Family hopes new headstone marks beginning of justice in Stephen Smith case
HAMPTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A new headstone for Stephen Smith was unveiled at the Gooding Cemetery in Hampton County Sunday.
The Hampton County Coroner’s Office said the 19-year-old was hit and killed back in 2015 by blunt-force trauma to the head. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division opened an investigation into Smith’s death in June of 2021 after agents found information relating to that case while they investigated the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.
Smith’s death is still unsolved.
The fundraiser, #StandingforStephen, raised money for this new headstone, created a scholarship in Smith’s name and set money aside to help his mother, Sandy Smith, with the ongoing case.
This fundraiser was started by Susanne Andrews, who says she felt a calling to get involved with this case because she has an 18-year-old son. She says she wanted this family to have a proper headstone for their son because she knew she would want that for her own son.
People sang gospel songs at the ceremony, and some spoke about needing to know what really happened to Smith. Most people, like Edie Enright, one of the contributors to the fundraiser, shared sympathy for Sandy.
“A mother learns ways to help herself cope,” Enright said. “And those looking from the outside think she’s doing quite well. However, the truth is, you cannot see a broken heart.”
One of the main speakers was the Smith family’s attorney, Mike Hemlepp, who says he is confident that this case will move forward with the help of the State Law Enforcement Division.
“They have been working tirelessly,” Hemlepp said. “I like that they have partnered with us. The communication that we’ve had with them has been productive. Sandy feels heard by law enforcement for the first time. So, we are confident that we’re going to get answers, and we’re going to get solutions to all of these unanswered questions.”
He says he wants anyone that knows anything about Smith’s death to finally come forward.
“What I hope to achieve is the person who did this will go to prison,” Hemlepp said. “Prison. And will uncover anybody who help them, including anybody who covered this up. Anybody who knew. Any official who knew In covered it up. That’s going to come to light. That’s our goal.”
During Hemlepp’s speech, he repeated the phrase, “I didn’t know Stephen Smith, but we all know Stephen Smiths.” He says Smith’s future was ruined by an alleged hate crime.
“His passion for health care, his desire to be a nurse in one day a doctor,” Hemlepp said. “Imagine what kind of doctor he would have been to gay kids. But he’s not. Because someone decided to bash his head in.”
Hemlepp concluded the speech by telling the Smith family and their friends that the time to stop being sad is now.
“So, I want to honor Stephen,” Hemlepp said. “And I want you to honor Stephen. And the way we do that as we get mad.”
Hemlepp says if you know even the smallest of detail that could contribute to Smith’s case, contact the State Law Enforcement Division. The family says any information counts.
Earlier this week, Sandy said the grand jury indictment of former Lowcountry attorney Alex Murdaugh in the killings of his own wife and son gives her hope for justice for her son’s case.
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