The body of a young South Carolina man who died mysteriously just a few kilometres from the infamous Murdaugh family’s home is set to be exhumed, his family has said.
As reported by the New York Post, Stephen Smith’s family announced on Thursday they will exhume his body for an independent autopsy after his July 8, 2015 death received renewed attention during Alex Murdaugh’s trial, WYFF reported.
The move comes more than seven years after the 19-year-old was found dead on Sandy Run Road outside Hampton County, South Carolina, not far from the Moselle estate where Murdaugh gunned down his wife and son six years later.
At the time, Smith’s death was ruled a hit-and-run, but authorities reopened the investigation into his death in June 2021 based on information uncovered during the investigation into the shooting deaths of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh earlier that month.
Authorities have never publicly disclosed whether there was a link between Smith’s death and the Murdaugh family, but some witnesses have speculated about possible foul play involving Smith’s classmate, Buster, the elder Murdaugh son.
Smith’s mother, Sandy, shared the plans to move forward with the exhumation and independent autopsy on a GoFundMe page, which had aimed to raise $15,000 to do so. As of Friday morning, it had raked in more than $40,000.
“Our family is so very grateful to all of you who came together to help us in our fight for justice for Stephen. I could not have imagined when we began this fundraiser that it would take off the way that it did. Thank you for not allowing Stephen’s story be swept under a rug,” Sandy Smith wrote in the update on the page.
After Murdaugh was sentenced to two consecutive life terms earlier this month for killing Maggie and Paul, Sandy said she was relieved to see the legal scion behind bars.
“That jury done excellent. They seen through the lies and a Murdaugh is finally brought down,” she told The Post.
News of Smith’s exhumation also broke as two of Maggie Murdaugh’s college friends spoke out for the first time about the woman who they say was “devoted” to her husband and two sons.
Caroline Price, who was Maggie’s “big sister” in the Kappa Delta sorority at the University of South Carolina, told CBS News’ Nikki Battiste on Thursday that she “absolutely” thinks the wife and mum was lost in the fanfare around her husband’s trial.
“[Maggie] was a person, she was a mother, she was a sister, she was a friend, she was a daughter,” friend Shellie West said.
“You know, she’s not ‘the wife that was murdered’. I mean, we don’t want her to be remembered that way.”
Maggie, who was nicknamed “Magnolia” by her friends, “wasn’t flashy at all” compared to her “larger than life” husband, Price remembered.
West said she wanted the public to know that Maggie “was fun … she had a personality”.
The grieving friends’ loving memories of Maggie are a welcome contrast to the seemingly endless string of humiliations aired during her husband’s trial.
At one point, Maggie’s sister, Marion Proctor, alleged that Murdaugh cheated on his wife over a decade ago. The jury was barred from hearing that evidence.
Also during the proceedings, Judge Clifton Newman was forced to lecture the court after a gruesome autopsy photo of Maggie that included a shotgun entry wound near her left ear was leaked on a livestream.
Murdaugh, 54, has filed to appeal his double-murder conviction as he begins his new life at Kirkland Correctional Facility in Columbia.
Sources said earlier this month that the former lawyer is being held in maximum security over fears he will be targeted by other inmates.
Meanwhile, Buster, 26, is reportedly holed up at his lawyer girlfriend’s Hilton Head home.
This article originally appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission