SLED releases statement, provides new details on Stephen Smith murder investigation
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division released a statement Wednesday afternoon regarding its investigation into the death of Stephen Smith.
Smith was found dead on rural Sandy Run Road in the early morning hours of July 8, 2015, in a case that was controversially ruled a hit-and-run after a confused − and the family says shoddy − initial investigation.
Sandy Smith, the mother of Stephen Smith, whose unsolved death has haunted her for eight years, had a short but excited message when she learned that state police are now moving forward with his case as an official murder investigation.
"I've been waiting on this news for almost 8 years!" Smith emailed to The Hampton County Guardian Tuesday night. "I'm in shock, I'm elated, I'm waiting for the next chapter!"
The case went cold until a 2019 boat crash involving the controversial Murdaugh family of Hampton County again brought it into the public spotlight. Even more questions were raised about his death two years later. SLED reopened Smith’s case in June 2021 "based upon information gathered during the course of the double murder investigation of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh," stated a SLED spokesperson at the time.
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The statement released Wednesday reads:
"In the interest of accuracy, understanding, and the continued mission of seeking justice for victims of crimes, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is providing the following information:On July 8, 2015, the Hampton County Sheriff’s Office requested SLED’s Crime Scene Unit to process a death scene involving a body that was found on Sandy Run Road in Hampton County.SLED Crime Scene Agents were dispatched from SLED’s Headquarters and responded to the scene. Upon arrival, SLED Crime Scene Agents processed the crime scene. The primary mission of SLED is to provide quality manpower and technical assistance to law enforcement agencies and to conduct investigations.SLED’s Crime Scene Unit routinely responds to requests for assistance from local law enforcement and fellow state agencies to process crime scenes across South Carolina. The involvement of SLED’s Crime Scene Unit at a scene does not automatically indicate a SLED investigation.On July 8, 2015, SLED Crime Scene Agents attended the autopsy of Stephen N. Smith where medicalexaminer Dr. Erin Presnell concluded Mr. Smith died from being struck by a motor vehicle.Due to the medical examiner’s determination, the Hampton County Sheriff’s Office requested the SouthCarolina Highway Patrol (SCHP) to investigate Mr. Smith’s death.SLED was not requested by the Hampton County Sheriff’s Office or the South Carolina Highway Patrol toinvestigate Mr. Smith’s death in 2015.On June 23, 2021, SLED opened an investigation into the death of Stephen Smith after SLED Agents received information about his death and subsequently reviewed the SCHP investigative file. From SCHP case notes it was apparent that the SCHP did not believe Mr. Smith’s death was a hit and run by a motor vehicle.SLED’s investigation into the death of Mr. Smith was never closed - it remains a homicide investigation. Progress has been made, and SLED’s investigation is active and ongoing.Since the beginning of SLED’s investigation, the goal has been to find out how Mr. Smith died and find the person(s) responsible for his death. To that end, SLED Chief Mark Keel has assigned additional SLED Low Country Regional Agents to work this case 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.If you have any information regarding the death of Stephen Smith, please call SLED at 803-737-9000 and ask for Investigative Services. Tips can also be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org."
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: SLED provides new details on Stephen Smith death investigation