Officials have confirmed that Steven Smith’s death in 2015 is being investigated as a homicide, years after the teen’s body was found on a country road near the home of disgraced South Carolina lawyer and convicted murderer Alex Murdo.
A division of state law enforcement in South Carolina known as the SLED has agreed that Smith’s cold case should be investigated as a homicide, said attorneys Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter of the Bland Richter litigation firm, which previously announced that it represents the Smith family. statements on Tuesday. A spokesperson for SLED later confirmed this to CBS News.
“Bland Richter Law Firm is proud to announce that following an extraordinary phone call with South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Chief Mark Keel, Steven Smith’s death is now considered a MURDER. manslaughter on the highway,” the lawyers said in news releaseadding that Bland Richter and SLED will “join forces, share information and resources as the state moves forward with the exhumation of Steven Smith’s body and subsequent investigations.”
In a separate statement posted on Twitter, Bland and Richter said their firm is “committed to finding out what really happened and getting the peace and justice that the Smith family deserves.”
Smith was found dead on a rural road in Hampton County, near the Murdo family estate, in 2015. While the 19-year-old was believed to have been killed in a hit-and-run, questions about the circumstances of his death remained long after the initial investigation and were resurrected amid national attention to the infamous double murder of Maggie Murdo and Paul Murdo in June 2021.
The 48 Hours report on Smith’s death noted that the state highway patrol initially assumed the teen died “from a blunt force hit to the head,” although authorities have always disagreed as to whether his injuries were consistent with a car accident. When Smith’s body was discovered, his yellow Chevrolet was found about three miles from the scene with his wallet inside and the gas gap of the car unscrewed, leading the state police to speculate that Smith had problems with the car at first and began walking down road before it hit, reports “48 hours”.
However, the doubts of the responding state police officers can be heard on at least one audio recording, where an officer says “nothing looks like a traffic accident” while discussing Smith’s death. His case was reopened in 2021 as evidence was gathered in the subsequent investigation into the deaths of Maggie and Paul at the Murdo family estate.
Alex Murdo was convicted on March 2 by a South Carolina jury for killing his wife and youngest son in horrific murders, and the publicity surrounding the investigation and criminal trial fueled previous suspicions and rumors linking the Murdo family to other unsolved deaths in their community. A Netflix docu-series focusing on the series of deaths brought attention to Smith’s case.
Smith’s family requested that his body be exhumed for an independent autopsy. The family launched a GoFundMe campaign earlier this month to raise money for the process, which Smith’s mother Sandy Smith said could cost up to $7,000.
“We need a new, unbiased look at his body and an accurate, fact-based determination of the cause of his death. There was no debris on the road and his injuries did not match the impact,” wrote Sandy Smith. in the description that appeared on the GoFundMe page. The campaign has raised over $87,000 in the weeks since it launched online, far exceeding its original $15,000 goal.
Smith attended high school with Murdo’s surviving child, Buster Murdo, who released a statement this week about the investigation into his death.
“I have tried my best to ignore the vicious rumors about my involvement in the tragic death of Stephen Smith that continue to be published in the media as I mourn the brutal murders of my mother and brother,” Murdo said in a statement. “I love them so much and miss them terribly.”