Stephen Smith’s case now being investigated as homicide, SLED says

HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. — The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is investigating the death of Stephen Smith, a 19-year-old nursing student whose body was found in the middle of a South Carolina road in 2015, as a homicide.

An agency spokesperson told CNN there were no indications in the investigation that Smith’s killing was a hit-and-run.

Smith’s body was discovered in Hampton County on July 8, 2015.

Convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh’s surviving son, Buster, said that he “unequivocally” denies “vicious rumors” that he was involved in the death of his former classmate, Smith, who law enforcement officials originally said was a victim of a hit-and-run accident.

An incident report from the state highway patrol indicated Smith had suffered blunt force trauma to the head, and his death was initially deemed a hit-and-run.

While a pathologist cited in a SLED report said Smith appeared to have been hit by a vehicle, the responding officer referenced in a report by the highway patrol’s Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team noted there was “no vehicle debris, skid marks, or injuries consistent with someone being struck by a vehicle.”

Smith’s shoes were also both on and loosely tied, the report added, and investigators saw no evidence suggesting he was struck by a vehicle.

Notes from investigators in the case file say that “according to family, Stephen would never have been walking in the middle of the roadway” and that he was “very skittish.”

According to notes taken by a SLED investigator at the scene, Smith had injuries to his left arm, hand and head.

His vehicle was found about three miles away, that report said, with the gas tank door open and the gas cap hanging out on the side of the car. The vehicle’s battery was functional but the car wouldn’t start, the report added.

“We have a chance to right eight years of wrongs, and we intend to do just that,” said the Smith family attorneys at Bland Richter Law Firm.

Smith’s mother, Sandy Smith, raised money for an independent autopsy after state police first said that her son had car trouble, was walking for help, and got hit by a car.

Smith’s family believes he was murdered.

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