Stephen Smith, an openly gay teenager, was found on a Hampton, South Carolina road in 2015, and his death was ruled a hit-and-run. However, after further investigation, the case was reopened and determined to be a likely homicide. 

After continuing investigation, an attorney for the Smith family announced last month there had been “substantial progress” made on the case. Eric Bland, who is co-representing the Smith family with Ronnie Richter, said he was updated on the case during a biweekly call with SLED Chief Mark Keel. 

“He said, ‘Look, Eric, I am optimistic in a positive way, I see progress being made, real progress,’” Bland explained to WIS 10 News. “‘We think that we’ve talked to a number of people, and we think that there’s five or six people that have information. We’ve learned some things we didn’t know already,’ he told me.”

Smith was reportedly a classmate of Buster Murdaugh, the son of former personal injury lawyer and convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh. Alex was convicted of shooting and killing his wife, Maggie, and his son, Paul, in June 2021. During the investigation into the murders of Maggie and Paul, authorities found information on their property that led to the reopening of Smith’s case and reclassification of his manner of death. 

Bland also stated he believed the state was moving forward with issuing subpoenas and selected a grand jury for the state. The South Carolina Attorney General’s office hasn’t made a statement on the matter at the time of publication.

The Smith Family requested and had a second autopsy performed on Smith’s body eight years after his death. Attorneys representing the Smith family stated they expected to receive the results later in June, but further details have yet to be released. 

“We were comforted by the fact that even though the vault was compromised and water got into the coffin, that even after eight years, the autopsy was able to be performed with aplomb and everything that they wanted to find out they were able to find out,” Bland said.

As reported earlier in Qnotes, Buster has denied any involvement in Smith’s death after authorities started to look into alleged information from the Murdaugh murder investigation. 

“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,” he said in a March statement. “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.”

Bland said Smith’s mother, Sandy Smith, isn’t looking for a murder conviction — she’s simply looking for closure.

“I think she’s going to get answers,” he said.

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