A new autopsy on a man murdered near Murdue’s house 7 years ago may reveal clues to a mysterious death: an expert

Plans to exhume the body of a 19-year-old who was murdered near the Murdeau family home in South Carolina have given hope A new autopsy will solve his mysterious death.

Stephen Smith died in July 2015, but his mother Sandy has long disputed the officially recorded cause of death as hit-and-run, and He claimed he was killed.

The inquest into his death was reconsidered in 2021 after the murders of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh – husband and father Alex were convicted on 3 March.

The South Carolina Department of Law Enforcement said they had begun investigating the case “based on information gathered during the double homicide investigation,” but did not provide further details.

Sandy said she would “pursue the exhumation immediately” after raising $40,000 via a GoFundMe page to pay for an independent exhumation and autopsy.

“While the state can elect and fund a new exhumation and autopsy, we understand that this will be carried out in [the Medical University of South Carolina]as his death was initially classified as a hit-and-run despite there being no evidence to support it,” she wrote on the page at the time.

Stephen Smith poses for a selfie in this undated photo.
Courtesy of Sandy Smith

The exhumation — which must first get the go-ahead from a judge — is only the beginning of an exhaustive process that includes re-examining how Smith’s body was handled during the initial investigation more than seven years ago, said forensic expert Joseph Scott. Morgan.

Stephen was found with a large gash on the right side of his forehead in the middle of the road, three miles from his car.

He also suffered a dislocated shoulder and cuts to his left hand, according to police reports.

Police initially stated that the death “appeared to be a homicide”, but an autopsy was performed the same day he was found dead, and determined that he was the victim of a hit-and-run.

Grave of Stephen Smith, who died a mysterious death in June 2015.
Grave of Stephen Smith, who died a mysterious death in July 2015.
Courtesy of Sandy Smith

Morgan told The Post that the way the body was handled in the crucial hours after it was found made all the difference.

“There’s a lot you can miss,” he said when contacted by phone. “This is why we treat all deaths as if they were murders until proven otherwise, especially traumatic deaths.”

He said whether Smith’s body was adequately mummified could also have played a role.

Morgan, who co-hosts a true crime podcast titled “Body Bags,” questioned whether investigators had X-rayed Smith’s body before his burial, the ability to re-examine Smith’s clothing from the night of his death, and stressed the importance of one or both.

“Did they do any kind of X-ray on his body?” Asked. “If they do, maybe that’s something they can go back and review those movies that they did, compared to what they have now. Maybe they’ll go in and discover something else that might not have been picked up otherwise.”

Asked about the possibility of foreign DNA, Morgan said any molecular evidence would be “out the door” from the moment funeral crews clean Smith’s body.

Morgan continued that the process of performing an autopsy examination on an exhumed body is further complicated by environmental factors, such as the possible presence of insects or water in the underground environment.

Speaking of the burial, he said: “Many people think they are digging a hole and putting a coffin in it.” “That’s not how it happens.”

Screenshot of a GoFundMe page set up to raise money for the exhumation of Stephen Smith.
Screenshot of a GoFundMe page set up to raise money for the exhumation of Stephen Smith.

The casket is then sealed with concrete, Morgan added, making it “a box within a box”.

But, he added, “problems arise” if water is able to force its way in.

“That’s one of the things that they’re going to fight against – the elements about this, we’re talking about seven years of rain and drought and all these different things that are affecting the area,” he said.

The quality of the casket can affect how well the body is protected.

“There are still insects that will get in there and damage the body,” he said. “Then you can get things like mold.”

Alex Murdaugh was taken to the Colleton County Courthouse in South Carolina during his trial in 2023.
Alex Murdaugh was taken to the Colleton County Courthouse in South Carolina during his trial in 2023.
Daniel William McKnight for the New York Post

However, Morgan added, investigators will still be able to thoroughly examine Smith’s remains.

He said: “They would have to do a full-body X-ray, look at everything – from head to toe – every element involved, and look for any trauma that might have been static, in the very diminutive sense or that word.

The Associated Press reports that the preliminary coroner’s report revealed that Stephen suffered a head injury when he was hit by a half-mirror as the car drove by.

Buster Murdaugh sat in the Colleton County, South Carolina courtroom during his father's trial in 2023.
Buster Murdaugh sat in the Colleton County, South Carolina courtroom during his father’s trial in 2023.
Pole/Ciba USA

Police reportedly thought he was walking down the road because his car ran out of petrol at the time.

However, a SLED spokesperson said in a statement to The Post that they “have made progress with the investigation into Stephen Smith’s death, but that investigation remains active and ongoing.”

Murdaugh was once considered a leading name in South Carolina politics before the murders of Maggie and Paul exposed a tangle of financial crimes, and allegations of a cover-up from years past.

Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to two life terms for the murder of his wife and son.

It has since been alleged that at least one of the Murdo family was involved Three more deaths in the communityincluding Smith.

according to Local news site FITSnewsMordo’s family name was mentioned “more than 40 times during the course of the investigation” although no family member was formally questioned by the police.

The same site reported that local rumors had circulated that Alex’s surviving son, Buster, was somehow involved in the death, but this was not included in the police notes.

Buster was never named by the police as a suspect in the accident or charged with any crime.

Speaking to The Post on Friday, Morgan told The Post that investigators re-examining Smith’s remains should “gather everything they can before returning his remains to Earth.”

He continued, “I made every effort to extract the body.” “Why don’t you write a full court press, do whatever you can do?”

With Olivia Land

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