New autopsy of man killed near Murdo’s house 7 years ago may reveal clue to mysterious death: expert

Plans to exhume the body of a 19-year-old killed near the Murdo family home in South Carolina have given his mother hope that a new autopsy will uncover the mystery of his death.

Stephen Smith died in July 2015, but his mother Sandy has long disputed the official recorded cause of death – hit and run – and claims he was murdered.

The investigation into his death was re-examined in 2021 following the murders of Paul and Maggie Murdo, for which husband and father Alex was convicted on March 3.

Law enforcement in South Carolina said it had launched an investigation into the case “based on information gathered from the double homicide investigation” but did not provide further details.

Sandy said she would “immediately proceed with the exhumation” after raising $40,000 through a GoFundMe page to pay for an independent exhumation and autopsy.

“While the state may elect and fund an exhumation and a new autopsy, we understand that this will be carried out in [the Medical University of South Carolina]where his death was initially classified as a hit and run, despite the lack of evidence to support this, ”she wrote on the page at the time.

Stephen Smith poses for a selfie in this undated photograph. Contributed by Sandy Smith

But the exhumation, which must first get a green light from a judge, is just the start of a painstaking process that includes reexamining how Smith’s body was handled during the original investigation more than seven years ago, longtime lead medical examiner Joseph Scott said. . Morgan.

Stephen was found with a large gash on the right side of his forehead in the middle of the road, three miles from his car.

He also suffered a dislocated shoulder and cuts to his left arm, police said.

Initially, police said the death “looked like a murder”, but an autopsy performed the same day he was found dead ruled that he had been the victim of a hit-and-run.

The grave of Stephen Smith, who died mysteriously in July 2015. Courtesy of Sandy Smith.

How the body was treated in the crucial hours after it was found makes a big difference, Morgan told The Post.

“You can miss so much,” he said when he got the call. “That’s why we treat all deaths as homicide until proven otherwise, especially injuries.”

Whether Smith’s body was sufficiently embalmed could also play a big role, he said.

Morgan, who co-hosts a true crime podcast called “Body Bags,” also questioned whether investigators took x-rays of Smith’s body before his funeral and the opportunity to re-examine Smith’s clothes on the night of his death, and stressed the importance of both.

“Did they take any x-rays of his body?” he asked. “If they did, maybe they could go back and revisit the films they made compared to what they have now. Maybe they’ll come in and find something else that might not have been found otherwise.”

Asked about the possible presence of foreign DNA, Morgan said that any molecular evidence would be “out the door” once the funeral home cleans up Smith’s body.

The process of performing an autopsy on an exhumed body is further complicated by environmental factors, such as the possible presence of beetles or water in the underground environment, Morgan continued.

“A lot of people think they just dig a hole and put a coffin in there,” he said, speaking of the burial. “That doesn’t happen.”

Screenshot of a GoFundMe page set up to raise money for the exhumation of Stephen Smith.

The coffin is then encased in concrete, essentially making it a “box within a box,” Morgan added.

But “there are problems” if water can get inside, he added.

“That’s one of the things that they’re going to fight – the elements of that, we’re talking about seven years of rain and drought and all these different things that are affecting the area,” he said.

The quality of the coffin can affect how well the body will be protected.

“There are still insects that will get in there, they will damage the body,” he said. “Then you might have things like mold.”

Alex Murdo is led into the Colleton County Courthouse in South Carolina during his trial in 2023. Daniel William McKnight for NY Post

However, Morgan added, investigators will be able to carefully examine Smith’s remains.

“They will have to take x-rays of the whole body and look at every – head to toe – every element involved,” he said, “and look for any injury that could be permanent, in the most minor sense. this word.”

The coroner’s initial report determined that Stephen suffered a head injury when he was hit by a truck’s mirror as the car was passing, according to the Associated Press.

Buster Murdo sits in a Colleton County courtroom in South Carolina during his father’s trial in 2023. Pool / Sipa USA

Police reportedly believed he was walking down the road because his car ran out of gas at the time.

However, a SLED spokesman said in a statement to The Post that they “have made progress on the investigation into the death of Stephen Smith, however this investigation remains active and ongoing.”

Murdo was once considered South Carolina’s leading political figure before the murders of Maggie and Paul unraveled a tangled web of financial crimes and cover-up allegations stretching back to the past.

Alex Murdo received two life sentences for the murder of his wife and son.

It has since been claimed that the Murdo family was involved in at least three other deaths in the community, including Smith’s.

In accordance with local news site FITSnewsthe name of the Murdo family was mentioned “more than 40 times during the course of the investigation”, although no family member was formally questioned by the police.

The same site reported that there were local rumors that Alex’s surviving son, Buster, was somehow involved in the death, but this was never included in the police notes.

The police never named Buster as a suspect in the incident or charged with any crime.

Speaking to The Post on Friday, Morgan said investigators re-examining Smith’s remains should “gather everything you can muster before they return his mortal remains to earth.”

“You have already made every effort to exhume the body,” he continued. “Why not put all the press on the court, do everything possible?”

With Olivia Land

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