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Buster Murdaugh Says Speculation Tying Him To Teen’s 2015 Death Are ‘False,’ Pleads For Privacy
"I have tried my best to ignore the vicious rumors about my involvement in Stephen Smith’s tragic death that continue to be published in the media as I grieve over the brutal murders of my mother and brother,” Buster Murdaugh said.
Buster Murdaugh, the surviving son of disgraced South Carolina legal scion Alex Murdaugh, says he had nothing to do in the death of a teenager found near his family home eight years ago.
Buster Murdaugh, 26, has framed the speculation connecting him to the 2015 death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith as “false” and “baseless.”
In 2015, years before Alex Murdaugh’s legal entanglements, the body of Stephen Smith was found alongside a country road in Hampton County, South Carolina. The location was just 15 miles from the Murdaugh family estate. Smith’s vehicle, which was located just a few miles away, had run out of gas, per an NBC News report.
RELATED: Alex Murdaugh Gets Trial Date For Wrongful Death Suit Involving 19-Year-Old Killed In Boating Accident
An autopsy later concluded that Smith died after being fatally struck by a vehicle while walking along the road. A driver, however, was never arrested in the deadly hit-and-run.
"These baseless rumors of my involvement with Stephen and his death are false," Buster Murdaugh said in a statement Monday. "I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death, and my heart goes out to the Smith family."
Buster Murdaugh’s public statement follows on the heels of his father, Alex Murdaugh’s conviction and sentencing in the double murder of his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and son, Paul Murdaugh, 22. Alex Murdaugh, the once prominent lawyer, whose powerful family had dominated the legal landscape, was ultimately sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. He’s filed court records indicating he intends to appeal the ruling.
Prosecutors said the then-drug-addled attorney carried out his family’s slayings to purposefully generate sympathy for himself in an attempt to obscure a slew of financial crimes he was being investigated for.
Following Alex Murdaugh’s 2021 arrest, state investigators announced they’d re-opened their investigation into Smith’s mysterious death. At the time, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said the development was “based upon information gathered during the course of the double murder investigation of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh." Authorities noted they’d received multiple tips from the public following Alex Murdaugh’s arrest, linking his family to Smith’s death.
Buster Murdaugh, however, is adamant the accusations are bogus.
"I have tried my best to ignore the vicious rumors about my involvement in Stephen Smith’s tragic death that continue to be published in the media as I grieve over the brutal murders of my mother and brother. … I love them so much and miss them terribly."
According to multiple media outlets, Buster Murdaugh and Smith were peers at the same South Carolina high school, however, those reports haven’t been independently verified by Oxygen.com.
Smith’s family, however, have since publicly stated they’ve raised money via an online crowdfunding effort to exhume the late teen’s body for the purposes of having a new independent autopsy and medical exam conducted.
"We need a new, unbiased look at his body and an accurate determination of his cause of death based on facts," Smith's mother, Sandy Smith, wrote on GoFundMe.
Lawyers for their family, however, stated that Buster Murdaugh, specifically, wasn’t a target in the latest efforts to exhume and re-examine Smith’s body, noting the family just wants answers.
"We've not mentioned Buster's name one time,” attorney Ronnie Richter told reporters at a media conference on Monday, according to NBC News. “This is not about Buster Murdaugh, so, this is about Stephen Smith. There's no reason to discuss Buster Murdaugh and there's no comment to make back to Buster Murdaugh."
Richter’s co-counsel, Eric Bland, also referred to Buster Murdaugh as a “victim,” and was adamant that the case’s evidence would guide their independent investigation.
"As we sit here today, Buster is a victim — he lost a mother, a brother and now his father's in jail,” Bland said. “Buster, as we know, has nothing to do with this, and whatever is mentioned in the records, that's what investigators are going to look at, but we have no knowledge at all about Buster or the Murdaughs having anything to do with this right now. We're starting with a fresh set of eyes."
The Smith family’s efforts to re-examine his remains come in tandem with calls by former Murdaugh housekeeper Gloria Satterfield’s loved ones to exhume her body as well. In 2018, Satterfield died after allegedly tripping and falling down a flight of stairs at the Murdaugh home. State investigators also announced they’d re-probe Satterfield’s death following Alex Murdaugh’s arrest. To date, one has been criminally charged with homicide in connection to Satterfield’s death.
Buster Murdaugh attended every day of his father’s murder trial, which opened on Jan. 25. He was the first defense witness to testify at the blockbuster trial. During his testimony, Buster Murdaugh told jurors his father was “destroyed” by his mother and brother’s sudden deaths. On the stand, Buster Murdaugh described the chain of events that followed when his father revealed Maggie Murdaugh and Paul Murdaugh had been fatally shot.
As his father’s trial wore on, at times, Buster Murdaugh looked visibly exhausted and strained. Following Alex Murdaugh’s sentencing, national tabloid reporters trailed Buster Murdaugh to his Hilton Head, South Carolina condo where a New York Post reporter photographed him through the blinds at the property and also walking his dogs. The 26-year-old later filed a police report directly related to the incident, claiming the media was harassing him.
"I am requesting that the media immediately stop publishing these defamatory comments and rumors about me," Buster Murdaugh added in his recent statement regarding Smith’s death.