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Stephen Smith’s Body Exhumed, Family Offers $35,000 Reward For Answers In Teen’s 2015 Death
In 2015, Stephen Smith's body was found about 15 minutes from the family home of Alex Murdaugh, though the convicted lawyer's son Buster has steadfastly rejected any speculation that he was somehow involved in the death.
The family of Stephen Smith, the 19-year-old who was mysteriously found dead along a road near the home of former legal scion Alex Murdaugh’s estate in 2015, has issued a $35,000 reward following the exhumation of his body.
In a statement released Monday, lawyers for Smith’s family announced the reward in exchange “for information leading to the arrest of any responsible party in the death of Stephen Smith.”
"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," Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter said in a joint statement sent to Oxygen.com. “We hope that this reward will encourage anyone with information to come forward and provide the critical details needed to solve this case.”
The Smiths’ legal team noted the “bittersweet” moment for the family in the case, following renewed investigative efforts to solve the teen’s alleged murder, which have coincided with exhuming the teenager’s remains over the weekend.
Smith’s body was exhumed for a second autopsy that was carried out before “transporting him back and then putting him back to his final resting place this past weekend,” Bland said on Twitter on Sunday.
“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,” Bland tweeted.
He added: “This time is a very solemn time, as you can imagine, for Sandy. It’s so bittersweet. Stephen, for many many years, I can only imagine, was not so much at peace in his grave. He probably was pounding on his coffin, saying, to anybody that could hear: ‘I was not hit by a car. But I was intentionally killed.’ And now we’ve told him we hear his voice. And it’s our intention to return Stephen to his grave when the autopsy is concluded. And, at that time, the investigation will unfold.”
Lawyers for the Smith family stated that the reward had come from money Sandy Smith had raised through GoFundMe in the hopes of tracking down her son’s killer.
The Smith family has since asked for “respite” involving media coverage of the case, noting that the teen’s loved ones wouldn’t be involved in investigators’ renewed efforts “until Stephen is back in his grave and he can rest at peace,” lawyers for the family also said.
In 2015, Smith’s body was found along a country road in Hampton County, South Carolina, just 15 miles from the Murdaugh estate. An autopsy concluded that Smith was killed after being fatally struck by a vehicle. Authorities suspected the 19-year-old had been walking home at the time. No one was ever arrested in his death. Amid Alex Murdaugh’s 2021 arrest, state investigators re-opened Smith’s case.
Late last month, authorities announced Smith’s death would be investigated as a homicide, roughly eight years after his body was found on the side of the road.
In March, Alex Murdaugh was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2021 double murder of his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and son, Paul Murdaugh, 22. Alex Murdaugh, the once esteemed lawyer, whose powerful family had dominated the legal landscape, has said he intends to appeal the ruling.
Since Alex Murdaugh’s conviction, speculation has swirled that Buster Murdaugh, his surviving son, and Smith’s former peer, is somehow connected to the teen’s death. Buster Murdaugh has vehemently denied any involvement, calling any allegations to the contrary “false” and “baseless” in a statement last month.
Anyone with additional information related to Stephen Smith's death is asked to call the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division at 803-737-9000. Tips can also be submitted via email at email@example.com.