When people are told to stop talking, that’s when this news outlet starts listening … because odds are, they’ve got something to say that’s worth hearing.
After a nearly two-hour conversation with investigator Steve Peterson – who spent several months investigating the 2015 murder of Stephen Smith of Hampton, South Carolina – I can honestly say I am so glad I listened. And I think anyone following this case will be glad they listened, too … because Peterson’s interview turned everything most of us thought we knew about this case upside down.
A native of Worcester, Massachusetts, Peterson is a retired senior special agent who spent decades with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). He is also the vice president of the National Law Enforcement Speakers Bureau (NLESB), a group which provides “instruction and investigative consultation” to police forces all across the country.
Pertinent to this story, Peterson was a private investigator in the employ of prominent Charleston, S.C. attorney Andy Savage during the latter’s representation of Sandy Smith – Stephen Smith’s mother.
In that capacity, he conducted extensive inquiries into the circumstances surrounding Smith’s untimely demise in the early morning hours of July 8, 2015.
To recap: Smith’s body was dumped in the middle of Sandy Run Road near Crocketville on that fateful date – where it was discovered by a passing motorist (a tow truck driver) at approximately 4:00 a.m. EDT.
How did it get there, though?
The crime scene remains a study in contradictions. The location of Smith’s body in the middle of the road was totally inconsistent with a vehicular strike – but the massive blood loss observed on the asphalt seemed inconsistent with him being murdered at another location.
The investigation into Smith’s death was originally handled by the S.C. Highway Patrol (SCHP) “Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team” (MAIT). It wasn’t until nearly six years later it became an active murder case under the auspices of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
SLED opened a homicide investigation into Smith’s death shortly after the savage slayings of 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh and 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh on June 7, 2021 at Moselle – a 1,700-acre hunting property straddling the Salkehatichie River which belonged to the Murdaugh family. Disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh – a scion of this once-dominant legal dynasty – was convicted of those killings and sentenced to life in prison earlier this month.
Peterson worked with SLED during the early phases of its inquiries, and in this expansive conversation he detailed some seismic revelations about what he uncovered during that time. According to him, SLED has excluded the Murdaughs from having any direct involvement in the crime. Peterson also told me he directly confronted the person he believes is responsible for Smith’s murder – who just so happens to be one of the two individuals currently considered “persons of interest” in the SLED investigation.
Oh, Peterson also believes the incident may have actually been a hit-and-run …
Those are just a few of the revelations from this far-ranging discussion, which took place earlier this week in Charleston, S.C.
To view the interview for yourself, click here. To review all of our case files on this investigation, see the links below.
STEPHEN SMITH CASE FILES
FILE 1: SANDY SMITH’S LETTER IMPLICATING BUSTER MURDAUGH
FILE 2: THE FIRST AUTOPSY
FILE 3: THE HIGHWAY PATROL REPORT
FILE 4: THE INITIAL INTERVIEWS
FILE 5: EXHUMATION, PERSONS OF INTEREST UPDATE
FILE 6: THE PRIVATE EYE
As I noted in launching this series, public reaction to the Smith investigation seems to have segregated into warring sections at some sporting event – with jeering voices dominating the discussion and all manner of agenda-driven preconceptions pushing truth to the sidelines.
My news outlet will never participate in such a game.
“The job of a journalist is to follow the the truth … wherever it leads and however uncomfortable that journey may become,” I wrote. “Anything less than that is a disservice to the truth and to the memory of all victims.”
Not everyone is thrilled with Peterson sharing his points of view – and clearly several of his perspectives contradict views previously advanced by this news outlet. Or even views advanced by this news outlet as recently as this month.
Who is right? Who is wrong?
Those are the wrong questions. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong … what matters is the truth. Seeking it honestly, telling it as best we know how and constantly acknowledging that maybe we don’t have all – or even any – of the answers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
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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