SLED gives new details on Stephen Smith homicide investigation

Bland Richter Law Firm announced that the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is now considering Stephen Smith’s death a homicide.
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 8:47 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Bland Richter Law Firm announced Tuesday night that the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is now considering Stephen Smith’s death a homicide.

Bland Richter co-founder Eric Bland said SLED Chief Mark Keel gave him the update during a phone call on Tuesday. Bland added that Keel said SLED is committed to combining efforts and resources as the state moves forward with exhuming Smith’s Body.

SLED confirmed that the phone call happened, adding that they have been and will continue investigating Smith’s death as a homicide.

“We have a chance to right eight years of wrongs, and we intend to do just that,” said Bland.

Earlier this month, Smith’s mother started a GoFundMe to raise money for an independent autopsy on Smith’s body.

SLED said on July 8, 2015, the Hampton County Sheriff’s Office asked their SLED Crime Scene to help process the scene after Smith was found dead on Sandy Run Road. They said agents responded to provide manpower and technical assistance to law enforcement. However, they clarified that their involvement t at a scene did not automatically indicate a SLED investigation.

The medical examiner later ruled that Smith died after being hit by a car in a hit-and-run, and the South Carolina Highway Patrol (SCHP) took over the investigation.

SLED opened an investigation into Smith’s death in 2021, citing information that was gathered as they investigated the murders of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh. They added that after reviewing SCHP’s case notes, it was apparent that they didn’t believe Smith was killed by a motor vehicle.

According to SLED, they have assigned additional SLED agents to work the case and hope that those who know what happened may be more willing to speak freely now than they may have been in 2015 or 2021.

“SLED officials have revealed that they did not need to exhume Stephen Smith’s body to convince them that his death was a homicide.” Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter said in a joint statement. “However, they will be present and participate in any exhumation of Stephen’s body to gather more evidence. We are committed to finding out what really happened, and getting the peace and justice the Smith family deserves.”

According to Bland, SLED officials also said they were waiting until Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial ended to make this announcement because of their concern that witnesses would not be as forthcoming. Bland stated that SLED has reportedly been dedicating more resources to Smith’s case since the conclusion of the trial.

Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact SLED at 803-737-9000 and ask for investigative services.