Alex Murdaugh’s son Buster breaks silence about ‘vicious rumours’ around Stephen Smith’s death
Alex Murdaugh’s surviving son Buster has broken his silence to address the “vicious rumours” about the mysterious 2015 death of 19-year-old Stephen Smith.
Buster – who stood by his father throughout his trial for the brutal double murders of his mother Maggie and brother Paul – released a statement denying any involvement in Smith’s death as the late teenager’s family held a press conference announcing plans to exhume his body and conduct an independent autopsy.
“I have tried my best to ignore the vicious rumors about my involvement in Stephen Smith’s tragic death that continue to be published in the media as I grieve over the brutal murders of my mother and brother. I love them so much and miss them terribly,” said Buster.
“I haven’t spoken up until now because I want to live in private while I cope with their deaths and my father’s incarceration.
“Before, during and since my father’s trial, I have been targeted and harassed by the media and followers of this story.
“This has gone on far too long. These baseless rumors of my involvement with Stephen and his death are false.
“I unequivocally deny any involvement in his death, and my heart goes out to the Smith family. I am requesting that the media immediately stop publishing these defamatory comments and rumors about me.”
Buster, 26, is the eldest and now only living son of Maggie and Alex Murdaugh.
In the weeks since his father’s high-profile murder trial, Buster, 26, and his girlfriend Brooklyn White have filed multiple police reports complaining about being followed by members of the media.
Throughout the trial, Buster and his other family members put on a united front in the courtroom – attending each day of the trial in a show of support for Murdaugh.
Buster also testified in his father’s defence that he had been “destroyed” and “heartbroken” in the aftermath of the deaths of his mother and brother.
But, after Murdaugh’s conviction for the double murders, the spotlight has turned to Buster.
As his father was led out of the courthouse after his sentencing, a bystander shouted “Buster is next” for “justice” – an apparent reference to the Smith case.
Smith, a 19-year-old openly gay teenager and nursing student, was found dead in a road in Hampton County, South Carolina, in the early hours of 8 July 2015 – just 15 miles from the Murdaugh’s Moselle estate where Maggie and Paul were murdered six years later.
Smith had suffered blunt force trauma to the head and his car was found around three miles from his body.
At the time, his death was ruled a hit and run – a ruling that his mother, investigators on the original case and members of the local community have long disputed.
There were no skid marks around his body, no vehicular debris, and Smith’s loosely tied shoes were still on his feet – all evidence which cast doubts on him being struck and killed by a vehicle.
Smith’s car was also left abandoned three miles down the road with the gas cap removed.
Police reports also revealed that some of Smith’s injuries were inconsistent with being struck by a car.
For the past almost eight years, Smith’s family has believed the 19-year-old was murdered and not the victim of a hit-and-run.
The Murdaugh name repeatedly cropped up 40 times in documents in the initial case and there had long been murmurings in the community that a “Murdaugh boy” may have been involved, reported Live5News.
Smith had been a classmate of Buster Murdaugh – Alex Murdaugh’s eldest and now only surviving son – and there were rumours that the two had been in a relationship around the time of his death.
For years, Smith’s mother fought for answers and tried to keep his death in the local spotlight – but the case was closed and there were no developments for six years.
Then, on 7 June 2021, Murdaugh gunned down Maggie and Paul on the affluent family’s sprawling 1,700-acre estate in Islandton and the Smith case came under the spotlight once more.
Just days after the murders, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) led announced that it was reopening an investigation into Smith’s death based on information that had come to light during the investigation into Maggie and Paul’s murders.
It is not clear what information prompted the launch of the investigation into Smith’s death and no further details have been released over the course of the last 21 months.
In January 2023, SLED only said it had “made progress” in the case.
During Monday’s press conference, Mr Bland said that a grand jury investigating Smith’s death was “no longer in panel”.
This means that the panel either returned an indictment and the attorney general is sitting on it or there is not enough information for an indictment, he said.
He added that he believes it is the latter – something the family hopes a fresh investigation could resolve.
After raising around $65,000 through a GoFundme campaign, Smith’s family is now paying for an independent investigation – including the exhumation of his body and an independent autopsy.
Mr Bland said that investigators will be hired to “start over” on the case – coming to it “from scratch” and “without preconceived notions”.
Firstly, he explained that the legal team – of him and attorney Ronnie Richter – will file a petition to a judge in the next week to 10 days asking for permission to exhume Smith’s body.
He said he hopes the judge will see there is “good cause” to believe that “a fresh set of eyes, new autopsy could heed a different conclusion” as to what happened to the 19-year-old victim.
The investigation will also “look at [Stephen’s life]” focusing on the 90 days before his death on 8 July 2015 including who he was associating with, who his friends were, who he was dating at the time, his communications and plans he had made prior to his death.
“A lot of pre-death communications can be relevant and the post-death communications of some people could be relevant,” he said.
He did not reveal who he could be referring to.
He pointed to the techniques used in Murdaugh’s murder trial which used cellphone data such as GPS data and call logs to track the victims’ and killer’s movements – saying that they would be looking to employ similar technological techniques as part of the investigation.
If the investigation does lead to the same conclusion as the initial investigation – that Smith was the victim of a hit-and-run – Mr Bland pointed out that the individual or individuals responsible are still walking free.
Any information gathered through the independent autopsy would then be shared with SLED, he said.
Ms Smith said that – after almost eight years – she is hoping to finally find out the “real reason” for her son’s sudden death.
“I hope to find the real reason for Stephen’s death and the real why,” she said at Monday’s press conference
Despite the connection to the Murdaughs, Mr Bland insisted that this is not about convicted killer Alex Murdaugh.
“This is not an Alex Murdaugh 2.0 or any other Murdaugh 2.0. This is a Stephen Smith 2.0,” he said.
“This is about Stephen,” he said, adding that they just want to “give a mother answers” about her son’s death.