HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division released a statement Wednesday providing additional details on the agency’s investigation into the death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith, who was found dead along a rural Hampton County road in 2015.
According to SLED, the Hampton County Sheriff’s Office requested SLED’s assistance processing the crime scene on Sandy Run Road on July 8, 2015.
SLED said that although the crime scene unit assisted with processing the scene, the agency was never requested to assist in the investigation. The Hampton County Sheriff’s Office and South Carolina Highway Patrol were the main agencies.
SLED did attend Smith’s 2015 autopsy, during which medical examiner Dr. Erin Presnell determined Smith died after being struck by an automobile. His death was originally classified as a highway vehicular manslaughter.
No suspects were ever named in the case.
SLED opened an investigation into Smith’s death in June of 2021 after “agents received information about his death and subsequently reviewed the SCHP investigative file.” SLED said that Highway Patrol’s case notes made it “apparent that the SCHP did not believe Mr. Smith’s death was a hit and run.”
That investigation has been ongoing, but recently has been assigned additional manpower “in the hopes that those who may know what happened to Mr. Smith are more willing to speak freely now than they may have been in 2015 or 2021.”
Attorneys for Stephen Smith’s mother said that SLED waited until after the Alex Murdaugh murder trial to announce that the death was being investigated as a homicide. Rumors have circulated linking the Murdaugh family to Smith’s death, but none have ever been substantiated and the Murdaugh family has denied any involvement.
Editor’s note: This story is breaking and will be updated.