The mother of slain South Carolina teen Stephen Smith has just buried her son for the second time and is now offering a reward for information that might help investigators solve his murder.
Sandy Smith is allocating $35,000 from money raised through GoFundMe for information leading to the arrest of any responsible party in the death of her son, her lawyers announced.
The GoFundMe account also paid for the exhumation and independent autopsy of Stephen Smith’s remains, which the lawyers said was conducted over the weekend. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division re-opened its investigation of Smith’s death in 2021 after discovering ties to the family of now-convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh.
“I now believe that Stephen can really rest at ease because SLED and our team are going to do everything possible to find out just how he died,” Smith family attorney Eric Bland said Monday.
Stephen Smith investigation:Mother raises $41K to exhume, autopsy remains of son found dead near Murdaugh estate
On Sunday, Sandy Smith posted on her “Justice for Stephen N. Smith Family Page” on Facebook that her “baby is back in his final resting place.”
Bland added that the exhumation and autopsy effort was a team effort, which included unearthing, transporting and safeguarding Smith’s body for autopsy, then reburying it at Gooding Cemetery in Hampton County.
He said it involved a tremendous amount of planning from a local funeral home, the excavators, the county coroner, state health officials, the S.C. Law Enforcement Division, and the team of pathologists and investigators hired privately by the Smith family and their attorneys.
That private investigative team includes pathologists Dr. D’Michelle DuPre, Dr. Dan Schultz, and Dr. Heather Walsh-Haney, who conducted the autopsy. Bland has also retained the services of crime scene forensic expert Dr. Kenneth Kinsey and may also add an additional crime scene investigator to assist Kinsey later.
What happened to Stephen Smith?
Smith’s body was found lying in the middle of Sandy Run Road in rural Hampton County in the early morning hours of July 8, 2015, with fatal blunt force trauma to the head and other, secondary injuries.
Originally ruled a vehicular hit-and-run homicide in 2015, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) reopened the case in June 2021 “based upon information gathered during the course of the double murder investigation of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh,” a spokesperson said at the time. Murdaugh was sentenced to life in prison for the murders of his wife and son last month.
On March 23, SLED confirmed to the Smith family that it was officially considering the case a murder investigation.
The GoFundMe page was launched in early March and to date has raised in excess of $119,000 to pay for the private exhumation, independent autopsy, and to fund the cost of a more in-depth investigation. The Smith family has been critical of law enforcement’s handling of the case from its inception.
Searching for clues, closure
Bland and his law partner Ronnie Richter are urging anyone with information about the events leading up to Stephen Smith’s death to come forward and contact SLED.
“We understand that providing information about a crime can be difficult, and we want to support the community however we can to bring closure for the Smith family,” they said in a joint statement.
“We hope that this reward will encourage anyone with information to come forward and provide the critical details needed to solve this case,” said Ronnie Richter.
Bland Richter LLP would like to thank SLED Chief Mark Keel and his team for their hard work and dedication to this case. Bland adds, “The paramount issue here is to find answers for the Smith family. We won’t stop until we do.”
Anyone with information about Stephen Smith’s death is urged to contact SLED at 803-737-9000 or email email@example.com.
Hampton County Guardian Editor Michael DeWitt, the Greenville News and USA TODAY Network will continue to follow the ongoing criminal and civil cases surrounding the Murdaugh crime saga. Follow DeWitt on Twitter at @mmdewittjr and support his local and national journalism with a digital subscription.