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Crime & Courts

Stephen Smith’s Family Seeks Funds For Exhumation, Autopsy

“We believe 2023 is Stephen’s year.”

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Last week, this news outlet provided readers with an update on the ongoing police investigation into the murder of Stephen Smith – a homicide many believe is linked to the ‘Murdaugh Murders‘ crime and corruption saga.

To catch up on that story, click here.

This week, Smith’s mother – Sandy Smith of Barnwell, S.C. – launched a GoFundMe page in the hopes of subsidizing the exhumation of her late son’s body and an independent autopsy of his remains.

If that sounds familiar, it should. This news outlet endorsed precisely such a course of action over a year ago in an effort to find out what really happened to him on a rural Hampton County road seven-and-a-half years ago.

Smith’s body was found in the middle of Sandy Run Road near Crocketville, S.C. where it was discovered by a passing motorist at approximately 4:00 a.m. EDT on the morning of July 8, 2015.

Who killed him? And why?

These questions have haunted Smith’s family for the past eight years … while simultaneously captivating journalists and documentarians who have been investigating the Murdaugh family.



Smith’s death was classified as a vehicular hit-and-run by Erin Presnell, a forensic pathologist at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).

Presnell reached her controversial conclusion despite the fact Smith’s injuries – which included a 7.25-inch laceration on the right side of his forehead – were inconsistent with a vehicular strike. There was also zero evidence of a vehicular strike on the roadway where Smith’s body was found.

“It is abundantly clear an independent review of Presnell’s autopsy of Stephen Smith must be conducted immediately – up to and including the exhumation of Smith’s body from its resting place in Gooding Cemetery in Crocketville, S.C.,” I noted last February. “Such a drastic step may be the only way to start uncovering the truth.”

The investigation into Smith’s death is back on the national radar after it was prominently featured in the recently released Netflix documentary ‘Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal.’

According to Sandy Smith’s GoFundMe page, she is hoping to independently fund this autopsy rather than having the state subsidize it – potentially as part of its ongoing investigation into Stephen Smith’s death.

"While the state can elect and fund an exhumation and new autopsy, it is our understanding that it would be carried out at MUSC, where his death was initially classified as hit-and-run despite no evidence to support it," Smith wrote on the page. "We need a new, unbiased look at his body and an accurate determination of his cause of death based on facts. There was no debris in the road, and his injuries were not consistent with a hit-and-run."

Smith is seeking to raise $15,000 for the exhumation and autopsy.

According to Smith, "an independent autopsy will be approximately $7,000 ... (and) a private medical examiner must be present from the start of the exhumation through the examination period at a cost of approximately $750 per hour."

"It is a huge expense, but we are hoping that with your support we can make this happen and finally get the answers we need," Smith continued. "If you can give, we thank you for your generosity. If you cannot give, we would appreciate you sharing and praying for justice for Stephen. We believe 2023 is Stephen's year."

Agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) opened a homicide investigation into Smith’s death just two weeks after the savage slayings of 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh and 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh on June 7, 2021 at Moselle – the Murdaugh family’s 1,700-acre hunting property straddling the Salkehatchie River on the border of Colleton and Hampton counties.

"Significant progress" has been made in the investigation, we are told - although as I have previously reported that progress does not appear to be focused on any members of the Murdaugh family (at least as it relates to Smith's murder).

“Everyone assumed it was the Murdaughs,” one Hampton, S.C. source told me last fall. “But there were a lot of people in (Stephen Smith’s) little black book.”

According to my sources, investigators have been digging through these files in the hopes of identifying who is responsible for his unsolved murder.



Will Folks on phone
Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.



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Will Folks


relic462 Top fan March 16, 2023 at 2:45 pm

If there is probable cause of a homicide, why doesn’t the State perform the exhumation and second autopsy.

Debra Causey Top fan March 19, 2023 at 4:40 am

Sandy Smith doesn’t want a pathologist at MUSC to do a second autopsy so she’s launched the second GoFundMe. There is still money in the first GoFundMe because she never apparently started the scholarship fund. There was money raised over at Columbia’s Capital Club to the tune of $20,000 plus. She went to Vegas for a week and stayed at The Hard Rock Hotel. I guess it’s ok to spend money going to Vegas and gambling for a week over asking Strangers to donate. Now there is over $57,000 in donations, she needs $15,000 so maybe the balance is going to be used for another vacation?

Susan Giovanni Top fan March 16, 2023 at 6:48 pm

I don’t think anyone trusts the state to handle this properly. I don’t.

Elizabeth Doll Top fan March 18, 2023 at 8:32 pm

It’s a damn shame that his family has to pay for this exhumation. The entire county should pony up as this could be their own child. I feel like the Murdaugh should pay since it will probably come down to them. I’m many states away but will be happy to contribute to get Stephen justice! Go fund me has fees, so I’ll send directly to his mother.

SparklePlenty Top fan March 19, 2023 at 5:43 am

My boyfriend decided to play a joke on me by posting negative comments about Stephen Smith. He is sick of hearing about FitsNews, the Murdaugh’s, Gloria Satterfield, Stephen Smith, Russell Laffitte, etc and this was his childish revenge. I would appreciate you removing it, I have tried to discard it myself but have not figured out how.

Thank you,
Debra Causey


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