Over the past several months national and global media have focused their attention on South Carolina and the multiple homicide case against attorney Alex Murdaugh.

Of particular significance to the LGBTQ community in the Carolinas, is the death of openly gay Stephen Smith, who was 19 at the time of his death on July 8, 2015. He was a nursing student with dreams of becoming a physician. While the possibility of murder was first considered in Smith’s death, the county coroner later ruled it a hit-and-run accident and the case was closed. That has since changed and the case has been reopened as a homicide investigation.

According to South Carolina authorities, anonymous tips pointed to the Murdaugh family and the possible involvement of one or both of Alex Murdaugh’s sons in the death of Smith.

Alex Murdaugh was charged with the murder of his wife Margaret, 52, and their son Paul, 22, on the family property in June of 2021. Prior to the conviction for their murders on March 2, 2023, he also came under suspicion for what he claimed to be was an attempt on his own life. 

Murdaugh was facing financial ruin and multiple charges of embezzlement from clients and the firm that bore his family name. The purported reasons behind the killings of his wife and son: he hoped to swing the spotlight from his financial swindlings to the deaths of his family members in an effort to gain sympathy from prosecutors and the public.

The ongoing cloud of suspicion and a guilty verdict has resulted in recent micro-focusing on additional deaths that are believed to be related to the Murdaugh family.

Gloria Satterfield, 57, was the family’s long-time housekeeper. Now convicted murderer Murdaugh said that family dogs caused her to trip and fall, but her death was not reported to the coroner and an autopsy was not performed.

Mallory Beach, 19, attended a waterfront party with her boyfriend Anthony Cook and their friend Paul Murdaugh, the son Alex has since been convicted of killing. Paul agreed to drive himself and his friends to the party location with the family boat. Following the late evening activities, he later lost control of the boat while driving drunk and ran into a piling of an area bridge, which resulted in the injuries of all on board and the death of Beach. At the time of Paul Murdaugh’s murder, he was reportedly facing felony murder charges and driving a vehicle under the influence. Charges were dropped after his death.

Case watchers have speculated that Paul and Buster Murdaugh, with the assistance of another individual, may have killed Smith in an effort to cover up a relationship or encounter between Buster and the 19-year-old nursing student. 

During the original investigation into Smith’s death, witnesses have said that Smith and Buster Murdaugh had socialized at a party held at the Murdaugh estate and elsewhere. They also talked about a purported relationship between the two young men.

In another report, it was pointed out that Stephen Smith’s body was found on a deserted road not far from the Murdaugh family estate on the same night a social event was held there.

A statement released by the Jeffcoat Firm in Columbia dated July 14, 2022, contained a comment from Stephen Smith’s mother Sandy Smith indicating she sympathized with all parties involved. In the previous paragraph, a release from South Carolina’s State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), dated approximately one year earlier, confirmed the Stephen Smith Case had been reopened. In the release, The Jeffcoat Firm follows that announcement, also in the previous paragraph, blending in their summary that members of the Smith family have no knowledge or reason to believe that any member of the Murdaugh family was involved in Stephen’s death.

However, that final line is attributed to no one, even though the construction of the paragraph appears to insinuate that Smith’s mother did not believe anyone in the Murdaugh family had anything to do with her son’s death.

While attorneys for the Smith family have indicated it is possible Stephen Smith’s death could have been caused by someone else, they have made no statement exonerating all members of the Murdaugh family.

As of March 10, the investigation continues by SLED and private investigators hired by the Smith family. For now, Stephen Smith’s death remains unsolved.

“People know,” Smith family lawyer Mike Hemlepp said in an interview with the Carolina News and Reporter. “They know what happened. It’s just a matter of time.”

This is an ongoing investigation please continue to follow Qnotes for more details.

David Aaron Moore

David Aaron Moore is a former editor of Qnotes, serving in the role from 2003 to 2007. He is currently the senior content editor and a regularly contributing writer for Qnotes. Moore is a native of North...

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