Law firm speaks on next steps in Stephen Smith’s death investigation

Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 7:52 AM EDT|Updated: Mar. 20, 2023 at 5:01 PM EDT
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HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Attorneys representing the mother of a young man found dead on a rural road in the Low Country held a press conference on her son’s death investigation.

Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter of Bland Ritcher Law Firm announced they were representing Sandy Smith on Sunday.

In Monday’s press conference, the attorneys spoke on the next steps for the investigation. In the next seven to ten days, they plan to petition the court for the right to exhume the body of Stephen Smith.

They said they plan to have forensic experts picked out by Wednesday, March 22 who will help determine if Smith was hit by a car based on his body’s injuries.

“We think he did not die on the road that fateful night,” Bland said. “Our job is not to find out who did it but to give a mother answers.”

Stephen’s mother recently started a GoFundMe that has raised more than $65,000. Attorneys said every penny will be going toward the exhumation, which costs between $10,000 to $25,000, as well as hiring forensics professionals and independent investigators.

This comes after the 19-year-old was found dead in Hampton County in 2015 by a passing driver.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) reopened Smith’s investigation in 2021 citing new evidence that was uncovered while investigating the murders of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh.

Smith was a high school classmate of Buster Murdaugh who released a statement just minutes before the press conference in response to the rumors that he was involved in Smith’s death:

“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.

I haven’t spoken up until now because I want to live in private while I cope with their deaths and my father’s incarceration.

Before, during and since my father’s trial, I have been targeted and harassed by the media and followers of this story.

This has gone on far too long.

These baseless rumors of my involvement with Stephen and his death are false.

I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death, and my heart goes out to the Smith family.

I am requesting that the media immediately stop publishing these defamatory comments and rumors about me.”

Buster Murdaugh

During the press conference on Monday morning, Bland said his firm has never named Buster Murdaugh in connection with the case.

“Buster is a victim. He lost a mother, 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.”

MORE NEWS: Buster Murdaugh releases statement on Stephen Smith’s death