Alex Murdaugh conviction casts spotlight on mystery 2015 death of Buster’s classmate Stephen Smith

Alex Murdaugh’s murder conviction has cast a spotlight on the mysterious death of his surviving son Buster’s classmate.

Stephen Smith, a 19-year-old openly gay teenager, was found dead in the middle of a road in Hampton County back in 2015 – not far from the Murdaugh family’s Moselle estate where Maggie and Paul were murdered six years later.

He had suffered blunt force trauma to the head and his car was found around three miles away down the road.

His death was officially ruled a hit-and-run but the victim’s family – and investigators who worked on the initial case – have long doubted this version of events.

Police reports revealed that the scene, and some of Smith’s injuries, were inconsistent with being struck by a car.

There have also long been murmurings in the community that a “Murdaugh boy” may have been involved and the Murdaugh name came up 40 times in documents in the initial case, reported Live5News.

Smith had been a classmate of Buster Murdaugh – Alex Murdaugh’s eldest and now only surviving son – and there were rumours that the two had been in a relationship around the time of his death.

For years, Smith’s mother Sandy Smith has fought for answers and tried to keep his death in the local spotlight – but the case was closed and there were no developments for six years.

Then, on 7 June 2021, Murdaugh gunned down his wife Maggie and son Paul on the affluent family’s sprawling 1,700-acre estate in Islandton and the Smith case came under the spotlight once more.

Just days after the murders, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) led announced that it was reopening an investigation into Smith’s death based on information that had come to light during the investigation into Maggie and Paul’s murders.

It is not clear what information prompted the launch of the investigation into Smith’s death and no further details have been released over the course of the last 21 months.

Stephen Smith was found dead in mysterious circumstances in 2015 (Family handout)
Stephen Smith was found dead in mysterious circumstances in 2015 (Family handout)

In January 2023, SLED only said it had “made progress” in the case.

Last week, Murdaugh was convicted of Maggie and Paul’s murders, following a dramatic six-week trial in Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina.

He has been sentenced to life in prison and is now in the custody of the South Carolina prison system.

As the convicted killer and disgraced attorney was led out of the courthouse on Friday, a bystander shouted that “Buster is next” for “justice” – an apparent reference to the Smith case.

Now, the Hampton County community is turning its attention back to Smith’s death and Smith’s mother Sandy is hoping she will finally get answers.

“This circus is over and now it’s time to bring justice for other people,” Sandy Smith told The New York Post Sunday.

The Independent has reached out to SLED for further details about the investigation into Smith’s death.