The body of a South Carolina teenager believed to have been murdered on or near a dark road several years back has been exhumed and subject to a second autopsy, a family attorney said in a series of statements released Sunday.
Stephen Smith was found dead on Sandy Run Road, of blunt force trauma, in Hampton County, on July 8, 2015. Shifting narratives plagued the case. According to his mother, Sandy Smith, the family was told her son was shot and beaten up before authorities declared his death a hit-and-run. That eventual determination never sat right with her. Over the years, the gay teenager’s death took on a more-than-mysterious place in the popular imagination due to an assumed proximity to the orbit of convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh.
The investigation into Murdaugh’s slaughter of his wife and youngest child dredged up information in the Smith case, which led state law enforcement to re-classify his death as a homicide earlier this year.
More Law&Crime coverage: Teen found along road now deemed homicide after Murdaugh case reignites interest: Family attorney
Attorneys Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter are donating their time to the Smith case. They have long planned to exhume the victim’s body and secured an independent autopsy to ascertain his cause of death.
“As everyone knows now, Stephen has been exhumed from his grave,” Bland said in the statement provided to Law&Crime. “This is a trying time for the Smith family. This weekend in particular. Stephen’s remains were disturbed. He was, in theory, in peace in his grave. And now that he’s been exhumed and he’s going to have his autopsy be done, this is very trying for Sandy Smith at this time.”
The attorney went on to request a “respite” from media questions for both the deceased’s mother and legal team, saying the Smith family would not be participating in the case “until Stephen is back in his grave and he can rest at peace.”
More Law&Crime coverage: Attorneys for Alex Murdaugh financial crimes victims now representing family of Stephen Smith as teen’s body set for exhumation
“This time is a very solemn time, as you can imagine, for Sandy,” Bland continued. “It’s so bittersweet. Stephen, for many many years, I can only imagine, was not so much at peace in his grave. He probably was pounding on his coffin, saying, to anybody that could hear: ‘I was not hit by a car. But I was intentionally killed.’ And now we’ve told him we hear his voice. And it’s our intention to return Stephen to his grave when the autopsy is concluded. And, at that time, the investigation will unfold.”
Smith’s body was returned to its grave over the weekend, Bland said in a Twitter post late Sunday:
My partner, Ronnie Richter, and I, as attorneys for Sandy Smith, and on behalf of Steven Smith, would like to thank everyone who contributed in the Exhumation, Transporting Stephen, protecting and guarding Stephen while he was being re-examined, and the second autopsy being done,…
— Eric Bland (@TheEricBland) April 2, 2023
In a press release issued Monday, the Bland Richter Law Firm offered a $35,000 reward “for information leading the arrest of any responsible party in the death of Stephen Smith.”
The reward is being funded by Sandy Smith from money collected via a GoFundMe, the press release says.
More Law&Crime coverage: Stephen Smith family attorneys shed light on ‘surprising’ call from South Carolina’s ‘top cop’ about dead teen, a ‘piece of evidence,’ and connection to Alex Murdaugh trial
“We hope that this reward will encourage anyone with information to come forward and provide the critical details needed to solve this case,” Richter said in the press release.
The attorneys and Smith’s grieving mother urge anyone with any information to come forward and contact the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
“We understand that providing information about a crime can be difficult, and we want to support the community however we can to bring closure for the Smith family,” Bland and Richter added in a joint statement.
The post ‘So bittersweet’: Body of Stephen Smith exhumed, reward offered for information about gay teen’s mysterious death first appeared on Law & Crime.