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State police reopen hit-and-run death investigation from details gathered in Murdaugh case

Stephen Smith was 19 when he died in what investigators called a hit-and-run in Hampton County...
Stephen Smith was 19 when he died in what investigators called a hit-and-run in Hampton County in 2015.(WTOC/Provided)
Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 8:54 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 23, 2021 at 7:52 PM EDT
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HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division confirmed it has reopened an investigation into the death of a 19-year-old man in Hampton County in 2015.

SLED reopened the probe into Stephen Smith’s death in Hampton County based on information agents gathered as they continue to investigate the shooting deaths of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh, SLED spokesman Tommy Crosby confirmed.

He provided no further details on how the two cases may be connected if at all or what type of information investigators found that led them to reopen the Smith case.

Smith was apparent victim of hit and run

Smith died from blunt force trauma to the head, the Hampton County Coroner’s Office confirmed. His body was discovered on Sandy Run Road early on July 8, 2015.

Coroner Ernie Washington said the trauma was most likely from a mirror on a passing vehicle.

But the make and model of the vehicle was unknown.

Investigators believe Smith was on his way from college when he ran out of gas about five miles from his home.

Smith’s family has long questioned the circumstances of his death. In November of 2015, his mother, Sandy Smith, told WTOC-TV that the story didn’t add up.

“He called his sister one night he ran out of gas and he hid in the woods and would not come out until he was sure it was her,” she said in 2015. “We know for a fact it was not a hit and run. Stephen would not have been in the roadway.”

She also suggested autopsy results did not match the story.

“The only damage to his body was his head. The right side of his head. From his right eye socket to the back of his head and his right shoulder was dislocated. There was no other marks on his body and he had his shoes and everything on,” she said.

Investigators still quiet on Murdaugh death investigation

SLED has remained largely silent on the killings of two members of the prominent Murdaugh family, citing the ongoing investigation.

The bodies of Maggie Murdaugh, 52 and her son, Paul, 22, were discovered on the night of June 7 at the family property on Moselle Road in Colleton County.

Colleton County deputies responded to the scene where it appeared that both victims suffered multiple gunshot wounds. SLED agents took over the investigation later that same evening.

The Murdaugh family’s law firm, Peters Murdaugh Parker Eltzroth & Detrick, posted a message on its Facebook page Wednesday thanking the local and legal communities for “the outpouring of support” they received in the wake of recent tragedies.

That includes not only the two killings but the death of Randolph Murdaugh III, the grandfather of Paul Murdaugh and the father-in-law of Maggie Murdaugh. He died at age 81 days after the shootings.

The Murdaugh family has ties to the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, which serves Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper Counties. Three generations of the family served as 14th Circuit Solicitor from 1920 through 1986.

SLED released heavily-redacted reports on the investigation earlier this week in the “interest of transparency.” But the documents provided little new information on the investigation.

Paul Murdaugh made a court appearance in 2019 in a fatal boating crash that killed a UofSC...
Paul Murdaugh made a court appearance in 2019 in a fatal boating crash that killed a UofSC student.(WTOC)

Paul Murdaugh had been charged in a 2019 boating crash that killed 19-year-old University of South Carolina student Mallory Beach.

He faced charges of boating under the influence causing death and two counts of boating under the influence causing great bodily injury. But Murdaugh had not yet gone to trial in that crash.

The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office said in light of Murdaugh’s death, the charges against him would be dropped.

Meanwhile, authorities set up a tip line earlier this month for people to call with information that might lead them to the victims’ killer.

Anyone with information on the case can call a 24-hour dedicated line at 803-896-2605.

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