.
Kinsey told “48 Hours” that whatever hit Smith on that road “was fast and it was large.” Kinsey and DuPre reveal their findings on the CBS program, and Kinsey said that he is “as close to a degree of scientific certainty as I’ve ever felt” about the team’s findings.
DuPre said the fatal blow struck Smith on the forehead, knocking him backward onto the pavement, which caused another fracture to the back of his head. Other than road rash, there were no other injuries, and DuPre said the investigators do not believe Smith’s body was placed on the road.
“Whatever happened happened right there,” she said.
Rumors have swirled linking the Murdaugh clan to Smith’s death almost since it happened, with most of those rumors surrounding the surviving son of Alex Murdaugh, now serving two live sentences for the deaths of his son and wife. Buster Murdaugh, a classmate of Smith, broke his silence after his father’s conviction.
“This has gone on far too long. These baseless rumors of my involvement with Stephen and his death are false,” he said in March. “I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death, and my heart goes out to the Smith family.”
Murdaugh says he was at his family’s beach house with Paul and Maggie Murdaugh when Smith was killed. Sandy Smith’s attorney, Ronnie Richter, told CBS that “We are aware of no evidence today that would suggest that any Murdaugh played any role in Stephen Smith’s death or played any role in trying to cover up the investigation into his death.”
SLED announced just two weeks after the bodies of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh were found on their hunting property — not far from where Smith’s body was found — that they were reopening the investigation into Smith’s death, which was originally labeled a hit and run, “based upon information gathered during the course of the double murder investigation” of the Murdaughs’ murder.
Neither Sandy Smith nor investigators with the South Carolina Highway Patrol believed the 19-year-old’s death was a tragic accident, and in March, SLED, too, changed its view, announcing it was investigating the death as a homicide.
SLED said in a statement provided to CBS on Wednesday that “progress has been made” and it’s “investigation is active and ongoing.”
” Since the beginning of SLED’s investigation, the goal has been to find out how Mr. Smith died and find the person(s) responsible for his death,” the release said.
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[Featured image: Stephen Smith/handout]